apple's misleading response to 'antennagate'


First of all, let me admit that I'm usually an Apple fangirl. I loved my iPhone 3G, and I love my new iPhone 4.

That said, I was really put off by Steve Jobs' press conference yesterday, specifically the way he slammed competitors' phones.

If you haven't already read Anandtech's amazingly detailed and technical assessment of the iPhone's antenna issue, you should do so. But here's the important part related to Jobs' claims about other smartphones:

1) Cupping tightly - This is the absolute worst case and involves squeezing the phone very tightly, like people are doing online in videos demonstrating all the bars going away. I squeeze the phone hard and make sure my palms are sweaty as well. You'd never hold the phone this way because it's physically painful.

2) Holding naturally, comfortably - This is just how one would hold the phone typically in a relaxed way. Not squeezing it to purposefully reduce signal, but making contact with the fingers and not an open palm.

3) Resting atop an open, flat palm.

4) Holding naturally, but inside a case - In this situation the Bumper for iPhone 4, an Otter Box for the 3GS, and a comparable generic case for the Nexus One.

In the demo videos that Jobs showed, the phones were being gripped tightly--something that Anandtech rightly points out users wouldn't do. When held naturally, the signal attenuation on the iPhone 4 is significantly greater than on the other smartphones tested.

Apple's doing the right thing by giving out free cases, but the misleading slam against their competitors was tacky.


Thanks for the real scoop. We have been in the midddle of an app launch and I haven't had time to shake down what's what from the media mess. Also loved your last post. Cool use of graphics. Few words. I like your style and your content. You're now on my Google page. :-)

Apple compared the iPhone 4 to three competitors' models. Anadtech compared it to a grand total of one. Pardon me but what was your point again? Do you have more hard data, or is this post more heat than light?

Tim, the point is that Apple's demo clearly used the tight grip that caused all three phones Anandtech posted to drop significantly. However, only the iPhone 4 had a comparably significant drop when being held lightly. I suspect Apple's demo would have been very different if they'd held the phones normally rather than in a "death grip."

There was no need for Jobs to try to make other phones look bad as a part of the press conference, and the way he did it was--in my opinion--a very good example of more heat than light.

As I said, I love my iPhone 4, and I had already purchased a bumper. But I think that the demo was misleading and mean-spirited.

Funny how the roaches come out when they think they can get some hits.

Never saw this web site on macsurfer before.

This article is like every other one since the iphone 4 came out .....

it was reported in bla bla that bla bla is reporting that bla bla reported that bla bla heard that bla bla said bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla

Come up with something original or stop wasting the bandwidth.

I've been blogging for eight years, and I've never been in the least concerned about traffic. This site has no ads, and I have no need for publicity. I posted what I did because it was on my mind. Obviously somebody thought it was worth reading, or it wouldn't have gotten posted on Macsurfer--although I'd never heard of the site before today, and really don't know how they found me.

There's really no need to be rude and insulting.

Blogging for 8 years yet I have not heard of you.

Maybe only hate makes you surface, other than that all your stuffs are under a rock.

You an Apple fan? don't make me laugh.


First off, I'd like to apologize for those two rude comments from Rick and Adam. At least to their credit they appear to have enough credibility to post under their own names.

In case you don't know it, you were listed on MacSurfer - which is how I found you. Unfortunately they also get the worst of the Apple fanatics. You know, sometimes I wonder if these people don't understand how poorly they end up making themselves - and all Apple consumers - look with their immediate judgments of people.

I bought an iPhone 4 also. Upgraded from the original. So far I haven't been able to duplicate the dropped calls or any of the other issues. I live in the Great Lakes region and have excellent AT&T reception, which probably influences things. I do on occasion notice my WiFi "N" drop a few bars depending on how it's angled, but I can't honestly say that wasn't the case with my other iPhone (well, except the "N" part) or any other mobile devices.

Unlike you I don't have a problem with Steve Jobs pointing out how competitor devices perform - as long as it's in the context of the issue being something that all devices have. After all, Apple didn't initiate this discussion (or argument or fight), the media did. Specifically, Consumer Reports - who still won't recommend what is their highest ranked smartphone after Friday's event.

Nice blog! I'm going to poke around through your past posts. Looks like subject matter I enjoy reading.

Dear Liz, thanks for your response.

In my opinion one needs to be careful before asserting "only the iPhone 4 had a comparably significant drop when being held lightly." Anandtech only looked at one other competitor's phone (plus the 3GS). I don't really have any idea what other phones generally do in terms of signal drop when held lightly.

Second, not to dismiss their hard work entirely, but Anandtech's analysis leaves a lot to be desired. Science is hard; numbers are tricky, and as a practicing scientist, I thought their report raised more questions than it answered. At the risk of boring you, but here are a few: they report the delta for each grip -- but delta relative to what? Why aren't any of the deltas equal to zero? Why not just report absolute reception strength, isn't that more telling? And, he says the numbers were highly variable, but reports only the average... how variable was it, and is the difference significant or not?

In medical school, they say "pay attention to the patient, not the numbers." dBs are convenient to measure, but what I care about are dropped calls, and as Anandtech points out, different phones perform differently at different signal strengths (and they assert that the iPhone 4 does particularly well with weak signals). I'll perk up and listen when someone posts an actual USE analysis of the whole death grip scenario.

Cheers, Tim

p.s. I wouldn't be saying this if not for the fact that for me, the antenna is working great. I can now reliably call my wife from my office, whereas I couldn't before with my iPhone 3. I'm not so satisfied with the proximity sensor, but that's another story.

p.s. ha, just noticed your about page (very interesting) and realized that as a fellow academic I probably ought not to worry about "boring you" with the details! climbing down from the mini-soapbox, Tim

Tim, you raise really good points about the methodology. I agree that real use case research would be great. Failing that, I find Anandtech's analysis a little more compelling than Apple's if only because they're an uninterested party :)

At any rate, I appreciate your willingness to engage in an actual discussion rather than name-calling. And you're right, I don't find the details at all boring!

Also, I think I just realized why your name sounds familiar; are you the same Tim Yu from Coolhunting? If so, I'm a big fan. It's one of my favorite iPad apps!

Dave, thanks for the encouraging response.

I've been blogging for long enough that I'm no stranger to that kind of nasty commenting. Although I've never gotten the Apple fanatics before, the things I've written on other topics, especially gender, have generated plenty of vitriol.

My blog's been backburnered a bit over the past year or two, so it's kind of nice to see new commenters--even if some are less than gracious. I'd love to know how Macsurfer came across my post. My guess, actually, is that since I've retained good page rank over the years, it popped up in a search for 'antennagate'.

At any rate, I'm glad you enjoyed some of what you found here. Maybe all this hoopla will push me back into more regular blogging...

Dear Liz, no, in fact that's not me, but thanks for pointing out another google twin! I'm a neuroscientist. Funny when I read your "About" page as I've published (a small article) on the use of wikis in residency education. Figures that I'd land here and harrass you :)

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This page contains a single entry published on July 17, 2010 12:23 PM.

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