iPhone Antenna Issue – Sorry, No Recall

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Jul 14 2010
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If not because of the hype and rumour that iPhone 4 is about to be recalled, thanks to the Consumer Reports’ review that it could not recommend the Apple’s gadget due to antenna issues, the stock would have skyrocket judging from the 146.75 points (or 1.44%) and 43.67 points (or 1.99%) jump in Dow Jones and Nasdaq respectively. The review was used as an excuse to sell-off by basically everyone on the planet.

Consumer Reports has claimed in its own test that the iPhone 4’s reception problem arises when you hold the phone in certain way – placing you finger or simply touches a spot on the phone’s left side. The signal can be significantly degraded so much so that you will lose your connection especially if you’re in a weak signal area. The report further claimed that the problem is caused by the iPhone itself and not the network.

Apple’s earlier response to the antenna problem – all phones had similar problem hence iPhone 4 users should avoid holding the phone in such manner, much to the amusement of iPhone 4 owners. Later it issued public statement that iPhone 4 doesn’t really have reception problem – the problem is with the formula the iPhone firmware uses to calculate the number of bars of reception it should display.

The formula is wrong and Apple plans to fix it in a free software release, soon. Subsequently Apple said you can fix the problem with low-tech solution – cover the antenna gap with a piece of duct tape or another thick non-conductive material, which works though look pretty ugly.

However you argue the case, a total recall of iPhone 4 is out of the question. The most you’ll get is probably free bumpers or fitted guards for iPhone 4. Nevertheless fund managers used the Consumer Reports as an excuse to pull Apple stock down by about 10 bucks a share in the early morning prompting comments that these funds were trying to get into Apple’s stock cheapest possible ahead of its earnings announcement.


An engineer experienced with electromagnetic issues however claimed that the so-called tests done by Consumer Reports were scientifically flawed. Engineer Bob Egan’s comment: “Consumer Reports’ [radio frequency] engineers should know better than to think they can run an engineering grade test for an issue like this in a shielded room. And certainly not one with people in it. To even reasonably run a scientific test, the iPhone should have been sitting on a non-metallic pedestal inside an anechoic chamber. The base station simulator should have been also sitting outside the chamber and had a calibrated antenna plumbed to it from inside the chamber.”

Egan also notes that it is not known “what part of this problem is Apple’s and what part is related to the AT&T network. And we don’t know how the observed effect is, or is not, similar to other devices. We also don’t know if placing a finger on the antenna bridge is detuning the antenna or detuning the receiver itself. And neither does Consumer Reports.”

Egan added: “Curiously the Consumer Reports ‘engineers’ seemed to have completely overlooked a potential very large new problem observation: you cannot measure the ‘receiver’ antenna problem by monitoring the output power of the phone as they did. Bridging the antenna gap so as to make cell phone receiver deaf (or more deaf) would normally cause the output power of the cell phone to go up to compensate, not down, example. the cell phone thinks its further away from the tower.”

So, will those suckers who sold off out of the unnecessary panic regret later? Time will tell if these poor investors were scammed by the big boys. Furthermore didn’t the same Consumer Reports called iPhone the best smartphone on the market? And this is not a Toyota car that could kill you if the manufacturer does not recall the vehicles. Most of iPhone 4 users would not return their phone even if Apple offers a full refund.
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