Apple iPhone 4 press conference

The sun has set and risen again following Apple's unprecedented iPhone 4 press conference, and the folks behind TiPb and the SPE network have had time to listen, absorb, cry fair and foul, and figure out our thoughts. Here's the post-mortem from your favorite editors and writers at TiPb, Android Central, CrackBerry, Nokia Experts, WMExperts, as well as the Cell Phone Junkie.

Hit the jump to hear what we think, then hit the comments to tell us what you think.

Dieter Bohn, Editor in Chief, Smartphone Experts

Apple has addressed my biggest concern, which is the not-so-vague feeling of distrust, uncertainty, and genuine malaise I was starting to feel towards the reception of my iPhone 4. Until the press conference and Apple's admission that "we're not perfect," I would constantly worry that I was not holding different. I've dropped more than a few calls and with previous iPhones and other phones, it never gave me much feeling for concern because I always figured it was just AT&T. However a trip to New York, iPhone 4 in tow, had me at my wit's end. I was unable to connect calls, keep calls, or get data in anything approaching an reliable manner.

Normally, as I said, I would have chalked it up to AT&T. With this iPhone antenna issue, however, I was constantly wondering if I was just holding the phone wrong. I'd keep trying with increasingly awkward hand positions when normally I would have given up and let AT&T defeat me. When you introduce an intermittent variable that a human may or may not have intermittent control over to a technical problem, what you're really introducing is a troubling mistrust.

Although Steve Jobs made the kinds of "we love our users" points that you'd expect him to make, I was actually gratified to hear them - because they were combined with an honest admission that the iPhone 4 drops marginally more calls than it ought and that there is a "weak spot." Now if I drop a call or lose data I have the same sorts of questions that arise with intermittent, human-intervention technical problems, but I have less of a feeling of doubt about the whole thing.

All that said, when signal is medium to strong, I have great reception. Also, when I use an iPhone case, I have no problems whatsoever. So a case it is. That, or per Steve Jobs, I'll preempt Eminem and see if I can't get stylin' with a well-placed band-aid.

Chad Garrett, Writer, TiPb

I think Steve did a great job laying down the facts around the iPhone 4 antenna issue. Frankly I have been tired hearing about this since most users like myself, don't encounter any issues unless they play show-and-tell with their friends.

Apple made a clear design decision to create a radical antenna design to allow for better reception and internal storage to make the thinnest and arguably sexiest smartphone to date. However, this radical change had unforeseen consequences; every media outlet thinks that the iPhone is somehow broken or flawed if you touch the case a certain way. I can tell you that my iPhone 4 works just fine regardless of how I hold it. I am sure there are people that have issues with their iPhone 4, I am not denying that. But I am betting that everyday people outside of the tech sector are returning their iPhone 4's for the same reason someone returns a BlackBerry, Android or Palm phone; they just got a lemon. For example, a co-worker of mine is on their 4th Palm Pre due to constant hardware failures (screen, keyboard you name it).

No the iPhone 4 is not perfect, but it is darn close compared to it's competition. Sure you can touch the "magic spot" and make some bars go down. At the end of the day, no one is forcing you to buy an iPhone 4. Though, with 3 million sold in 3 weeks, one has to wonder if there is not some kind of mind control going on.

Leanna Lofte, Writer, TiPb

First of all, I loved that the press conference opened up with "The iPhone Antenna Song" video. Pure win. As for the content of the conference, it went pretty much exactly as I was expecting. I was never convinced that the antenna issues were a software problem, especially when talk of it being a problem on other devices started to surface. I believed it was hardware related from the very beginning. The problem with the iPhone 4, is that there is a visible line on the device that initiates the reception failure. This makes it psychologically seem like a bigger deal when compared to other phones. In reality, maybe we should be grateful that we know exactly where we shouldn't touch? Ok, maybe that's going a little far, but the fact remains that this issue isn't isolated to the iPhone 4. I was never convinced that Apple would recall millions of phones unless they had a guaranteed hardware fix for the problem, which seemed highly unlikely to me. Apple had to do something to make customers happy and calm down a bit, so free bumpers it is! In reality, this "fix" will cost Apple pennies and it was a smart move on their part.

I was surprised to learn that the iPhone 4 is only 1% worse in terms of dropped calls compared with the 3GS. I wonder if this statistic is skewed in some way, but it's more likely that I got buried too deep in the hype. My personal experience actually matches Jobs' claim; dropped calls and reception between the iPhone 4 and 3GS is the same - no noticeable difference.

Jerry Hildenbrand, Writer, Android Central

I can appreciate the candid, old style Steve Jobs way he handled the event. Poking fun at yourself and others, and flashing a big grin is the "work all night in the garage" Steve everyone loves. However, to me the real situation is that signal attenuation was not the issue. A design that places a trouble spot in an area very likely to be touched is the problem, and this was brushed to the side. This is why a rubber bumper can fix the issue on the iPhone4, but isn't needed on previous iPhones or the competitors products.

For those in areas where "bridging the gap" causes dropped calls or slow data, the bumper will alleviate it, and offering them to those who need one was the right call. There really is no other plausible solution. But ignoring the questions about the antenna design, or deflecting them by showing "bars" from other manufacturers isn't the response I had hoped for from someone who holds the trust of millions.

Craig Johnston, Podcaster,

My experimenting with Smartphone signal issues revealed that all Smartphones (and likely all phones) with internal antennas experience a signal drop when held. If I hold my iPhone 4 in my right hand, nothing happens. If I hold it in my left hand however, I see a 3 bar signal strength drop. My Nexus One has an issue no matter which side you hold it on, and my BlackBerry Curve 8900 suffers a drop too. My BlackBerry Bold 9700 however, sees a signal drop, but not as big. This could be due to the faux leather battery cover, I'm not sure.

My conclusion is that the badly calibrated iPhone 4 signal meter shows an artificially large signal drop which has alarmed people who have not seen such a drop on other phones, even though the drop in signal is likely the same in reality

Ally Kazmucha, Writer, TiPb

I would have liked more of an answer as to why touching one specific spot causes such an issue, and why Apple didn't just make the break in a place users are less likely to come in contact with while on a call or browsing the web. Free bumpers will not appease everyone, but as El Jobso stated, if you aren't happy with your purchase, bring them back for a full refund. I live in an area where service isn't the greatest, and I think sometimes the service issues are confused with hardware issues. I think it really comes down to what you need to do with the phone and how unwilling you are to part with it. Technology is always changing, if you're going to be an early adopter, you have to roll with the punches. The iPhone 4 is no different.

Malatesta, Writer, WMExperts

Windows Mobile and Windows Phone may suffer from such occasional hardware inconsistencies (CDMA Palm Treo Pro is just awful for reception, see this doozy of a fix), but having multiple devices for consumers to choose from, instead of just one-flagship phone, gives consumers options. If you're going to put all of your eggs into one basket, you better make sure that basket is 100% perfect or nearly so. Kudos to Apple for giving away those free cases, but we think that this problem should have never had happened in the first place.

  • WMExperts' response

Kevin Michaluk, Founder,

I used to really like Steve Jobs. After today's BB 9700 slander and antenna propaganda, not so much anymore. So much he said she said mamby pamby I know you are but what am I bull$#!t.

Matt Miller, Editor, Nokia Experts

Steve Jobs said that everyone in the smartphone industry has a problem with reception and the iPhone 4 is a marvel of engineering. I don't recall him specifically mentioning Nokia, which makes sense since my personal experiences with over 25 Nokia smartphones shows them to clearly have superior RF reception. Even though Nokia clearly shows where the antennas are in their manuals, I find I get excellent reception pretty much no matter how I hold my device.

  • Nokia's official response

Phil Nickinson, Editor, Android Central

Steve Jobs and by extension Apple (or vice-versa) remains the P.T. Barnum of our era. You're going to get a hell of a show, and some of it might even be true. Apple's in PR damage control mode, that's largely a new position for them. Showing a Windows Mobile phone (Samsung Omnia II), an Android phone (HTC Droid Eris) and a BlackBerry (Bold 9700) almost seemed like blatant deflection. "Yeah, we may have a problem, but check out these guys!" There is a larger problem, and that is that everybody -- all of us -- are trying to become amateur RF engineers. We're not. We're not going to be.

I would have paid money to have been at the presser, if things really got as heated during the Q&A as it sounds. Apple's relationship with the media -- mainstream and otherwise -- has always been interesting. But Jobs is sorely mistaken if he thinks every media outlet should want to be Apple's friend. That's not our job. True, it's far too easy for false or otherwise trivial information to be blown out of proportion or reported incorrectly. But that's also the world that Apple's products have helped perpetuate.

One last thing: Glad Apple spent $100 million or so on testing facilities. But I'd love to hear from somebody at the FCC.

  • Android Central's response

George Ponder, Editor, WMExperts

From the get-go, I think the problem was handled poorly by Apple. I agree that other phones have similar issues but Job's handled the iPhone's problem poorly. Job's initial solution, don't hold the phone with your left hand, should never have left the confines of his office. I've loosely followed the iPhone 4 saga and have only read recaps of Job's conference. While there are issues with the iPHone 4, Apple customers should be grateful they have a new phone to complain about. I can only hope us Windows Phone owners will be so lucky come October. With a new phone that is. Apple can keep all the performance issues....

Anyways, here's my two cents.

Apple should have caught this design flaw and while the bumper case will solve the problems, customers won't be happy. The look of the iPhone 4 (without the case) is part of the phone's appeal. It's like using a bumper sticker to cover up a ding on a Porshe's bumper.

It sounds as if Job's spent a lot of time pointing the finger elsewhere instead of at Apple for not catching this from the start. As if Apple can do no wrong.

Oh... and what happens after September 30th? Will the next batch of iPhone 4's have a design fix? Or will those customers get stuck with dropped calls or the cost of a case?

Bla1ze, Editor,

I've watched the conference video. I simply cannot replicate the issue with my BlackBerry Bold 9700 as Steve Jobs demonstrated. To be fair, I am on Rogers and not AT&T although not exactly sure how much difference that makes.

I'm still not convinced the issue with the iPhone 4 is as big of an issue as some media outlets are portraying it to be. But, to say that the issue does not exist entirely is a farce.

Mickey Papillon, the Cell Phone Junkie

Going into the Press Conference, I figured we would see Apple announce a couple things. First, I did not expect a full on recall, so no surprise there. Thinking about the cost of the bumper and how much of a profit center Apple has with this, i did not expect them to be given out. What I did think was that they would be letting those that had issues return the iPhone for a newer model that would have some sort of Stevie dust on it that would make it work. Actually, i expected them to say they would be insulating the antenna moving forward so that the attenuation didn't happen moving forward. The fact that they didn't mention anything about what they plan to do with new devices moving forward was troubling. I assumed they would at least try to make changes (even slight ones) for future ones to calm everyone down.

Regarding the demo of the different devices, showing that they could have the same issue was a cop out. Of course this happens on any phone. It's a RF transmitter and receiver. What they didn't cover (which should have been the main thing they talked about) was that your body is conductive, and it de-tunes the antenna when you simply press your finger on the black strip, bridging the 2 antennas. You don't need a "death grip" on the phone to make it have problems.

Also, I think the proximity sensor issue was downplayed. I (and my wife) have had lots of problems with this. Many disconnected calls, calls put on mute, and DTMF tone transmissions from this flaw. It should be corrected immediately.

Finally, the AT&T HSUPA issue is a big one for certain markets. In tests I ran this week, my 1st Generation iPhone has faster consistent upload speeds than the iPhone 4. Realizing this is only in certain markets, and fixable by Alcatel Lucent, maybe they didn't think to mention this. However, its one of the biggest reasons for the time being that I am not using the iPhone. AT&T should be giving all customers in these markets credits each month that the issue exists. Sending email is a chore when your upload speeds are only 50kbps, not to mention the 2MB photos that the camera takes. Upload a photo to Facebook while on the go? Forget'll take you 10 minutes a pic...

Overall, I think they said what they needed to, and this will eventually blow over. However, I still am not thrilled by the continuous denial of issues even existing.

Rene Ritchie, editor, TiPb

This was a no win situation for Apple. Ever since the problem surfaced and Apple and Steve Jobs issued "hold different, buy a case" emails, the win-ship set sale and they weren't on it. All they could do was damage control, all they could do was try to move the mass media frenzy on to the next story.

Their strategy to do this was humility (showing the video, claiming to be human, apologizing), deflection (showing other smartphones suffer from the same problem), and bribery (free bumpers and cases for everyone).

The humility part worked. They got off to a good start. The deflection stuff didn't. They spent too much time on what should have been a bullet point. Sure every smartphone has this problem but no other smartphone has an external antenna with such a visible and inconvenient single point of problem. Luckily for Apple, RIM and Nokia have chosen to respond, ensuring they're now part of the problem. We'll see if HTC and Samsung are smart enough to sit this out. As to the free bumpers, at first the bribery seems to conflict with the deflection. If there's no problem, why give bumpers? Simple. People like free stuff.

Apple made a technological trade-off. In order to get bigger battery size and better reception overall, the consequence is that single point of attenuation (sure, design factored into it -- but it really is better for battery life and for reception as well). Not stating that was what causes the apparent conflict. However, since the real problem for Apple is one of public perception now, giving away free bumpers becomes a precedent-setting public solution. (One Nokia, RIM, and Apple themselves for the 3GS might later regret).

Overall it was ugly and ham-fisted in parts, and the deflection section weighted far too heavily, but hey -- free bumpers. Apple wants to make every customer happy. They're battered and a little bloody but more than likely they're past this now.

Phil Nickinson is right, though -- heaven help whomever releases the next big phone. YouTube is going to light up instantly with antenna tests, and message boards with free case requests, now and for a long while to come.

  • TiPb's coverage

Jeremy Sikora, Writer, TiPb

Deep down I was hoping Apple was going to be able to pull a rabbit out of their hat and say software update would fix it and those of you with the issue could rest easy. That clearly wasn't the case and it's free cases for everyone, which I'll gladly accept even though I don't suffer from the "death grip" syndrome.

And your take?

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