The Media Guru

Jul 24, 2010



My take on antenna-gate.

The Specs


Let’s take a look at the new upgrades with the iPhone 4… First of all, it has the same A4 processor as the iPad, but with the clock speed at 800Mhz. RAM is 512MB. The iPhone 4 is available in 16GB & 32GB versions, but no 64GB.

After the Nokia N8, the iPhone 4 is the second phone to feature a penta band radio chip (supporting 5 network frequencies). The new micro-SIM card has been ported over from the iPad.


The iPhone 4 has what Apple calls a Retina Display, which tries to fit in a 960x640 resolution onto a 3.5” inch screen, giving a pixel density of 326ppi. While it is more eye-pleasing, a bigger screen would have made it more functional. The only reason why Apple didn’t go for AMOLEDs is because Samsung have a 1 year exclusivity on the Super AMOLED screens.

facetimehappyWith the front VGA camera, it has Facetime, aka video calling over WiFi, a marketing gimmick for the US market, whose networks have been behind the rest of the world since time immemorial.


The iPhone 4 features a 5MP camera with a single LED flash, which thanks to its backside illuminated sensor technology, is second to only the Nokia N8 in picture quality. 720p video recording is now possible.

A 3-axis gyroscope has also been added for better spatial awareness of the device.


The Design


With the iPhone 4, Apple have gone back to extreme minimalism & the results are stunning.


A phone that looks like a thin slab of touchscreen awesomeness – it is extremely thin at 9.3mm.


There is no internal antenna, with the stainless steel rim being the actual antenna.


This has allowed Apple to minimize the circuit design & fit in a bigger battery, 1420 mAh, allowing more than a day’s charge on normal usage.


The iPhone 4 has added gorilla glass to both the front & the back, which is 20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic. But because of the new design, it still is very brittle & will smash if it falls on the side.

After all these awesome things, you would expect the iPhone 4 to have universal acclaim. Unfortunately, Apple left a fatal flaw…


The Antenna Design


When the Steve Jobs announced that Apple have come up with a new antenna design that connects the radio antennas to the outside rim of the phone, my first thought was… wtf?

It seemed so obvious that if the antennas were actually the bare metal (stainless steel rim), every time you hold the phone, it would disrupt the radio waves. At that time, I presumed, there would be some kind of coating to prevent such a thing from happening.


Well, a few weeks later, it turns out, Apple never thought of this. There are 2 steel rims that are separated because they are different antennas (wifi+bluetooth+gps & gsm+3g), & when you hold the iPhone 4, you short-circuit (specifically detune) the antennas, causing signal loss… & you can no longer make calls.

No one expected such a level of amateurism from Apple who clearly didn’t do enough field testing of the new iPhones. But the worst thing was that once the iPhone 4 was in the hands of the public & the antenna flaw was discovered, all Apple did was deny everything – there cannot be any fault with the iPhone.
They blamed the network, the software for not displaying enough bars & finally the users for not holding it properly.

Eventually they called a press conference & announced that they’ve discovered that the iPhone 4 while having better reception drops more calls. Given that they couldn’t find the exact problem, they’ve decided that it must be something to do with the fact that customers are no longer buying cases. Hence they are giving everyone a free bumper case (because it shields the antennas).

Basically it’s like…

We are selling a toy. It’s NOT broken, but we’re giving everyone a free roll of duct tape for you to use with it.


This is what a bumper case looks like, basically a condom. Like those cheap silicone cases. (I use one myself to hold my shattered phone casing together)

However, Apple didn’t stop there. They launched a FUD campaign that all other phone manufacturers suffer similar signal loss when the antenna is shielded by a hand. Here’s the infamous page – - which was eventually removed.

That’s like comparing apples to oranges. iPhone 4 has a very specific problem - when you touch the external antenna, it causes massive signal loss. It cannot be compared to other phones because they have internal antennas which you can’t directly touch & even when shielded these phones do drop bars but not calls.




The iPhone 4 has some pretty good specs, a decent camera, a wonderful design and a very matured iOS with a large app ecosystem. But as a phone, it’s an abject failure.  The very fact that you need a case to make it work is an example of bad engineering & design.


PS. According to l'Express, iPhone 4 will be officially released in Mauritius in March or April 2011 September (link). #orangemauritiusfail

It's here - iPhone 4 32GB at Rs 33k (sim locked).

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Adam Woozeer said...

Apple seems to have spent a fortune on their cosmetic presentation software and next to nothing on antenna design... or perhaps they just forgot their analog RF engineering, presuming they ever knew it!

Now the company is providing free cases to iPhone 4 owners to deal with the widely reported antenna problems. All they have to do is to download an app and make a claim.

Le_Voyageur said...

hmm my first comment on this blog :) .. the iPhone 4 seemed a killer to me but that antenna issue :( .. neverless i like this design very much, even more than my own samsung omnia :)

Anonymous said...

The antenna problem is not a big deal with a cover on the iphone 4. I used iphone 2g, 3g,3gs,4. I never have network problem with my iphone 4,infact i found the network signal better than on my 3gs. Go for iphone 4,its a wonderful n powerful mobile.

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