Linked List: July 19, 2010

Impressions by Kevin Spacey 

The Pacino is killer. (Via Coudal.)

Reddit on Third-Party Web Traffic Numbers 

Compete, Alexa, Quantcast — they’re all bullshit.

‘Inevitable’ 

Leander Kahney, seven days ago:

Apple will be forced to recall the iPhone 4 following Consumer Reports tests proving the “Death Grip” antenna issue is not software related, but a hardware flaw, PR experts say.

“Apple will be forced to do a recall of this product,” said Professor Matthew Seeger, an expert in crisis communication. “It’s critically important. The brand image is the most important thing Apple has. This is potentially devastating.”

Great call.

Don’t Hold It Wrong 

“Mobile phone manuals that describe where not to hold the devices”, collected by David Chartier.

Samsung Galaxy S Attenuation 

But I thought only the iPhone 4 suffered from attenuation with a finger touch on the wrong spot?

Scott Adams on Antennagate and the ‘High Ground Maneuver’ 

Scott Adams, unlike many others, thinks Jobs’s handling of the press conference was genius:

If Jobs had not changed the context from the iPhone 4 in particular to all smartphones in general, I could make you a hilarious comic strip about a product so poorly made that it won’t work if it comes in contact with a human hand. But as soon as the context is changed to “all smartphones have problems,” the humor opportunity is gone. Nothing kills humor like a general and boring truth.

The single biggest problem Apple faced last week — the only reason Apple responded at all, let alone with a major press event — is that their flagship product was being subject to ridicule. Ridicule is powerful, and difficult to deflect. It was the “look at the similar problem with these other phones” demonstration that deflected the ridicule. (That, along with the iOS 4.0.1 update which rejiggered the bar-display algorithm such that a finger on the spot no longer made more than one or two bars go away.)

‘I’m Going to Go Call Ralph and Yell at Him.’ 

Fascinating piece by Fred Vogelstein for Wired magazine on the Apple-AT&T relationship:

In a bid to avert the looming problem, a team headed by senior vice president Kris Rinne met with Apple to ask for help. Of course AT&T was planning to upgrade its network to handle the increased demand, Rinne’s team told Apple executives, but that was going to take years. In the meantime, would Apple take measures to help throttle back the traffic? Perhaps Apple could restrict its YouTube app to run only over Wi-Fi. Maybe the iPhone could feature a smaller, lower-resolution videostream or cut off YouTube videos after one minute. Rinne, who had already met with Apple’s iPhone team at least half a dozen times, fully expected the company to play along. After all, manufacturers agreed to such restrictions all the time. It didn’t make sense to build phones and offer features that carriers couldn’t support.

But in meetings with Apple engineers and marketers over the subsequent year, Rinne and other AT&T executives discovered that Apple wasn’t playing by traditional wireless rules. It wasn’t interested in cooperating, especially if it meant hobbling what had quickly become its marquee product. For Apple, the idea of restricting the iPhone was akin to asking Steve Jobs to ditch the black turtleneck. “They tried to have that conversation with us a number of times,” says someone from Apple who was in the meetings. “We consistently said ‘No, we are not going to mess up the consumer experience on the iPhone to make your network tenable.’ They’d always end up saying, ‘We’re going to have to escalate this to senior AT&T executives,’ and we always said, ‘Fine, we’ll escalate it to Steve and see who wins.’ I think history has demonstrated how that turned out.”

And:

They have even fought about wardrobe: When an AT&T representative suggested to one of Jobs’ deputies that the Apple CEO wear a suit to meet with AT&T’s board of directors, he was told, “We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits.”

Jean-Louis Gassée on Antennagate 

Jean-Louis Gassée on how Jobs could have headed off Antennagate with a slightly different pitch at the iPhone 4’s WWDC keynote unveiling:

Jobs stops… and after a slightly pregnant pause, continues: The improved reception comes at a price. If you hold the iPhone like this, if your hand or finger bridges the lower-left gap between the two antennae, the signal strength indicator will go down by two or even three bars. He proceeds to demo the phenomenon. Indeed, within ten seconds of putting the heel of his left thumb on the gap, the iPhone loses two bars. Just to make sure, he repeats the experiment with his index finger, all the while making a live call to show how the connection isn’t killed.

It’s a trade-off: Better reception in the vast majority of cases; some degradation, easily remedied, in a smaller set of circumstances.

As I wrote Saturday, “trade-off” was the missing word from Apple’s press conference.

Gassée also makes some astute points about the tone of Jobs’s ad hoc customer support emails. It’s endearing, in a way, that Jobs is so honest in them, but Gassée makes the case that “the customer is always right” makes for a better response than “honesty is the best policy”:

When Dear Customer calls, “Canon Law” dictates the first words out of my mouth: ‘This is terrible, how could we have let this happen to you!’. This forces the caller to concede: ‘Well, it’s not the end of the world, I just would like to…’ A cooperative conversation ensues.

However, if I argue that it isn’t the end of civilization, civility goes out the window. Dear Customer feels disrespected and insists things are awful.

Benjamin Secher Interviews Penn and Teller 

Penn Jillette:

In Vegas, our investors don’t give a fuck about us. The people who are our bosses see our show maybe once a year. One of them will bring their kids and come by. And they are pleasant and they love us and they sincerely enjoy the show. Then they leave and they don’t think about us. And because nobody’s paying attention we do exactly the show we want. As long as people come to see it nobody cares what we do. And it means that we have done wilder things and more new stuff here than we ever did in New York. The contract is 100 per cent between us and the audience. And that’s crazy.

Artistic control. I can’t recommend their show highly enough.

(Via Kottke.)

Google’s Last Shipment of Nexus Ones 

Google:

Earlier this year, we announced that we will be closing the Nexus One web store. This week we received our last shipment of Nexus One phones. Once we sell these devices, the Nexus One will no longer be available online from Google.

It was also earlier this year that the Nexus One was introduced in the first place. Here’s the list of Android phones you can buy today other than the Nexus One which support Android version 2.2: {}.

Taiwanese News Animated Recreation of Antennagate Saga 

This is the best thing you’ll see all day. Brilliant.

Curiously, Consumer Reports’s list of “Recommended” smartphones includes all of the smartphones suffering from “holding it wrong” attenuation I’ve linked to tonight (Palm Pre, HTC Incredible, Nexus One, BlackBerry 9650) as well as three of the phones Apple posted videos about (iPhone 3GS, Droid Eris, BlackBerry 9700). I’d link directly to Consumer Reports’s web page for this list, but can’t, because it’s behind a paywall that their coverage of the iPhone 4 antenna is not. I’m sure they’ve been performing the exact same attenuation testing with all of these phones that they have with the iPhone 4, and that they have published precise technical standards regarding how much attenuation is acceptable to still qualify for a “Recommended” rating.

My next payola check from Apple is going to be a doozy.

Screenshot of Page 13 From the HTC Droid Eris User Manual 

See for yourself here.

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