Still Missing the Point: Antennagate Addendum | Daring Fireball

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Article here in which Steve John Gruber says the following (quoting another of his readers):

“We know from the Gizmodo stolen iPhone that the prototypes were disguised in cases when outside Apple’s campus. Maybe that’s why Apple missed this flaw in the antenna: they never noticed it on campus because they have a strong AT&T signal, and never noticed it off campus because the iPhones were always inside cases, and cases mitigate the skin-touching-the-spot problem.”

That’s just not possible.

He then explains why it’s supposedly not possible; I summarize his reasoning as “When the iPhone 4 was used inside the anechoic chambers where the signal could be weak or strong, and inside the special iPhone testing vans, the phone would have not been in a case. There was one helluva’ lot of testing.”

While his reasoning may be true, the blanket statement “That’s just not possible” isn’t proven by it.

Because it is possible. It’s just one of the possibilities, and to discount this possibility based on Steve Jobs’s statements and the antenna lab tours is not terribly good reasoning.

Remembering that the iPhone 4 differs from every other phone, smart or not, in that its antenna structures are touchable, here are some more possibilities:

  • Testing occurred in the labs with weak signals, granted. But the antenna labs are climate controlled and it’s possible that the humans who came into contact with the phone never had very much moisture on their fingers because they just weren’t sweaty enough to cause total signal loss. Was skin conductivity even measured?

Not that that is what happened, but it’s possible.

  • The people in the tests never held it in the short-the-antenna-structure-out fashion. Unless they documented the way the phones were held and used with every test, they missed an important piece of data.

Not that that is what happened, but it’s possible.

  • The phones used out in the open (not at Apple or in the vans under well-controlled conditions) were used with cases, mitigating the problem.

Not that that is what happened, but it’s possible.

I would bet a beer that nobody ever thought to model and/or evaluate skin conductivity between the two antenna structures. I am, however, certain that the conductivity and “meat” involved where the hands touch a single antenna were at least modeled, if not tested. I guarantee that, in fact—and am willing to bet a beer on that, too. (Offer valid only for Gruber or Jobs or his designee. Sorry, everybody else.)

Furthermore, Steve didn’t say, “When the iPhone 4 is held with the two antenna structures shorted out, we knew it would lose a few bars.” No, he says, “We knew that if you gripped it in a certain way, the bars are going to go down a little bit, just like every smartphone. We didn’t think it’d be a big problem, because every smartphone has this issue.”

First, he never says what “the certain way” is, but implies that it’s the same “certain way” that any other smartphone might exhibit a problem with. And second, yes, they very well may have “this issue,” but the issue they don’t have is that of shorting out one or more antenna structures. And that is the crux of the issue, the proverbial point which is being missed here, over and over again.

Consumer Reports gets it. I get it. Those inside the RDF, on the other hand, just don’t seem to be able to get it.


Greg said:

I get it too, Bill. In addition to the "antennagate" issue, there's the proximity sensor issue, which is plaguing a number of coworkers in my office. No one has heard a peep about this other than, "we're working on it," while an iOS update has already come and gone. So far, Apple has the best phone on the market that doesn't properly make calls. There are a number of iOS developers who are complaining about iAd availability. Clearly (IMHO) this device/this OS version was not ready. I still feel the same way about the iPad/iOS 3.2.