Don’t Blame iPhone 4 Antennagate on AT&T

A lot of ink has spilled in the last week celebrating Steve Jobs, and deservedly so.  Jobs is undoubtedly one of the most influential geniuses of our time.  But Steve Gillmor seemed to have decided that the factual accomplishments of Steve Jobs weren’t enough and decided that he would rewrite the history books on one of Apple’s most recent missteps called “antennagate”.  Gillmor declared:

Take the iPhone 4 and its famous dropped calls crisis. Jobs responded by delivering a software patch, comparing the problem to other competitor’s offerings, providing a free case to those who’d already bought the phone, and making a deal with Verizon to fix the real problem: AT&T.

As someone who researched and reported on the iPhone 4 antenna problems, it’s hard for me to let this kind of revisionist history slip by without issuing some kind of rebuttal.  This was a classic example of Apple refusing to take responsibility and blaming their own customers for holding the phone wrong.  The difference was that this was so egregious that the media finally did its job rather than get caught up in Apple’s “reality distortion field”.

AnandTech analyzed the design flaws and found that the iPhone 4 lost 9 more decibels of signal when holding naturally than the HTC Nexus One smartphone.  That means the iPhone 4 loses roughly 8 times more signal from a human hand than the Nexus One.  Apple apologists tried to spin the news by saying that the iPhone 4 24.6 dBm drop only means a 20 to 30 percent of the signal when held, but that demonstrates a poor knowledge of physics.  A drop 24.6 dBm means that 99.6% of the wireless signal coming from AT&T was being cut off by the iPhone 4’s poor antenna design, not AT&T.