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Apple’s iPhone 4 antenna issue ridiculed on Top Gear

Did anyone else notice the Apple iPhone 4 reference in last nigh’s Top Gear episode? When Jeremy Clarkson was introducing The Stig, he started with…

“Some say.. if you hold him in the wrong way, he doesn’t work properly…”


Unfortunately for Apple, the antenna issue has most definitely entered the mainstream consciousness in a negative manner. The apparent failure of the antenna, along with the company’s uncharacteristically inept handling of the supposed Jobs response (“hold it a different way”), has been an absolute boon to other mobile manufacturers.

I wonder if Apple haven’t overreached with the iPhone 4. I remember the audience response when Jobs explained that the whole outer shell section was the antenna. Folk reacted with nothing short of wonder. But if you have to go and buy a stupid piece of plastic so you can use it properly — for one of it’s basic functions — that’s ridiculous.

Whatever you might think about Nokia or Symbian, I am pretty sure that there will never, ever come a time when their respective CEOs have to publish a letter along the lines of, ‘woops, we… goodness me, we’re stunned, we discovered a coding error in how we display the signal strength indicators… sorry’.

When Clarkson is inserting iPhone ribbing jokes into the show — which regularly reaches upwards of 350m viewers a week — that is bad news for the brand.


  1. It's not just the antenna problem, there have been multiple other serious issues with iPhone 4, as reported in the press. And this is where we finally start to see that the emperor has no clothes. Apple, for all their apps and UI innovation (now just average, and with folders, copying Symbian) are beginners at making mobile phones (as are most Android makers like HTC). Their devices are pretty, but with poor software and hardware engineering. Nokia and Symbian may not have the apps yet but they're rock solid on quality generally and comparatively (I know someone's going to mention the N97 at this point, and Nokia recognise it as a misstep). Worse still, Apple feel the need to lie about the antenna issue. “Stunned” my arse. I hope no one is stupid enough to fall for the nonsense about signal bars being drawn wrong, Apple are relative amateurs at mobile phones (as are Google).

  2. Unfortunately for Apple, an antenna redesign would require a new phone design, since the antenna system is also the integral structural frame for the phone. The bumper works because in physically separates the hand away from the antenna system. A simple coating would not serve the same purpose.

    IMO,the software patch will not work either. If the signal strength is less than -94dB and you then hold the phone normally in the left hand, the call can be dropped as the signal drops below -113dB. This was reported by Anandtech, which observed a -20dB impact due to hand interference [-24dB when held tightly]. Whether -94dB resides within the fourth bar (currently) or is “programmed” down to the 3rd (or 2nd or even 1st) bar is a moot point. A 20db signal loss due to holding a phone naturally in one's hand is relatively large and a serious design flaw. Just my opinion.

  3. N95 – Basically unusable from new, until they came out with an updated firmware. Helpfully the plastic clips that hold the battery door closed have seen fit to snap off as well on mine.
    E71 – Drops calls when you hold the bottom half (where the antenna is located). Mine also has a load of dust between the LCD and outer plastic – great design there).
    N97 – See above

    No….still can't see a reason I'd want to spend my money on a Nokia ever again…. (I say this as someone who's had a S60 phone for their last 4 handsets).

    People are making a big fuss about this issue with the iPhone, and the press are having a field day – but you'll notice that most of the reviews say it isn't a major problem in practise. Apple should have handled it much better though.

  4. What's the problem? Why doesn't Apple recall the Iphone 4 like Toyota recalls cars? Let's hope it's not to the same extent but still it shows willing to step up and take the blame. Reminds me of another great British Company … BP.

  5. Yes, the E71 does. Page 16 of the manual states:
    “Your device may have internal and external antennas. Avoid touching the antenna area unnecessarily while the antenna is transmitting or receiving. Contact with antennas affects the communication quality and may cause a higher power level during operation and may reduce the battery life.”

    Then on the following page it has a picture showing the areas you shouldn't hold – basically the top and bottom of the phone. This is a pain when you're typing and sending txt message or browsing the net.… is the relevant document. The more recent N72 also contains a identical notice in the manual.

  6. So, Nokia's CEO apologising just six months ago for the mess they made with the entirety of the N97, not just the signal bars, has been completely forgotten about already?

    And how come the fact that the incorrect signal readings from the iPhone has been measured and reported on independently isn't being mentioned.

    The story I guess would lack the populist, sensationalist angle that way? “Mobile Industry Bias” I think.

  7. Why can’t Apple just admit they made a mistake and provide a free bumper?

    They look like a bunch of money-grubbing con men.

  8. Actually there's a bigger story in there… “which regularly reaches upwards of 350m viewers a week.” And the total audience that watch the traditional broadcast is around 7 million. Be generous and add in another 1 million for the iplayer, and you realise that the Itnernet has created a delivery system capable of 343m viewers in around 24-48 hours. All organically.

    Just sayin'

  9. Hii Ewan and readers of Mobile Industry Review

    Also remember, Clarkson himself is a self-professed iPhone fan, when Stephen Fry visited Top Gear recently, they spent the whole session of 'star in reasonably priced car' section not discussing any cars, but discussing the iPhone and its apps.

    Tomi Ahonen 🙂
    Author of 9 books on mobile
    (big Top Gear fan, and big fan of Mobile Industry Review of course)


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