Smartphone players annoyed by Apple's response to "Antennagate"


An image from Apple.com of the BlackBerry 9700 Bold labeled "In weak signal areas, this grip may negatively affect signal strength."

An image from Apple.com of the BlackBerry 9700 Bold labeled "In weak signal areas, this grip may negatively affect signal strength."

When Steve Jobs now famously declared “We’re not perfect“, he was referring to the fact that despite their tremendous success over the past few years since launching the original iPhone, Apple can still make mistakes.

If he had left it at that, it’s likely that Friday’s press conference would have been seen as an appropriate demonstration of humility on the part of a company that had released a product which if nothing else, has a flaw that turned out to be bigger issue than expected. Most observers would likely have concluded that indeed, no one is perfect, and that Apple’s offer of a free case was the right thing to do, assuming that they would follow this measure up with more due-diligence to determine if the antenna problem had affected all of their iPhone 4’s or simply a small batch.

Unfortunately, Jobs elected to follow up his statement with a declaration that all smartphones to a greater or lesser degree, suffer the same problems as the iPhone. In essence, “We’re not perfect” became “We’re not perfect, and by the way, neither are our competitors”. It looked as though Apple had committed the classic mistake of trying to lessen the focus on their mistakes by pointing the finger at someone else. If this were a schoolyard squabble you could imagine Jobs saying to a teacher “Yeah, well I know I started the fight, but Johnny started a fight last week – why don’t you punish him too?”

Jobs cited RIM, Samsung and HTC’s smartphones as just as vulnerable to antenna problems when held in a certain way. He even showed some videos demonstrating what that looked like.

As you might expect, it hasn’t taken long for the companies that were dragged into the fight (and even one that wasn’t) to respond to Apple’s condemnation of an entire industry.

Gizmodo is reporting that Samsung has this to say following Apple’s demonstration of  a reception-impaired Omnia 2 smartphone:

“The antenna is located at the bottom of the Omnia 2 phone, while iPhone’s antenna is on the lower left side of the device. Our design keeps the distance between a hand and an antenna. We have fully conducted field tests before the rollout of smartphones. Reception problems have not happened so far, and there is no room for such problems to happen in the future”

The message to Apple is clear: Go ahead and defend your product, but don’t implicate our product when you do it.

RIM was far more direct in their reaction, not mincing any words:

“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. RIM is a global leader in antenna design and has been successfully designing industry-leading wireless data products with efficient and effective radio performance 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. One thing is for certain, RIM’s customers don’t need to use a case for their BlackBerry smartphone to maintain proper connectivity. 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.”

And somewhat suprisingly, Nokia, who wasn’t mentioned by name in Apple’s press conference, felt the need to make a few clarifying statements lest anyone think that their products suffer from Apple’s “Smartphones have weak spots” remark:

“Antenna design is a complex subject and has been a core competence at Nokia for decades, across hundreds of phone models. Nokia was the pioneer in internal antennas; the Nokia 8810, launched in 1998, was the first commercial phone with this feature.
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.
In general, antenna performance of a mobile device/phone may be affected with a tight grip, depending on how the device is held. That’s why Nokia designs our phones to ensure acceptable performance in all real life cases, for example when the phone is held in either hand. Nokia has invested thousands of man hours in studying how people hold their phones and allows for this in designs, for example by having antennas both at the top and bottom of the phone and by careful selection of materials and their use in the mechanical design.”

  One thing’s for sure: we haven’t heard the last of “Antennagate” whether Apple recognizes it as a problem or not.

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13 comments

  1. DCN

    I think apple’s Free Case is going resolve the problem, Iphone 4 user will have no connection bars at all now. Get a good device BB9700, not a problem what so ever.

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  2. David Rye

    after all the years of apple thinking their soo superiour not other companies finnaly have something to bash apple with!

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  3. David Rye

    althiugh it was pretty bad on apples part to try and make i look like it doesent just happen with their phone and bring other companies into the situation.

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  4. François

    Steve Job is becoming an iHole of the industry. I have a Blackberry with never a drop signal, very good what RIM had to say. A Nokia and a Motorolla never an issue with either.

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  5. Jtan

    Instead of just making a good product and saying we are the best, put some marketing skills too. No wonder no one ever wanted to buy a Mac, and soon it’ll be for iphone and ipad which anyways are totally useless as the Mac’s were.

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  6. dcdcdc

    1.6% returns thus far on a new product roll out? Leave it to the general media to blow something out of proportion. The biggest issue people should have with the iphone isn’t its antenna placement, or design, or any of its structual flaws. They should hold issue with the fact that it is a device, that is more expensive to purchase, than any other phone on the market (without a contract) but is technologically less advanced than its contemporaries.

    But lets be honest, no one buys any apple product because it is the best product on the market for the money, they buy them because apple makes the neatest easiest to use products. That comes at a premium. RIM, Motorola, nokia, etc… these are companies that make great phones, with so so OS’s, and poorly designed layouts. Apple just happened to start with itunes, and a built in userbase. So tough luck Blackberry, and whoever else.

    All this free press for apple has been great, any company would love the kind of attention apple is getting. They have a fix for it, or you get your money back… not bad.

    Ps, if you live in the US, your calls are getting dropped no matter what phone you use. period.

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    • Paul

      You might say 1.6 %, but that is 48000 iphone 4’s. You can slice and dice, but if you stacked all of these that is a heck of a lot. The number will most likely go up when released in other countries.

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  7. test

    Frankly, Apple products are “easiest to use” is pure BS. Its only easy if you are a MAC mania. Frankly I had the same learning curve on an iphone (a friends) as I have had with my xperia x10. I like the Xperia better. By the way, android market and blackberry app store is also extensive. Its not how many apps you have in the store, its how useful they are to the person downloading it. I downloaded a grand total of 10 apps from the market that I found useful, I saw the same ones (or similar ones) on the app store from apple. Overall, I wouldn’t buy apple simply because they are apple. If you need more of a reason to be a apple lover or hater, then you don’t understand apple.

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  8. Kivi

    I think it is hilarious how once a company gains a great deal of success… all the haters flock like Lemmings to the latest “hate du jour”.

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  9. David

    Yes, Steve Jobs was not the brightest lightbulb when he threw mud at other mftrs. Apple is a leader in technology that works – that cannot be debated. Why he would do a childish thing like this is, well, … he should run for parliamentary office!

    Blackberry, Android, etc are all excellent phones. If you live in Canada and use any 3G network – you can expect dropped calls. Who cares? Call the person back. No one is so important that the person on the other end will assume he/she has an inferior smartphone!!! Everybody just relax.

    It appears that the media has assumed that all the cellphone public expect perfection. I certainly don’t. It is a privilege to own and use a device that can do almost everything my computer can. If you have a smartphone, you are in the moniority of the world’s population. So everyone breathe!!!

    This is a media circus, just like Lohan, Woods, Gibson, et al.

    Why don’t we just google/bing something else on our web-browers??

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  10. bob

    Steve Jobs has attained god like status in the tech world.People line up enmasse to buy his products.They hold their breath when he speaks.Someday there may be a Church of Jobs.If Frank Herbert can pull it off,who knows.We should all feel very silly expecting a god to apologize.

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  11. Mr. Perfect

    You can bet Apple will use this experience to create an even better product. I’m glad Steve Jobs didn’t apologize, why should he? He pointed out some things I didn’t know about smartphones and I agree…”we’re not perfect.” I didn’t expect anyone to be perfect. Only I’m perfect.

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