Saturday, July 17, 2010

Obligatory iPhone 4 antenna-gate post

I've Google shared way too many posts on iPhone 4 issues, but I haven't put out much on my blogs (ok, one post on Ive's cube-phone). These days I try to use my blogs for things that might have a useful lifespan, and my shares for transient stuff.

Of course I can't completely resist a comment. When my almost completely disconnected sister comments on the iPhone's glitches, it's hard not to join in. Even though my newly ordered iPhone is still waiting for me back home. Yes, that's a giveaway. Despite the obvious glitches, I feel I know enough about the iPhone to buy now rather than October.

We now know about several problems that make the 3GS design look brilliant:
  1. The proximity sensor malfunctions. This is a problem for people who hold the phone by their face; the touchscreen disable fails and facial contact disconnects calls. This flaw may also be responsible for the higher than 3GS call drop rate. There's supposedly a software fix on the way, but since Apple moved the sensor I suspect the fix will be imperfect.
  2. The armored glass is scratch resistant, but can chip (bumpers seem to help). Overall the phone seems more vulnerable than the 3GS.
  3. The antenna design seems no better than the 3GS design and is prone to a unique form of malfunction when some people's fingers bridge two antennas.
  4. The dropped call rate is higher than the 3GS - that's surprising but it may be due to the proximity sensor problems.
  5. There are problems with Exchange sync that are only partly fixed by an Apple update. This has gotten almost no attention, but for me it's by far the biggest problem. It will almost certainly be fixed with a software update.
As well there are the usual number of lemon-phones esp. with Bluetooth connectivity issues. (So do test your phone with a Bluetooth headset during the 30 day return period -- even if you don't normally use one.)

Overall Apple would have done better to stick the retina display into the 3GS design, but of course that wouldn't sell as well. Damned consumers.

These are genuine disappointments, but in the first four aren't a big deal for me. I always use a case because my devices live a rough life, so that takes care of most of the glass and antenna problems. I almost always use a wired ear set so that takes care of the proximity sensor issue and perhaps the dropped call bugs.

The fifth problem, which gets no attention, is a serious issue for me. If they cause problems with my iPhone 4 I'll have to return the device until they're fixed.

Overall Apple has stumbled with the iPhone 4 compared to the 3GS, but their stumbles are trivial compared to the vast array of Android-device malfunctions. (Such as 1-2 hour batter life in highly touted models.) The beauty of buying an Apple device is that an important fraction of the buyers are rabid zealots prone to loud garment rending. These people are my friends. They are the only thing that keeps an eternally arrogant and ever more powerful Apple from going completely off the rails.

Keep up the wailing Apple fanatics. I don't love Apple, but I do love you.

My personal iPhone 4 review will be up on my tech blog by August. Based on past experience, it will be somewhat different from the 10,000 other reviews on the net. I'll update this post with a link when it's online.

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