I’ll cut to the chase: We all know by now that Apple have have made an announcement about the iPhone 4 reception/antenna  issues, and here’s what I think in three brief points:

  1. The video shown at the start of the Apple’s PR exercise (or at the end of this post) pretty much sums it up, if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. The same applies to the iPad, if it’s not what you think a portable device should be, or just you don’t like/want it, then don’t buy it.
  2. I am in the category I don’t really think it’s a major issue for ME*, so will probably get an iPhone 4
  3. HOWEVER, I do think there is more to the story than Apple / Steve Jobs is saying, because what is most telling in the facts they quote is what they DON’T SAY and what specific measures they do use.  I’ll expand on this some more:

* I say for ME, coz it might be an issue for you, so if it is: Don’t buy one :-)

I want to expand on that third point, because I think Apple selectively choose certain statistics to suit them, and I think it’s rather obvious when you discuss what they COULD have disclosed to make it far more transparent and relevant.  This is actually one of the few blog posts where it’s not just me ranting.  Well I AM ranting, but I happen to have a level of expertise in this area.  One of my degrees is in statistics, and if there is one thing I have did learn is that you can make statistics say (almost) anything you want, especially when you comment on RAW DATA, rather than actual useful data with comparisons, baselines and standards.  There, so I actually know what I am taking about here (and that’s rare!)

Firstly, thanks to the guys at Engadget, who posted a transcript of Apple’s PR event, which saved me from going OVER and OVER it to get the words correct here.  I suggest you watch Apple’s video 1st (or read Engaget’s transcript) and then read my commentary below, as it will make more sense then.

Anyway, here’s my issue: Apple say they gathered HEAPS of facts and data, and also spend MILLIONS on design (they claim We’re an engineering company. We think like engineers.They then CHOOSE certain facts and data to share. While some of these are CLOSE to what would help me and you understand how big this issue really is, they avoid what I think are some of the key facts/data they could have shared.  Examples:

Other Smart phone Comparisons

The ONE phone they left out of the comparison here was the iPhone 3Gs.  This would have been EASY to show.  It would have also reinforced “this is not new .. we knew about it”, but no they decided to show competitor phones that are also effected.   The 3Gs would have been the most obvious phone to show here, as well as the iPhone 4, so they could have shown how it was similar in term of drop.

However, they also claim we spend millions on this stuff (not an actual quote) but yet just show 3 videos on one person holding a phone.  How about actual independently reviewed data – like actual % drop in iPhone 4 compared to 3Gs when holding in say each of 5 common grip positions.  That would have been USEFUL and MEANINGFUL and helped us understand how big this issue is.  As it stands all this told me was “Other phones get lower reception at times too if you hold it a certain way” well we KNEW that.  What the issue with iPhone 4 is that calls drop more often - less bars is not a major issue – dropped calls is! Which brings me on to my next point:

The dropped calls

This is hard data… the iPhone 4 drops less than one additional call per 100 than the 3GS. Less than one.

Even though we think the iPhone 4 is superior to the 3GS antenna… it drops more calls per 100 than the 3GS. We’re being transparent. So how many more does it drop than the 3GS?

Pretty interesting… one more data point. AT&T has given us the early call drop information just a few days ago. They log call drops, it helps them improve their network. So we can’t give out the absolute call drop data… AT&T can’t release those numbers to their competitors, but we’re going to give you the delta.

Now I will accept that AT&T don’t want to give out raw data for dropped calls due to commercial sensitivity, but what they COULD have and SHOULD have disclosed here is what DIFFERENCE there is between the 3Gs and the iPhone 4 here.  Raw data of less than one additional call per 100 than the 3GS is almost meaningless without a reference point.  If, for example, the 3Gs drops on average 0.3 calls per 100, and the iPhone 4 drops 1.2 calls per 100 (ie less than 1 per 100 extra) then this would represent a four fold (400%) increase – far more useful (and telling) information me thinks!  The fact Apple DIDN’T disclose this kind of data leads me to suspect that this IS the level of difference (or something like it), so they CHOSE to release the raw data rather than real information that helps us understand what’s going on.  They know EXACTLY what they were disclosing, but CHOSE to not tell us the useful stuff.

Update 20th July 2010: A comment below by Mark shone some more light on this:

Richard, the WSJ says that typically dropped call rates are around 1-2 per 100, so you are right the delta is a significant difference.

So if we accept that average dropped calls are 1-2% (or 1 to two calls per 100) then a further 1 call per 100 dropped is between a 50% and a 100% increase.  That (in my view) is a lot!   Show the meaningful data Mr Jobs!

Low Complaints Record

Steve Job’s claimed:

Next, some really interesting data from AppleCare, we looked at the statistics, we asked what’s the percentage of all iPhone 4 users that have called AppleCare about the antenna or reception, or anything near reception problems. Because you would have thought ‘Jesus, it must be a lot of users complaining about this’ — So what percentage have called AppleCare? 0.55% Just one half of one percent.”

Once again just raw data.  All Apple needed to do was add one small comparison.  How did this compare to the 3Gs in the 1st 22 days?  0.55% doesn’t sound high, but it it was say 0.15% or 0.001% when the 3Gs was launched then it tells another story.

Apple are using hard raw data when and comparison anecdotal date (aka other phones have issue videos) when it doesn’t.  What we need is REAL data, ANALYSED and COMPARED to useful baselines (and the 3Gs would provide the most useful baseline for most items).  They use comparison data for the return rate (because it clearly suits them) but not for the dropped calls or complaints rate.

Key issue unaddressed

For me, Apple fail to address the heart of the engineering issue. The two antennas of the iPhone can be effectively shorted out by touching a certain part of the iPhone.  This IS new to the iPhone 4 and appears to be the only phone that has this issue.  No comment Apple?  Disappointing.

Now some people will be shocked by this post about Apple.  In fact I am more often criticised for being too pro-Apple if anything.  Well I am pro Apple products (on the most part) but I haven’t joined any cult (well not that I will admit to) and will call Apple when I think they screwed up.  I think they are not being open or honest here and need to do more.    Steve Jobs claims Apple loves it’s customers – well I am not happy (and in case you missed it, I am a customer).  I am not unhappy with your products per say, but rather unhappy with your lack of openness and honestly in reporting data that is meaningful.

The iPhone 4 Video:

Black and White Version: iPhone 4: If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.  However, I am still disappointed in Apple’s response, they are hiding stuff.

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