I don’t think there’s even a question that the iPhone 4, because of its external antenna, is susceptible to a different type of signal attenuation than all phones with internal antennas. To drop the signal with other phones, including the iPhone 3GS, you have to grip them such that your palm is interfering with the antenna. The iPhone 4 is susceptible to this too, but also susceptible — sometimes — to attenuation from the light touch of any skin at all that bridges the antenna gap.
That doesn’t mean the iPhone 4 suffers from more or worse attenuation than other phones. Apple made the case that it does not. But it is different, and for whatever reason, Apple didn’t want to address that directly.
What I took away from the press conference is that Apple believes the iPhone 4 antenna is better than the previous iPhone antennas, but it has a more sensitive “weak spot”. And, that more sensitive weak spot is inherent to the external antenna design. In short, that it’s a trade-off — better signal quality overall, better aesthetics, more structural rigidity, even better battery life because there’s room for a bigger battery without an internal antenna. The trade-off is that all of those benefits come at the expense of a more sensitive “weak spot”. (I put that in quotes because it’s Jobs’s term for the infamous lower-left gap in the antenna frame.)
But Jobs never used the word “trade-off”, and clearly didn’t want to. I think he should have.
★ Saturday, 17 July 2010