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On the iPhone 4’s antenna…

“Does it have that antenna issue?”, to which I reply no* – “Is that because of the case you have?”, which elicited another terse no from me.

from Wherefore art thou iPhone, part ii.

Someone pointed out to me that I hadn’t actually gone on to clarify the antenna thing (I’m hesitant to use the word “issue”), so here’s clarification.

Bottom line: antenna issue or not, it doesn’t affect my day-to-day usage of the iPhone 4.

I’m not saying there’s no antenna issue – yes, you can drop bars (and perhaps bras if you’re dyslexic, but that’s a whole other story), and perhaps if you were using the iPhone 4 on a substandard carrier (*cough*Optus*cough*), you’d be able to drop calls. Maybe.

The fact is, all phones can drop bars when you attenuate the signal; the only “issue” here is that because the iPhone 4’s antennas are on the outside, the effect is more readily apparent than it would be on your Nokia, for example.

In my mind, and from what I’ve read on the interwebs, Apple knew about this antenna issue long before the iPhone went into production. Apple knew about it, and did nothing. Why? Because they likely figured the trade-off between vastly improved signal in more areas was worth the moderate signal loss in a very specific use case (i.e. holding the phone in a “death grip” or such a position like you’re going to punch yourself with the phone in the palm of your left hand).

At the end of the day, yes, I can get the phone to drop bars. No, it doesn’t affect my day-to-day usage of the device. Maybe it’s because I don’t actually call anyone, maybe it’s because I don’t hold the phone in such a way as to bridge the gap between the antennae, maybe it’s because I have a case that prevents me from being in contact with the antennae.

The vast majority of people I’ve been in contact with, or read opinions from, that have an iPhone 4 don’t experience these issues either.

Calling someone a “fail” because they bought a device with a very specific issue is just plain ignorance on your part – since when have we ragged on people just because they have to replace the batteries in their wireless mice, for example? To gain freedom from oppressive cables, they’ve had to reach some sort of compromise in other areas – namely, having to replace batteries every now and again.

It’s the same with the iPhone 4; for Apple to provide vastly improved signal in more areas, they had to devise a solution which meant that a small percentage of users had a specific use case in which they would experience call drop-outs and a reduced signal.

Okay, so say Apple knew about the issue and did nothing. Say their engineers haven’t been thinking of a solution. I’ve read that some sort of protective coating could have been applied to the stainless steel antennas to prevent any attenuation, but certain properties of stainless steel prevented that from being a cost-effective solution. Perhaps Apple knew that there was an issue with the antennae and hence came up with the Bumper as a solution to this problem.

Whichever way you cut it – the fact that the antennae are on the outside of the phone doesn’t have any impact in how I use the device. At the end of the day it’s a vast improvement on any previous iPhone model, and yes, I’m including the antenna design in that statement.

Required further reading: Daring Fireball’s Antennagate Bottom Line, and the subsequent Antennagate Addendum.

Wherefore art thou, iPhone? (Part II)

Read part one over here!

The first real public outing of my shiny new iPhone 4 where I actually showed it to people didn’t happen until Friday night. Youth was on, and I decided to carry my iPhone 4 with me – not because I wanted to show everyone how cool I was, but mostly because it was going to be my main phone eventually anyway. Earlier in the day I had bought some Belkin Grip Vue case for it, as well as a set of front and back Invisible Shields. Those too came along to youth.

Someone jumped on me as soon as I walked in the door, asking excitedly if I had “the new iPhone”. I replied yes, and she then asked if she could have a look. I produced the phone from my pocket, complete with Belkin case and screen protector – and the first question she asks? “Does it have that antenna issue?”, to which I reply no* – “Is that because of the case you have?”, which elicited another terse no from me. She then asked about the shape of the thing, where I mentioned it had a flat back instead of the curved back of previous iPhones (iPhone 2G not withstanding). She asked me how much I paid for it – I answered a lot.

No mention of what new features it had. No mention of that gorgeous retina display (granted, she didn’t unlock it, but she did turn the display on), no mention of how much better the camera was, no mention of how it did 720p video (720p what now?), nothing.

And that right there, dear reader, is why the iPhone 4 is just another phone. In consumer terms, the iPhone is faster. It’s “differently shaped”. The antenna is on the outside, the display is clearer, and its got a flash for the camera, but all those other things – 326 pixels per inch, IPS, 720p – are for the more technically minded among us. Why does pixel density matter? Why is an IPS display so much better than a traditional LCD? Why is 720p video recording such a big deal on a phone?

It’s funny – when you think about it, all the iPhone is is just another phone. The next iteration of the same, the next step in the evolutionary tree. It’s adds features (ooh, video calling), to be sure, but whether those features revolutionize the platform is questionable, to say the least – regardless of what the Apple PR machine tells you.

When your computer can’t run the latest games anymore, it’s time to think of an upgrade. When it slows down to a crawl even doing the most basic of tasks (like typing on a keyboard, for example), it’s time to start looking for a new computer.
The new iPhone, for all of it’s upgraded display, upgraded camera, upgraded battery, processor and RAM, is just the next step. For all other intents and purposes, it’s just another brick in the wall.

Still, that doesn’t stop it from being the best brick so far.

On that antenna issue – I said no when asked about it because, for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t affect me. Yes, I can get it to drop one or two bars by simply bridging the gap between the two antennas, but even so, it doesn’t affect data speeds or call quality (I only make a call every couple of months, if that – most of my usage is data and messages) – so clearly it’s a non-issue for me. Besides, I figure the phone will probably live in a case for most of it’s life – but we’ll wait and see how annoying that becomes.

I tried FaceTime during the week as well. While I’ve never video-called anyone on a mobile phone before, FaceTime was pretty good fun – even if it is limited by the fact that it can only work over Wi-Fi. It’s one of those features I’m glad is there, even if I know I personally won’t be using it that often.

Revolutionary? Questionable. Evolutionary? Undoubtedly so. Game changing? Not really, and especially not if you’ve had an iPhone for any amount of time before this.

It’s still the best phone I’ve ever owned – and at the end of the day, that’s all it really comes down to.

Wherefore art thou, iPhone? (Part I)

Alternate title: iPhone 4 review. ‘Cos this is what this is.

It’s just a phone, guys.

Aha, but you see, dear reader, that is where the distinction ends. It’s a phone, but it’s also a gateway to the Internet. An incredible communication device. An excellent media player. A brilliant email client. And even a capable games console.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the iPhone 4.

As I stood outside T-Life Northgate, eagerly lining up for the midnight launch of the most anticipated smartphone yet, some Optus-reseller employee comes up to us. After a short chat about mobile telco’s (there is no comparison between Telstra and Optus, especially in Tasmania), he decided to give us a sneak-peek at his stores’s demo unit. A couple of hurriedly-tweeted TwitPics later, some Angry Birds launch-time speed tests between the 4, a 3GS and a 3G, and not a few “oohs” and “aahs” at that gorgeous retina display, and our iPhone 4 lust hit fever pitch.

That last hour was the longest hour of my life. But it was cool, because I got to spend it chilling with some very cool Apple camaraderie – who provided an ample supply of entertainment, gummy bears, and decent conversation. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

After what seemed like an age (but in reality was only five hours) I was second into the store, behind the very nice man who had provided my night’s transport – I felt I owed him that much, at least. Out again not 20 minutes later, one 32GB iPhone 4 in hand, I was the first out – beating the first guy in by mere seconds. The front half of the line (which by now spanned more than 100 people, easily) applauded me as the first to emerge from the T-Life gauntlet, and I was the first person in Tassie with the Apple’s most highly-coveted offering so far.

Bringing it home later that night (or early that morning, as the case was) and setting it up from the comfort of my own bed was an absolute joy. Downloading my most frequently used apps, setting my email, Twitter, Facebook, IM accounts – the first thing I noticed was how much faster the thing was. Downloads, installs, any operation at all, just flew along. Sheer unadulterated speed oozing from every animation, every transition, every app launch, every fast app switch. And no keyboard lag!

Early the next morning I took out my cut up SIM (that I had converted from a mini-SIM to a micro-SIM the night before with my handy-dandy SIM cutter), and put in the official micro-SIM that had been provided as it had been activated and was ready to go. No dramas there.

Spent the whole of Friday babying the thing – the whole experience wasn’t as “wow” as it was when I originally got an iPhone almost two years ago now, but it was still a worthy upgrade (thanks in part to iOS 4 suffering serious performance issues on an iPhone 3G). Again, speed was the most noticeable thing here – the phone was markedly more responsive. It kept me entertained through dull Games Physics lectures, and was an excellent public-transport companion thanks to the small music selection I had synced on earlier that morning.

The camera is nothing short of amazing. The colours of any photo just “pop”, and it’s nice to finally have a camera that has an autofocus that actually works – which means macro photos are now able to be taken without any of that blurriness the 3G camera exhibited. While I haven’t yet used the video camera for any serious purpose, I’m sure the opportunity will eventually arise.

While the screen is the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever laid eyes on (if I had a girlfriend this sentence would read differently), to be honest you have to be looking pretty hard to notice the difference in everyday things (typing out messages, – maybe it’s because I’m using it with an anti-glare screen protector (which sacrifices screen clarity for a more matte look [as opposed to the glossy]), or maybe it’s because my eyesight is¬†absolutely¬†terrible. Either way, the difference is figuratively night and day when placed to a previous-generation device like the iPhone 3G or 3GS (as they have the same screen). Text is one of the things that benefits the most from the much higher pixel density and improved screen tech (IPS vs traditional TN) – increased contrast and no more jagged edges means text is now clear as, well, crystal. The new font is a welcome change as well!

Technologically, it’s very impressive – the best mobile display on the market paired with an impressive (but not exhaustive, Apple aren’t known to have features for the sake of it) feature list, and one of the best smartphone platforms on the market today? A winning combination, indeed.

DearCupertino: Wanna buy me?

So, if you’d like to buy it (Blog, Domain, Concept), it is for sale. I’d like to see it bought by someone like Engadget or Gizmodo, so they could turn the blog into what it should be. The blog has several hundred regular readers and even more RSS subscribers.

via DearCupertino: Wanna buy me?.

It’ll be sad to see Dear Cupertino go, but hey – it’s been a blast.