As I speculated in yesterday’s column, the makers of competing smartphones are trying to mirror Adobe’s approach on the Flash controversy with smoke and mirrors responses to Antennagate.
Whether HTC, Motorola, Nokia or Samsung, the spin control reads the same, using near-identical talking points playbooks. They know all about antennas, and Apple doesn’t, and is thus responsible for the alleged faulty design of the iPhone 4.
However, I’ve yet to see any response that actually attempts to disprove Apple’s online demonstration showing how smartphones from RIM, HTC and Samsung react to various forms of death grips. In each case, Apple shows you exactly where the dead spot, or antenna, is located, and the physical position that will reliably cause signal attenuation.
More to the point, there are loads of YouTube videos out there showing how to induce this very common phenomenon on a fair number of popular smartphones.
Worse, the manuals for a number of these products, such as those from Nokia and HTC, specifically warn customers against death grips. If you touch them in the wrong place, signal quality will degrade. How can they possibly claim with a straight face that the problem is primarily Apple’s when their own documentation and numerous demonstrations show precisely the reverse?
The answer is, of course, that in this politically charged society, you really don’t have to produce evidence of anything. You just make the claim, such as the tragically pathetic and morbid one about so-called “Death Panels” during the debate on the health care bill in the U.S. Without getting into the endless emotional arguments about that topic, there were certainly legitimate criticisms to be offered without having to make things up.
The problem in the tech industry is that it appears many of these companies are not really run by visionaries or tech-savvy people. For the most part, the executive suites are peopled by professional managers rather than individuals who are really schooled in any particular industry. That explains the denial and deflect posture they assume.
Unfortunately, with only a few exceptions, the media has totally failed to report correctly and responsibly on the issue. I suppose they believe they are being fair and balanced when they simply report what company representatives say without asking the tough questions. That, however, is a total disservice to the public, which demands factual reporting. They might as well crib the company press releases and be done with it. It would take a whole lot less time, and maybe they should also take a pay cut if they want to emulate copying machines.
This is not to say that Apple is totally innocent of blame. Maybe they didn’t expect that everyone in creation would practice death grips on their new iPhones, but when the uproar erupted, they waited far too long to deliver a smart response. That snide email answer from Steve Jobs to just hold the phone differently didn’t help matters, and Apple’s proclamation that they displayed the bars incorrectly may have been true, but it didn’t go down too well. Few believed it, regardless of the truth of the matter.
Certainly, Apple and Steve Jobs in particular did some really positive damage control during that Friday press conference. Jobs outlined the problem clearly, with real evidence to back up what he said. If you didn’t believe him, all you had to do was take one of the phones Apple tested and see if you could duplicate the symptoms using the very same death grip.
I also continue to wonder why this became such an important issue. It’s not as if there aren’t more important things to report than whether you can affect a mobile phone’s reception by holding it the wrong way. I’d think the sad state of the economy, the oil spill in the Gulf, and a host of other issues that impact our planet would rate far higher on the priority scale.
On the other hand, maybe Apple’s marketing approach, calling the new iPhone “magical,” was sufficient to encourage people to see if the emperor had any clothes. In the end, it’s just a smartphone, folks, as imperfect as any, despite a few compelling features that make it more fun than most other gadgets of its type.
Besides, Apple has been on a roll, becoming the number one tech company on the planet via market cap. Their income may soon exceed that of Microsoft, which would only cement that position. Despite their ongoing success, Apple has been poised for a fall, and the media is just delighted to turn a winner into a loser with the slightest incentive.
But that ZDNet writer who is now suggesting that Steve Jobs retire as a result of Antennagate is little more than a clueless idiot!
On the long haul, Apple will overcome this problem, but I rather suspect you’ll see an iPhone 5 far sooner as a result, maybe even early in 2011. That, of course, depends on whether or not the current model remains on the back order list and if demand somehow nosedives.
Or maybe the death grip will be a perverse incentive for some to just buy it anyway and see if they can duplicate those symptoms too.