Nokia, RIM, HTC, Samsung and Motorola: Shut Up, Apple
There’s nothing wrong with the iPhone 4 that isn’t wrong with its rivals. That claim, made by Steve Jobs at the special iPhone 4 press conference Apple held last Friday, drew a loud round of catcalls from the smartphone industry, which clearly didn’t appreciate being tarred with the same brush that has smeared Cupertino these past few weeks. Nokia (NOK), Research in Motion (RIMM), HTC, Samsung and Motorola (MOT) have all issued statements taking issue with Apple’s claims and accusing it of unfairly trying to draw them into its death-grip drama. Here are their rebukes.
Antenna design is a complex subject and has been a core competence at Nokia for decades, across hundreds of phone models. Nokia was the pioneer in internal antennas; the Nokia 8810, launched in 1998, was the first commercial phone with this feature.
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.
In general, antenna performance of a mobile device/phone may be affected with a tight grip, depending on how the device is held. That’s why Nokia designs our phones to ensure acceptable performance in all real life cases, for example when the phone is held in either hand. Nokia has invested thousands of man hours in studying how people hold their phones and allows for this in designs, for example by having antennas both at the top and bottom of the phone and by careful selection of materials and their use in the mechanical design.
Research in Motion
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. RIM is a global leader in antenna design and has been successfully designing industry-leading wireless data products with efficient and effective radio performance for over 20 years. During that time, 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. One thing is for certain, RIM’s customers don’t need to use a case for their BlackBerry smartphone to maintain proper connectivity. Apple clearly made certain design decisions and it should take responsibility for these decisions rather than trying to draw RIM and others into a situation that relates specifically to Apple.
The reception problems are certainly not common among smartphones. [Apple] apparently didn’t give operators enough time to test the phone.
Based on years of experience of designing high quality phones, Samsung mobile phones employ an internal antenna design technology that optimizes reception quality for any type of hand-grip use.
In a statement given to the Korea Herald, the company specifically addressed issues with the Omnia 2, which was featured in the Apple press conference.
The antenna is located at the bottom of the Omnia 2 phone, while iPhone’s antenna is on the lower left side of the device. Our design keeps the distance between a hand and an antenna. We have fully conducted field tests before the rollout of smartphones. Reception problems have not happened so far, and there is no room for such problems to happen in the future.”
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. 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 iPhone 4 when held by consumers.
Quite a barrage of rebuttals and no doubt exactly what Apple had hoped to elicit when it plotted the messaging of Friday’s press conference. Note that none of them really deny the death grip issue. For the past few weeks that issue has been a storyline for Apple alone, now it’s everyone else’s as well. Already there’s video circulating of RIM’s forthcoming BlackBerry 9800 suffering from it.
As Dilbert creator Scott Adams wrote today, “If Jobs had not changed the context from the iPhone 4 in particular to all smartphones in general, I could make you a hilarious comic strip about a product so poorly made that it won’t work if it comes in contact with a human hand. But as soon as the context is changed to “all smartphones have problems,” the humor opportunity is gone. Nothing kills humor like a general and boring truth.”