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Handset Makers Object to Apple Antenna Claims

Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s impromptu press conference on Friday, at which CEO Steve Jobs informed attendees that the iPhone 4 antenna troubles were industry wide, has elicited strong responses from its rival handset makers that claim "Antennagate" is Apple's scandal alone. (See Apple's Answer to 'Antennagate'.) With its external antenna design, Apple is unique from its handset peers, but Jobs contention was that the problem of signal fading was not. He singled out devices from BlackBerry , High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498), and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), but said that all handset makers grapple with signal-fade issues. He even showed demos to prove it. (See Apple Explains iPhone 4 Troubles, Apple's Antenna Issues: Them's the Breaks, and Consumer Reports 'Can't Recommend' iPhone 4.)

The vendors weren't about to stand by while Apple manhandled their wares, however. It's become a popular jab when introducing a new phone to say "and you can hold it any way you want," but they aren't being so subtle anymore.

Here’s what the vendors had to say:

  • HTC: HTC defended its Droid Eris device, noting that only 0.016 percent of calls to its technical support line were related to reception issues, compared to Apple's 0.55 percent of calls.

  • Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK): Nokia may not be known for having sexy high-end smartphones, but that's a conscious choice, the handset maker says. They often prioritize antenna design strategy over physical design, according to their statement against Apple. Nokia was the first to introduce an internal antenna in 1998 and has been studying how people hold their phones ever since.

    Nokia had this to say in a statement:

      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.


    Interestingly, Apple blog Edible Apple dug up some Nokia user manuals showing consumers how to hold their phones to avoid signal fade, as well as forum threads indicating reception problems dating back to 2005.

  • Research In Motion: Jobs specifically called out the BlackBerry Bold 9700, using it to illustrate the signal loss problem, which elicited a vitriolic response from co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. The pair said that Apple should take responsibility for its poor design decisions, ones that it purposely avoids, rather than drag others into it. They also added that BlackBerry users don't need a case.

    The CEOs jointly issued this statement:


      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.


  • Samsung: Samsung, which recently introduced iPhone 4 competitors for all the carriers, noted that the antenna in the Omnia 2 is located at the bottom, whereas the iPhone's antenna is at the lower left side of the device. (See Sprint Intros Cheap Samsung Android.)

    Samsung's statement said:

      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


    Apple, of course, isn't sitting by while its competitors refute its claims. Today its Website features a more convincing compilation of Apple testing videos available to the public at http://www.apple.com/antenna. The internal tests are a result of the $100 million Apple says it invested in advanced antenna design and test labs.

    More information on antenna matters might come later today as Apple reports its third-quarter earnings after the market closes. Analysts are anticipating record earnings despite Antennagate.

    — Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

  • sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:29:27 PM
    re: Handset Makers Object to Apple Antenna Claims

    I'm guessing Apple will focus heavily on the success of the iPad on its earnings call today. But the Q&A will likely fall back to the iPhone 4 debacle.

    tsat 12/5/2012 | 4:29:26 PM
    re: Handset Makers Object to Apple Antenna Claims

    I am guessing no.  All I am hearing from first-hand reports is that the iphone 4 is getting better reception on ATT's network compared to older iPhones.

    quicktime 12/5/2012 | 4:29:19 PM
    re: Handset Makers Object to Apple Antenna Claims

    They are strong in desgin & software; very weak in antenna and baseband?


    Most people feel dissapointed about what Steve Jobs said -- avoid its own


    problem and drag others in. Why other vendor's phone isn't be reported?


     

    sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:29:18 PM
    re: Handset Makers Object to Apple Antenna Claims

    You are right on. The iPhone 4 was Apple's most successful product launch yet: http://www.lightreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=194673&

    sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:29:17 PM
    re: Handset Makers Object to Apple Antenna Claims

    The other vendors don't attract the media attention that Apple does in general. But I also get the impression that their antennas can be effected if manhandled in very specific, unlikely to happen ways, whereas the iPhone 4 experiences problems much more easily.

    FredStein 12/5/2012 | 4:29:09 PM
    re: Handset Makers Object to Apple Antenna Claims

    For well over a decade, I was fooled into believing that all the dropped calls were due to poor RAN signals.


    Now we all know, it was the evil antenna all along.


    A bit of duct tape and poor AT&T will no longer be hated.


     


    oh, maybe it is the RAN 99% of the time.


     


    maybe BP, Worldcom, Enron, and CountryWide are a tiny tiny bit worse than Apple.


     


    Text me when you find a corpse.

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