This is Not the Antenna Problem You Are Looking For

After seemingly launching a product before it is truly ready, Apple has been under attack by purchasers of the new iPhone 4 because of an apparent design flaw that results in diminished or lost signal when the phone is held in a typical manner. This phenomenon was already being widely reported on the internet on the day of the iPhone release, but Apple was refusing to comment on what the problem was or what they were going to do to fix it.

Apple has finally broken their silence.
Well, sort of.

Purchasers of the new iPhone have noticed that when they hold their phone in their left hand with their hand touching the sides of the phone on the left and the bottom, their signal strength drops like a stone. In fact, many have complained that they have dropped calls because of it. This would appear to be caused by a flaw in the design of the antenna on the iPhone 4, which is embedded in the case. On the day of the product release, Apple was refusing to acknowledge the problem or comment on the complaints. They were, however, very helpful in pointing people towards purchasing a $30 Apple rubber phone case, which would alleviate the difficulty.

They’ve remained mum up until now, despite the fact that a phone that drops calls and loses signal is, well, not a very well functioning phone. I mean, if it was a minor flaw in some peripheral component of the unit that inconvenienced you in, say, being able to connect it to some other item, it could be argued that the device was still fundamentally sound. A piece of equipment that is primarily used for making phone calls, like a cel phone, suffers pretty critically when the phone aspect of it doesn’t actually work all the time.

Apple has decided to acknowledge the problem, after all. Unfortunately, their words and their practice are apparently at odds. Their official statement is that the real problem here is not that there is any problem with the design or construction of their antenna, but that there is a calculation error in the way signal strength is being displayed on the phone. Apparently, Apple is downright “stunned” to find that the phones display far greater signal strength than they should, due to this calculation error. And, since signal strength metering displays incorrectly, of course it will look like it drops precipitously when you hold the phone by its sides. After all, as Apple educates us, all cel phones suffer from a degradation of signal strength when held in certain ways. As quoted in a Yahoo! article, Apple says that “Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.”

So why is it, then, that Apple has recently begun recruiting engineers to work on the specific aspect of the phone that experts say is the problem, the antenna?

The Ottawa Citizen today had an article highlighting that Apple has posted recruitment on their web site for engineers experienced in the design of antennas for wireless devices. This seems like a pretty outstanding coincidence, given that it’s only been a week or so since their flagship product launched with a crappy antenna.

There doesn’t appear to be much offered in the way of suggestions or solutions to deal with the existing units that suffer from lost signal and dropped calls due to the current antenna design, and it certainly doesn’t appear that Apple has halted either production or sales of the iPhone 4. This leads the reasonable monkey to conclude that Apple isn’t really acknowledging a hardware flaw, and will likely release something in a firmware update to correct the “calculation error” instead.

What I don’t understand is if the only problem here is that what is displayed on the screen is wrong, why are people experiencing dropped calls? If signal strength does not, in fact, drop as dramatically as the screen depicts, call quality should not suffer at all. Unless the artificially high signal strength display really hides an already exceptionally poor signal reception, which would still lead a reasonable person to conclude that there is something fundamentally wrong with the unit’s design.

I know it’s not something sexy to discuss during big fancy multimedia marketing campaigns, but you’d think there would be some mention of it to the millions of people who are flocking to purchase the iPhone 4. After all, if you remove the effectiveness of the phone, or the ability to call at all, you are essentially left with a small iPad, or an iPod Touch.

Wait, don’t those products already exist?

I’m just sayin’.

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1 comment so far

I just wanna say, Apple blows and always has. This message brought to you by my 3 year old HTC TOUCH that does everything iPod 4 does and better no matter how I hold it. Oh and I’ve dropped it onto pavement about 100 times so far and don’t have a rubber for it. Fuck Apple in it’s goat ass.

Johnny Proxy
July 2nd, 2010 at 7:18 pm

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