Apple: 'Nearly every smartphone' suffers death grip

Though Apple may be right in pointing out "death grip" issue in rivals, the iPhone 4 could still be the worst example

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Nokia, meanwhile, was more restrained. The company agreed that a tight grip can, indeed, affect the performance of a mobile phone. But taking a subtle shot at Apple's fixation on aesthetics as well as the iPhone 4's propensity to perform poorly in the left hand, Nokia said, "As you would expect from a company focused on connecting people, we prioritize antenna performance over physical design if they are ever in conflict. ... That's why Nokia designs our phones to ensure acceptable performance in all real-life cases, for example when the phone is held in either hand."

Finally, a Samsung spokesperson told the Korea Herald that the company has not received any complaints about the Omnia II, pointing out that the device's antenna is at the bottom, whereas the iPhone antenna is on the lower left: "Our design keeps the distance between a hand and an antenna. We have fully conducted field tests before the rollout of smartphones. Reception problems have not happened so far, and there is no room for such problems to happen in the future."

It's no surprise that Apple's competitors would argue that their phones are designed to deliver adequate performance no matter how they're held. For a third-party perspective on how phone gripping can affect performance, consider this detailed review on AnandTech comparing the iPhone 4 to the HTC Nexus One and iPhone 3G S.

When held in a case, the Apple iPhone 4 had slightly better call quality than the HTC. When held different ways in hand sans case -- such as flat in the palm, naturally, and gripped tightly -- both phones experienced increasingly worse quality.

However -- this is the important bit -- the HTC's reception was remarkably better across the board compared to the iPhone 4. For example, when held naturally, the iPhone 4's attenuation was 19.8 dB, compared to 7.2 dB when held in a case. (A lower number is better.) By contrast, the HTC had an attenuation of 7.7 dB in a carrying case and 10.7 dB when held naturally. When gripped, HTC rated 17.7 dB, whereas the iPhone reached 24.4 dB.

I'd be remiss in not adding that the iPhone 3G S' quality also diminished when it went from laying flat in a case to being gripped. More interesting, its performance was superior to both the iPhone 4 and the HTC in all the tests, ranging from 3.2 dB in a case up to 14.3 dB when cupped tightly.

The bottom line is Apple should have left well enough alone when offering free cases to iPhone 4 users, rather than further fanning the flames by dragging its competitors into the spotlight. Apple's claim that "all the other smartphones have this problem" simply invites third parties to test those claims -- with the possible finding that almost every smartphone has it but the iPhone 4 still has it worse.

This article, "Apple: 'Nearly every smartphone' suffers death grip," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.


Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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