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Comment: Apple must cut the crap and fix the iPhone 4

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  iPhone 4 antenna 15th July 2010

There's a lot to like about the new iPhone 4, it's a sleeker and more powerful device than ever before, and the high resolution display coupled with the fast processor makes using it a joy.

But unless you have been living under a rock, then you are probably aware of a great deal of talk about reception issues, in particular when the black spacer on the bottom left hand corner is covered over by the user's hand. YouTube has hundreds of videos confirming the problem.

The fault is very easy to reproduce for most people, although the effects tend to vary depending on the conductivity of the user's skin. But in most cases, covering the spacer leads to a slow.. and usually total.. signal loss.

Apple blames the users.. and then blames the bars..

Apple's apparent advice was to hold the iPhone 4 differently, explaining that all phones can tend to drop signal when held in a certain way. While this explanation is sort of true, it ignores the fact that Apple made a great deal of fuss about the antenna arrangement being on the outside of the case, saying that this would give excellent reception.

In any case, Apple's assertion that the way users hold the phone is easily shown up to be a falsehood. If you add the $30 rubber bumper to the phone, then holding the phone in the same way as before does not result in a dramatic signal loss, even though the only difference is a few millimetres of rubber. Cover the lower left hand corner of the phone with an insulator, anything from nail varnish to tape, and the problem goes away, further confirming that the problem isn't something physically blocking the signal, but an issue with the two antennas being shorted.

Then things started to get really strange.. Apple then asserted that there was no real problem at all, and that the apparent drop in signal strength was due to a miscalculation in the signal strength bar indicator. But this clearly doesn't address the issue either, as the fault often seems to happen in areas that other phones say have a full strength signal.

If you look at the problem from another angle - if it wasn't important that the two antenna were insulated from each other, then why is there a spacer to keep them apart? It seems to us that having a pair of bare metal antennas in such close proximity wasn't the good idea that Apple thought it was.

Apple's arguments that there isn't really a problem don't seem to hold up, either in their own internal logic or when weighed against the mass of evidence.

Apple is digging itself a bigger and bigger hole.

 Rotten Apple Our conclusion? Apple is lying. It's a simple design error that somehow escaped the testing process, something that seems very obvious from even a brief amount of testing.

From a practical level, the longer that Apple deny that there is a problem, then the worse it will get. But the problem is that If Apple do admit the antenna fault, then they will have to explain why they have made what appear to be false statements about it.

Apple need to fix this whole mess, and they need to do it now. Perhaps they can offer a free $30 bumper (which probably only costs a few cents to make), or they can offer a free refund to customers who are badly impacted (remember that many customers don't have any problems at all). A product recall might cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but it is certainly possible. A software fix is touted, but you can seldom overcome physical hardware faults in software alone.

But pretending that nothing is happening is not going to fix a thing. Various legal actions are already in play, and if these come to court then we could well see Apple's internal documents and find out exactly how much they really knew about this flaw.

Apple really need to cut the crap and fix the iPhone 4 before they do lasting damage to themselves and their brand.

Image credit: inorikof @ Flickr


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