Antenna Touching

Apple has finally admitted that touching the antenna (that is, the entire rim of the new iPhone) degrades reception. Steve Jobs correctly states that this is not just an iPhone problem, but that it is a problem on most wireless phones. I can't confirm his claim about a warning sticker on some phones, but I do remember a line in the manual for my last Nokia phone that warned you not to touch the metal logo on the back of the phone. I remember a line in the manual for my very first phone ever (which actually had a pull-out antenna) tat warned you not to touch the antenna. When Steve Jobs announced that the iPhone 4 had an antenna running all around the outside of the phone, I remember saying something to Sharon about these touching antennas, and wondering out loud if Apple had figured out a way around this problem. He was so proud of this "brilliant engineering", I thought for a while that they must have a fix.

As you've probably heard, no, they did not find a fix for this problem. When people started experiencing the problem, they denied there was a problem. They blamed the user for doing things that the user had no reasonable expectation should be a problem. They blamed software ngineers for a hardware problem. They admitted their software has been lying to users for years about signal strength, in an attempt to avoid admitting there's a problem.

This reaction became increasingly unbelievable, so finally yesterday Steve Jobs admitted that there is a problem. He's offering a bandaid for the problem, and blaming reality for the problem. If he hadn't denied for so long that there even was a problem, this would not be such a big deal.

There are three real problems here. The first was reportedly ignoring an engineer who allegedly warned that this antenna design might cause a problem. The second is failing to perform real world tests that might have uncovered the problem before the release of the phone. (As we know from the famous "lost iPhone" story, test units were disguised by putting the iPhone 4 in a case that made it look like an older iPhone.) The third is denying the existence of any problems whatsover when it was blindingly obvious there was a problem.

Even now, when the denials are over, Steve Jobs drags competitors phones up on stage in front of the press to prove that many popular phones have this problem. Did anybody ever say other phones don't have this problem? By your own claims, some phones even admit they have this problem right on the phone. You're the one who was saying the iPhone did not. Please, just stop with the excuses. An admission, a remedy, and an apology are all that's needed.

2010.07.17 at 12:00am EDT