“If you don’t want an iPhone 4 don’t buy it. If you bought one and you don’t like it, bring it back.” boomed out the iPhone 4 Antenna video put together by Johnathan Mann who posts a new song everyday on YouTube, thus beginning the Apple Press Conference on Antennagate.
Held at Apple Campus, Infinite Loop 4, the event brought together close to 150 members of the press to reveal the truth behind a group of iPhone 4 issues collectively dubbed ‘Antennagate’ by the media. Beginning with a 30-minute presentation by Steve Jobs followed by a Q & A session with COO – Tim Cook, CEO – Steve Jobs and SVP – Bob Mansfield, the over 1-hour long event settled many questions and brought up new ones all the while provding lots of fodder for energetic discussion around the thinnest smartphone on the planet – the iPhone 4.
Image Credits: Ars Technica.
The following is a summary of the event mixed with reactions from competitors, latest updates(White iPhone delay cause and shipping date announced) and our own thoughts.
[Update: Our summary is the most accurate and the most up-to-date document on this issue, combining reports from Apple, trusted third party reviewers running the latest software version(iOS 4.0.1), corroborated by our own testing and observations. Please see comment no.2 here for more stats, thoughts and links to resources exposing CR’s flawed Radio Frequency testing methods.]
1. Bridging the gap with the on the bottom-left of the iPhone 4 with the ‘Death Grip’, a physically painful tight clench, weakens signal – both cellular as well as WiFi.
2. Signal Bars drop drastically from 5 to 1 when ‘Death Grip’ is used.
3. Proximity sensor triggers erroneously.
There is no problem with the iPhone 4’s antenna and Apple posted data to back that claim up. Number of Dropped calls has not changed from previous models and is around the same as any other smartphone. No one is returning iPhone 4’s as no one’s experiencing anything different from what standard performance expected from smartphones.
Apple will provide FREE bumpers(cases) to all iPhone 4 owners(even outside the U.S) who want one, and refund all purchases of bumpers. With the back of the iPhone 4 being glass instead of plastic or aluminium as with the earlier models, bumpers are useful even when the phone is not having any signal issues. This offer is valid until Sep 30th, after which Apple hopes to find a better solution, failing which they plan to continue with the free bumper offer.
1. 3 million iPhone 4 units sold in 3 weeks. Supply cannot meet demand and as analysts had anticipated it seems to be hurting sales; the pace has come down quite a lot after the 1.7 millions units sold in the first weekend.
2. Number of iPhone 3GS units that were returned when it launched – 6%
Number of iPhone 4 units that were returned when it launched – 1.7%
Contrary to media reports, most people who got the iPhone 4 don’t have a problem.
3. Percentage of users reporting the Antenna issue – only 0.55%
4. Dropped calls with iPhone 4 is about the same as with the iPhone 3GS . 80% of iPhone users use a case and as cases for iPhone 4 are just getting rolled out by 3rd Party manufacturers, the dropped calls with iPhone 4 will be even lesser than that of the 3GS.
Where Apple screwed up:
“If we were to fault the iPhone 4, it’s that we waved a red flag in front of the bull by putting a “grip me here” mark on the iPhone 4 (the black lines demarking the different antennas)”
2. The Algorithm for calculating the bars did not take into account the increased sensitivity of the new iPhone 4 antenna. So the drop in signal, that in reality were just 2 bars to 1, was displayed on the phone as 5 bars to 1 bar giving users the impression that the “Death Grip” problem was orders of magnitude more severe than it actually was.
Apple’s new Antenna – Pushing the State-of-the-Art:
Apple’s antenna for the iPhone 4 pushes the state-of-the art to a new level. As you can see in the graphic below, the sensitivity of the antenna has gone up considerably, with the iPhone 4 capable of holding a call even when the signal is as weak as -121 dB, while the iPhone 3GS, Nexus One and Droid can only hold the signal for upto -113 dB. iPhone 4 is currently the only smartphone capable of holding the signal even when the signal is as weak as -121 dB. To reflect this improved sensitivity of the antenna, the signal bars on the iPhone 4/iOS 4.0.1 have been updated with taller bars, which you can see below compared to the iPhone 3GS signal bars.
There is also a healthy debate on whether to ditch the Signal Bar metaphor altogether and display absolute dB values or go for a simple ‘Connected/Disconnected’ status symbol. Over at Anandtech, commenter and AT&T employee, rushbc, writes:
“…but since I do work for AT&T, and since I have talked to AT&T customers, I know that they DO care about the bars. I cannot tell you how many times people will tell me, “hey, I am only getting one bar on my cell phone at my office”.
and I say, “well, can you make and receive calls?”
and they say, “Yes”.
then I say, “well, can you connect to the internet on your phone without any problems?”
and they say, “Yes”.
then I say, “well, what is the problem, then, sir?”
then they say, “but I am only getting one bar!” then I just smile to myself and try not to scream. it’s almost like the famous old “who’s on first” routine, but in real life.”
Reactions to the Conference:
At the start of the conference, CEO Steve Jobs demoed test data showing competing phones like RIM/BlackberryOS, Nokia/Symbian, and Droid/Android, seeing as much signal attenuation from the “Death Grip” as the iPhone 4. While RIM, and Nokia did not deny that there was significant signal attenuation, they reiterated that RIM, Nokia customers don’t need to use cases.
RIM’s co-chief executives Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsille told Britain’s Daily Telegraph:
“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. One thing is for certain, RIM’s customers don’t need to use a case for their BlackBerry to maintain proper connectivity.”
Nokia responded, saying:
“We prioritise antenna performance over physical design if they are ever in conflict.”
1. Proximity Sensor bug will be fixed in the next software update.
2. White iPhone will start shipping at the end of the month. A worker with the company’s quality control department said that the company is still trying to work out the right balance of paint thickness and opacity, in order to ensure the panel allows enough space for the digitizer overlay, but also gives the level of white that Apple expects the product to have.
3. Media is to blame for making up an ‘Antennagate’ where there was none.
4. The allegation that Apple did not do sufficient Antenna testing was debunked.
5. The allegation that Apple knew about the Antenna issues beforehand and issued bumpers to cover the flaws was debunked. This claim is contrary to the previous one which alleged that Apple was not aware of antenna issues as they didn’t do sufficient testing. (Basically, the press were caught trying to run as many theories as possible to bait people for visits and ad revenue. Steve Jobs said that after 34 years in the industry, it is a new phenomenon to him that Apple still hasn’t earned the trust to do the right thing. )
6. Apple has invested over $100 Miliion to build 17 anechoic chambers with 18 PhD scientists and engineers working in this area. (The labs are stunning and we’ll put up a post soon with pics of the facility.)
7. Jobs dislikes the practice of putting up his emails to customers on the net by bloggers looking for some easy pageviews and ad revenue; calls the practice ‘rude’. Although this is not the first time his emails have ended up in blog posts…
Subject: RE: Audion 2: have you had a chance to see it yet?
I hear that your deal with AOL fell through. Any interest in throwing in with us at Apple?
…the practice has certainly seen an upswing lately in the rush to make some easy money.
8. None of the Apple top brass use cases for their iPhones.
9. Jobs on AT&T and reception:
“when AT&T wants to add a cell tower in Texas, it takes about three weeks… when they want to add one in SF, it takes three years. That’s the single biggest problem they’re having. They’re spending a lot expanding their networks, and our data rates are way better on the iPhone 4, but AT&T has to expand its network, and that’s a long process. I know because we’re constantly asking about it. They’re trying really hard, and sometimes I think they should enlist the support of the users in the community.”
To sum up, Apple, with this press event, has done a good job of reining in the media and debunking many myths in the process. With free bunkers, customers are happy too. Now all eyes are on Sep 30th when Apple will re-evaluate on whether to continue with the free bumper offer or not, depending on whether they have updates on the disconcerting, but not show-stopping, drop in signal when using the “Death Grip”