Apple CEO Steve Jobs did his best to quell the ongoing flap over the iPhone 4 antenna problems during a press conference held at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., on Friday.
While Jobs’ intent was probably to close the matter completely, his use of phones from Research In Motion (RIM), HTC and Samsung in his presentation may have succeeded only in stirring the pot. Following the press conference, Apple managed to draw strong responses from a number of OEMs that claim Apple’s inclusion of their devices in its own failure is a stretch.
Apple’s unique wrap-around antenna initially was thought to help improve reception, not hurt it, but after 22 days on the market, a small percentage, according to Apple, of iPhone 4 users have complained that when they hold the phone a certain way, it loses connectivity.
During his presentation, Jobs showed the RIM Bold 9700, HTC Droid Eris and Samsung Omnia II supposedly producing the same loss of signal that the iPhone 4 experiences when the user makes skin contact with the lower left-hand corner of the device’s stainless steel exterior antenna. At the end of the day, Apple’s conclusion was that all smartphone OEMs are dealing with the same symptoms that the iPhone 4 exhibits, which, to say the least, was an unpopular conclusion among competing OEMs.
Here’s what some handset makers had to say about Apple’s version of things.
Samsung Electronics issued the following statement. “Samsung Electronics remains committed to designing safe, reliable and attractive mobile phones that meet our strict design and industry-leading quality standards.
“Based on years of experience of designing high-quality phones, Samsung mobile phones employ an internal antenna design technology that optimizes reception quality.”
Although it was their very own BlackBerry Bold that Jobs showed dropping signal in exactly the same way the iPhone 4 has been shown to do, RIM still took offense at being roped into Apple’s “debacle.”
“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,” read a statement from RIM co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis.
The statement went so say that 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.”
Lazaridis and Balsillie also addressed Apple’s insistence that a case could solve the problem. “One thing is for certain, RIM’s customers don’t need to use a case for their BlackBerry smartphone to maintain proper connectivity,” they wrote.
While HTC, already embroiled in a nasty patent dispute with Apple, was not enamored by Jobs’ tapping the Droid Eris for a demonstration in its press conference, the OEM has yet to officially respond to Apple’s assertions.
Pocketlint.com reported today that HTC says it saw a .016 percent return rate for the Droid Eris with regards to reception issues. That’s less than half the return rate that Jobs reports for the iPhone 4, which he said was around .05 percent.
Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha found no humor in being lumped in with Apple’s antenna woes.
“While the whole industry has to deal with phones being held in different ways, it is disingenuous to suggest that all phones perform equally. In our own testing we have found that Droid X performs much better than iPhone4 when held by consumers,” Jha said in a statement late Friday.
Additionally, Jha questioned the wisdom of an external antenna. “It is common knowledge in the industry that antennas on the outside of products have known issues, and despite the fact that they lead to smaller phones, we have avoided them because consumers don’t like being told how to hold the phone,” he stated.
Nokia, which was not included in the devices on display during Jobs’ press conference, shot back by defending its antenna engineering skill as well.
“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,” read a statement from Nokia.
The statement from Nokia conceded that “in general, antenna performance of a mobile device/phone may be affected with a tight grip, depending on how the device is held,” adding that the Finnish OEM is able to get around those issues by designing antennas into the top and bottom of the device.