iPhone 4: The biggest screw up of Apple’s current renaissance?

There’s a super post on Intomobile this afternoon by Stefan Constantinescu highlighting that iPhone 4 has a real reception problem. Stefan embeds a video from independent agency, Consumers Reports, who tested 3 different iPhone 4 units and discovered that the ‘death grip’ (i.e. being stupid enough to hold the iPhone like a normal person would) is a real problem.

Stefan writes:

Consumer Reports is suggesting you use “a piece of duct tape” on the bottom left hand corner of your new, beautiful, glass and aluminium mobile phone to fix your reception issues.

Or you could just buy a [$30 plastic] bumper.

Now, let’s just take a little step back here.

Are you telling me, Apple, that when I plonk down $600, I can’t actually use it. Unless I buy a $30 plastic bumper thing?

In which case, why wasn’t this $30 included with the iPhone?

In fact, let me get radical on your ass, Apple. Why didn’t you design the phone to work, properly?

It seems absolutely ridiculous to require iPhone 4 customers — premium customers — to use a bit of sticky tape (or plastic) to ‘fix’ their phone.

I cannot believe Apple. It’s this kind of occurrence that…

a) reminds people that The Emperor Has No Clothes (Apple ain’t all that)

b) irritates folk

c) will make consumers think twice

d) gives (previously) jealous friends the ability to rib the iPhone 4 user in their group (this will be a bit of a shock since he/she will be accustomed to lording it over their friends)

I don’t think Apple’s competitors are making enough of the issue though.

I’d like to see Nokia offering free plastic ‘bumpers’ for iPhones along with a flyer explaining that the company knows precisely how to build and operate wireless technology and has been doing so for years. Something utterly cheeky like that.

I am sure there was a Nokia executive who commented that ‘Apple doesn’t know anything about making mobile phones’ way back just after the iPhone launched. It turns out that the executive was right.

Utterly ridiculous.

Apple, you’ve screwed up monumentally. Let’s see a proper public fix (beyond offering to waive the $30 ‘bumper’ fee for those who complain).

(You can pick up the iPhone. iDrive. iCrash bumper sticker image above at Zazzle).

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42 Responses to iPhone 4: The biggest screw up of Apple’s current renaissance?

  1. spotgest July 12, 2010 at 8:00 pm #

    Beautiful!!

  2. Themouse July 12, 2010 at 7:34 pm #

    Jesus. What kind of chip on his shoulder does that guy have?

  3. Ewan July 12, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    What guy?

  4. Kussefar July 12, 2010 at 7:50 pm #

    jesus, what is your problem Ewan? – its a software issue, not at hardware issue…

  5. Ewan July 12, 2010 at 8:02 pm #

    My problem is that it's an issue. I don't care if it's software or hardware, it shouldn't have it the market with the 'issue', should it?

    It is not 'iPhone 4 Beta' is it?

  6. garethjames July 12, 2010 at 8:12 pm #

    This is why I read this website. Telling it like it is. Regardless of who it is. Great article and I couldn't of said it better myself!

    What I would like to know is, if it really is a software problem, then who come $30 of plastic bumper is Apple's, “hardware” answer?

  7. andref1989 July 12, 2010 at 8:17 pm #

    It's less of a software issue and more of a crappy design problem

  8. Themouse July 12, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    so when you buy some electronic equipment and there is a diagram showing how far it should be from a back wall or how much space must be left above it that is an “issue”? And the item must be taken off the market?

  9. Ewan July 12, 2010 at 9:42 pm #

    There is absolutely nothing you can say to defend the issue. It's a total flaw, period.

  10. discountcellphones July 12, 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    It is entirely a crappy design issue. The kind that all the fanboys give everyone else crap for because they don't idolize APPLE.

  11. Stoli89 July 12, 2010 at 10:52 pm #

    We can all probably guess how this apparent design flaw crept into the iPhone 4. Maybe it started with a general premise that the next phone had to reset the smartphone landscape, like the original iPhone. The phone had to be of the highest quality, made of premium materials, and thinner than any other flagship out there. So let’s imagine a poor antenna engineer in a meeting room with 20 design gurus. He is abruptly asked…How can we cut the thickness by 3 mm, any ideas? His brilliantly innocent answer might’ve been…Well, we could externalize the antenna and create a sandwich form that optimizes internal space for the myriad of flagship components, BUT…

    …and he was abruptly cut off before detailing all of the pitfalls associated with moving the antenna system closer to the human capacitor. Of course, a billion dollar company like Apple has plenty of lab environments where the prototypes are tested…and tested…and re-tested. One could well imagine that the external antenna, being critical to the overall design in terms of providing structural support to a space optimized form, was still a huge challenge for the RF engineers. So they might’ve huddled together and agreed that yes, the concept as tested sucks, but SJ needs this to complete his work of art. Maybe, in an effort to overcome this apparent flaw, the RF engineers worked a fantastic signal processing solution packed with noise cancellation technology and various other items. But in the end, it is rather hard to violate the laws of physics.

    The end result is a phone that performs well if you happen to use it in areas with signal strengths above -94dB. In fact, those iPhone 4 owners lucky enough to live in areas with good signal strength are likely to remain vocal proponents of this phone. Frankly, with superior signal processing designed to operate with the now infamous external antenna, when it works it should be great. The problem remains for those of us who live, work, or travel in or about areas with 4 bars or less (based on current IOS display). Though -94dB is currently in the middle of the 4th bar…a 20dB drop caused by a normal grasp can still sink you easily below -113dB…into cut-off territory. So now we might better understand that poor RF engineer who downed one too many cold ones at a Cupertino bar…and forgot his phone.

  12. Ewan July 12, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

    Heh, love it!

  13. andref1989 July 12, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

    Any other manufacturer put out a device with such a GLARING defect and they'd be vilified in all four corners of the earth; Apple does it and they're sympathized with? F*** that lol

  14. andref1989 July 12, 2010 at 11:07 pm #

    If you bought a laptop and they told you not to put your hand on the handrest, would you still buy the laptop? If you say yes then you're simply irrational, ridiculous and partly insane

  15. Ewan July 12, 2010 at 11:38 pm #

    Here here

  16. Matt Crandall July 13, 2010 at 12:58 am #

    Ok, so let me add some commentary to what has simply become a smug knowing wink from the internet's legion of 'i told you so' geek crowd towards Apple.

    Folks, it ain't that bad. Sure, there are issues, and I'm not defending Apple here really (the phone was poorly designed, and Steve Jobs is a douche, does that help establish my cred as a non-fanboy?). But here's the reality: there are a metric shit-ton of users of the iPhone 4 out there who are perfectly happy with it. I'm one of them, and the other 9 people in my office who have the iPhone 4 are in that boat as well. And yes, about half of us (myself included) don't use a case. So lets talk about some of the stuff thrown out there.

    1) the 'death-grip'. First and foremost, yes, I can reproduce the effect by holding it in the 'death-grip'. But I'm sorry, for those that say 'hold it like a human', I gotta ask – are you routinely in the practice of gripping your phone like an arthritic granny holding on for dear life? Jesus folks, you have to seriously grip this thing for it to have any real issues in my experience – whereas holding it exactly the same as I've held every other bar-style phone for the last 10 years doesn't give me any issues. Here's the thing: if you wrap your palm around it like they suggest, it's damned hard to actually get the ear piece to your ear – so you all must then, from what I can infer, be using it solely on speakerphone.

    2) This is HARDLY the first phone to have a major design flaw. The Nokia N85 was a PIECE OF SHIT who's front facia peeled off. The N97 scratched the damned camera lens constantly. The SE T616 (remember back that far folks?) had such lackluster reception that it routinely would lose a signal if you pivoted on your heel the wrong way. Over the last 10 years I've owned perhaps 30 phones, and out of those only 1 phone, seriously, could I say had zero design flaws in my opinion – and it was hobbled by Symbian (and was my last Symbian phone, the E71 – still one of the best ever made). The difference here is this: this is the first APPLE cell phone to have a shitty design choice on it.

    The fact of the matter is this: if this were any other phone, by any other manufacturer, it'd be getting WAY more of a pass than it is; because it's an Apple product, it instead gets called things like an 'utter failure' or a 'complete bomb' – and it makes me wonder why the press (both mainstream and blog) seem to be forgetting the fact that out of, again, a metric shit-ton of these sold so VERY few people comparatively seem to be complaining. Is it because the nexus of Apple's fanboy forcefield is so great? Somehow I doubt it since so many of us who AREN'T Apple fanboy's, and call them on their bullshit, are still happy with our phones. I think it's probably because there is some truth to the fact that yes, in weaker signal areas this is a major issue, but the vast majority of owners live in better signal areas. That's no different than the aforementioned SE t616, the piece of shit (for signal) that was the Nokia N93 – which for me consistently lost a signal when my E60 at the time showed FULL BARS!!!

    My point to this whole thing is this: since the MAJORITY of the people who are writing shitty reviews of the iPhone are people who hate Apple anyway, why no one takes it with a grain of salt I'll never know – oh wait, yes I do know – it's because everybody who got caught with their pants down when Apple came out with the iPhone are finally able to vindicate all of their bitterness that a non-multitasking, low megapixel, locked down and closed off phone line has had it's first 'fall on it's face' moment.

    In other words: yes, we know you hate Apple, but the iPhone 4 is nowhere near as bad as you'd like out make it out to be (as someone who's owned 2 iphones now, and near on 30 Symbian and Blackberry phones over the years, this isn't even in my top 5 failures of all time).

    No, I don't love Apple as a company – and their response to this has, rightfully, been called out for the pure arrogant shit that it is – but seriously, have a little perspective here folks.

    -Matt

  17. Ewan July 13, 2010 at 2:15 am #

    Very good indeed

  18. Art Vandelay July 13, 2010 at 2:46 am #

    My Nexus One works perfectly. No duct tape. No bumper. Best of all, no Steve Jobs telling me what software I can install on it. Apple's arrogance is finally catching up to it.

  19. Matt Crandall July 13, 2010 at 2:49 am #

    I can name you a good 10 phones that were put out in the last 7 or 8 years that had just as large of GLARING defects, and were defended to the death by their respective fanboys – Nokia, SE, Moto, etc. Same thing with computers, cars, etc. The point that I was making above, and which a few other people have tried to make, is that Apple is getting MORE vilified then it's respective counterparts who've made the past fuck-ups.. simply because they are Apple.

  20. Joe Grech July 13, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    Since the iphone came out 3 years ago, every single major phone maker from Nokia to Samsung copied every feature of the iphone, and now they are saying that Apple cannot make mobile phones. Nokia, Ericson, Motorola, Google and RIM, show us a bit of creativity…unless you are waiting for Apple to come up from another revolutionary idea, like the ipad, which of coarse Microsoft and all are rushing to get their tablets out!!

  21. Joe Grech July 13, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    Since the iphone came out 3 years ago, every single major phone maker from Nokia to Samsung copied every feature of the iphone, and now they are saying that Apple cannot make mobile phones. Nokia, Ericson, Motorola, Google and RIM, show us a bit of creativity…unless you are waiting for Apple to come up from another revolutionary idea, like the ipad, which of coarse Microsoft and all are rushing to get their tablets out!!

  22. Joe Grech July 13, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

    Since the iphone came out 3 years ago, every single major phone maker from Nokia to Samsung copied every feature of the iphone, and now they are saying that Apple cannot make mobile phones. Nokia, Ericson, Motorola, Google and RIM, show us a bit of creativity…unless you are waiting for Apple to come up from another revolutionary idea, like the ipad, which of coarse Microsoft and all are rushing to get their tablets out!!

  23. Kiriakos Bobotis July 13, 2010 at 12:48 pm #

    Actually what every Apple fan or fanboy should understand when reading all these negative posts about the iPhone 4 is that we are talking about a PHONE not just a multimedia device. As a multimedia device for playing games watching videos listening to music and browsing the internet the iPhone is a great device (thats why many people are still so happy with it even though there are big flaws in it). But if someone wants a multimedia device and not a Phone why should he get the iPhone 4 and not iPod Touch? We expect for a phone to make phone calls and have good signal. Not play games…

    Ofcourse some will be overdefending Apple and say that similar problems also had many other phones and the media are overreacting cause its an Apple product. Well actually the media were always defending Apple but the expectations all these years were raised. And the worst thing is that apple creates one phone product, only one phone product. Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson manufactures 10-20 more phones so if one of them is shitty, no one can blame the company especially when there are 19 more phones that work better or great, but apple only has one phone. And in one way or another its a flagship device not just the flagship phone. Just like the N97 for Nokia which really damaged the company's reputation (I own one and I am really happy with it but I doubt most people are, the same goes for iPhone 4 it has some big flaws but many people will really love it) , but there were so many other phones from nokia (like the excelent e71) which really wasn't that big for many customers, they wouldn't judge the company by one failure when there were alternatives from the same brand.

  24. kevwright July 13, 2010 at 8:57 pm #

    Matt, what a breath of fresh air to read that. I just tried to say a similar thing on my blog, but if I had read this first I would have just copied it. In fact, with your permission, I would like to nick it and republish it? http://bit.ly/cjYccc

  25. Jim July 13, 2010 at 6:33 pm #

    At least it can be fixed with a bumper, the proximity sensor issue has been getting virtually no press and is much more annoying. It causes your cheek to mute the iPhone 4 on every call you make!

  26. andref1989 July 13, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    Actually, if you read any of the articles on the N97 or other defective devices, the manufacturers have been RIGHTFULLY laid into. I curse Nokia every time I try to use Opera mobile on my 5800. But the fact of the matter is, I can still use Opera mobile while holding the phone.

  27. kevwright July 13, 2010 at 8:59 pm #

    But yet again, why assume that everyone is suffering from issues with this. I can avoid touching that little spot, it really is not that big a deal to do so. Unless you have an agenda, or of course don't own, nor ever will own an iPhone. Just read Matt's reply again. Its all there.

  28. kevwright July 13, 2010 at 9:01 pm #

    But I can repeat the signal loss thing over and over on my Nexus One. I mean EXACTLY like the iPhone 4 video's. However, just like I can with the iP4, if I hold it in a different place slightly, it comes back again.

  29. kevwright July 13, 2010 at 9:01 pm #

    But I can repeat the signal loss thing over and over on my Nexus One. I mean EXACTLY like the iPhone 4 video's. However, just like I can with the iP4, if I hold it in a different place slightly, it comes back again.

  30. kevwright July 13, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    Your last para does really sum it up. If you mainly use it in a great signal area, you will have little trouble, all I would add is that you can use it in weak areas, but you will have to avoid touching the little spot. If people's pride or whatever does not allow that, pass on the iPhone 4, and someone else can have it a day earlier.

  31. kevwright July 13, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    Your last para does really sum it up. If you mainly use it in a great signal area, you will have little trouble, all I would add is that you can use it in weak areas, but you will have to avoid touching the little spot. If people's pride or whatever does not allow that, pass on the iPhone 4, and someone else can have it a day earlier.

  32. kevwright July 13, 2010 at 9:05 pm #

    If I found that out, and could not avoid it, I would return it for a refund. What I would not do is bitch about it over and over.

  33. kevwright July 13, 2010 at 9:05 pm #

    If I found that out, and could not avoid it, I would return it for a refund. What I would not do is bitch about it over and over.

  34. kevwright July 13, 2010 at 9:07 pm #

    But most of us keeping our iPhone 4 can also use the web just fine mate. That is the whole point. If not, we would take it back for a refund.

  35. andref1989 July 13, 2010 at 9:43 pm #

    I'd b**** like hell til they fixed the problem. LOL
    But I'd definitely return it.

  36. andref1989 July 13, 2010 at 9:45 pm #

    If the issue doesn't affect you then great, don't return it, and enjoy it. But for those that know this is an issue, they've seen it as an issue first hand, especially if it's a large percentage of people, I think the company should just come out and address it.
    As opposed to deleting forum threads discussing the issue 😛

  37. Matthew Crandall July 14, 2010 at 4:09 pm #

    Kevin – have at it, and thanks!

  38. Matthew Crandall July 14, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    That gets to the heart of it here though: you are mad because Apple are douchebags, fair enough – but the vast majority of press on this is not about the fact that Apple are acting like idiots in their non-response; the vast majority of press are saying that the iPhone is a flop, that it's a piece of shit, whatever – and the fact is that, as I said above, for a MAJORITY of people that's simply not the case.

    If you want to call Apple out for a bad response, fine, I have no issue and agree they are being stupid – but it's time that people started separating the hardware issues, which again I'll say til I'm blue in the face don't effect the majority of owners, from the issues you have with apple as a company.

    It blows my mind when people can't do that kind of separation. I can't stand Microsoft as a company, the way they work, their corporate bullshit, etc – but I'm the first to say that Windows XP (after SP3), and Windows 7 are great products, truly well-done in most ways.

    On the flip side, I happen to think Canonical is a great company, with a great vision – but I think Ubuntu has steadily gotten more and more bloated, and it's no longer a Linux distro I choose to use.

    It's time to start taking a yoga-moment and have some inner reflection: are you mad that people's phones have issues, or are you mad that Apple are a bunch of self-righteous bastards?

    Just sayin…

  39. andref1989 July 14, 2010 at 6:29 pm #

    I despise apple as a company, I think steve jobs is by far the biggest con-man/salesman the world has ever seen. But I don't deny that the iPhone is a good product if there are no issues with it.
    Would I buy one, no, but I can concede that it's a good product with a major flaw affecting some owners 🙂

  40. Alex Kerr July 20, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    Love it. Any criticism of Apple (and I'm referring to other blogs too) is met with the stock response “N97 is shit!” (which it isn't). It does make me chuckle 🙂 – is that the best you Apple fanboys can do?

    How about an honest response along the lines of “Well, yes actually, the iPhone 4 has a major and fundamental design flaw (yep, by the heroes of design) that can't be fixed without extra cost and adding an ugly piece of plastic on the outside, and our blind hero worship of a consumer electronics company was wrong. Apple are indeed amateurs in the mobile space even though our spending on their products means we've found that hard to admit. We accept there have been other significant iPhone 4 and iOS 4 problems. We all promise to go and buy Nokia N8s as soon as possible”.

    Well, OK the last sentence was tongue in cheek, but you get the idea 🙂

  41. patrikios July 24, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    Yes, echo all of that Matt. It's insane how polarised these things get. The antenna problem is not a huge issue in practice. However, I am getting pretty pissed off with the proximity sensor problem which means I am FREQUENTLY pressing buttons with my cheek when on a call (Mute, FaceTime….) and also dropped calls that are not to do with the antenna issue.

  42. Debbie August 25, 2010 at 9:13 am #

    A Sherlock Holmes moment, a what if scenario.
    What if the antenna reception problem is only experienced by left-handed people as the antenna is located in the bottom left-hand corner of the device. Left-handers embed the antenna in the palms of their hands when holding it in the standard way. My daughter's boyfriend demonstrated it to me, telling me he uses his right hand to answer his super I-Phone 4, silver embedded antenna right round it like a band and he doesn't get any reception problem!! None of his friends have the problem and eventually he worked it out that they're all right-handed!

    Answer : Make left and right-handed phones. Is that possible? Then you wouldn't have to destroy its beautiful lines with talk of 'duct tape?!' yuck or worse, a rubber bumper!

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