Apple fights dirty

Apple has a reputation for being pretty good at many things, but one thing it is not good at is apologising.

The most recent display of this failing is the company’s response to the so-called “antennagate” problem. According to numerous reports the iPhone 4 loses reception when handled in a certain way.

Not willing to accept that this is a well documented problem, Apple goes on the offensive. In an attempt to divert attention away from the problem at hand, it tries to re-frame the problem as a “smartphone” one, rather than an Apple iPhone 4 one.

On a dedicated section of its own site Apple says: “Every smartphone has a cellular antenna. And nearly every smartphone can lose signal strength if you hold it in a certain way.” The company then goes on to compare the iPhone 4’s reception problems with a Blackberry Bold 9700, HTC Droid Eris and a Samsung Omnia II.

“On a mobile phone, signal loss typically occurs when your hand attenuates the most sensitive part of the antenna,” says Apple. “In the photos and videos below, we demonstrate how different grips cause attenuation on many popular smartphones – including iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS.”

It’s classic Apple public relations in which little, if anything is admitted, and attention is diverted to anything other than Apple’s immediate challenge.

Whether the videos and tests prove that all smartphones have the same problem is not really the issue. The iPhone 4 has a problem that needs to be fixed. Even more damning is the accusation that Steve Jobs himself was warned of the problem in the early stages of development.

Samsung, RIM and HTC have, unsurprisingly, hit back at Apple saying that the accusations from the company that their devices suffered the same problems were completely unfounded.

RIM’s management in particular were outraged by the Apple claims. In a public release RIM’s CEOs labelled Apple’s statements as “propaganda”.

The company said that “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.”

An unrepentant Jobs has conceded that the iPhone 4 drops slightly more calls than the iPhone 3GS but said that the issue had been “blown so out of proportion that it’s incredible.”

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Apple fights dirty