Jobs' iPhone 4 Antenna Solution: Rubber Bumpers, Not Contrition

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-07-18 Print this article Print

News Analysis: Apple's Steve Jobs admits mistakes, but blames everybody but his company or the design of the iPhone 4 as the cause of persistent reports about dropped calls and spotty signal reception.

Apple's Steve Jobs, in a hastily called news conference, announced July 16 that the iPhone 4 really doesn't have any problems. The issues with the external antenna are a product of the imagination of the media. The complaints of dropped calls are minimal and no worse than any other phone.

Then he conceded that Apple makes mistakes (although he didn't mention any) and said he'd give iPhone 4 users a free rubber bumper if they'd just go away and shut up.

The production, of course, was exactly what you'd expect from Jobs. He arrogantly absolved himself and Apple of all guilt; he said that other smartphone makers were worse; and he pointed to a fairly small return rate and a small set of complaints to Apple's help desk as proof. He also showed us pretty photos of an anechoic chamber that he said proved that Apple tests its phones as a way to refute Consumer Reports.

It was quite a performance. There probably hasn't been that much spin in one room since the last Republican and Democratic National Conventions. Never mind that Apple was being skewered by a usually fawning press corps. Never mind that an anechoic chamber is used to keep sound interference to a minimum, but doesn't do anything for radio waves. And never mind that, as eWEEK's P.J. Connolly points out, Apple never did any field testing without encasing the phone in a rubber disguise.

The fact is, the press conference didn't do anything for anyone except Jobs and his PR staff. The stock has already taken a hit, and Jobs pointedly said that he wasn't going to apologize to investors. Confidence has taken a hit, and Jobs attempted to deflect that criticism. The only thing left that Jobs could criticize was other smartphones. He claimed to show that a BlackBerry Bold 9700 would lose its signal when held a certain way. Then he tried the same thing with an Android device and a Windows Mobile device.

I tried the same Jobs Death Grip with a BlackBerry Bold 9700, and I was not able to duplicate the results, despite being in a weak signal area. I tried every Android device in the lab, and I couldn't duplicate the results there, either. I also tried a couple of Windows Mobile devices, but, well, they couldn't detect a signal with or without the Jobs Death Grip. 

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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