Apple's iPhone 4 denial: insulting or ignorant?
Reg readers, go to work
Comment Apple released a surreal missive on Friday morning that said the only thing wrong with the iPhone 4 is the way it calculates signal-strength bars. That letter is either an honest explanation or total bullshit — and it's high time that a competent, unbiased antenna-engineering team found out.
On the face of it, Apple's letter — which The Reg reported on earlier today — appears ludicrous in the extreme. Like an alcoholic in deep denial, Apple says that it's not their fault, it's the bars'.
There has been a firestorm of complaints about the iPhone 4's reception problems — hop on over to Cupertino's own discussion forums, for example, and check out recent pitchforks-and-torches outcries such as the real reason for bad reception PART 2! and Apple says iPhone 4 calculates bars wrong. And while you're there, dip into 3G data speed on iPhone 4 is painfully slow. But hurry — on Friday morning there was an active thread called Apple's Statement and Software Fix, but it has since been blocked.
While many posters note that their iPhone 4's reception is quite acceptable, thankyouverymuch, a good percentage say that reception quality has dropped noticeably below what they experienced with previous-generation iPhones.
Perhaps they didn't read Apple's letter, which points out that the signal-strength bar miscalculation "has been present since the original iPhone."
The Reg hesitates to point out three flaws in Apple's argument, simply because they're so obvious that we fear insulting your intelligence. But bear with us:
- iPhone 4 owners aren't complaining about the number and height of their signal-strength bars, they're complaining about poor reception.
- If the bar-height problem exisited in identical form in previous iPhones, why is Apple only now citing it as the reason behind the current hullabaloo?
- How does Apple explain the myriad reports — here's a particularly straightforward one — of reception problems caused by bridging the iPhone 4's two external antennas by touching the spot where they meet?
In a comprehensive and generally favorable review of the iPhone 4, Anandtech delves deeply into the iPhone 4 reception capabilities, with a particularly interesting investigation of its antennas. In sum, Anandtech's conclusion is that the iPhone 4's overall reception quality is superior to that of the iPhone 3GS, but that it is much more susceptible to signal attenuation when its 3G antenna's tuning is disturbed by being touched.
In other words, according to Anandtech's data, when the iPhone 4 is in an area of high signal strength, and when its antenna is not being detuned by coming in contact with what Anandtech refers to as "ugly bags of mostly water" — meaning humans — it will outperform earlier iPhones.
However, when signal strength is poor and the antennas are compromised, the resulting more-severe attenuation would cause the iPhone 4's reception to dip below that of the iPhone 3GS.
As Anandtech puts it in a discussion of touch-induced radio-frequency attenuation:
There's nothing Apple nor anyone else can do to get around physics, plain and simple. It's something which demonstrably affects every phone's cellular reception.
Add in an external antenna you're essentially forced to touch and bridge to another adjacent antenna while holding, and the signal attenuation is even worse. The fact of the matter is that either the most sensitive region of the antenna should have an insulative coating, or everyone should use a case. For a company that uses style heavily as a selling point, the latter isn't an option. And the former would require an unprecedented admission of fault on Apple's part.
If Anandtech's testing and arguments are correct, then Apple's "it's the bars" argument is, not to put too fine a point on it, insulting.
But there's one other possibility: that Apple actually believes that the iPhone 4's problems aren't problems at all, but merely a matter of bar-based hysteria that has somehow erupted only now, even though they claim that the unintended signal-bar deception has existed in the iPhone since its release in 2007.
Luckily, it should be relatively straightforward, as we stated earlier, for a competent, unbiased antenna-engineering team to discover the truth. After all, as AnandTech pointed out: "There's nothing Apple nor anyone else can do to get around physics."
The iPhone 4 is a physical thing, not an idea, not an opinion. Its UI can be argued over, but its physical properties are just that: physical, not stylistic. They can be tested, and their performance parameters can be plotted.
Anandtech has made an excellent start, but the definitive analysis of the iPhone 4 is yet to be completed. We await the evenhanded analysis of seasoned experts who are well-versed in the black arts of antenna design and testing.
Millions of dollars, a gathering legal storm, and the reputation of Apple, its executives, and its design and engineering teams hang in the balance.
As the tagline for the 1990s television phenomena The X-Files declared: "The truth is out there." If you, dear reader, have the expertise — and we know some of you do — go find it. Please. ®
Why aren't Nokia, LG, Samsung, HTC, etc. not also being hounded? Simple.......
.........they do not promote themselves the way Apple does. The type of promotion that virtually begs people to declare that the emperor is in fact clad in nothing but his birthday suit when something goes wrong. Especially if the emperor continues to insist that, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that he is fully and stylishly clothed and all his subjects have vision problems.
Speak the truth to power, Brother!
Yes, there's no story here at all Matthew Barker...
Just that 2m people have bought a flawed product and Apple pretends the flaw isn't there.
No story at all. Move along people, and let Brother Barker sing for you on your way out.
Insulting or Ignorant...
I'd say insulting. Hugely. Apple are treating its customers as if they are stupid. I love the functions of the iPhone, I love the Apps, and I love how it looks. But, from day one, even going back to the first iPhone in 2007, signal has never been its strong point. Back then, it was just about bearable and as a second phone I could live with it.
However this latest device has a very obvious flaw. Its been documented on videos on Youtube and many users, including myself, have experienced the fault, which results in not just a drop in signal, but in some situations a complete loss of data, awful call quality, or a dropped call.
Apple, in traditional arrogant style say, hey customers you are "holding it wrong", but if you are not happy we will "allow" you to return your device to get your money back. Gosh...wow, how generous. Still no apology for wasting our time due to your poor Quality Control process though and still no offer of a free bumper.
Sorry Apple, but I cant be so precious with my phone I have to treat it like some fragile doll when I hold it, its just so very very uncool. What next...a white Apple iGlove for holding the phone? All a bit 80s Duran Duran isnt it??
AND I'm left with a bad taste in my mouth. Its one thing for a manufacturer to release a product with a fault, none of us rational people think you are perfect, but its quite another to lie and treat your customers like something you stepped in.
Goodbye Apple, hello Google Nexus One. At least I can hold that any way I like...
Two years ago...
Here's the first para from a CNet report two years ago:
As previously noted, users continue to report poor 3G signal strength under iPhone OS 2.1. To be clear, iPhone OS 2.1 does not purport to actually boost signal strength. Instead, it provides "more accurate" signal strength display, which, in most cases, means more bars, but not necessarily better reception or ability to make/receive calls. However, it appears that "more accurate" may mean "unreasonably generous."
So back then they made the signal display 'more accurate' and now they are making it 'more accurate' again. By iOS 5 it will be soooo accurate it will be untrue. Oh it's untrue already. Ooops,
This is unbelievable
So the iPhone has, since its launch, exaggerated the reported signal? So Apple is going to bring out a software update which will "correct" this issue and, presumably, report the same signal when you bridge the antennae with your hand as when you hold it "properly"?
But what has that got to do with the actual *loss* of signal when you bridge the antennae - sometimes resulting in dropped calls - that's been widely reported? Surely no-one's going to be taken in by that? "We'll just say that we're *not* changing the goalposts; however, when you hold the phone 'wrongly', the goal mouth will still get smaller"!
I love Apple products, but Apple and Jobs seem to be losing the plot over this one. This latest PR blunder is an act of monumental hubris that's now descended into farce.
Apple needs to learn from Toyota's mistakes*. But then again, it was probably always going to happen some time. From what I've read on The Reg and elsewhere, Apple has a corporate culture that basically equates to a doctrine of papal infallibility, resulting in employees being too scared to disagree with the corporate message lest they lose their job. Think Different? Mmm...
The iPhone 4 looks great: the camera(s), battery life, speed and apps all appeal to me. I can live without the freedom to install non-Apple approved apps; hell, I can even live without Flash. The one thing I can't live without is the ability to make phone calls reliably.
So, I'll be sticking with my old iPhone 3G for the time being. If this isn't sorted soon, then I may jump ship to Android.
An Exasperated Fanboi
* Ironically, Toyota's US sales have actually increased significantly over the last 12 months. Maybe it's the case that when you finally 'fess up, put things right, and still create a generally good product, people will continue to buy it.