When Apple announced its free iPhone 4 case program on Friday, it did not waste the opportunity to remind us all yet again that many smartphones suffer signal drop-off when touched inappropriately.
Except this time the company decided to do so in a video showing several competitors' handsets losing signal. The general became the specific, and it didn't take long for Apple's rivals to lash out.
Nokia kicked off proceedings, despite not actually being mentioned in Apple's video:
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.
RIM was much angrier, because its BlackBerry Bold 9700 featured in Apple's video:
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.
Next we have HTC, whose Droid Eris was another unwitting guest star. Bear in mind that Steve Jobs admitted the iPhone 4 had caused 0.55 percent of users to ring AppleCare to report reception problems. According to Pocket-Lint, that's about 34 times the number of Droid Eris customers who'd complained about such things.
The Wall Street Journal also quotes HTC's CFO as saying "reception problems are certainly not common among smartphones", adding for good measure that Apple "apparently didn't give operators enough time to test the phone".
Jobs's video had also included Samsung's Omnia II. So, over to Samsung:
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.
To sum up, pretty much all of Apple's rivals have just told the company to stop trying to claim the antenna issue is the whole industry's problem. There is a spot of truth to what Apple is claiming (although, surely we'd have heard about this before if it was that generalised a problem) but calling out rivals by name has made it very easy for those companies to call Apple out in return.