I’ve steered clear of saying anything to do with the iPhone 4 antenna issue that’s been making the rounds for the past month orso mostly because I believe it’s almost a complete non-story. It seems pretty obvious that they made the choice to put the antenna on the outside for aesthetic reasons (although there’s not a whole lot of other places it could of gone really) and unfortunately the kinds of testing done wouldn’t pick up on this issue. Still there seems to be as many people ready to leap on Apple for any issue as there are lining up to buy their products but those two groups never seemed to have a big cross section as they do today. The problem I have however is not so much whether or not there is a problem, more that a stream of fud has begun to come out of various media outlets and PR firms that confuses the issue at hand rather than solving the problem outright.
For those of you not in the know the iPhone 4 has it’s antenna laid bare to the world in the form of the metal bands that wrap around the outside of the handset. Due to the size constraints of the handset there’s really no where else to put them as the handset is quite thin and the additional electronics that Apple plugged into the new handset doesn’t leave any room for your traditional internal antenna. Like most modern handsets it actually has 3 separate antennas, with one being used for things like Bluetooth/Wireless/GPS and the other two for 2G/3G cellular communications. The separation of the cellular and other antennas is done because the antennas are tuned to a specific range of frequencies and the two cellular antennas are done to improve reception. Realistically the only difference between the iPhone 4’s antenna and any other phone is the fact that you can see and touch it, and that’s where the problems are starting to arise.
You see nearly every phone in the market today has their antennas on the inside of the phone, usually at the bottom of the handset to reduce the radiation levels. They are put inside the handset to make sure that nothing can interfere with them directly like say keys in your pocket or your hand. The iPhone 4’s antenna is completely exposed to the world with those sleek bits of aluminium being electrically conductive. Your hand is also a good conductor and when your hand comes into contact with it you actually form part of a circuit with your phone. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem since electricity takes the path of least resistance (and your hand has a higher resistance than the metal) but the fatal flaw in Apple’s design is the gap that is bridged when the phone is held in the left hand.
When you bridge this gap you are completing a circuit between the two cellular antennas that the phone has. This has the effect of detuning the antennas and significantly reducing their performance and reducing the amount of usable signal available to the phone. This is why the problem can be replicated by both holding it normally or simply bridging the gap between the two antennas. The solution is quite simple the antennas simply need to be isolated from the conductive surface of your hands which is why the bumper cases were so effective in solving the problem.
Jobs has taken the unfortunate route of saying that all phones suffer from this issue and unfortunately that’s just not the case.
Now before any of you go ahead and link me to videos of it happening on other handsets let me explain why that’s not the issue that’s affecting the iPhone 4. You see all phones will suffer attenuation in signal when you put your hands over the top of their antenna. That’s pure physics at work since the signal has to pass through your hand which is actually quite good at absorbing radiation. It then follows that you could “death grip” any phone by just finding where it’s antenna is and covering that place up. Hell check any phone manual and they’ll probably show you where it is and tell you not to cover it up.
However that’s a different problem to the antenna being detuned by you touching it. When your signal drops due to you holding your phone that’s not you detuning your antenna, that’s just the signal being dampened by the barrier of your hand. You can’t detune the antenna when you aren’t able to make electrical contact with it and that’s where those videos that Jobs showed at the press conference were misleading. The problem they have isn’t one of attenuation due to the human hand, it’s one of the antenna being thrown out of whack electrically.
There’s no doubt that Apple handled this badly and in their classic style they’ve attempted to muddle the issue at hand whilst making themselves look like the good guys. Granted their move of giving every iPhone 4 owner a free bumper is a good move and I applaud them for doing so. However their handling of it by trying to bring everyone down and spreading fud about the issue hasn’t done them any favours in my book, nor in anyone else’s as far as I can tell. Hopefully I’ve cleared it up for you so that you understand the difference between the death grip on the iPhone 4 and any other handset out there, rather than the crap that I’ve seen spouted over this issue.
Because a good bunch of people are coming to this blog looking for a white iPhone 4 (thanks in part to me hosting a picture with the name) I thought I’d put up a quick post to say you’re out of luck, as many outlets reported a while back:
Those of you holding out for white iPhone 4s will have to continue your practice in patience: Apple says that they continue to be a challenge to manufacture and won’t be available until later this year. That’s right—no longer will they be available in the second half of July, which was already pushed back from late June when the iPhone 4 originally launched. Apple has pushed the date back again by apparently several months, and is no longer committing to a date.
Apple’s latest statement follows one made one month ago just before the iPhone 4 hit the streets. At that time, Apple said that the white version had “proven more challenging to manufacture than expected,” and were therefore being delayed for at least half a month. Steve Jobs even said during last week’s iPhone 4 press conference, where he discussed the iPhone’s antenna issues, that the white iPhone was still on track to ship at the end of July, so either he was stretching the truth or the latest statement was a last-minute decision.
As a fellow white iPhone lover I knew this would upset a few people but it seems to be a theme with the white versions of Apple’s popular phone. Still you might be in luck as hopefully they’ll push for an antenna fix at the same time hoping to avoid the death grip problem that’s plagued many of its handsets.
Makes me a little happier that I bought the 3GS…. a little. 😉
I try to keep resemblance of what could be likened to journalistic integrity on this blog. I usually only write about things that I believe I have something worthy to say on the topic and I think it shows when I’ve forced out a post just to satisfy my obsessive-compulsive side. Still the temptation is always there to take the latest hot headline in one of my areas of interest and just parrot the popular sentiment as it’s an almost guaranteed way to drive people to this site. Sometimes I’m lucky enough that these two worlds collide and I get to write about something I like that brings people to my blog. One example of this was my reaction to the iPad which, whilst I knew was going to be all over the press, was an honest reaction to the product’s announcement and saw quite a few people coming here to get whatever details they could on Apple’s latest toy.
In the professional blogging world things aren’t quite so freeform.
You see, despite efforts to the contrary, the best way to make money off your online content is advertising. Depending on who you’re dealing with these can be cost per thousand impressions (CPM), cost per click (CPC) or some other variety. No matter what kind of advertising you end up slathering all over your content the amount you make will still be directly proportional to the number of users that you receive on your site. The best ways to do this usually involve breaking a story (although that doesn’t last that long in our Internet world), writing on the topic de’jeur or playing on people’s loyalties by taking a controversial stance on a subject. Take a look at any blogging site and you’ll see a combination of all of these, usually right there on the front page. All of this is done in aid of driving users and their respective advertising revenue to the site.
As always this post was inspired by an example of such behaviour that I saw on the Internet. Currently one of the hot topics amongst the tech crowd is the issue of the iPhone 4’s antenna which can be shorted out if held in a certain way. I’ve steered clear of the topic mostly because I don’t have anything useful to say on the matter and it’s already been beaten to death in the headlines over the past couple weeks. To give you an idea of just how absurd this whole situation is getting take a gander at this post over at TechCrunch:
But the thing is, that trust that my mom gives to Consumer Reports was hard earned over decades of obsessive use. She trusts Consumer Reports. And if I read it I might trust it too. If they rated stuff on shininess I’d definitely subscribe. Or if they rated robots.
But suddenly Consumer Reports is crazy for the link bait. This iPhone 4 antenna problemhas them going absolutely batshit crazy, and nearly every day they’re firing off a new set of recommendations, or demands, that conflict with the old recommendations and demands.
Ironically¹ Arrington is also guilty of the same things that he criticises Consumer Reports of doing. The post is a classic traffic driver attempt: he’s taken a rather controversial stance on something (no one else has criticized Consumer Reports to my knowledge), he’s talking about one of the hottest topics today and for what it’s worth he’s breaking the story. The post is just aching for Consumer Reports to post a response back to his claims and should they actually do that he’s got another in to write yet another trolltastic article.
For me since my blog is primarily personal and nets me zero in the ways of revenue I don’t usually have any desire to write those kinds of articles. That’s not to say I haven’t, in fact I’ve done quite a few of them. However I never really felt that good about them afterwards and talking it over with my fellow bloggers they agreed they weren’t really of the standard they’d come to expect from me. I am human however so there are times when my stance on something will go against the grain of what’s currently socially acceptable but those posts will (hopefully) contain reasoned, logically constructed arguments so at least if you don’t agree with me you understand how I came to my conclusions.
You could write this whole tirade off as someone who’s just languishing in the dark recesses of the Internet casting an evil eye to anyone who’s got a whiff of success. The Australian blood that runs through me will always want to cut the tall poppies down but realistically it all comes back to my desire to give a little something to those who read my writings. Whilst I know that not everyone cares about why people write things for all to see I feel that knowing someone’s motivations helps me greatly in understanding their content and, should they attempt to convince me of their viewpoint, acknowledge any biases they have lest I take them on as my own.
¹It gets even more ironic if you consider that this post could be construed as falling prey to the same ideas I’m criticising. I knew that when writing this, just so you know 😉
Whenever you go out to buy some piece of tech you’re pretty much guaranteed that in just a couple months time there will be something better available for the same price. I asked myself the same question when I bought my iPhone about 2 months ago and came to the decision that I might as well get the most expensive one I could get (since I could write it off) and one that I would eventually be developing for. Shortly afterwards the whole iPhone 4G leak thing happened and many people asked why I didn’t “just wait a few months” to get the new one. The answer is that the benefit of having the phone for 3 months outweighed the delay in getting the new one. I could’ve snagged myself an Android phone in the mean time but again I would’ve ended up in much the same situation as the handset of choice at that time was the HTC Incredible and now it is the HTC EVO 4G.
Last night marked the official announcement of the phone everyone told me to wait for, the iPhone 4. Realistically it would be a much more impressive device if I hadn’t heard everything there is to know about it constantly over the past 2 months (thanks to Gizmodo et. al), but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it is an improvement over the current iPhone offering. Whilst Apple’s tagline for it is “This changes everything. Again.” I’ll go on record saying that it changes as much as the iPad did with all its “magic”, that is to say not a hell of a lot.
First let’s have a look over the specifications to see what we’re actually dealing with here:
(For some reason Apple wants to make mention of the fact that their iPhone has multi-touch twice, that’s not a typo on my behalf)
First off let me compliment Apple on the things that are really something. The display is pretty phenomenal, offering the highest resolution on any smart phone I’ve seen to date. They’re calling it the Retina Display as the dots per inch (DPI) is above the magic 300 DPI threshold that our eyes are able to see. Whilst most users won’t notice a whole lot of a difference (showing people my Xperia side by side with an iPhone saw most thinking the iPhone had a better display) it does mean that it should be quite a gorgeous screen. It’s no technical marvel beyond resolution though, as its just your plain old LED back lit LCD.
The other most notable upgrades are in the guts of the phone, namely an upgrade to 802.11N wireless, a 3 axis gyro, dual mics and the new Apple A4 processor which was debuted with the iPad. They’re all quite decent upgrades and really had these been left out you’d be wondering what the hell Apple’s research and development department was doing as they’ve been standard on most phones for the past year or so. The addition of Apple’s new A4 into the iPhone 4 brings it up to speed with the latest swath of Snapdragon based Androids, hopefully paving the way for some more intensive applications to make their way onto the handheld iPlatform. The inclusion of a 3 axis gyro is interesting as no one will argue against the fact that it will make motion detection more accurate but the use cases for it are small in number. Sure your Doodle Jump will be a lot more accurate, but is it really required? Time will tell though, developers always have a habit of exploiting additional features like this in ways we don’t really expect.
For the rest of the features though I’m a little less impressed. You see way back when the 3GS (and really even the 3G model) was released dual cameras, with the back one being 5+ megapixels, were the norm on many feature and smart phones. Their omission on the iPhone was puzzling to say the least as the technology had been around for quite some time, with proven implementations across several brands. Much like the lacking of MMS in the original iPhone Apple’s omission of such features confounded the tech crowd whilst the rabid fanboy population decried that it was not required. Consequently when Apple finally caved it was touted as revolutionary, an almost textbook case of the idea of doublethink. Whilst the hype about these things is on the low at the moment I’m sure I’ll come across those who trick themselves into believing that Apple is revolutionizing this space when really they’re playing catchup with the rest of the modern world.
The inclusion of HD video recording capabilities on the iPhone is a good step forward and matches many of its competitors offerings. Whilst I’ve yet to see an actual sample of the video direct from the camera I can tell you know that it’s more of a gimmick than anything else as cameras that small just don’t have the surface area required to make decent 720p video. It’s not Apple’s fault really as any camera capable of producing proper HD video will have a sensor almost 1/5th of the size of the iPhone, with an appropriately sized lens to match. No one has extolled the virtues of the video yet so I’ll let this one slide for now but if anyone dares tell me it’s good HD I’ll probably have to take a bandsaw to their new iPhone, just to teach them a lesson.
Overall I’d say it’s a good evolution of the current iPhone offering and my issues, as always, lie in the hype and marketing behind it. Looking over the phone I can say that had I known these specs before buying my current phone (neglecting the fact that they release a new damned phone every year) I would’ve given a lot more consideration to buying an Android handset first. I’m still not so sure if it would’ve changed my mind though as 3 months is quite a wait when you’ve got a free phone voucher burning a hole in your pocket. The upgraded specs are sure to please those upgrade happy tech heads and the under the hood upgrades are sure to give the devs some new ideas with their applications.
At least there’s no magic in this phone. This post would’ve been a lot less level headed if they had used that term to describe one of their products again 😉