Print 79 comment(s) - last by sweetspot.. on Jul 21 at 1:32 PM

Note the complete lack of insulation on the stainless steel antenna/frame. An engineer warned top executives at Apple a year ago, that the design was doomed to make the phone a lemon.  (Source: iFixIt)

IOS 4.0.1 is now available; it now "correctly" displays signal bars on supported iPhones
Also, U.S. Senator voices outrage about Apple's handling of the iPhone antenna problems

Life is tough as an engineer.  Last year Ruben Caballero, a senior engineer and antenna expert at Apple, reportedly warned the company's top management, including CEO Steven P. Jobs, that the current production plan was badly flawed.  Lacking any insulation, he recognized from experience that the antenna would likely be in for some serious issues.

Bloomberg received the information from a source close to Caballero.  Caballero, who still works at Apple has declined comment.  Apple also declined comment.

It appears that Apple blatantly disregarded the call for insulating its antenna over fear that it would impact the phone's size or weight.  The new antenna design, which wraps around the phone's frame was designed to minimize weight and size.

Apple also reportedly received a warning from a carrier partner sources say (likely AT&T) about problems they were having during early testing.  Again Apple appears to have blatantly disregarded yet another warning placed in front of it.

Despite selling a record 1.7 million iPhones at launch, Apple has since been overrun with angry customers complaining their new Apple phones are actually lemons.  Apple has remained unsympathetic, for the most part, which many say has damaged its brand image.  The company did announce that it will hold a special press conference on Friday to address the issues.  Some are predicting that Apple may launch a recall, which could cost the company $1B USD or more.

In related news U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D- NY) wrote an open letter to Apple CEO Jobs blasting his company's handling of the signal issues.  The topic is a particular sore spot in New York; New York City has, according to Apple employees suffered from 30 percent iPhone dropped call rates.

In the letter Sen. Schumer calls Apple's upcoming cosmetic patch to how many bars are drawn to be "insufficient".  He also suggests that Apple's demand that customers buy cases to fix the issue is inappropriate.  He writes, "The burden for consumers caused by this glitch, combined with the confusion over its cause and how it will be fixed, has the potential to undermine the many benefits of this innovative device.  To address this concern, I ask that Apple provide iPhone 4 customers with a clearly written explanation of the cause of the reception problem and make a public commitment to remedy it free-of-charge."

In his letter he cites the Consumer Reports' decision to drop its endorsement of the iPhone.  Clearly a jilted Apple fan, Sen. Schumer concludes, "I look forward to Apple's swift action on this matter, and once again laud Apple for its innovative efforts and service to millions of Americans."

Updated 7/15/2010 @ 2:21 pm

Apple has just rolled out iOS 4.0.1 which is supposed to correct the way signals bars are displayed on the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 4.

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By chromal on 7/15/2010 11:15:57 AM , Rating: 5
I figured that there were probably bright engineers working on the iPhone4 there who ought to have known better. Turns out they did know better, but the SS Apple was hijacked by MBA-types who torpedoed their flagship. Whoops.

By Shatbot on 7/15/2010 11:27:42 AM , Rating: 5
It's obvious - on Friday Steve is going to say they had some unexpected problems with the antenna in a small amount of phones, and that the bar system will be made more accurate.

Then if you take your iPhone 4 with receipt into any Apple store you'll get a free bumper. If not I'll eat my hat.

He'll look the hero, and everyone will be so stoked about how good Apple is at looking after their customers. If anyone goes to the conference can someone PLEASE yell out about the hacked iTunes accounts?

The annoying this is he also gets to use it as another advert. Bastard.

By Mitch101 on 7/15/2010 1:51:33 PM , Rating: 2
Aren't dropped calls/reception problems a cash cow for AT&T running up peoples minutes? Shouldnt AT&T have to cough up something to the iPhone 4 users especially those who might have overage charges?

By zonkie on 7/15/2010 3:19:44 PM , Rating: 3
If it doesn't require a glove, they blew it. If it doesn't require a $30 rubber band, they blew it.

By LordanSS on 7/15/2010 6:34:54 PM , Rating: 5
By Obujuwami on 7/15/2010 6:47:04 PM , Rating: 4
WIN! Someone 6 this man!

By IcePickFreak on 7/15/2010 11:52:06 AM , Rating: 5
This is a popular trend in the current businesses. The sales portion of the company literally runs the company and claims all the profits since they are the salesmen. Meanwhile the engineers have to deal with the a minimal staff since they don't get much of the pie, and then have to design the unit around the unrealistic ideas of the sales staff, who generally fall out of touch with the customer as well at some point.

Then to top it all off, the salesmen point to the engineers when it doesn't work the way they wanted, even when they were told it wouldn't work. Upper management usually sides with the sales side since they are the BS masters, and generally the upper management is just sales guys that got promoted for doing this exact same thing a year previous.

All the while everyone else wonders why there isn't much innovation these days.

By rtrski on 7/15/2010 12:11:06 PM , Rating: 5
How depressing. You just described the entire plot arc of my last 3 employments (5 yrs, 8 yrs, and the current at 5 yrs) in one post.

Why did I want to be an engineer, again?

By wuZheng on 7/15/2010 12:28:54 PM , Rating: 2
You wanted to change the world! Thanks for giving me SO much to look forward to! >_>

By Iaiken on 7/15/2010 2:56:13 PM , Rating: 4
Perhaps you wanted to be creative, innovative and make life better or easier for people.

The problem is that no matter your talent, there are always other people out there whose job is to exploit you to the best of your ability until you are no longer useful.

It's sad because it's true...

By dtm4trix on 7/16/2010 1:52:12 AM , Rating: 5
Welcome to Corporate America.

By sprockkets on 7/15/2010 10:13:13 PM , Rating: 5
To quote fortune:

Conway's Law:
In any organization there will always be one person who knows what is going on.

This person must be fired.

By BarkHumbug on 7/16/2010 3:12:40 AM , Rating: 2
I thought Conway's Law was:
Any organization that designs a system (defined more broadly here than just information systems) will inevitably produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization's communication structure.

By sprockkets on 7/16/2010 4:36:59 PM , Rating: 2
Well it was copied and pasted from the fortune text file. I find it amusing either way.

By tng on 7/15/2010 12:29:58 PM , Rating: 5
Does anyone remember a set of O-Rings that an engineer warned could fail on a shuttle booster at NASA?

Not surprised that it happens again in some high profile product.

I had similar issues at a company that I worked with, they tried to blame me, but knowing how these things go I had kept all of the e-mails I had sent warning that te plan would not work and I got a sales weasel fired......

By ClownPuncher on 7/15/2010 3:06:07 PM , Rating: 4
What's the worst that could happen?

By Omega215D on 7/16/2010 12:20:16 AM , Rating: 2
Launch an App and then *poof* iPhone 4 asplodes!

At least with space launches it's understood that anything can go wrong. When it comes to Steve Jobs he can do no wrong...

By wiz220 on 7/15/2010 4:44:28 PM , Rating: 3
You read my mind! I was thinking of that scenario as well.

On the morning of the launch the Morton-Thiokol management team kicked the engineers out of the room and proceeded to tell NASA that the launch could go ahead. Even though the engineers had shown that there was basically a 100% failure rate of the SRB O-rings at the low temperatures they were attempting to launch in (cold enough that there were icicles hanging from the launch pad, which is extremely rare in Florida, but happened none-the-less).

By ralniv on 7/15/2010 9:46:21 PM , Rating: 2
The example you cite characterizes the aerospace industry 20+ yrs ago. The culture has changed a lot. The management style of the Apollo-era relics is completely out of sync with the industry today. Intimidation and "shooting the messenger" are forbidden and will get management reprimanded and potentially fired. This change stems from cultural changes and the fact that attorneys wield a lot of power in big business. Finance people (i.e. the purse-string holders) also wield tremendous power over engineering, which drives me nuts... but I digress.

By otispunkmeyer on 7/18/2010 1:41:00 PM , Rating: 2
ah yes the accountants.... does my nut in too.

the project managers and the project engineers at work spend an inordinate amount of time with the finance people going over costs and losses and such like.

i did actually find out why it took so long and the culprit is finances horrifically obtuse spreadsheets. i swear ive seen nothing like it, its arrangement makes no sense whats so ever..there's no logic in how things are laid out, you cant actually follow a single money trail from top to bottom or left to right. its like someone just sneezed figures and formulas at the sheet. some times even they dont know what they're looking at.

i did a bit of finance and accounting as part of my engineering degree and i know it doesnt have to be that ass back wards. but i guess the finance guys have to do something to keep their jobs going

By BarkHumbug on 7/16/2010 3:23:20 AM , Rating: 3
The same thing happened to a colleague of mine as well! Real life really is a Dilbert comic... Good for you! ;)

By LRonaldHubbs on 7/15/2010 3:53:15 PM , Rating: 5
When things go right, management made a great decision, and the underlings were along for the ride.
When things go wrong, management made a great decision, but the underlings failed to execute.

Gotta love how business works... :rolleyes:

By walk2k on 7/15/2010 7:23:07 PM , Rating: 2
I'm no expert but... wouldn't putting insolation over the antenna give you LESS signal? I mean, an antenna is designed to pick up signals from the outside... the last thing you want is to shield it from that.

By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 7/16/2010 7:26:43 AM , Rating: 1
Not sure why you got voted down for asking a simple question. The bumper shields the metal lining of the case from your human self, which attenuates the signal when you touch it. The signal will pass through the medium of the bumber with no problems (it is a radio signal, not an electric current), and shields the antenna from your human self.

By otispunkmeyer on 7/18/2010 1:45:36 PM , Rating: 2
yeah it will, the 3GS has weaker signal than the 4 because all its gubbins are inside a plastic shell, with metallics bits in there as well. i know its not all conductive but it still attenuates a bit.

the problem with the iphone 4 is while the antenna is now on the outside for greater signal strength, when you bridge that gap with your hands you can through the tuning of the antenna off. as your skin is conductive, you change the length of the antenna and bam, it can go out of tune and your signal is attenuated.

oddly i think anandtech noted that while holding it reduced the 3G signal, it actually improved the WiFi signal. RF works in odd ways sometimes.

By otispunkmeyer on 7/18/2010 1:45:37 PM , Rating: 2
yeah it will, the 3GS has weaker signal than the 4 because all its gubbins are inside a plastic shell, with metallics bits in there as well. i know its not all conductive but it still attenuates a bit.

the problem with the iphone 4 is while the antenna is now on the outside for greater signal strength, when you bridge that gap with your hands you can through the tuning of the antenna off. as your skin is conductive, you change the length of the antenna and bam, it can go out of tune and your signal is attenuated.

oddly i think anandtech noted that while holding it reduced the 3G signal, it actually improved the WiFi signal. RF works in odd ways sometimes.

By ghost03 on 7/19/2010 10:47:31 AM , Rating: 2
If we were talking about current flow in a conductor, yes, insulation would impede it. Instead, we're talking about electromagnetic waves, which pass through such material quite nearly as though it weren't there.

An example which we can all understand is light (which is a high frequency electromagnetic wave). Light passes through glass quite readily, just as lower frequency (800 MHz cell phone) passes through rubber and plastic.

In reply to a later post, while touching the antenna with your finger attenuates the signal by some small amount, that is not the source of iPhone 4's trouble. The issue is that your finger (which is a mediocre conductor) shorts the two antennas (Wifi, 2.4 GHz and Cell Phone, 800-900 MHz) together by some margin. This effectively makes the antenna longer, and thus for a lower, sub-optimal frequency band.

By ghost03 on 7/19/2010 10:56:52 AM , Rating: 2
Opps, otis beat me to the iPhone 4 antenna issues.

I'm not sure I agree with your reasoning that the shell is responsible for inferior 3gs performance, however. The shell is very thin and only occupies a small fraction of the antenna's near field. Certainly some very small attenuation would be present, but likely not enough to account for the [optimal] difference in signal performance between the two phones.

The internal antenna is a planar multi path antenna, designed to cover lots of different frequencies in very little space. It's simply inferior to bigger, dedicated antennas.

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