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Well, I am glad I did not order a new iPhone

Blogger Eric Raymond – who plainly is not on Steve Jobs’ Christmas card send-out list, points out the less-than-stellar launch of the new version of the iPhone.

What is noteworthy, however, is that at least when a product is brought to market and there are problems with it, then as demonstrated by the Eric Raymonds of this world, a swarm of bloggers, professional product evaluation writers and magazine journalists can weigh in. Capitalism will force Jobs and his colleagues to sort the matter out, in weeks, if not months, since otherwise the product and brand will be damaged with heavy losses.

Now compare this sort of process with say, a government project that involves spending billions of pounds of public funds on projects of questionable value, and consider how long it takes for a government to scrap such projects, admit they were wrong, etc.

16 comments to Well, I am glad I did not order a new iPhone

  • Absolutely. BTW, this is by no means to say that all of the reviews or complaints or accolades are of any merit – as these things go, some are and some are not. But the point is to trust the consumers to investigate, compare and make up their own minds, and risk their own money. I know people who bought the new iPhone and love it, and also others who are utterly disappointed – this says not so much about the product, but about the consumers, their particular needs and preferences, which is the way things should be.

  • Oh, and of course I forget those who are utterly disappointed, but will rather die than admit it – but I digress:-)

  • Bruce Hoult

    There is much to be admired about Eric, but he’s out to lunch on this one.

    Of *course* everyone from Apple’s RF engineers to Steve Jobs knew what the characteristics of the iPhone antenna are. It’s not a fault or unexpected, it’s a conscious design decision and engineering trade-off.

    The iPhone 4 gets better reception in weak signal areas than most other phones (and in particular earlier iPhones) *unless* you bridge the two antennas together, in which case you get worse reception.

    If you’re in a strong signal area then it doesn’t matter what you do.

    You could compare it to every car in the world being automatic and then Ferrari bringing out the first manual transmission because it’s more efficient in the hands of a skilled driver. There will be howls from people who stall, bunny hop, over-rev, or burn out the clutch.

    If you like Apple’s design choice with the iPhone 4 then buy it, if you don’t like it then get something else. What’s the problem?

    I do like it, btw. I’m already used to holding my previous phones carefully to not block the internal antenna and get usable signal in many rural areas so for me there is no change at all except being better able to hold on to weak signals when I need to.

  • less-than-stellar

    That depends on how you look at it. People who have the iPhone 4 do not seem to be returning them in any significant numbers, and Apple is selling them much faster than they have any previous model. At present there is a delay of about a month between ordering a phone and receiving it, so it is hard to know what if any impact this controversy has had on sales. (May this long last – I have made a pleasing sum of money in the last month simply by buying them from Apple and then selling them on eBay).

    That said, the iPhone 4 does have its much hyped antenna problem and I really do not know how Apple managed to let it out into the wild without realising it. (A sweaty hand connecting two pieces of metal will form an electrical connection. The theory that they only allowed people with dry and clean hands to test it might be a factor in how it happened, but do they not understand basic physics?) Apple have not handled the situation well (although that said, they have offered a full refund to anyone who wants one), and Steve Jobs’ sociopathic tendencies probably were not ideal in these circumstances, but the problem in question is actually trivial and there doesn’t seem to be much unhappiness with it from people who actually have the phone. It only occurs a small portion of the time if you hold the phone in a certain way while making a call with moist or sweaty hands, and I suspect the problem has already been fixed on phones presently coming out of the factory. (Putting a non-conducting resin on the outside of the antenna would fix it completely).

    We will see how this affects Apple’s reputation in the longer term though.

    The problem is real, and Apple should have fixed it, but compared to the biggest problem with most Android phones (rotten battery life), it’s a small deal.

  • Frederick Davies

    …the biggest problem with most Android phones (rotten battery life)…

    What “rotten battery life” are you talking about?

  • Owinok

    Apple, for all its faults, says that refunds are available while a government would probably demand more money to try to make the thing work.

  • Free-trade capitalism implies an embedded “customer feedback loop”, while government “projects” have none of such.

    Linked at http://articulos-interesantes.blogspot.com/2010/07/lo-de-siempre.html

    When do you guys are going to promote our site to Regional Specialists ? No Argentinian blogs in the sidebar yet, that’s clearly a discrimination !


  • jay

    Unfortunately as much as esr has some very interesting things to say about the mobile space the Apple bashing in relation to the iPhone and iOS is both limited and frustrating.

    Limited because his attacks on Apples strategy focus on the single carrier and lack of ‘all you can eat’ problems. Anyone see the issue with that? Yep, it’s a description of the US market only – he continually fails to address how the strategy is different in other markets or the benefits that Apple may get from pursuing multiple strategies.

    And equally frustrating because his attacks on Apple iOS and products are mostly of the ‘fools how can you get taken in by glittery things’ tendency. Apple makes consumer goods, they are beloved by consumers and as much as the spin around the Antenna seems to have been unusually poorly handled by Jobs and co it doesn’t change that fundamental.

    Android OS is great, the handsets it is on not always so good, the limitations imposed by carriers depressing but it is yet to become an Apple ‘killer’.

    It may become so and esr’s comments on how it is disruptive to the manufacturer/carrier relationship are fascinating. But to my mind it’s worth remembering that Apple have not always been as popular, but they have always stuck to their guns on controlling both the OS and the hardware, it is this that has set them apart from their peers and allowed them to differentiate so effectively.

    Being under direct control over the Google team Android seems to have escaped the user intimidation that impacts open source projects, but realising it’s full potential is still the preserve of those that actually *care* about the OS rather than simply how a device looks or how ‘cool’ it is. At the moment it still isn’t anywhere near Apple in the opinion of most consumers.

  • What “rotten battery life” are you talking about?

    I have an HTC Desire. Excellent phone in terms of what it can do, lovely screen, ease of use, app support, etc etc. However, if I charge it overnight, and it use it moderately heavily during the day, it runs out of power before I get home. I have seen similar problems with the G1.

    Yes, they are both HTC phones, and perhaps the fault is HTC’s rather than Google/Android. Perhaps I just have a bad battery, although I have heard enough complaints from other people that I doubt it. Yes, I could increase battery life with some manual power management, but I really don’t want to spend my time doing this. In my experience, Apple is better in this regard, possibly because of the tight integration between software and hardware. Perhaps also Android phones from Motorola, Sony Ericsson or Samsung are better in this regard, and surely power management on Android will improve, but for the moment it is an issue.

    My point, anyway, was that the antenna issue on the iPhone 4 is something I would strongly prefer to the short battery life on my Desire. It is a minor fault. I am not trying to be terribly negative on Android in general though. Google have done really well with it. The iPhone needed strong competition and it now has it. Capitalism rocks.

    Jay: There are two issues with the carrier exclusivity on the iPhone. The first is that Apple signed a five year contract giving AT&T exclusivity – we know this because they have mentioned it in court documents – and as far as we know this is still in force. It may be that this was necessary in order to get AT&T to play ball with what Apple wanted, or it may be that Apple thought that exclusivity was a good idea at the time and have since changed their mind. Certainly Apple initially signed exclusive contracts in a few other countries (Britain, France, Germany) but the contracts were generally shorter and Apple has not renewed them.

    The other issue is simply technology in the US. The present iPhone does not work on Sprint and Verizon because they use different technology for their networks and Apple would have to design a completely different phone for them. Apple could do this – other manufacturers do it all the time – but I think it is contrary to the way Apple likes to operate. For a company its size, Apple produces an extraordinarily small number of variants of its products, and this saves a huge amount in terms of support and manufacturing costs. (Plus, Steve Jobs is an obsessive compulsive sociopath). Making a different product for Verizon just seems un-Apple somehow.

    This leaves T-Mobile, who use the same technology but different frequency bands. Apple could have (trivially) made a very slightly different version of the iPhone specially for them, but this still probably offends Steve Jobs. However, we have just reached the moment when it will be easy to support T-Mobile’s AWS bands in the same model that everybody else gets. (The Nokia N8 is the first phone that supports every band being presently used for UMTS in the world. If Nokia can do it, so can Apple). The next iPhone will likely support T-Mobile from a hardware point of view unless Apple deliberately tries to prevent this. It will be interesting to see if it does. If the next iPhone does support T-Mobile’s AWS band and T-Mobile is not an official carrier in the US, I am sure I will make more money buying unlocked iPhones and then selling them to people in the US.

  • Eric

    I have an HTC Desire. Excellent phone in terms of what it can do, lovely screen, ease of use, app support, etc etc. However, if I charge it overnight, and it use it moderately heavily during the day, it runs out of power before I get home. I have seen similar problems with the G1.

    I have an HTC Incredible which I charge at work. I take it off the wire Friday evening and the battery stays charged until Monday morning with relatively heavy use.

    One thing you might try (if you haven’t already) is to use cell location instead of GPS when you don’t need the more accurate signal. I’ve read the GPS receiver uses a lot of power when it’s enabled.

  • Nuke Gray

    Here in Aus., we had the ‘Stimulus package’, which the government credited with keeping our nation afloat when the GFC struck. All kinds of public institutions, like schools got fantastically expensive additional halls at inflated prices. Our Labor government gave no credit to the mining boom, or the hard work of the previous government in keeping our economy glowing. so there is no need to imagine such a scheme- we have it now!

  • John B

    Yes, it is great to see what the unfettered free market can achieve. The natural balance is so, completely, refreshing.
    One can have mercy on the poor without propping up dinosaur systems at the behest of dinosaur owners.

  • widmerpool

    Consumers aren’t returning them in any numbers because the iPhone 4 has better reception than all previous iPhones. THis is why Apple did not consider it a problem before launch.

    The interesting thing is how a company with such great PR skills has managed to completely screw up dealing with a bullshit story.

  • My Sony X10 had very poor battery life until I installed Juicedefender. Its not the screen or the GPS that kills the battery its the way Android talks to the internet all the fricken time! Juicedefender basically turns 3g off while the screen is off and my phone now lasts 24 hours with fairly heavy use on a 90 minute charge.

    Its also interesting to see how a thread about private sector versus public has only gained one or two comments on that subject. People loves their phones!

  • Jerry M

    The other issue is simply technology in the US. The present iPhone does not work on Sprint and Verizon because they use different technology for their networks and Apple would have to design a completely different phone for them

    Bingo!! And to make matters worse for Verizon, one cannot talk and surf the web at the same time on VZ. Do you really think Apple is going to put a product on a network that cannot do what the phone can do on another network. Noway.

    Re: Android batter life, my second phone is an android, i hardly use it and battery life is attrocius. Yes, turning off different functions can help, but isn’t that the point of having a smartphone. My electric bill would be alot lower if I did not run the AC, but……

  • Is it really that bad? I’ve just ordered mine and having read some of the reviews and blog posts online I’m having second thoughts? Either that or we simply have too much high expectations in life that we once never took for granted.