Mobile // Mobile Devices
Commentary
7/19/2010
09:26 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
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HTC, Motorola, And Samsung Fire Back At Apple

Apple earned the ire of its competitors in the wireless industry on Friday when it cast a number of smartphones in a negative light. More have responded to Apple's "Antennagate" claims.

During Friday's Antennagate press conference, Apple trotted out a handful of phones from its competitors, demonstrating on video how each loses cell signal when held in a certain way. Part of Apple's defense was to claim that all smartphones have signal issues to one degree or another. Apple's competitors didn't like being singled out, and have responded, each in its own way.

One device Apple showed was the Samsung Omnia II. In a statement, Samsung said, "We have not received significant customer feedback on any signal reduction issue for the Omnia II." That could be for a number of reasons: 1. There isn't a real attenuation problem; 2. No one noticed it before "Antennagate" called attention to it; 3. Even if they did notice it, people didn't think it was worth complaining about. Any way you look at it, Samsung is standing by its product.

Next up is HTC. Apple showed the Droid Eris, which is sold by Verizon Wireless, go from a full bar count down to zero. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, HTC CFO Hui-Meng Cheng said "The reception problems are certainly not common among smartphones. They (Apple) apparently didn't give operators enough time to test the phone."

HTC's Eric Lin, a media relations employee with the company, pointed out to Pocket-Lint that the technical support rate for the Droid Eris was 0.016%. Apple claimed on Friday that the iPhone 4 has seen a customer support rate of 0.55%. Keep in mind, the Droid Eris has been for sale seven months longer than the iPhone 4.

Apple included a Motorola handset in its collection of attenuation videos. Speaking to CNBC, Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha said, "It is common knowledge in the industry that antennas on the outside of products have known issues, and despite the fact that they lead to smaller phones we have avoided them because consumers don't like being told how to hold the phone...While the whole industry has to deal with phones being held in different ways, it is disingenuous to suggest that all phones perform equally. In our own testing we have found that Droid X performs much better than iPhone 4 when held by consumers."

I purposely tested the Droid X to see if I could get its cell signal to drop. I held it a number of different ways in attempts to obscure the antenna. I was unable to get the signal to drop.

Competitors RIM and Nokia were the first to offer responses to Apple's videos on Friday. RIM offered a strongly worded letter by co-CEO's Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie.

They said, "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."

Nokia was less direct, but still said that it prefers function over form, and insinuated that Apple chose a poor design for the iPhone 4.

Nokia said, "Antenna design is a complex subject and has been a core competence at Nokia for decades, across hundreds of phone models. Nokia was the pioneer in internal antennas; the Nokia 8810, launched in 1998, was the first commercial phone with this feature. Nokia has invested thousands of man hours in studying human behavior, including how people hold their phones for calls, music playing, web browsing and so on. As you would expect from a company focused on connecting people, we prioritize antenna performance over physical design if they are ever in conflict. 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."

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