Apple Press Conference on iPhone 4

At a press conference today Apple have agreed to give iPhone 4 customers “bumpers” to ameliorate the antenna performance issue. They have also agreed that customers can return their phones and contracts if they aren’t happy. I think this is a good strategy it shows consideration for the customer.

Steve Jobs showed that other phones suffer from similar signal strength issues. He demonstrated some other phones losing bars when held, he used the Droid Eris (called the HTC Hero in Europe), Blackberry Bold 9700 and Samsung Omnia II. See this article. Certainly other phones do suffer from this problem, as I wrote earlier. But, the experiment shown doesn’t really demonstrate that all these other phones suffer from the problem to the extent that the iPhone does.

As I mentioned previously there is no standard for signal strength reporting. Some manufacturers are quite conservative about it, some less so. A signal strength one phone displays as three bars another may display as one bar even though the two phones have similar performance.

Secondly, it is unlikely that the demonstration relied on a normal base-station. It’s unlikely that the space for the press conference is in a low-signal area. So, I expect Apple simulated the condition by using a base-station simulator. That’s perfectly legitimate and I would have done it too. But, it allows the channel selected to be picked for the demo. Apple could have gone through the hundreds of channels for WCDMA and EDGE that those three phones support. They could then have picked the channels that are affected the worst by hand detuning and used those.

Lastly, the three phones could have been selected because they suffer particularly badly from hand detuning.

I don’t know that Apple have done any of this sort of gaming of the test. But, they could have done it. What Jobs has shown doesn’t prove much.

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4 Responses to “Apple Press Conference on iPhone 4”

  1. Gravatar of Andy Andy
    16. July 2010 at 19:55

    It’s Jobs not Job’s ;)

  2. Gravatar of Alan Alan
    16. July 2010 at 20:37

    To me the most disingenuous part of the whole press conference was the way they implied that the iPhone’s problems are solely from the hand obscuring the antenna as does occur with other phones. Consumer Reports’ testing and others have demonstrated that the problem is from short circuiting the gap between the two antennas, not just from the hand blocking the signal.

    But to admit the short circuit problem would be to admit a design flaw that can and should be fixed in future hardware iterations. And then consumers would demand a recall that would cost them a lot of money. And we just can’t have that.

  3. Gravatar of rt rt
    16. July 2010 at 21:29


    In the previous couple of days I’ve been meeting other Antenna Engineers. One of the things we’ve been gossiping about is the problems with this phone. It could be a normal sort of short-circuit, though it could be something else too.

    Anyway, on the iPhone there is a critical area, if you touch that area then that causes the performance to degrade greatly. Most other phones aren’t sensitive in the same way, they don’t have hotspots, there’s a general area where touching will cause degradation.

  4. Gravatar of Alan Alan
    16. July 2010 at 21:54

    And that, to me, is the central issue here. The iPhone4’s antenna has a flaw that is specific to it and they try to play the whole thing off as an industry-wide problem and a matter of unavoidable physics.

    If the laws of physics were the problem, putting a bumper case on it wouldn’t fix it.

    I just want Apple to admit that their specific implementation is flawed and has nothing to do with any other phone.