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Monday, 19 July 2010 20:03

iPhone 4 Antennagate - more distorted reality?


A lot of ink has been spilled over the last few days regarding the iPhone 4's supposed reception issues. Apple has countered most of the concerns by not actually admitting an issue but saying that it's every phone maker's problem. But as the Reality Distortion Field fades away, there's little doubt that Apple is on its own.

Since Steve Jobs' press conference on Saturday morning (Australian time) phone manufacturers HTC and RIM have countered Steve Jobs' claim that how a phone is held affects its capacity to receive a clear signal. Jobs then went on to say that the iPhone 4 was superior to the iPhone 3GS it supersedes with regards to signal reception and customer return rates. All of that may be true but he did neglect to mention one thing.

Apple intentionally designed the iPhone 4 so that the antenna is placed outside the phone's casing. That means that it is far more susceptible to signal degradation caused by a user's hand simply holding the device than other phones on the market.

Job's says that this issue is not unique to the iPhone 4. Perhaps it's technically not unique as all phones can have reception impacted by how they're held, but no other phone has suffered the same way because the antenna is always shielded from the user. In fact, although Jobs gave a virtuoso performance at the press conference, a question from the floor during the Q&A proved that, at best, Jobs' claims were tenuous.

During the Q&A that concluded the 90 minute event, a user in the audience with a BlackBerry said that he couldn't replicate what Jobs had demonstrated on stage with a BlackBerry Bold 9700. Jobs rather lamely answered that it wasn't evident 'in certain areas'.

Well, I'm going call bulldust (or something stronger!). If placing your hand over an antenna causes measurable signal degradation then it shouldn't matter where your standing. Of course, Jobs would likely argue that the algorithm that reports signal strength is flawed so the visual indicator on the BlackBerry mightn't be accurately reporting what's happening.

All this confusion, much of it expertly created by Apple, has moved the discussion from 'Does the iPhone 4 suffer from a reception issue?' to questions about how phones are held, antenna positions in rival handsets and obscure algorithms that determine how signal strength is measured and displayed.

With so much data flooding the discussion, I'm certain that the clear truth of the matter is being somewhat obscured.


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