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« Big Milestone - world now has 5 Billion active mobile phone subscriptions | Main | AT&T CTO claims US leads in mobile. Paging Truth Police? »

July 13, 2010



Ironically, CR still has them at the top.


Sorry to be picky, but the things that stop cars are "brakes", not breaks. Unfortunately for foreign speakers English has many homophones.

Beth Mahoney

This phone seems to be a complete disaster for Apple. Although they have sold a lot of them their reputation has taken a huge hit, customers are filing law suits, and it seems Apple will have to recall this phone. I can't believe Apple would even put out a product like this..

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi dissident, Jody and Beth

Thank you for the comments.

dissident - yeah haha, ironically eh. Best phone in tests yet can't recommend. Ironic.

Jody - hey, its a blog and obviously am rushed. I'd catch that when I do a major re-read of the blog. But thanks for the sarcasm. I'll go fix the brakes.

Beth - yeah, very very many things going wrong for Apple this time. The stolen prototype and Apple's Gestapo tactics to retrieve it, then Steve Job's bizarre comment 'hold it differently' and the bogus 'network signal indicator' software bug story and now this. And there were some problems with the retina display with yellow dots etc. All speaks of the phone being too rushed and Apple being hostage to their one phone model per year (crazy) strategy. If they released 4 phones per year, and one was found to be defective before launch, no problem. They'd delay its launch by a month, no biggie and the stock price would not even budge but Apple fans would be guaranteed a solid product. Now that they are married as the 'mobile company' - with their one annual phone, they had to launch in June or the stock price would take a huge hit (remembering that the non iPhone 4 model sales of the older iPhone models in April-June quarter are dismal, and Apple cannot take that negative press if their sales 'crashed' in this quarter while the Android phones are jumping off the shelves)

Thank you all for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)


Tomi, I agree that Apple needs to issue a response and soon because CR carries some weight, even if misplaced, at least in the US. And I believe Apple is preparing one.

But I wanted to point out that there are two separate problems. Problem 1 - holding the phone. Problem 2 - holding the phone such that your finger touches the gap between antennas.

Problem 1 is true for all phones. See for E71 (this was posted back in May but not enough people or media cared about the phone or about the problem to make anything of it.) I also looked through a bunch of cell phone user manuals, and they all have sections titled something like "BLOCKING ANTENNA WHILE
MAKING A CALL: CORRECT/INCORRECT FINGER POSITION", usually with accompanying pictures showing the correct way to hold a phone. Even Nokia manuals have something similar.

Apple made Problem 1 look worse than it was by the weird allocation of reception performance to displayed bars.

It's also been pointed out to me by co-workers who are RF engineers that CR didn't really perform the tests the way they should've. There is one such report online at

Problem 2 is unique to iPhone 4, though it could be lumped with Problem 1. Just as you don't hold a cellphone and cover the camera lens when taking a picture, or hold a cellphone and cover the speaker when trying to play music or when following turn-by-turn nav instructions, one shouldn't hold a cellphone and bridge the gap when trying to use the cell network.

If I'm Apple, I'd be careful about what problem I admit to and point out only those things that differ, for better or worse, from other cellphones. Anyway, agree with you that Apple mostly controls how this will be resolved and dissipated in the days ahead.

Alex B

As a former electronics engineer who is aware that anything to do with wireless technology is a complex black art due to all forms of phenomena, from multipath distortion to interference, Apple have since iPhone 2G focused much more on the GUI than the 'phone' element. That is what happens when you don't purchase or work with a company with decades of experience in wireless, such as Nokia, Motorola (they had a chance!) or other. Even Apple's previous and current WiFi equipped laptops suffer (wireless) problems that are lesser on other (plastic) Windows laptops.

With iPhone 4, Apple have as before, put aesthetic over practicality, and that does not just refer to the use of an exposed antenna. The camera may be excellent, but there is no mechanical shutter release (making it easy to drop the phone - I know, I had a 3GS for 3 months, and it was a fiddle to take photos - oh, and it dropped calls all the time too) and there's no self timer on the camera either. Not to mention, no ability to Bluetooth content to other devices, something Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung phones have done for years).

Whilst I"m a massive Apple fan (Mac Mini their most sensible and 'trustworthy' product in my view), they have got to stop over hyping specific features that in the long run just don't matter due to their over reliance on being flashy rather than really that useful on a day to day basis. Note that the HTC Desire, which has received ZERO hype is not only receiving excellent reviews across the board, but doing HTC well too.

Apple need to get back to their roots and that of NeXT (go watch the 1992 NeXTStep demo on YouTube!) and offer versatility and practicality to match the bling. (And more reasonable pricing, the achilles heel for NeXT.)


As someone who owns an iPhone 4 and who has had no problems with it, let me say a few things.

1. If what CR reported is accurate then the isssue is overblown. No problem that can be fixed with a one-inch piece of duct tape can be regarded as that terrible. I'm not saying that what's going on is good - far from it - but it isn't (yet) the disaster that people are making it out to be. Also, it has been just about 3 weeks since the product launched. There are bound to be bugs in any new product - so give Apple time to fix it before crucifying them. That said, if by (say) August end, the problem still persists, I'll jump on the Apple-bashing bandwagon.

2. It is amazing that there are so many armchair quarterbacks insisting that it is a hardware problem. Let us wait for the software update and better analysis before coming to that conclusion. If the software update fixes issues then people who insisted that it was a hardware problem are going to look fairly silly. My (purely subjective) feeling is that the software update is going to be more involved than just changing the algorithm for how many bars get display. Apple never says much and in this case they (IMHO) are probably hiding the true extent of the software fix. Just changing the algorithm for determining number of bars should not take this long to put out.

3. Apple's response to this issue has been nothing short of terrible. Starting with Steve Jobs' comment about "holding it differently" to the press release belittling the issue, it seems a textbook example of how not to handle an issue such as this - very surprising given how good Apple PR normally is. What would have been infinitely better would have been to
a. Say (very briefly) that a software update is being worked on to fix the problem.
b. Tell people that regardless of when they bought the phone, they have until 2 weeks after the update is released to return the phone for a full refund.
c. Let people buy bumper cases at cost price (which should be something like $5, instead of $30) until the software update is out.



Even negative reviews help businesses like Apple. Bad PR doesn't mean less sales.
GoDaddy proves this.

Paul G

My iPhone 4 has the death grip problem, even with the bumper. Also, the signal strength display might well be faulty, but in my area of patchy coverage, the phone is seldom reachable when sat on my desk in exactly the same place as my 3GS.

Operators might not publicize this, but there is a view that the iPhone receiver generally is less sensitive than other devices.

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Tomi T Ahonen

Just as a final comment from me to all

Obviously as Apple admitted to the Antennagate issue in the big press conference, there is a problem. As I blogged that Friday, I thought the matter was over. But because Apple then had to do the dumb thing - to provoke rivals by claiming that everybody suffers from Death Grip (not true, all phones suffer from SOME signal loss) now the world's handset makers and the world's consumer watchdogs are rushing to test Apple's claim and time and again Apple is in the news, with consumer watchdogs reporting again and again, that Apple has the worst Death Grip problem and this is not symptomatic of any other phone and there so far is no watchdog that has put any other phone in the 'cannot recommend' category, but Apple is already not recommended by Consumer Reports in the USA, as well as similar watchdogs in Germany and France.

So in the end, yes, Apple messed up with its design, placing aesthetics ahead of functionality. It could have had this pass as a minor goof, if they left it to the acknowledgement, apology and free bumpers in the press release. But Apple then did the dumb move of antagonizing all rivals of the industry and now the Antennagate Death Grip lives on with daily press coverage. Both Samsung and Motorola have released formal ads spoofing the Death Grip and Apple cannot escape the bad publicity around it.

That was a rare bad call by the usually bulletproof Apple PR gang.

Tomi Ahonen :-)

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With iPhone 4, Apple put aesthetic over practicality, and that does not just refer to the use of an exposed antenna. The camera may be excellent, but there is no mechanical shutter release (making it easy to drop the phone.

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