I think we can all agree that The Street is pretty worthless, right? Right.
Scott Moritz apparently feels as though this isn’t a foregone conclusion, so he’s doing everything in his power to jackass his way into the absurd-rumor-mongering-gone-wild Hall of Fame:
(Better to be leaking light than iPhones, I guess.)
Manufacturing partners have apparently clued Moritz in to the real issue behind the white iPhone 4 delay: Light leakage. Maybe, maybe not. But:
Skeptics scoffed, calling it a white lie invented to hide the fact that Apple was actually suspending production to make a significant internal fix to the ongoing antenna defect.
Skeptics, eh? I wonder who that could be. All aboard! Next stop…
What? This fucking joker again? Hard to believe, but yes, Moritz cited his own opinion when he referred to “skeptics”. (Note the plural. Maybe he should have said skepticz.) More interesting still, if the anonymous manufacturing partners turn out to have been correct—light leakage!—then Moritz’s “white lie” flippity-flap will have to have been composed of the finest quality speculative FUD.
Shit. No time to dwell on that: All aboard! Next stop…
Jesus. This is like that episode of Scooby Doo where Dick Van Dyke operated the ticket booth and all the rides in the amusement park.
So, the skeptics—err, Moritz’s—accusation of a white lie can be traced back to yet another article by Moritz, once again based on the word of anonymous manufacturing partners, this one posted before Apple’s press conference announcing free bumpers.
Worst train ride ever.
The short answer: Yes.
This is a chart of 4 popular tech blogs, and their daily coverage of the iPhone 4 antenna issue by number of articles in the days leading up to and following Apple’s press conference on Friday.
I wish I had a few more days of data, but I didn’t start tracking the content with my feed reader until the Tuesday prior to the event.
Gizmodo and Engadget post more content overall (on all topics) than Ars and BGR. Gizmodo posts more than Engadget. The average number of articles posted on the days I tracked:
Ars Technica: 11 articles
Boy Genius Report: 11 articles
Engadget: 30 articles
Gizmodo: 44 articles
My chart represents articles that specifically address the antenna issue and the iPhone 4. (Articles about Apple on other topics weren’t included.) The totals over ten days:
Ars Technica: 5 articles
Boy Genius Report: 14 articles
Engadget: 20 articles
Gizmodo: 37 articles
The spike on the Friday is obviously based on the fact that Apple gave their press conference in the middle of that day. Leading up to the event, a total of 6 articles are posted on Tuesday, 13 on Wednesday, 18 on Thursday and finally, 26 on the day of the event. (Half of which belong to Gizmodo.)
The first full business day after the event, the total falls to 3. (All Gizmodo.)
Notably, most of the weekend activity (and several of the articles which have popped up this week) discuss the responses and press releases of competing companies which were called out during Apple’s press release. Not only are there less articles, there’s a distinct shift in focus.
I don’t have the numbers, but my reasonably informed guess (I follow these sites) is that the days prior to the first Tuesday I collected figures for would show each blog averaging somewhere between the Tuesday and Wednesday numbers, with Gizmodo continuing to lead the pack.
I expect the numbers to flatline starting tomorrow. If blogs stop writing about the issue, mainstream outlets aren’t going to bother and if mainstream outlets don’t bother, the “issue” goes away for most people.
I think it’s clear that we won’t know for sure how well Apple’s “solution” went over until we see the the current quarter’s numbers, three months from now. Still, given that analysts, pundits, and “experts” were demanding that Apple issue a total recall of a flagship device—reporting that it would cost over a billion dollars to do so—and that blogs were posting multiple stories merely to mock the iPhone’s attenuation issue, it’s hard to argue that Apple hasn’t at least successfully (and finally) managed the message.
My bet: That’s all that matters.
Raw Meat’s Aaron Swartz recently posted an article [Why Apple Doesn’t Deserve Your Trust] which dives into Apple’s decision to show a handful of video examples of competitor smart phones losing signal (or at least losing bars, the standard representation of signal on cell phones) when being held in a fairly standard grip:
If Apple wanted to gain people’s trust, it should have started by being honest about what was going on. And the first step on that would be dropping this whole “number of bars” nonsense and showing the raw signal strength numbers.
Before the iPhone 4 antenna situation brought it to my attention, I admit I hadn’t ever really thought about what those bars represented, or how they related to actual signal strength. I doubt anyone beyond “industry folk” thought much harder about it than I have. I think it’s fair to assume that most people believe that each bar represents the same dip in signal strength: You lose the same amount of signal from 5 to 4, from 4 to 3, etc.
If only that were true. I agree with Swartz, given what I know now, that the “number of bars” on cell phones—all cell phones—is, in most cases, nonsense.
And, I think Apple kind of wants people to know that too. I’m starting to wonder if Apple was hoping the media would question various smart phone manufacturers (as well as companies like Sprint, Verizon and AT&T) about how they distribute bars amongst the dBM spectrum, after Steve Jobs posted the press release re: Apple’s “stunning” discovery that they were using a faulty algorithm. (If you believe that they were stunned, you’ll believe about anything.)
My guess is that most companies do pretty much exactly what Apple was doing, which was allowing five bars to represent more of the spectrum than any of the other bars. This way, people will feel as though they’ve got great reception, even when they don’t.
It would seem to me that if other phones are capable of losing several bars when the antenna is covered, they must also use a questionable algorithm. If that’s not the case, then the outlook isn’t good for those other phones because it means that they’re actually going from an incredibly strong signal in dBm to an incredibly weak signal in dBm, given that they go from full bars, to no bars, in some cases.
I’m a little surprised that no one seems to have asked these questions of other companies. I can see a future in which the dBm information, as it relates to the signal strength meter, is required in the same way that nutrition information has to be posted in fast food restaurants.
I bet Chuck Schumer is drafting legislation as we speak.
Which would be silly.
If Apple had ever shown this simple chart, it would have been totally clear what was going on. If, on the other models they compared the iPhone 4 gainst, they had shown the actual dBm (the generally-accepted measure of signal strength) lost by “holding it wrong,” we could have fairly compared their issues to the iPhone 4’s. But instead of having a debate about signal lost — the real issue for users — Apple has consistently tried to distract people with the issue of bars shown.
I agree with a lot of that technically, but I don’t agree with the conclusions he’s drawing.
First, the dBm thing: Swartz says they’re the generally-accepted measure of signal strength, and from a pretty irrelevant perspective, they are. Prior to this fiasco, I’d never heard of dBm as a measurement of signal strength, though. I’d say that goes for the vast majority of the people on the planet. If phone companies thought signal strength was important, they’d display the precise number on phones, instead of arbitrarily assigned bars, each notch representing some unknown and undisclosed spread of signal numbers.
The generally-accepted measure of signal strength that customers care about is not dBm, though. It’s much simpler than that:
"Can I make a call on my phone?"
If yes, the signal is good enough. If no, the signal sucks.
To draw an analogy, there are generally accepted measurements that qualify as high definition (HD) broadcasts, and a program can be broadcast in HD even though it’s being broadcast at a much lower quality than other HD programs. Customers don’t care about the difference between 720p and 1080p broadcasts, and most probably can’t tell there’s a difference. That is, until you tell them that their HD isn’t as HD as it could be. Suddenly, people feel like the new TV they were showing off to their neighbors because of it’s “stunning” picture, isn’t as stunning as it could be. Aw, shucks. They were so happy, before.
With cell phones, no one would quibble that the clearer a call comes through, the better, but I also think that almost no one bases a smart phone purchasing decision on general call quality. As with most things: Good enough (especially when other aspects of the phone are really, really good) is more than enough.
With that in mind, perhaps this is the change Apple should have introduced with their new signal strength algorithm:
I’m joking, of course, but just imagine: If that’s the way all cell phones represented signal strength—either you have a signal, or you don’t—I firmly believe that Apple wouldn’t be having the issue that they’re having today and the iPhone 4 would be recommended by Consumer Reports without reservation.
That’s why I can’t agree with Swartz. This is not about dBm, it’s about people’s perceptions about their expensive gadgets. Apple’s arbitrarily defined signal strength meter (and the help of an obsessive media frenzy) made people aware of something that’s been happening, to some degree, for a long time, and which clearly didn’t matter before they knew about it. Just like with HDTV. In a lot of ways, we prefer to be ignorant about the specific inner-workings of the technologies we purchase.
Swartz believes Apple has been trying to distract people with bars, but the cell phone industry has been doing that for years and years and years, with a lot of success.
Why hasn’t anyone complained before?
First, here’s how I summed up what I thought he should say, before the event went down:
…Apple should use sales data, real-world reports—and a little contrition—to give a hard-to-refute middle finger to the negative press they’ve been receiving and then they shouldn’t ever address the situation again.
That is, in essence, what Steve Jobs said. I was pretty close. Of course, he said it with a look of anger and annoyance that was rooted in having to say it in the first place. As I suspected, Jobs made it pretty clear that the Consumer Reports “non-recommendation” article was the impetus for this impromptu discussion.
However, I also thought that Jobs needed to concede his role (and Apple’s overall early PR role) in furthering the so-called “antenna-gate” crisis. That didn’t really happen, much, or at least to the degree that it should have happened. Yes, Jobs conceded that Apple isn’t perfect. Yes, he conceded that they really zeroed in on the “kill spot” for attenuation with the design of the iPhone 4.
By and large, though, there was no mention of his “don’t hold it that way” email quip, directed at a user who would probably say that he doesn’t feel particularly loved by Apple, despite Jobs’s repeated claims that they love every customer.
This is disappointing because the assembled members of the press were given an opportunity to ask questions, and Jobs’s early involvement was the elephant in the room that everyone ignored.
I also didn’t predict the bumper giveaway, primarily because I feared it would come across as a somewhat contradictory gesture if Jobs was going to argue that the phone was as good as they’ve been saying all along. (It did.) As predicted (by just about everyone) there was no recall announcement.
As part of my job, I see the way a lot of corporations defend the products they make and believe in—often despite allegations which go far beyond anything customers are facing with the iPhone 4—and I knew that Apple would never announce a recall based on the flimsy “design defect” claims that have surfaced.
So, Jobs did what I thought he needed to do: He used statistics and evidence to show that customers (99-ish percent of 3 million customers) aren’t seeing the problems that the tech blogs, the pundits and some in the press want them to see. We now know that iPhone 4s aren’t really being returned, and that complaints aren’t pouring in to Apple’s support line.
(Carolyn made a good point, though: How many people call AT&T to complain, rather than AppleCare, given that the complaints are related to reception? Dunno.)
While a lot of the numbers we saw as well as the impressive shots of the testing facilities were clearly meant to combat some of the concerns that have been voiced over the last couple weeks by members of the press, I saw an even bigger target for those reveals:
Lawyers who have filed class action lawsuits against Apple, regarding the iphone 4 antenna issue.
After what we saw today, there is no way that a lawsuit will ever prevail in court, and I’m certain that Apple used today’s press conference as a way to make it very clear that this isn’t a smart fight for anyone to pick.
Even so, I fully expect a few of these money chasers to press forward with their claims: Any lawyer who files a class-action lawsuit before even a single consumer is beyond the 14-day return policy of the product in question, or who contacts someone to see if they’ll testify as an expert witness, even after that person has admitted to not being an antenna expert, isn’t going to be deterred just because their claims have been undermined by a mountain of compelling evidence.
Michael Arrington (TechCrunch) questioned the news-worthiness of the test facilities, which is odd given that a lot of media outlets (and a lot of commenters) have been making a lot of really stupid comments about whether Apple did enough testing of the iPhone 4 outside of stealth cases. It should now be very clear that Apple tests their products well beyond what even Consumer Reports utilized in the test that drove them to walk back their recommendation. And, again, it doesn’t hurt that this information puts class action lawyers on notice as well.
Bloggers can (and will, I’m sure) continue to write about the issue, but the story can no longer be “what’s Apple going to do about this” or “is Apple ignoring the issue” or “did Apple neglect to test the iPhone 4” because the onus is now on the consumer, and the future is in their hands.
Jobs has essentially asked iPhone 4 owners to call his bluff:
"If you’re unhappy and if you think a bumper case isn’t enough to make you happy, if you think the iPhone 4 is defective, if 3 million of you are as unhappy as the press that has been speaking on your behalf seems to think you are…return your phones. We’ve made the process as easy as possible by extending the return policy, waving the restocking fee, and you’ll even receive an AT&T contract reset."
The early adopter return rate Jobs mentioned was something like 1.3 percent, and that number will now either go up, or it’ll hold steady, depending on how right Jobs is concerning his theory that people really love their iPhone 4s. (I imagine the number will get slightly higher, because some people were probably holding off, wanting to see how Apple would respond before making a decision to return their phone.)
A product that is selling like crazy, which is back-ordered because of its popularity, and which is not seeing an above average return rate (indeed, which is apparently seeing a below average return rate) simply isn’t a product that can be portrayed as defective or worthy of a recall, especially given that the claims do not involve safety issues. (Whether the antenna crisis has affected anyone’s sanity is debatable.)
I’ve seen far too many variations of “I’m not seeing a problem with dropped calls or any real issues in day-to-day usage, but I’m upset just knowing that my phone has this problem” and have even seen people who claim to be upset about the antenna issue while conceding that they’re getting better reception than on their previous iPhone.
The perception of unhappiness and the very idea of an imperfection seems to be Apple’s biggest enemy at this point.
In the end, people who don’t have issues shouldn’t complain about the issues they’re not having, and people who do have issues should return their phone and get a refund, if their grief can’t be assuaged.
I recently bought a new Mr. Coffee brand coffee maker and because I’m not an aficionado, I bought one based on a few basic wants (stainless steel carafe, detachable water tank, etc.) and, well, how it looked: I like my appliances to be pretty.
It’s definitely been serviceable, but it has two bothersome flaws: When the lid is open on the water tank (in order to fill it with water) the lid actually covers the measurement numbers on the side of the tank, so there’s no way to know how many cups of water you’ve filled it with, past 4 cups. (It’s a 10-cup coffee maker.) It also doesn’t brew coffee as hot as I’d like. So, I risk making coffee too weak or too strong at too low a temperature.
Both of these issues sort of frustrate me, but I was still well within the 30 day return policy when I discovered them, and if they had been deal breakers, I’d have a different coffee maker on my counter. Of course, I could bitch and moan and do everything in my power to bring down Mr. Coffee, all the while sipping coffee brewed by my defective Mr. Coffee coffee maker but then, what kind of douche would do something like that?
Michael Arrington, in this presser post-mortem with John Gruber and MG Siegler and some guy who looks like he’s there primarily to give me the impression that he wants to lick Arrington’s anus, can’t wrap his mind around the fact that Jobs seems to concede that the iPhone 4 has a problem area while simultaneously saying that there’s not a problem with the iPhone 4.
Meanwhile, he’s perfectly willing to talk up an Android phone (the 4G EVO) that, as he concedes, “gets 20 minutes to the charge” while simultaneously saying that it’s a great phone. Beyond the dismal battery life, this is a product that is marketed for its 4G capabilities but which most people can’t actually use as a 4G phone, due to the low availability of Sprint’s 4G network. To make matters worse, customers are required to pay extra for a 4G data plan, whether they can use a 4G network, or not.
Unsurprisingly, this isn’t seen as a defect, or an issue worthy of litigation.
The iPhone 4 will have a “problem” when it has an issue (be it with the antenna or any other shortcoming) that compels a significant percentage of Apple’s customers to ask for their money back. According to Apple, that day has not yet come.
A couple things I noticed:
- Jobs actually said something nice about Google when he lamented the way they’ve been “unfairly” treated, though he didn’t really get into specifics.
- At one point, Jobs hinted that they’re working on a way to get around the laws of physics by saying they haven’t done so…yet.
- John Gruber’s question during the Q&A was a softball lob but was balanced out by whoever it was that asked the goofy and unfair “I’m holding a BlackBerry Bold right now and can’t make it lose signal” non-question. (I have a BB Bold, and you can definitely make it drop several bars based on the way you hold it.)
- Michael Arrington is a total cock. Why does MG Siegler put up with it?
I don’t think this is what Steve Jobs will say, but having read almost every article ever posted about the iPhone 4 reception issue, I think whatever he says can be based upon a handful of facts:
- Apple has sold well over two million iPhone 4s, by this point.
- There’s definitely an attenuation problem, caused by the new antenna design.
- The issue has become a PR nightmare, based largely upon Apple’s craptacular response.
I think those facts are fleshed out by the following:
- If Apple has sold well over two million iPhone 4s, and if people are having massive real-world issues with their iPhones, there is no way that we’d not know about widespread returns. I don’t think it’s possible to hide customer dissatisfaction at that level.
- Despite the fact that the iPhone 4 has a very real attenuation problem, it’s commonly reported that in real world use, it’s a better phone than any previous iPhone. Engadget even posted the opinions of several tech personalities on the subject of real world use, and most backed up the thought that attenuation is real, but not necessarily a factor in day-to-day usage.
- Despite the fact that Consumer Reports “can’t recommend” the iPhone 4, they rate it higher than any other phone on the market and even rate “voice quality” as “good” and “phoning” as “very good”.
Regarding number three, if CR hadn’t walked back their recommendation, I believe Apple would not have scheduled this press conference. I believe we’d be seeing the usual trickle of updates from a few of the tech blogs, and Jesus Diaz would continue to rape the story’s now gaping asshole for all its worth, to the surprise of absolutely no one, and that the story would have eventually fizzled out.
Insert balloon deflating sound here.
(Interesting side note: Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz has been hammering this story from day one, well beyond the posts of any other outlet, including other gadget blogs and even Apple-themed sites. It wasn’t until mainstream outlet Consumer Reports issued their report that the shit really hit the fan for Apple. One report from a respected mainstream outlet had the power to do something that 50 Gizmodo rants couldn’t.)
The Consumer Reports non-recommendation managed to shake up a hornets nest and even spurred some analysts to declare that a product recall was imminent and/or necessary. That’s the sort of bluster that makes it onto The Early Show. Apple simply can’t ignore mainstream reports questioning whether there will be a recall of their most popular product.
Which brings me to Friday’s press conference. (I’m operating under the assumption that there’s not going to be a magic software fix.)
Steve Jobs may announce a product recall based on pressure from the media, but—with only one exception—shouldn’t.
Instead, he should address all of the above. He should concede that the antenna design does add an attenuation issue that can be a factor in certain circumstances—even above and beyond normal attenuation issues experienced by most phones—and then he should say that those circumstances are outweighed by the overall improvement in voice quality.
Most importantly (and I think this would go a long way towards ending this) I feel Jobs should admit that they fucked up the response from day one. He needs to anticipate how his words will be covered and get out in front of that coverage.
There’s only one reason for Jobs to actually announce a recall: If Apple is indeed seeing a return rate or a negative response that is above and beyond the industry average. We won’t know that until Friday.
I think Apple’s best-case scenario is that they’ve figured out a manufacturing fix, at which point they can then issue a voluntary recall: Exchange your phone if you want, keep it if you’re happy with it.
If that’s not an option, Apple should use sales data, real-world reports—and a little contrition—to give a hard-to-refute middle finger to the negative press they’ve been receiving and then they shouldn’t ever address the situation again.
Disclaimer: Certain Me & Her posts are written as part of a (one-sided) blog exchange program with our (estranged) sister site, Gizmodo. Posts which fall into this category will typically involve hard-hitting, investigative gadget news and/or human interest stories from a gadget lover’s perspective. Remember: Sensational has a positive definition, too.
Apple is no stranger to products which ignite under suspect circumstances. Not long ago, a teen suffered burns to his face and ears after his iPod was struck by lightning while mowing his lawn in a lightning storm while listening to some tunes on his iPod.
Quality control at Apple is, to say the least, shocking.
Now there’s another frightening and tragic story involving an Apple product, this time the just-released iPhone 4.
Unfortunately, any negative story involving Apple’s latest iPhone adds to an already troubled release. This isn’t an antenna issue, it’s not yellow spots. No, your fragile beauty might just catch fire.
Details are still coming in, but it appears that one incredibly unlucky early adopter, his entire family, several cats, and a dog, were burned alive in an out-of-control house fire. A friend of the family, who wishes to remain anonymous, tipped us off about the iPhone 4 connection. He says the deceased waited in line for 14 hours on launch day, and had been talking up the Retina Display nonstop:
He was just really excited about it, you know? I thought the screen looked pretty nice, and all, but he kept going on and on about how he couldn’t see pixels, unless he got his face really really close to the phone. Now he’s dead.
Our source was able to take the following shot, depicting the iPhone 4 in flames:
The cause of the fire is, as of yet, unknown, but firefighters on the scene suspect a gas stove may have initiated the blaze. Even so, Apple’s troubling and dangerous history involving a fraction of a percentage of released products catching fire may be of interest in the event of a lawsuit. We do know that the victim’s iPhone caught fire at some point during the ordeal.
A source within AT&T (who wishes to remain anonymous due to the sensitive and illegal nature of the leak) provided the victim’s call logs:
Note the call on June 29, 2010, at 9:47AM. (Sadly, the last call the victim will ever make.) The iPhone catches fire around 11PM on that same day. No attempts to call 911 are noted in the call log.
Did the known issue of the iPhone 4 reception problem prevent the victim from calling for help? If the iPhone hadn’t caught fire, would the victim have had a better shot at making that call? Should the victim have been given a free bumper case?
We’ve been contacted by a neighbor who witnessed the iPhone 4 house fire: His residence suffered damage when strong winds fanned the flames, melting most of the vinyl siding on his west-facing wall.
He tells us he attempted to pre-order an iPhone 4, but was frustrated by the well-publicized server delays and instead waited to order, resulting in a back-ordered iPhone. Those shipments were being sent out as of yesterday.
We asked him if he would have used his iPhone 4 to call 911, had he been able to pre-order as planned:
Well, yeah. Probably. I was asleep and all, but I might have woken up. If I had, I certainly would have used my new iPhone to call for help.
One of the very best sources for interesting and accurate information regarding the iPhone 4 signal degradation
fuck up software issue has been Richard Gaywood over at fscked.com.uk. He’s posted sparingly, but his analysis has proven to be spot on, especially now that Apple has cobbled together their official version of events.
Yesterday, Gaywood posted yet another great article, this time with a chart breaking down the numbers from an earlier Anandtech article on the issue. (Between these two sites—and a total of three articles—you can learn everything you need to know about what’s going on with the iPhone 4. Or, you could read the approaching 30 articles Gizmodo has posted, and learn next to nothing, at least until you get to the part where they finally mention the Gaywood and Anandtech articles.)
Anyway: My day job involves distilling complex concepts down to simple infographics for the law firm I work for. Given that there are currently 5 class action lawsuits filed against Apple on this issue, I looked at Gaywood’s chart from the perspective of an information designer and how the chart might be perceived in a courtroom:
Gaywood states upfront that he isn’t a graphic designer, by which I assume he means there’s no flashy visual cues, no slick-looking gradients, etc. Basically, all the things that people say they want when they ask for a visual representation of something, but which usually just gets in the way of the information.
Fortunately, Gizmodo, never shy about posting something that’s been stolen from someone else, seems to have taken a peak at Gaywood’s design and thrown a “real” graphic designer at it:
Gradients? Check. Added graphics? Check.
I think most people would look at the second chart and think that it looks more “designerly” but it loses an awful lot of what’s important by adding a lot that isn’t. Less is definitely more, in this scenario.
For instance, Gaywood’s “range of reception” bar is presented as blocks of color: Everything that is green represents 5 bars, everything that is light green represents 4 bars, etc. Simple, text-based cues spells out exactly what each chunk of color represents.
Gizmodo’s bar is a smoother-looking gradient which is arguably prettier, but it literally blurs the line between when you’ll actually see a visual drop of bars on your iPhone signal display. This obscures half of the entire point of the graph. (The background gradient serves no purpose whatsoever. I’d get rid of it.)
Worse yet, because of the change, Gizmodo has to draw additional lines across their infographic, leading out to the graphics depicting 5 bars, 4 bars, 3 bars, etc. This additional element superfluously adds an entire column of data that must be interpreted against the bar. In other words, Gizmodo hasn’t added any new information, they’ve simply added a new element for a jury to interpret. Why? Because the signal meter graphics look kind of cool.
Those additional lines compete with the other important aspect of the graph, which is to show which ranges are affected when you’re holding the iPhone. Gaywood illustrates this point with two simple arrows, one for best case scenario and another for the worst case scenario. Next to those arrows is a brief summary of the issue: With a strong signal, you may not even notice the signal degradation, because your iPhone will still register 5 bars (still green). With a weak signal, your iPhone will drop alarmingly from 5 bars to 1 bar (spanning all five color blocks).
Gaywood’s design couldn’t be more clear about this. Gizmodo’s chart eventually gets around to making the same point, but you’ve got to do a lot of thinking on your own, and you’ve got to read three bullet points of explanation for each of the two arrows they’ve drawn in to show the “hold effect”. I would also argue that the “worst case” arrow should—if it’s going to use a gradient at all—match up with the gradient on the bar. As designed, it starts from a much different signal level. (Orange, instead of light green.) If they’re going to use a gradient to represent signal level, consistency is important.
Gizmodo also adds “actual signal” at the top of the bar, for reasons I don’t really understand. They also throw in “bad signal” right above “no signal” which, I would think, goes without saying. (And did go without saying on Gaywood’s version of the graph.)
What’s interesting about this, to me, is the difference in perspective: Anyone who’s reading this probably knows that Gizmodo is facing potential felony charges based on having bought a stolen iPhone 4 prototype. Gaywood seems to have a general interest in Apple, but has otherwise shown an even hand in his reporting on this issue. He’s been neither overly harsh nor overly kind.
You can bet that if any of these class action lawsuits come before a judge or jury, the plaintiffs will be using a chart designed similarly to Gizmodo’s rather than the more useful chart drawn up by Gaywood, even though they show essentially the same information.
This is a large aspect of any trial I’ve ever worked on: Different interpretations of the same data and an attempt to sway or convince a jury that one interpretation is better than the other. One side (plaintiff always goes first) will present an expert, who will offer his/her opinion and the other side will then offer up their own expert, who will offer another perspective. Gizmodo’s chart simply looks more damning and I can think of no other reason why they’d go through the trouble of recreating Gaywood’s chart, rather than referencing it, other than the simple fact that his doesn’t really seem to take a side. Gizmodo’s chart supports the anti-Apple position they’ve taken on this issue whereas Gaywood’s supports the goal of providing useful information, cleanly.
My experience with juries is that they tend to respect an approach like Gaywood’s, and are turned off by any effort to subliminally influence their views via flashy design touches, or by spelling out what they ought to think. If the information doesn’t speak for itself, extra bullet points aren’t going to impress the jury. I can say from experience that quality and subtle information design can be a major determining factor on the outcome of a trial.
I believe a jury would 1) understand Gaywood’s chart without further explanation and 2) appreciate that it doesn’t attempt to influence their perspective.
One final note: I could be wrong about this, but my recollection is that my first view of the Gizmodo chart did not include the cite to Richard Gaywood. I posted a comment about the obvious similarities between the two charts, which has since been deleted. (As far as I can tell, anyway: Gizmodo’s comment system is even more difficult to navigate than their chart.) That makes (some) sense if I’m wrong, but is pretty lame if I’m not.
According to Gaywood (who elaborated in the comment section of his post) Gizmodo did indeed ask to use his chart before publishing their article. Presumably, I missed the cite. Still. All that other stuff I said.
In an effort to see if I could improve upon Gaywood’s chart, and because I’m criticizing Gizmodo’s, I thought I’d take a crack at a redesign:
First: I don’t vouch for the strict accuracy of the chart. I’m not attempting to precisely reproduce the numbers. So far as I’m aware, both Gaywood and Gizmodo’s charts are accurate: I eyeballed Gaywood’s to make mine. Obviously, if this were for anything other than what I’m using it for, I’d have attempted to be more precise.
I consolidated some of the “this shows” wording from Gaywood’s original into the title and also into the description of the attenuation arrows as his seems a bit wordy to me, in places. I still think Gizmodo over-complicated their chart based on how they utilized their signal meter graphics, but I do think that concept can be used to simplify Gaywood’s idea even more.
I kept Gaywood’s block colors concept, but extended it over to the attenuation arrows, to show a more visual and direct correlation between how many bars you’d lose at the low end.
I’ve also gone ahead and mocked up my understanding of Apple’s proposed fix: Nothing will change, the same attenuation issues will exist, they’ll still be exacerbated by the antenna band, they’ll just have spread out the manner in which the signal bars are displayed:
The upshot is that some people on the high end will feel like they’re getting a worse signal sometimes (4 bars instead of 5) and people on the low end will realize that they were always getting a shitty signal (2-1 bars instead of 5-1).
(I’m not sure that Apple will distribute the range this evenly, but I’m fairly certain that this is the concept of the fix they’re going to deploy with iOS 4.01.)
As others have pointed out, this sort of dickering with the signal display meter probably wouldn’t be an issue on a network with a reliably strong signal, because people simply wouldn’t have ever noticed the sudden drop at the low-end. Apple is getting bit in the ass because so many of AT&T’s customers fall into the “low-end” of the chart and the issue—courtesy of the new antenna design—became unavoidably apparent.
I’ve made a slight edit to the chart, based on a change to Gaywood’s chart. The description along the vertical axis was changed to “Signal Strength (dBm)” to correct an error. I don’t think Gizmodo has updated their chart, at this point.
I think by now it should be pretty clear that rumor blog Gizmodo has a love/hate relationship with Apple. On the one hand, they love the page views that Apple-related stories bring in. On the other hand, they hate the possibility of facing felony criminal charges due to having purchased a stolen iPhone 4 prototype.
Given the latter half of the tenuous relationship, what’s a blog gonna do? Simple! Continue to write a truckload of articles about Apple every day, just without the fanboyish perspective that at one (pre-investigation) point in time permeated the vast majority of their articles.
And why not? Apple bashing is a lucrative industry—just ask Rob Enderle—and never more so than during new product release week. This time it’s the iPhone 4, and Apple handed Gizmodo a whopper: A phone which doesn’t work for some percentage of 1.7 million people…when held normally.
As others have noted, this exact reception issue seems to plague multiple smart phone manufacturers, including HTC and Nokia. Gizmodo even makes mention of this as part of their ongoing coverage of Apple’s more popular variation on the theme:
There is evidence other phones may have had problems when gripped a certain way. But none generated the number of public complaints or level of controversy associated with the iPhone 4.
As a naturally curious person, you may be wondering: “Why is that, I wonder?”
The first reason should be pretty obvious: Apple sold 1.7 million iPhones in three fucking days. The sampling rate for iPhones is larger. (Did Nokia ever sell 1.7 million E71-2 phones?) Thus, the fact that more reports of the issue are surfacing isn’t all that surprising. Or, shouldn’t be to anyone who understand the concept of much more and far less.
The second reason is a bit more chilling and requires more of an explanation.
I should warn you: The following is not recommended for the faint of heart. What you are about to read is a brutal and uncompromising look at various Gizmodo contributors flogging a story over and over and over, for almost a week, right up to the point of death, and then butt-fucking it for good measure.
You have been warned.
The post that started it all. Intriguingly, there’s a hint that Gizmodo might be gentle with the story. A false sense of hope that some sort of journalistic integrity might be applied, based on the question mark at the end of the headline. 50 updates later…
It’s true. Believe it or not, Steve Jobs did somewhat dismissively recommend that a concerned customer hold his phone differently to mitigate the problem. Gizmodo just wanted you to know that.
Not really, but Gizmodo hadn’t written anything negative about the reception issue for a few hours, so, they improvised. Ha ha!
In case you’d forgotten, the good people over at Gizmodo wanted to remind you that the iPhone you purchased is probably a defective piece of shit that you can exchange for something else, even another piece of shit defective iPhone 4!
Actually, it’s just a protective skin, but: “Hey, have you heard that Apple’s new iPhone 4 suffers reception issues when you hold it normally?”
"We know that the iPhone 4 prototypes were concealed because we bought a stolen iPhone 4 prototype and it was housed in a protective case that made it look uncannily like an iPhone 3GS. Uh, maybe that’s why they didn’t detect this issue? It makes sense that Apple wouldn’t have ever utilized an iPhone 4 prototype which was not wrapped in one of those stealth cases, right? Even when it wasn’t being tested off-site? Cough.”
(I prefer the conspiracy theory that Apple did in fact know about the reception issue and that the bumpers were designed to mitigate the problem.)
As of right now, it’s almost Tuesday and no update has been issued. They’re not even that good at rumors.
Because, apparently, the first article they published which involved 50 claims (often with videos) of users experiencing the iPhone reception problem in practice wasn’t enough to make the point that people were experiencing the problem.
Let the sodomizing begin! “One, two, three, four, fuck that story ‘til it’s sore!”
One solution involves using a rubber band to attach your iPhone 4 to the head of a douchebag.
In this video, an iPhone 4 owner demonstrates how the antenna problem also affects transmission in voice calls. Using only one finger, the voice quality degrades, even dropping completely. He explains the process:
The process involves using one finger. It’s all very scientific.
At this point, I’d say Steve Jobs is just mind-fucking Gizmodo with his responses. That may make what we’re witnessing consensual, in some weird way.
Presumably spent after posting a non-stop barrage of content on the subject of iPhone 4 reception issues, Gizmodo steps away from the limp body and lets Fake Steve Jobs have a turn. Good news, everybody! There’s a pretty good chance we’ll get to hear Adam Carolla’s take on the matter as well: Jason Chen loves that guy!
Gizmodo posts a goofy picture of Steve Jobs in an effort to keep the meme going and doesn’t even bother to credit the random commenter who they stole the idea from.
Exhanging piece of shit iPhones is so yesterday. Today Gizmodo is all about returning your new iPhone. You could even use the refund money to buy the Droid X that Gizmodo failed to cover in any real detail, due to their obsession with Apple’s newest product.
Except, of course, for those Nokia phones (like the E71-2) which were (under)reported to have the same problem as the new iPhone, information which Gizmodo didn’t feel the need to mention, either when it was a fresh issue or now that it might serve as a useful counterpoint to Nokia’s smug and seemingly inaccurate blog post.
"Sign here if you want something free or if you think internet petitions are useful."
One week from product release to complaints to class action lawsuit. This will be great for consumers who will most likely get next to nothing even assuming these money chasing lawyers manage to take the claim all the way to a favorable verdict. They’d make a lot of money, sure, but you? You’ll get a voucher for a bumper you probably already bought. Gizmodo is happy to assist, though, and refer you to the law firm that hopes to
fight for your rights line their wallets.
Just kidding. And finally…
In which Gizmodo once again dips back into the well and posts yet another video showing something happening that happened in other videos they’ve posted. It’s worth noting that Gizmodo didn’t mention the comments of the guy who shot the video:
FYI: I did not make this video to dissuade anyone from buying the iPhone 4, but merely to record this phenomenon. If it’s a bug, it’ll be fixed. If it’s a defect, Apple will replace it. I’m very much enjoying iPhone 4.
It’s kinda fun, actually.
For what it’s worth, I couldn’t get it to reproduce in a cafe a few days later, so this could be a problem only in some areas.
Instead, they posted some information from “most” push polls without, you know, actually linking to the polls. As a fan of this method, I can say that—according to most web polls I’ve seen—up to 100% of respondents think Jesus Diaz is a dicknozzle hack who is more concerned with getting back at Apple than doing his job. As it turns out, he can also see the future, because he can say with certainty that this problem will “affect everyone at some point.”
Damn. And finally…
Gizmodo claim that a “source” inside Apple’s engineering department let slip that the internal battle between designers and engineers is leading to product defects that are just going to get worse and worse and worse. To prove this, they attempt to make it seem like Andy Hertzfeld contributed an article detailing the same issue from way back—once again due to Steve Jobs’s insistence on form over function—when really, they just copied and pasted one of Hertzfeld’s old articles from Folklore.org.
AHEM: AND FINALLY…
Gizmodo isn’t interested in this product, they’re interested in linking you back to an article which involved enough new news to actually justify an article.
Fuck it. There’s probably going to be more as the days go on:
News flash: Apple, like every other company, is trying to manage its message because sites like Gizmodo—but mainly Gizmodo—are parsing every single thing they say on any given issue, in an effort to find an inconsistency to write about.
This list was compiled by a tag search for “apple” on Gizmodo, so it’s possible that I missed a few articles. I also ruled out any article which wasn’t specifically about the reception issue even when the reception issue was mentioned as a snarky aside; the list would be at least five articles longer if I had been less particular. As it stands:
16 17 18 19 20 21 articles. (Articles about Apple, generally? A billion. Literally, a billion. Give or take a number.)
It wouldn’t really be fair to highlight Gizmodo without offering a comparison of similar content posted to a similar site, using the same search criteria.
Engadget is probably Gizmodo’s most direct competition as they tend to cover the same basic topics, so:
Same day, same basic starting point.
Steve’s pithy email was too good for either site to pass up. Understandable. When Steve says jump, most of these guys jump.
Snark, in picture form: Various people in Apple’s promo videos holding the phone the way that Steve Jobs recommends not holding it. Oh, snap! No word on whether these people have signed Gizmodo’s petition.
Weird. This article is about the reception issue, but it’s not really all that negative and is actually pretty informative. It’s as if all sides of an issue are being presented. I’m confused!
In other news, June 10 was my birthday, and you didn’t get me anything.
Remember how the book Wicked was basically a retelling of The Wizard of Oz, told from the perspective of the Wicked Witch? Similarly, this is the same smug Nokia blog post Gizmodo posted, told from the perspective of a website which seems to have some modicum of respect for journalistic integrity.
Spoiler: Engadget points out Nokia’s hypocrisy by posting an actual illustration from one of Nokia’s user manuals depicting the “don’t hold it that way” concept.
So, in the time it’s taken Gizmodo to add 4 new posts on the reception issue, Gizmodo has limped in with one. The newsworthy one.
The final tally:
6 7 articles. Six. Seven. One of the six seven wasn’t even negative!
Pathetic effort, Engadget.
It’s worth noting that Gizmodo has completely overlooked the two articles on the subject that seem to shed some intelligent light on what’s actually going on. Engadget linked the first of the two:
The second article, which is even better, really:
On that note, I’m finished with the updates. There’s a pretty good chance Gizmodo will keep fucking this story in the asshole until it’s a bloody blown out mess, and that travesty will have absolutely nothing to do with an honest desire to keep their readers informed—otherwise they’d have posted both of the above links (neither of which come across as favorable or fanboyish towards Apple) instead of the 18 or so worthless, smug, masturbatory wastes of time they instead chose to post, or at least in addition to the smug masturbatory wastes of time—their mission is very clearly driven by a complete and utter lack of professionalism due to having been stung by a company they used to worship. Why any outlet, mainstream or otherwise, would ever defend their journalistic credibility is completely beyond my ability to understand.
If Jason Chen’s or Nick Denton’s or Jesus Diaz’s argument is that what they do deserves protection under shield laws because they qualify as journalists, I would argue that anyone in any profession who performed their jobs as poorly as Gizmodo’s staff performs “journalism” would be fired and then shunned by their respective industry.
And then I would argue that journalism isn’t particularly respectable.
What a load of horseshit.
Yesterday, early adopter reports began pouring into gadget blogs concerning two separate problems with Apple’s not-even-officially-released iPhone 4. The Unofficial Apple Weblog was first to report issues with the iPhone’s new Retina Display in which faint yellow spots (or sometimes yellow lines) were appearing on the screen. That issue was quickly followed by widespread reports that some iPhone 4s suffer (at least the perception of) lost reception when held in the left hand.
What’s more annoying than spending hours lining up for a shiny new gadget? Learning that your precious phone can’t actually connect to the network. Well, depending on how you hold it — word has it that the iPhone 4’s bottom-left corner isn’t playing nice with your skin. If you recall from the keynote, that’s where the Bluetooth / WiFi / GPS antenna meets its GSM / UMTS counterpart.
In both instances, some users have the problem, and some don’t. At this point, the “lost bars” glitch seems to be the more widespread occurrence, even though accounts about what triggers the issue and even how it manifests are pretty varied.
Walt Mossberg’s pre-release review touched on the subject:
Yet, in some places where the signal was relatively weak, the iPhone 4 showed no bars, or fewer bars than its predecessor. Apple says that this is a bug it plans to fix, and that it has to do with the way the bars are presented, not the actual ability to make a call. And, in fact, in nearly all of these cases, the iPhone 4 was able to place calls despite the lack of bars.
As it to be expected, Gizmodo has posted articles about both issues, and I’ve seen a few people surmise that perhaps this is just Gizmodo being Gizmodo. Unfortunately, too many other blogs are reporting on the issues for that to be the case. These are real issues.
Still, these early reports may not be the end of the world for Apple, or for those still hoping to nab an iPhone 4. I’ve seen claims that a failure rate of 3 to 5 percent is acceptable in consumer products. This Daily Tech article about Xbox 360 failures, for example:
Asked differently about whether or not the Xbox 360 falls into the ‘normal’ three to five percent return rate, Holmdahl said, “We don’t disclose the actual number,” and “We don’t comment on that.”
I’m not sure where that range of percentages comes from, and haven’t located any study to corroborate the author’s claim, but looking at various articles about the failure rate of gaming consoles from Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, it certainly seems reasonable.
For example, the same Daily Tech article cites an astonishing 33% failure rate for the Xbox 360. 1/3 of every Xbox sold experiences a critical failure requiring a replacement unit. That number could even be as high as 54%, according to a blog posting on the Seattle PI website:
In fact, a Game Informer survey of 5,000 readers found that the Xbox 360 has an astounding 54.2 percent failure rate. That means 54.2 percent of Xbox 360 consoles fail in one way or another.
I’m willing to accept the 3-5% range because the same article touches on the failure rate of Sony and Nintendo’s consoles, as well:
That’s well above the reported failure rates of Sony’s PlayStation 3 (10.6 percent) and Nintendo’s Wii (6.8 percent).
So, if Apple sells 600,000 iPhones, they’ll need to get to 300,000 (or 200,000) defective devices before they match Microsoft’s undeniably shoddy record, 60,000 before they match Sony’s reported rate, or 15,000 before they even go beyond what is considered an “acceptable” failure rate. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that Microsoft’s extreme failure rates haven’t ever deterred consumers from purchasing Xbox 360s. What the industry deems “acceptable” doesn’t seem to correlate in any meaningful way to consumer purchasing habits.
So: 15,000 defective iPhones would be a big number, and it would certainly lead to a lot of angry customers, but it’s (apparently) not unreasonable.
It’s also worth mentioning that this is the first completely redesigned iPhone in a couple years: This launch is likely to see a larger fail rate than (say) the 3GS because the 3GS didn’t really deviate from the hardware design of the 3G, which itself wasn’t a radical departure from the 1st generation iPhone. Apple’s manufacturing partners had likely worked out most of the glitches.
The iPhone 4 redesign not only involves completely new materials, but in the case of the Retina Display, it involves a completely new process in which the screen and the LCD are fused together. It’s also the first iPhone in which the antenna is a structural component of the device itself. (Indeed, there is some speculation that this could be the cause of the reception issue. If that turns out to be the case, the iPhone 4 will have to be seen as a monumental failure of pre-release quality control.)
Apple’s biggest and most immediate problem is going to be bad PR: For whatever reason, there are a lot of people who want to see Apple fail, and fail spectacularly. Consumers, for their part, don’t know anything about failure rates; a defective product is a defective product. Someone whose first experience with an iPhone is a splotchy yellow screen or an alarming reception issue won’t care (or won’t know) that the HTC EVO 4G and the Droid Incredible are suffering from embarrassing screen issues as well.
For better or for worse, Apple is the Goliath of the smart phone industry, and there are a lot of Davids who will be thrilled to play up even an acceptable failure rate, while glossing over the HTC display issues. (HTC glossed over the issues, why shouldn’t everyone else?) Couple that with the fact that consumers are more likely to report problems with new devices than satisfaction, and that blogs are more likely to collect and promote horror stories than success stories (this is where concerns about Gizmodo’s integrity become more valid) and this could become a massive PR nightmare for Apple, given that the iPhone 4 was already suffering from an unusually glitchy launch.
If, as Mossberg suggests, the reception issue can be solved via a software fix, Apple needs to post that fix sooner, rather than later. Today would be good—yesterday would have been better.
My guess is that the yellow splotches will eventually be tied to an isolated glitch in the manufacturing process; probably when the glass is fused to the LCD. Whatever the cause, so long as this issue remains relatively rare, and so long as Apple has replacement units ready, I don’t see this turning into much more than a hiccup for those unfortunate enough to be saddled with an affected unit.
Within a few days, I suspect Apple will release a software update for the iOS which will purport to correct the reception issue, at which point some will claim that the issue has been fixed while others will claim that they’re still seeing the issue. Supporters will assert that those people are simply confusing AT&T’s legendary reception issues with the (now fixed) iOS software issue and detractors will gleefully assert that this is the beginning of the end of Apple’s second coming. In support of the latter crowd, Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz will probably post a new article about Apple’s latest monumental failure, at which point his readers will claim that Apple sucks and that everyone should should have bought the more open, flash-enabled HTC EVO 4G instead of being a stupid fanboy and drinking the Steve Jobs kool-aid.
If all goes well, the fervor will then slowly die down and Apple will go on to sell a lot of iPhones to a lot of stupid fanboys including, in all likelihood, Jesus Diaz.
For the last month or so, I’ve been battling a unique reception issue on my iPhone 3GS. Everything works as expected until I lose service in an area with poor coverage. (My cubicle, for example.) When that happens my iPhone doesn’t seem to want to automatically reconnect to AT&T’s voice network, even if I move to an area where I normally get good reception. The data network works (I can browse the internet on 3G) but I can’t make calls and the status indicator reflects zero bars. Once I reboot, reception returns to normal. After a trip to an AT&T outlet and then an Apple Store (and after attempting the suggested fixes: A new SIM card and a hard restore without using my backup) an Apple retail employee finally relented and replaced my 3GS. Unfortunately, my new 3GS is exhibiting similar symptoms. I suspect there’s a software conflict and my experience is enough to lead me to believe that the iPhone 4 reception issue could, as Apple suggests, be a software problem, or even tied to a bug in a specific application that a significant number of people have installed.