Arrogance or Artistry at Apple? My audio thoughts on antennagate

Dave Winer just re-tweeted someone who said that Apple is too arrogant to admit its iPhone 4 has a flaw.

That got me wound up. So, I used my iPhone 4 to call into Cinchcast from along the Snake River in Wyoming, you can listen into my call. The mosquitos were biting me and were making me downright ornery.

But the iPhone is the best phone I’ve used and here there are dozens of bleeding edge smart phones being shown off by VCs, CEOs, and geeks.

Yes, the iPhone has a flaw. But it still is the best phone I’ve used.

More on why I feel that way in my phone call. Oh, by the way, the call doesn’t drop.

Personally, I’m sick and tired of this issue. Techmeme is nothing but Apple today. Glad I’m on vacation with a bunch of geeks.



  1. Totally agreed Robert. I've even been blocked by good friends (who were previously Apple fanboys) because of it. (accusing me of being “too negative”) It's getting ridiculous – I've stopped trying to read a lot of the articles. I love my iPhone 4. I'm actually thinking about not even getting the recall on the bumper in principle. I've tried out Android (I still carry one with me), I run a Pre, but my iPhone is the only one that covers everything I need. As soon as a better phone comes out, I'll use it, but right now there just isn't. The criticism, mostly by non-iPhone users, is getting absolutely ridiculous.

    I've actually turned off FriendFeed, except for when people comment on my stuff, as part of a result of that.

  2. BTW, enjoy Yellowstone/Wyoming. Our family is going next week, and I'm totally excited for the disconnect – I'm starting to get really sick of all the people looking for clicks and traffic (many who actively preach against the practice). I've decided it's time to focus on what matters most.

    I think you've got the same idea.

  3. Well my thoughts on it:

    I am an Apple Consultant and have a lot of experience with the computer side of things, but I don't consider my self a fanboy. Yeah, the fanboys are generally not as informed. But I do consider myself a big fan and will of course have criticisms of Apple from time to time. I definitely try to stay as moderate as I can.

    Well Anyway I do love my iPhone 4. Would recommend anyone get it especially if they already had an iphone and were on ATT and can get good service in their area. I do see some things from my “un-scientific internal stats” I have been keeping track of. Many clients I have talked to don't have any problems. So that of course is proof enough that this isen't affecting everyone. From what I have noticed a lot are using bumpers.

    But also for what it's worth I do believe at least a little bit about people out there having problems. I think more so in areas where the signal has not been as good all along. I think Jesse and I in Salt Lake metro generally get good signal around here.

    The day after my wife and I got the new iPhone 4 we went on vacation to Idaho and Washington. We were definitely in some areas were there was less than ideal signal. I didn't even tell my wife about the “antenna-gate” but found out she was dropping some calls. Sure enough she was holding the phone in that exact area. I also noticed at least a few dropped calls on my phone and noticed I was holding the phone in that same area at the time. (I tend to switch my phone from hand to hand while on calls) A little later when we got back to SLC we got bumpers and that seemed to help for sure. Plus of course we have stronger signals here.

    I do think none the less Apple putting the “antenna death area” on the lower left is not as good of a design as somewhere near the top. I can think of many times when I unconciencly hold my phone in the area especially when holding in my left hand to do data based apps. So I think Apple giving away free cases or bumpers is good enough and they might as well try to come up with a slightly different design next time around. I am still actually more concerned about the proximity sensor issue than the antenna issue anyways as I have had more problems with that.

    Long story short I do believe there are many out there making too much of this issue but I don't think those specific people should invalidate the fact that it is at least somewhat of a problem.

    Also, interesting story about the WY reception. I was just in WY myself yesterday and today. I was actually very impressed with the signal the whole time I was there. I was getting almost full bars in many rural areas where I would be getting no bars in respective rural areas in Utah. Interestingly the ATT wireless coverage map shows most of WY using a 3rd party carrier for the cell towers. Wonder if that has anything to do with it

  4. Well, speaker. You sound a bit of weird. But I second you. I don't get a iphone 4 to replace my 3GS yet, but I see my girlfriend using it everyday. It is a very elegant phone no matter which angle you look at it from. But being elegant is NOT being perfect. Because perfectness can't be reached theoretically. Beside of antenna, there are several other things I hate about iOS, though there is no other complaint from me about iphone 4 as a pure hardware. But iphone 4 or 3GS still excel phones from other brands as much as I like, because there is far more things to love than to hate.

  5. Robert, I'd agree with you that it's the best phone out there and the best one I've ever used, but for me it's finally reached too high of a price in terms of the constraints imposed in the name of quality (so says the artist Steve) — it's still not a true multi-tasking OS for all apps, I'm tired of the iTunes/App Store ecosystem lock-in (they are committing for more a sin than Microsoft ever did and who was taken to the fire by the FTC for), Apple's outrageous costs for their accessories because they impose such huge license fees on accessory providers, and that we're locked into using the shitty AT&T network.

    Despite it being the best phone I've ever had I finally decided to move on to Android…yes, I'm not using a work of art any longer and I'm ok with that because now I'm free and it feels damn good.

  6. Gil: the antenna is definitely the best design that Apple has done so far. At least in my tests. Why? 1. I get far fewer dropped calls with it. 2. It leaves more space for a bigger battery inside the phone, so my battery life is longer. 3. It gives the iPhone a finely designed feel, similar to a Leica camera.

    It has one flaw, though, and we've talked enough about that.

  7. The biggest thing to come out of Antennagate is the further tarnishing of the Apple own carefully nurtured myth of infallibility at a time when the iPhone is under heavy assault from Android. Antennagate is hastening the eclipse of iPhone by Android.

  8. Its crazy, Jesse was getting beat up the other day on his blog. It's interesting how many of these attacking people are ignorant of using an iPhone 4 and dont have an experience to talk intelligently from. People being narrow minded and too lazy to learn and expand their mind. This is why I do posts on my blog like “Beware the Social Media Gestapo.” The attack haters are rampant in the new medium. The same principals of persecuting things people are ignorant of or fearful they arent right applies in this realm. At least people like us make it a point to view the whole picture while applying the least bias, constantly learning to find the new horizon.

    Keep up the good fight!

    Chris Voss

  9. Jesse thats funny about the preaching, Lots of BS out there, I saw a video of a guy saying he teaches “pull inbound marketing” not “push.” Yet most of his techniques are push marketing _out_ to people. I'm like do people buy this crap? – Its Machiavellianism in whole thats whats going on.

  10. Interesting that people get so het up over an antenna… my experience with every mobile I've had is that they all have blind spots, you learn to work around them and adapt.

    Still the debates between iPhone 4 and Droid are interesting to watch, as many are arguing on emotion rather than facts. As someone who is about to replace their 2.5 yo iPhone 3G with a new phone, it's hard to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

    The biggest issue I've had with the iPhone 3G is AT&T phone reception and dropped calls in general, rendering the device more like an iPod Touch than a phone. Is it too much to ask for phone functionality? This is the one thing that stops me going out and buying the iPhone 4 today.

  11. You must be a very impressionable person if one other person’s opinion upsets you enough to go defend your corporation of choice.

  12. That was what it was FOR, Tim. Exactly what it was put in place for. It's the negative side, I guess, of what was happening with Apple, the lines around the block, the two or three days of free media play that every iPhone until today was having. But coming from a political background, I'm seeing how effective — but how mindless — a new media campaign can be. I don't believe all this “open” junk, especially when it is driven by and for a massive corporation, not some threadbare, scholarly, truly participatory open source project, but for more commercial dollars. Period.

  13. Big issue techies never discuss, but should: why don't the Feds break up the wireless companies? In other words, we know that every network has its flaws, and it's highly dependent on your locale. I worked in Burbank last year, and my iPhone 3G performed perfectly. Now I'm working out of home. When jogging, I can stream music during the whole time. I get to my DRIVEWAY, and the bars start slipping. When I'm in the garage, I get NOTHING. My apartment is Dropsylvania. Okay, so I bit for a 3G Microcell. Very annoying that I should have to pay for that, but that's AT&T. Why can't I simply go to the strongest tower, free of charge? Well, they'd all have to have one protocol, I guess. So why not? Why should the wireless network be your MASTER? They pay for this phone, but not that phone. They put their stupid badge on it. They pay for the advertising, mostly. They dominate by being incompatible with the other networks. Time to end that. Railroads began with different proprietary gauges. End that system. Improve reception for all by making one big wireless network for everyone. Let them charge each other for tower use. No subsidies for phones. No two-year serfdom.

  14. To say that Apple is ignoring this obvious flaw is kind of ignorance. Apple is a company on the verge of bankruptcy slighly more than a decade ago. They learn their lessons well or else they won't become the #1 tech co. on earth. Arrogance or not, I have no doubt this constant and unnecessary bashing will only make Apple stronger and an even more formidable iPhone will emerge in future. That's true American spirit I guess..

  15. Robert, I've been reading you since your train simulator blog days. This post was the best ever by far.

    Build a better product… to which I would only add, promote it in a way that resonates with peoples emotions.

  16. Preach it! I have to say, I'm awaiting the delivery of my new iPhone 4 with bated breath. I currently have a Blackberry curve, and with about 5 apps on it, it runs slower than molasses in January. I know the phone is old, and that probably has a lot to do with it, but I'm doing a battery pull reset about once every two days. The only thing I've heard that Blackberry does better is push email, but I say if an email is really that urgent that the time difference between Blackberry and iPhone actually matters, you probably shouldn't be emailing me about it in the first place.

  17. I think it's a bit WORSE than your question about breaking up the wireless co's implies.

    The FCC auctions off spectrum to the wireless co's in such a way that almost guarantees little firms can't come in and compete on price. They'd have to buy big chunks of spectrum that they can't profit from until they get enough customers, which they can't get until they have big chunks of spectrum which…

    It's your basic “barriers to entry.” Economists understand the pernicious effects on competition, have been harping on it, in man industries, for years. Likewise, businesspeople understand it, have been erecting barriers for years. In the case of the FCC auctions, the lobbying has justified the approach in terms of “getting the most value” for the bandwidth by selling it at the highest price, as if enforcing non-competition somehow helps the American taxpayer/consumer.

  18. Well, I don't know what clauses and so on that the wireless nets got in their sales agreement — but that premium they paid was not a good tax if it gave the networks complete proprietary rights to their network, and the heck with the commons. Maybe we have to allow municipalities and other public entities to get into the business as well. In underserved areas, where smaller businesses should be allowed to jump in, and maybe get a subsidy, and then feed to the one big network. If you build a node, ALL the one big network would be available to you. A smaller farm community? They've got wireless from the 4H Club and the town. If some big network wants to come in and build, they get paid. If not, they have to accept the traffic of the rural or small networks for free.

    But above all, I think we can only have real competition with a movement towards a common protocol as soon as say, 5G.

  19. So the reason why the antenna is the best for you is 1) works a bit better 2) improvements to non-antenna features 3) improvements to non-antenna features.

    Although you speak on the phone a lot, you've said in the past that talking on previous iPhones isn't as important to you as internet and app features. So they upgraded everything you liked about previous iPhones and put its Achilles heel (dropped calls and dropped data) into an open-heeled shoe that's even easier to walk in.

  20. Arrogance vs. Artistry is a false dichotomy.

    Steve Jobs is incredibly artistic.

    Steve Jobs is also incredibly arrogant.

    They are not mutually exclusive.

    The iPhone 4 is the best ranked smartphone that drops calls at the accidental touch of a finger. And a lot of other times, too.

    This is the land of AND, not the land of OR.

    The Apple fanboys and Apple bashers can both be right.