LEADER OF FASHION HOUSE Apple, Steve Jobs could be in hot water after claims he made in his corporate deniability speech roped other smartphone makers into Apple's faulty antenna mess.
During the 90 minute farce, Jobs tried to explain away the fundamental design flaws of the Iphone 4 antenna by claiming that handsets from Nokia, Blackberry, HTC and Samsung all experienced the same problem. Of course Jobs couldn't substantiate any of his wild claims and might have thought that Apple would be considered innocent by association.
Not surprisingly Nokia and Blackberry were quick to distance themselves from Apple, a company that has designed a smartphone that cannot consistently make phone calls. Nokia took a decidedly direct tone in putting Jobs down, saying, "As you would expect from a company focused on connecting people, we prioritize antenna performance over physical design if they are ever in conflict."
Nokia does admit that antenna performance "may be affected" by the way users grip the phone, though it was quick to point out that it, unlike Apple, has over a decade of experience making devices with internal antennas.
Research In Motion (RIM) however decided to shoot from the hip, rightly taking no prisoners. RIM's co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie labelled the Iphone 4's problems as a "self-made debacle" and said that Jobs' attempt to drag RIM into the gutter with Apple was "unacceptable".
Not content with those soundbites, Lazaridis and Balsillie pointed out what anyone except Jobs and his feverish fanbois can clearly see. "Apple's claims about RIM products appear to be deliberate attempts to distort the public's understanding of an antenna design issue and to deflect attention from Apple's difficult situation."
Jobs could be facing the embarrassment of having to retract the balderdash he came out with in trying to avoid announcing a recall of the Iphone 4. The Blackberry boys couldn't have put Jobs' childish actions more succinctly, saying, "Apple clearly made certain design decisions and it should take responsibility for these decisions rather than trying to draw RIM and others into a situation that relates specifically to Apple."
In a bid to appease the carefully selected press who were in attendance, Jobs decided to show off a padded cell which he claimed was used for Iphone 4 testing. Trying to wow the assembled hacks, Jobs proclaimed that the room cost $100 million to build and equip, which looked likely, given the amount of Apple equipment inside. Judging by the picture laden but fact-shy articles that appeared over the weekend, Jobs' ploy might have worked.
Although Jobs offered a band-aid solution to Antennagate in the form of adding a rubber band, Lazaridis and Balsillie quipped, "One thing is for certain, RIM's customers don't need to use a case for their BlackBerry smartphone to maintain proper connectivity."
It remains to be seen if Jobs will bother to substantiate claims verging on libel that other manufacturers' phones suffer from dodgy antennas. In the meantime, Apple fanbois can revel in an undeserved feeling of entitlement at getting a rubber band to attach to their shiny toy.
Following Nokia and RIM, the two other handset manufacturers that Jobs referred to, Samsung and HTC have chimed in denying the claims made by the cult leader. Even Motorola got in on the act, which is surprising given that Jobs hadn't directly mentioned the company's smartphones.
Samsung's Omnia II was mentioned in Jobs' state of the smartphone address as an example of equally poor antenna performance. However the firm has since refuted Jobs' claims, saying "We have not received significant customer feedback on any signal reduction issue for the Omnia II."
Like his colleagues at Nokia and RIM, Hwan Kim, VP of mobile communications at Samsung reiterated that the firm has many years experience building mobile phones with internal antennas without encountering the same problems as the Iphone 4. Kim, referring to the Iphone 4 'death grip', said that Samsung's internal antenna design "optimizes reception quality for any type of hand-grip use."
HTC, which manufactures the Droid Eris among other smartphones, said that it "carefully engineers our phones to ensure that this effect is minimized in real-world use." Although not quite issuing the categorical denial of its competitors, HTC perhaps needn't worry about Jobs' claims, as it is already fighting a lawsuit against the fruit themed toymaker.
Finally, Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha said that it was "disingenuous" to claim all smartphones are the same. Jha also said that Motorola's latest Android smartphone, the Droid X, did not suffer from the same problem as Apple's shiny toy. "In our own testing we have found that Droid X performs much better than iPhone 4 when held by consumers."
Jobs' claims have now not only been refuted by users of the devices he mentioned but also denied by the companies themselves. All that's left now is for the public to judge whether Apple's floundering spinmeister will be able to get away with making these wild claims against its smartphone competitors. µ