An interesting post about the hysteria over the iPhone4 antenna flaw. The author’s real world experiences are actually of better call performance, *despite* the “death grip” problem that has exposed flaws both in Apple’s design and their customer service savvy.

Now that I have upgraded my iPhone, I must concur. East San Diego County residents may be well aware of the dead zone on Highway 52, going over the Mission Trails Summit between Miramar and Santee. It’s not a tall ‘mountain’ (sic) by any stretch of the imagination (only 821 ft), but obviously the carrier antennas are on the downhill sides rather than at the peak, because it has been a long-standing problem area not just for AT&T but for Sprint/Verizon as well.

Going eastbound, you can predict the drops on an iPhone3 with an incredible degree of accuracy – there is a specific spot near the Adopt-A-Highway sign that is as consistent as Old Faithful. Going westbound, calls actually survive over the peak, but usually drop during tower hand-off as you head toward the Santo Rd off-ramp.

It is rare, but the only time that trans-summit calls seem to survive is when there is a thick blanket of fog/clouds. One would assume that the signals are bouncing just perfectly off the atmosphere…

With an iPhone4, no problems whatsoever – even on cloudless days. I can hold eastbound calls all the way into the valley and clear to the El Cajon foothills. Westbound, the transfer to Miramar cell towers has been totally seamless. I can now make a 40min commute from El Cajon to University City with an intact call. The Avocado/Horizon Hills dead zone between El Cajon and Rancho San Diego is also no longer a drop factor (though a bit clippy).

So even with the antenna issue, the performance of the phone still seems superior to previous models. In the “AntennaGate” press conference, Steve Jobs said that there is actually a less than 1 per 100 call drop increase compared to the older models, but I just haven’t seen it. Yes, the seam between antennas can be bridged and cause attenuation for some. But most people I know use protection anyway, and there are plenty of options even for the biggest tightwad (from Apple, StealthArmor, Antenn-aid). Techies swayed by on-paper arguments can forego the iPhone4, but real-world experience seems to say that most people will be happy and the design flaw is nearly a non-issue.

Consumer response does seem to bear that out, as Jobs also said that only 0.55% of the customer complaints were about reception, with the return rate 70% less than the 3GS (so far). Is this a ‘crisis’ only for the media? I’m just not grokking how Consumer Reports can take such a stand against a phone that they readily acknowledged was far superior and seems to have better real-world performance than previous recommendations (despite the flaw). At this point, AntennaGate is less about the technical design and more about marketing. Apple must realize that media opinions like these can sway a public that may not be taking that leap of faith. I heard a sports-radio host say “thank God I didn’t get an iPhone4″ without any clear understanding of what bullet he dodged. And now that opinion was broadcast to his listeners, spreading the (arguably) false perspective.  Apple needs to tone down the hubris and crank up the marketing engine by at least pretending to care rather than blowing off the issue. The free bumpers may not be enough.

All in all, I’d just like the Antennagate problem to fade away. I’m guessing so would Apple.

PS: I actually have bigger concerns elsewhere… Namely, I wonder what future implications this new design holds? As of yet, there has been no link between cellphone use and brain cancers.  But is the iPhone4 radio more ‘powerful’ than others? Is the new antenna alignment more radiative than the conventional cell designs? 10 years from now, are iPhone4 models going to be the first to have a proven link to an increase in brain cancers? I’m not about to give up my iPhone based on paranoid concerns. But that thought did cross my mind. Right before it was zapped by the RF!

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