Phone Makers on Apple’s Press Conference: Nuh-uh!

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Apple called out other smartphone makers during a press conference on Friday to show that the iPhone 4 isn’t the only device to drop signal strength when held, and RIM and Nokia weren’t exactly pleased with what Apple had to say. According to Apple, other big name players in the smartphone market are subject to the same problems, but the iPhone is being singled out.

The Cupertino-based company has been battling bad press over problems some customers have been reporting related to iPhone 4 signal strength loss when holding the combination iPod and smartphone so the lower left corner is covered. The company issued a software patch on Thursday with a more accurate signal strength bar formula, and on Friday announced that it will give all iPhone 4 owners a free case if they want one.

Mr. Jobs demonstrated several popular smartphones showing the same “death grip” problems that have been displayed in YouTube videos and in media reports. Companies that found themselves in Apple’s sites included RIM, Nokia, and Samsung.

RIM CEOs Jim Balsille and Mike Lazaridis fired back by stating “Apple’s attempt to draw RIM into Apple’s self-made debacle is unacceptable. Apple’s claims about RIM products appear to be deliberate attempts to distort the public’s understanding of an antenna design issue and to deflect attention from Apple’s difficult situation.”

The two went on to say that RIM has been designing wireless data products for over 20 years. “During that time, RIM has avoided designs like the one Apple used in the iPhone 4 and instead has used innovative designs which reduce the risk for dropped calls, especially in areas of lower coverage,” they said.

Nokia’s top brass shared a similar sentiment and fired back at Apple with its own statement.

“Antenna design is a complex subject and has been a core competence at Nokia for decades, across hundreds of phone models,” the company said. “Nokia has invested thousands of man hours in studying human behavior, including how people hold their phones for calls, music playing, web browsing and so on. As you would expect from a company focused on connecting people, we prioritize antenna performance over physical design if they are ever in conflict.”

The company added that it has spent thousands of man hours studying how people hold and use their phones so that can avoid just the type of situation Apple is in now.

Not to be left out of the party, Consumer Reports issued its own statement after Apple’s press conference.

“Consumers deserve answers and fairness,” the organization said. “Providing free bumpers and cases is a good first step toward Apple identifying and finding a solution for the signal-loss problem of the iPhone 4.”

The independent product testing group issued a report earlier in the week listing the iPhone 4 at the top of its smartphone list, but failed to recommend the it because its tests showed signal degradation when the lower left corner of the device is covered by user’s hands.

RIM most likely summed up the smartphone industry’s reaction to Apple’s tests in its own statement.

“One thing is for certain, RIM’s customers don’t need to use a case for their BlackBerry smartphone to maintain proper connectivity,” Mr. Balsille and Mr. Lazaridis said. “Apple clearly made certain design decisions and it should take responsibility for these decisions rather than trying to draw RIM and others into a situation that relates specifically to Apple.”

[Thanks to CrackBerry and The Nokia Blog for the heads up]

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Very disingenuous.
I have confirmed the issue on my company BlackBerry.
Working in server rooms I’m chronically dealing with low signal. How I hold the phone makes a huge difference in if the call drops or not.
RIM lying about it is ANOTHER reason I hate this phone. When I buy my own smart phone it will not be a BlackBerry (despite the fact that it’s a Canadian company and there’s a lot of ‘buy Canadian’ pressure up here.)


Wow.  Talk about being able to ignore the facts.

These companies see it with their own eyes and still deny it.  Apple at last admits it’s a “law of physics” that just hasn’t been overcome yet.

The point is that Apple’s iPhone signal loss is NO MORE OR LESS than any of those other “smart” phones and after RIM, Nokia, etc.  has been making these “100s of phones”, you’d think they could all do better than Apple (so far, just 4 phones made).

Guess not, so they should be embarrassed.

other side

This is like Toyota saying “GM cars have problems too!”.

We’re interested in Apple, not the competition.


I’ve owned and used several Nokias both with and without stick antennas. The worst offenders were my expensive business phones with built-in antennas. I constantly had to hold on most gingerly to avoid dropping calls, and there were locations in the city I would be guaranteed to lose signal. I thougt it was the towers until I bought a Sony-Ericsson and it could maintain a couple bars in the same location. And guaranteed, the Nokias were very susceptible to how you hold them. This is hardly a new problem.


So….. what RIM and Nokia are trying to say is that they have invested countless man hours over decades of R&D, and yet their phones still exhibit the signal loss as demonstrated in Apples videos?
This is NOT something to brag about genius’s…


All of Nokia and RIM’s blather about how they design their phones’ antennas so that they don’t have the problem of attenuated reception, when in close proximity to human skin, is given the lie by the evidence of everyones’ experience with their and every other manufacturer’s smartphone.  And Apple has got the goods to prove it.  See  Yet notwithstanding the evidence of our senses, Nokia, RIM, and the other OEMs incredibly maintain, against the evidence of our senses, that their smartphones don’t have the same problem of attenuated reception at least to same extent as the iPhone 4. 

Well, I suppose the idea is that if you repeat the lie that our phone don’t suffer same kind of attenuated reception as the iPhone 4 often enough, with enough vehemence, and the persons uttering the lie are sufficiently august, you will invest the lie with enough credibility to get people to doubt their own senses and make the lie at least debatable.

I don’t think that this tactic will work; I am sure that people are smarter than that and trust the evidence of their own eyes more than the mendacity of some senior executives.  However, I must admit that their lying is far easier than trying to overcome the basic principles of physics that cause attenuated reception and that no one, including Apple, has yet found a solution for.


But Bosco says that Apple and Steve Jobs are doing nothing but lying to us!


Hmm. My Motorola cell phone has a sticker on it that specifically says that if my hand covers it, reception will be negatively affected. Oh wait, so does my work-supplied G’z One.

Soooo, why is this news again?


Notice that the statements of RIM & Nokia, that Jeff quotes above, do not specifically refute Apple’s claim that their phones suffer the same problem. It appears their respective PR folks did everything possible to deny Apple’s claim with out actually saying that it’s untrue.


Good points, and I have at times seen the same stickers. smile I’ll be curious to see how the class action stuff turns out given that this evidence is readily available. I reckon it matters with Apple only because they have been spanking the companies in question so hard. Lost $$$ can bring out the worst in people, alas. Would be cool if instead they decided to make decent products themselves. Sigh.

Daddy Extra Bucks

This is like Toyota saying ?GM cars have problems too!?.

Interesting how the Toyota “problems” have been proven to be user error rather than a malfunctioning product in nearly all cases. So I can see how this is relevant as ALL phones ARE subject to the laws of physics.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

But Bosco says that Apple and Steve Jobs are doing nothing but lying to us!

Funny. I don’t think I read anywhere where Bosco said Apple was lying about the antenna. I’ve noted that they’re probably telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But it doesn’t matter. They’ve dealt with the situation horribly, and some of the chickens are coming home to roost on their misstep.

Steve Jobs lied maliciously about Flash and third party development tools. Now he’s finding that when something really matters to him, “truth” is but a miniscule portion of perception.


These two companies are engaged in public relations speak ... notice that they do not state whether the antenna problems actually exist on their phones ... only that they are designed to account for the problem.

Sounds like obfuscation to me.


Indeed, RIM and Nokia’s responses to Jobs’ press conference are carefully crafted legal statements, but if you read them carefully, none of their responses deny Jobs’ statement that their smartphones experience the same problem of attenuated reception as the iPhone 4 under the same or similar circumstances.  And the reasons for that is straightforward:  (1) Jobs’ statement that the problem of attenuated reception, when a smartphone’s antenna is in close proximity to human skin, is a common problem for all smartphones is true; and (2) If any of the smartphone OEMs were to deny the truth of that statement, the plaintiffs’ product liability bar would soon have them in court, suing them for selling a smartphone with defective reception, because, by their representations, their smartphone isn’t suppose to experience attenuated reception but, in fact, dose experience attenuated reception when its antenna is in close proximity to human skin. 

That is why none of the smartphone OEMs have denied Jobs’ statement that the problem of attenuated reception is an industry wide problem, though RIM certainly expresses the industry wide belief that it was unacceptable for Jobs to publicly make that statement.


We all know that Bosco has nothing better to do here than post hate about Apple.  Let’s save ourselves the trouble and put him on ignore.


At this point we can all accept that many phones have attenuation problems based on the way they are held. The iPhone 3G & 3GS (can’t speak for v1) have the same problem when held from the bottom, however that’s not a natural holding position so the problem isn’t so apparent. Apple’s iP4 design fault is the location of the vulnerability. If they couldn’t avoid the attenuation problem altogether then they should have designed the phone to position the weak spot in a more avoidable place.
I would have liked to hear SJ admit that the position of the weak spot on the iP4 as their design failure but I guess he has to be careful of the wolves.

On another note… stop bitching about Bosco. You don’t have to agree with everything he writes. He adds much needed perspective to negate the fanboy brain-washing wink


Dear Mr. spudgeek:  I dispute you Sir.  There are videos all over you tube showing people holding their smartphones naturally at the bottom in ways that will replicate the attenuation of reception problem.  You are simply wrong on the facts.


Dear Mr. Nemo, as stated, I agree that the problem exists on the iP3G(S) but just stated it is not as apparent as on the iP4. I am constantly covering the weak spot on the iP4 with a natural hold which has caused a drop in antenna reception, drop in call quality, and occasionally dropped calls. I have never had this problem on the iPhone 3G or 3GS but I can replicate it by covering the base with my finger or palm, i.e. in an uncomfortable or “unnatural” way.
This is just my opinion, my experience; dispute away!!

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Nemo, I’m gonna add something to what spudgeek said, because it’s doubtless the second most important consideration in Antennagate, right after that Antennagate has more to do with Flash than it does antennas.

The quantitative (i.e. that which you can measure and to which you can assign numbers) does not matter. It is the qualitative that matters at the end of the day. Perceptions and feelings. You can pile up all the data you want that purports to support your claim, but spudgeek still knows that his iPhone 4 drops more calls than his previous iPhones. I think the key question to ask yourself whose correct answer will give you tremendous insight into the psychology of this phenomenon is this:

Can spudgeek really perceive a dropped call rate of greater than 1 per 100 more than his 3G(S)?

When you can answer that question—which involves understanding why it’s a loaded, bogus question—you’ll be on your way to understanding how this PR fiasco got out of control for Apple and why Apple’s answers don’t matter or even affect the debate.

I can relate this to something I know a lot about: screen sharing. When you’re sharing screens, there will always be latency, that is, a delay between what your screen shows and when it shows up on the watcher’s screen. If you are screencasting and carrying on a conversation, you need to adjust your pace and even your style to account for that delay so that your viewers don’t get confused. As a developer, it is very tempting to focus on metrics such as total seconds of latency, when users of these systems don’t really care about that. What the users care about is that it feels quick enough. 3 or 4 seconds of latency might be fine, and trimming 1/2 second might make no difference in perception. Whereas, 7 or 8 seconds might feel horrible, and trimming even 2 seconds off might also make no difference in perception. One thing I’ve learned through experience and a little introspection is that when you reach for numbers to explain away a perception, you’re either not listening, not understanding, or lying to yourself. Apple and its defenders find themselves in that situation.

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