Jobs Crashing to Earth

The stench of desperation must be getting pretty thick on the Infinite Loop. Can it be that the generator for Steve Jobs’s notorious Reality Distortion Field has finally broken down?

Two days ago, we learned that Jobs knew of the iPhone 4′s antenna problem before launch. They had warnings both from an in-house antenna engineer and “carrier partner”, presumably AT&T. Yes, this means all the Apple fanboys who had hissy fits at me when I said fifteen days ago that Apple was lying about the problem now get to go sit in the stupid corner.

Also two days ago, New York Senator Charles Schumer issued an open letter to Steve Jobs regarding the iPhone 4 antenna issues. Chuckie Schumer is the worst sort of political bottom-feeder, a power-worshiping greaseball with a spine of pure jelly; when such as he thinks it’s good politics to pile on Apple, you may be sure that Jobs’s teflon coating has definitively worn off.

A day ago, we got to watch Jobs tap-dance his way around the problem. This was a first; I cannot recall any previous instance in which the Turtlenecked One, rather than effectively controlling the agenda, has had to operate in full damage-control mode. He could have manned up and said “OK, we messed up on the antenna design, we’re recalling,” but no. Instead it’s bumper cases for all and a truly smarmy attempt to claim that everyone else in the industry is just as bad.

Way to recover your damaged reputation, Stevie boy! Time was when the wunderkind’s reality-distortion field would have somehow soothed everyone into glaze-eyed insensibility, but that’s not the way it’s going down today. Instead, there’s public pushback from both RIM and Nokia, and neither company is being shy about specifying just how far his Jobness has rammed his head up his own ass.

And there is absolutely no one else to blame for this; it’s obviously Job’s fetishism about cool industrial design, the aesthetic of the minimalistically slick-looking surface above all else, that compromised the antenna design and led him to ignore the warnings. The exact quality that Apple fanboys have been telling us would ultimately win the game for Jobs turns out to be the tragic flaw instead. And now he’s reduced to telling everyone to wrap a big ugly rubber on, it, sparky! Hubris and nemesis; this epic fail could be right out of Aeschylus.

Not a word from Google yet, and I’m guessing there won’t be – not the company’s style, and besides the right people to bitch-slap Jobs would actually be its partner handset makers. But you can bet that somewhere, deep inside the Googleplex, some planning and product teams are laughing. At Jobs, not with him.

Remember when I said Apple gets to own every failure? This one’s still escalating. It’s nowhere near a company-killer yet, but it’s beginning to look like a product-killer. And, the shambolic end of the Jobs mystique.

149 thoughts on “Jobs Crashing to Earth

  1. Do you have to make it so obvious that you are desperate to have butt-secks with Jobs-o?

    Its … unbecoming.

    If you don’t want an iPhone 4, just don’t buy one.

    ESR says: Enjoy the stupid corner. You’ve earned it.

  2. I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: “O Lord make my enemies ridiculous.” And God granted it.

    – Ascribed to Voltaire

  3. Agree with Jay. You’re blowing this whole thing WAY out of proportion. Have you actually used one? I’m very much in the Android camp (purchasing a Samsung Captivate tomorrow morning), but I’ve used an iPhone 4. Between the owner and myself, we spent over 30 minutes trying to execute the “death grip” before making it drop 2 bars. In our office, it gets noticeably better reception than both the 3G and 3GS. It’s a very impressive piece of hardware, and the 300+ DPI screen is a feature I’m pretty envious of.

  4. iPhone 4 is selling like hotcakes and iPhone owners seem to love them (see the incredibly low rate of return). Product killer? iPhone 4 is the sort of success that smartphone companies DREAM of having.

  5. According to /., just over one half of one percent of iPhone 4 customers have complained about reception issues and the return rate on the iPhone 4 so far is less than a third of the return rate for the 3GS. Again, there’s no way this is a product-killing issue. It doesn’t even look like a product-denting issue.

  6. The iPhone 4 is the most successful product launch Apple has ever had.

    The shrill, hysterical overreaction to this non-story is amusing to watch.

    When a greasy piece of shit like Shumer piles on, you know the whole thing is BS, and it is time to defend Apple from the likes of him.

    I know two people who have an iPhone 4 and they have reported no problems with dropped calls. On the contrary they are quite happy with the thing. Hardy anyone who has actually bought one is returning it.

    Hell I own an old-fashioned clamshell style Nokia dumbphone, and it will sometimes drop a call. In my experience all cellphones do.

    People are so desperate to lay a glove on Apple they will seize on anything, no matter how trivial. Sheesh.

  7. As one who’s never been a victim to the reality-distortion field (I do use some Apple products, but I also use plenty of products from competitors) I find the anti-distortion-field to be just as funny. It’s been said that hate and love are actually the same emotion, and I can see that here. Those who seek only to see flaws in Apple have a reality just as distorted as those who seek only to see good.

  8. If you’re so sure this is Apple’s impending doom, do you plan to make some money off it?

    ESR says: Some trouble with reading comprehension here, I see. You can go join J. Jay in the stupid corner.

  9. It may be a good thing that, due to some quirk of AT&T that resulted in only one of our accounts being eligible for the fully-subsidized upgrade, my fiancee and I decided not to upgrade to iPhone 4 now, but wait until next year. By then, Apple will surely have an even better model of iPhone out, and, in the meantime, our 3GSs will hold the line, buoyed by iOS 4, which gives us almost all of the advantages of the newer phone without having to swap hardware.

    We made this decision before the iPhone 4′s antenna problems came to light. I consider it a near-certainty that the next model of iPhone will do something to fix the antenna issue, and maybe they’ll put better focus on all aspects of the phone’s RF performance as well.

  10. >maybe they’ll put better focus on all aspects of the phone’s RF performance as well.

    That seems certain; the last thing Apple could afford is two such blunders in a row. Especially since Android was looking like it’s going to overtake the iPhone in share sometime in 2010Q4 even before this fiasco.

  11. @Aaron Traas:

    Between the owner and myself, we spent over 30 minutes trying to execute the “death grip” before making it drop 2 bars.

    Was that before or after installing the fix that makes it display bars correctly?

    @SHG:

    Product killer? iPhone 4 is the sort of success that smartphone companies DREAM of having.

    Yes, so far. But Jobs probably expected/needed to sell a lot more than the first 2 million of them. He was cutting over iPhone 3 production, and that was at 8 million units/quarter. The momentum of that may be tremendously stunted, not because the iPhone 4 is not a good device (who am I to argue with a couple million satisfied owners?), but because it is not a perfect device, and may no longer be perceived as the only sure-fire choice from the only infallible vendor.

    The best estimates I’ve seen indicate that, at launch, when 1.7 were “sold” (not all shipped, apparently) was that 77% of the customers were repeat buyers.

    So, only 400K units were to new customers, in a 3 day weekend (plus pre-orders), or less than 150K units/day on other than repeat business. For all the hype, that’s really not a great showing. I think the global cell phone (smart and dumb) market was > 250 million units last year, and the smart ones are taking over. Apparently, Samsung thinks over 260 million smartphones will be shipped this year, or over 700K, day-in and day-out (not just at product launch). Apple is (was?) on-track to have around 10% of this market.

    But now, they have an older working product that they were probably ramping production down on heavily, and a new product that they’ve heavily ramped production up on. Unfortunately, the new product has question marks around it, and was launched into a turbulent market. Apple needs current customers to upgrade, and new customers to choose Apple over the competition. The iPhone 4 is not quite so cool that most current iPhone 3 customers who haven’t already upgraded can’t adopt a wait and see attitude for a couple of months, and the recent arrival in force of so many apparently cool non-Apple smartphones will certainly give potential new customers a reason to consider other options.

    Just the act of prematurely announcing killer products has killed lesser companies which have seen their existing revenue stream dry up. Apple’s at an interesting inflection point with their phone products — if the new one was positioned as an incremental improvement, it might not be that big a deal. But it seems Apple put everything they had into it. It was designed to obsolete its older brother; by all indications it did this well enough that 1.3 million users had to upgrade sight unseen.

    If enough people now take a wait and see attitude or, worse, buy a different brand and actually like it, that could turn into some sort of reverse snowball for Apple. Their earnings call is Tuesday. They will probably have to talk about total sales from last quarter, as well as do some sort of guidance tap-dance. That should be interesting — earnings calls always suffer from a corollary to Heisenberg (basically, that predicting the future actually alters the future, which interestingly enough, ties back Eric’s recent dissertation on truth), but Apple, by their own design, lives in a very high-gain universe, so Jobs may be walking a tightrope, trying to give news that is negative enough to fend off future shareholder lawsuits, but not so negative that the amplification makes things worse than they would have been otherwise.

    BTW, I found a very interesting article from before the antenna fiasco:


    The great news at Apple is that the iPhone 4 is generating very strong sales – better sales than any other iPhone release in the first week so far – but… but… this is mostly replacement sales to existing iPhone 2G and early iPhone 3G users who have come up to their renewal period. It is not a lot of new sales. And as wel had the severe decline in Q2 sales of old iPhones, the last week of June sales of iPhone 4 will not be enough to get Apple significant growth in smartphones this quarter. Expect iPhone unit sales to be roughly flat, perhaps a slight growth level – but market share definitely down.

    There’s some other good stuff in there as well.

  12. Oh good. Didn’t know what the stupid corner referenced.

    (Where were we?)

    The whole Ruben Caballero/Business Week thing. El Jobs-o addressed this, ”Yeah, it’s a total crock,” Jobs said. He continued, “total bullshit.”

    >> maybe they’ll put better focus on all aspects of the phone’s RF performance as well.
    > That seems certain; the last thing Apple could afford is two such blunders in a row.

    Technically, RF performance isn’t the issue. Technically, the RF chain looks to be very, very good. The issue is that if you bridge the antennas, you also bridge on a very large capacitor, (that would be you) and the tuning goes to hell.

    I could explain why the phone can manage to hold onto a call in some cases with ‘low bars’ and not at other times. The answer has to do with ISI (inter-symbol interference, something GSMK doesn’t deal with very well, and one of the reasons why LTE is superior, but I digress), but the analysis would be lost on the readership here.

    LTE is going to be really interesting. It runs as an all-IP network (and we all know that IP won). Most voice traffic becomes VoIP traffic. LTE uses OFDM (a lot like 11g/a WiFi and WiMax) (technically the uplink is a single-carrier OFDM, to avoid OFDM’s Peak to Average Power Ratios). Its not backwards-compatible with either 3GPP (GSM data) or CDMA, so the carriers all get to fork-lift upgrade, and the speeds (100Mbps down, 50Mbps up for 20Mhz channels) will be phenomenal. In the US, both AT&T and Verizon will be in the 700MHz band, so coverage will get better.

    AT&T starts to cut-over its network to LTE (in 700MHz) in 2011. Verizon has started, and says it will have finished by 2013.

    The whole smartphone race is about this transition. Its about data (it can’t be about voice, customers already have all the voice they want.) Its looking a lot like the Internet races of the mid-late 1990s. New apps, new protocols (LTE will all ipv6, phones will need a dual stack for a variety of reasons, however)

    Android *is* the future of linux, like it or not.
    Apple knows that its Macs are history in this new world, so it has to have an offering.

    In reference to the previous thread, I don’t see the continuance of VHF (for AIS) as much as I could see uber-cheap handsets that will talk IP repurposed into a new AIS network. AIS at the protocol layer (carried in IP), with the handsets doing a kind-of ad-hoc networking. (using, perhaps ipv6 link-local addresses and a slightly different LTE MAC.)

    So, Eric, rather than wanting a VHF radio in your cell phone, I think you want a replacement. The only reason VHF got used was that everyone already had one. Moore’s law +IP networking conquers all.

  13. Eric, what do you think about Motorola’s crippling of the Droid X’s ability to load unapproved firmware? All is not peaches and cream in the Android world, either. Yes, I agree this is neither as significant nor as public as the iPhone 4′s antenna problems, but is it a sign of things to come?

  14. Jay,

    The iPhone 4′s antenna problems are overblown.

    The Droid X bootloader issue is a problem if you want to change the firmware without it being signed by Motorola or the carrier.
    You can still write free apps for it, of course.

    Eric will likely predict that only the open companies will survive, and Mot is just shooting itself in the foot. Possible, but they’re also
    reducing their customer support load (and that of their carrier partners.)

    This (the ability of the carrier to dictate phone function) is the largest difference between Android and iOS.

    – Jay

  15. The bloom is off the rose, definitely. The average non-fanboy will have heard of the problems and be more open to looking at Android sets.

  16. >So, only 400K units were to new customers, in a 3 day weekend (plus pre-orders), or less than 150K units/day on other than repeat business. [...] Apple is (was?) on-track to have around 10% of this market.

    In other words, behind all the hype Apple’s iPhone 4 performance is just about duplicating what it historically did with the Mac: grab a single-digit niche and hold it hard. This is not surprising; same strategy, same strengths and weaknesses, same general result.

    >Apple needs current customers to upgrade, and new customers to choose Apple over the competition.

    And the reality is that Apple, like everyone else in the smartphone market except Android, is losing share.

  17. >Eric, what do you think about Motorola’s crippling of the Droid X’s ability to load unapproved firmware? All is not peaches and cream in the Android world, either. Yes, I agree this is neither as significant nor as public as the iPhone 4’s antenna problems, but is it a sign of things to come?

    I don’t think I know yet. Ask me again after it becomes clearer what sorts of hoops the Cyanogen people have to jump through to circumvent the eFuse.

  18. This is not about whether the iPhone4 product has an antenna problem or not. It’s about whether people are now able to openly criticize the iPhone/Apple concepts or not. The branding of Apple has always been to charge a bit more for a “perfect” product. Now that an Apple product has actually been pinned down to have a “slight” problem, the Apple branding has ended. Watch Apply now rejoin the rest of the world with product that is – less attractive, functional and lower priced. In other words, marketing will have to shift away from boutique and toward commodity company.

    The best point in ESR’s post would be that yes, Senator Chuck Schumer is definitely a bottom feeder.

  19. So, Jay (or anybody), will LTE come with the same business model and geographical boundary baggage we have defaulted today with 3G? That is, will we still have metered limits on data usage with huge no-warning penalties for exceeding those limits, or for “roaming” outside the customer’s country, even when using the same operator’s networks and services?

    I won’t believe that IP has “won” in the smartphone space until I can take my Android-based device to another country and have it “just work” like it does on ordinary wi-fi in the same countries.

    Not saying I think the operators shouldn’t charge to use their networks. Just that they should stop acting like phone companies running shakedown operations.

  20. >So, Jay (or anybody), will LTE come with the same business model and geographical boundary baggage we have defaulted today with 3G?

    Of course it will. That’s the only game the carriers know how to play, and they’ll keep doing it until adaptive mesh networking cuts the ground out from under their oligopoly.

  21. I have to concur with MikeH here: the problem really isn’t the phone. The problem is that the iProduct went from being a sure bet to a traditional product which is marked with cynicism. This might be noted by potential future customers making statements like “I’ll let other people try it out first”, or “I’m not going to buy one until all of the kinks have been worked out”.

    From what I’ve been able to read, the antenna problem impacts less than 1% of the users; this is mostly a PR problem. I think Apple’s take a beating here because it’s the nature of people to tear down giants, and because it’s a lot easier to sell “antenna no worky” than it is to sell “Apple’s software model is highly restrictive and limits the ability of users to control what they do with the phone”.

  22. > From what I’ve been able to read, the antenna problem impacts less than 1% of the users; this is mostly a PR problem.

    I think this is exactly right. But I also think Apple, and Job’s most particularly, are mostly to blame for it. They could have owned up to it and made the bumper/ case fix available right away and the issue would have passed by without costing them nearly as much from the PR perspective. I think it’s less the “giant killer” effect and more a “its the cover-up that kills you” effect.

    Jobs needs a lesson from Prof. Quirrel on how to lose.

  23. “The branding of Apple has always been to charge a bit more for a “perfect” product. Now that an Apple product has actually been pinned down to have a “slight” problem, the Apple branding has ended.”

    Yes, because Apple has never ever had other products with problems or out-right bombing, like the cracked cubes, the pippin, the mac portable, the performa…

  24. @adriano:

    “The branding of Apple has always been to charge a bit more for a “perfect” product. Now that an Apple product has actually been pinned down to have a “slight” problem, the Apple branding has ended.”

    Yes, because Apple has never ever had other products with problems or out-right bombing, like the cracked cubes, the pippin, the mac portable, the performa…

    All of your examples are from the computer markets, where Apple has a small share, or the gaming market, where Apple never had a share. Many fanboys have been absolutely sure that Apple was going to achieve an iPod-like monoculture in the smartphone space, and esr and others here have been absolutely sure that’s not going to happen, at least not without significant changes at Apple.

    So, the overarching theme of this post, “Can it be that the generator for Steve Jobs’s notorious Reality Distortion Field has finally broken down?”, really is the question. A lot of commenters disagree with that possibility (which, interestingly, does show that the reality distortion field is still somewhat functional) but several other commenters (me, JB, MikeH, Garrett) agree with Eric and Scotty that the shields are damaged.

    Apple’s market share in small handhelds has been much greater than their share in computers. There are several reasons for this. One basic reason is that the absolute cost of small handhelds is lower than that of bigger devices — smaller CPU, less memory, smaller screen, etc. This means that you can have an insanely huge profit margin, as a percentage, without taking that much more money out of your customer’s pocket, in absolute numbers.

    Or to put it another way, someone who might somewhat lust after a Mac but who doesn’t want to put down the extra $600, has no problem putting down the extra $40 for an iPod, and no problem at all spending a bit more per month on an iPhone cell contract, as long as they can buy into the value proposition, some of which has historically been real, and some of which has historically been branding.

    But now, Apple has, in an apparently desperate attempt to slow down the inevitable downward drift of their marketshare, quite possibly accelerated it. This is not about the antenna problem, per se; rather, the handling of the antenna problem has given the larger public a rare intimate glimpse into what’s behind the curtain, and it’s all rather drab and pedestrian — Jobs is the master of proactively managing great news about brand new, well designed products, but when it comes to reacting to negative news, he is as tone-deaf as Tony Hayward. I don’t want to minimize the oil spill or accuse Apple of something nearly as egregious as that, but if you look at the response to the both problems, there are a lot of parallels between the recent BP and Apple crises, because the companies are both made of the same sort of post-90s entitled Western management insularism that has seeped out into the rest of the world.

    If you think about it, back in the 70s and 80s when the Japanese were really kicking our butts, their culture still had the kind of honor system that would have forced dozens of resignations, starting at the top, for the embarrassment associated with either of these problems. And that would have been true whether the antenna issue were “real” or not, because from a PR perspective, it is real, and by refusing to act as if that is true, Jobs has only made it worse. But these days, the Japanese are no longer kicking our butts. Just look at Toyota’s recent problems, and you’ll understand why.

    So the real news here (for Fox, not for those already paying attention) is that Apple really is just another standard profit-centered American company.

  25. I notice that neither RIM nor Nokia refute the specific claims made by Apple about their antenna performance. Indeed, Nokia appears to confirm apple’s general point that the ‘weak spot’ issue is a challenge for the whole industry.

    Is there now *any* reason to think that the iphone 4 suffers from a signal issue over and above that common to all smartphones or that the perception of such an issue has hurt sales or customer satisfaction?

    Honestly, Eric, I know that it must be enjoyable to bait apple fans, but your extreme partisanship over this is getting a little embarrassing.

  26. >Honestly, Eric, I know that it must be enjoyable to bait apple fans, but your extreme partisanship over this is getting a little embarrassing.

    My “extreme partisanship” has a reason behind it. Steve Jobs’s vision of the future of computing – the locked-down, untinkerable device with policy dictated by the vendor – must fail. This is not just about esthetics or my personal preferences, it’s about huge systemic risks and whether individual human beings will have actual control of the devices they increasingly rely on to handle their communication and information needs.

    But all is proceeding as I have foreseen. Android is winning and the iPhone is losing; and I foresaw this not because of wishful thinking but because I’ve spent years working to understand some of the most fundamental driving forces at the intersection of technology and economics and by now, in fact, do understand them pretty well. The thriving open-source movement around you is part of the proof. You’ll see more proof as the smartphone wars continue.

  27. “I notice that neither RIM nor Nokia refute the specific claims made by Apple about their antenna performance. Indeed, Nokia appears to confirm apple’s general point that the ‘weak spot’ issue is a challenge for the whole industry.”

    Yes, but “the rest of the industry” weren’t branding like Apple, and that’s the point to get here. If Apple is just another handset maker, what’s their raison d’etre?

    So now they’ve switched from appeals to coolness to appeals to reason? How conveeeeenient!

  28. “My “extreme partisanship” has a reason behind it. Steve Jobs’s vision of the future of computing – the locked-down, untinkerable device with policy dictated by the vendor – must fail. This is not just about esthetics or my personal preferences, it’s about huge systemic risks and whether individual human beings will have actual control of the devices they increasingly rely on to handle their communication and information needs.”

    I get that, but why don’t you limit your commentary to those points rather than jumping on every slight problem – real or perceived – that apple experiences, and claiming it as evidence to support your central thesis, when in reality it is totally irrelevant. Doing so just damages your credibility.

    Even if we concede that apple has a flawed antenna design, so what? HTC could just as easily made the same mistake; antennas have nothing to do with open versus closed platforms.

  29. @Tom:

    Even if we concede that apple has a flawed antenna design, so what? HTC could just as easily made the same mistake; antennas have nothing to do with open versus closed platforms.

    The whole point is that if you rely on your software vendor to also know antenna design, you’re taking a much bigger risk than if you rely on your software vendor to know software and your hardware vendor to know hardware.

  30. >I get that, but why don’t you limit your commentary to those points rather than jumping on every slight problem – real or perceived – that apple experiences, and claiming it as evidence to support your central thesis, when in reality it is totally irrelevant. Doing so just damages your credibility.

    All these “slight problems” are connected together by fundamental things about the closed-source business model and its governance. I take your criticism seriously, as a reminder that I need to be better about explaining those connections.

    Other commenters have already pointed out the connection in the antenna-design case: it’s related to my observation that Apple (as a vertically-integrated single vendor) gets to own every failure.

  31. More on the numbers.

    I didn’t really pay that much attention to Steve’s new press conference, so it wasn’t until today that I realized he had given out updated numbers: 3 million phones in 3 weeks.

    If we take that at face value, and subtract the first 1.7 million in 3 days, that leaves us 1.3 million phones in 18 days, or 72K / day, or around 2 million a month. But Apple was previously selling over 8 million smartphones per quarter! And of course, Android is apparently above 160K/day right now.

    Now, because of demand, there’s an industry-wide shortage of a few critical components. Nonetheless, that Apple’s run rate after the first 3 days is below their previous run rate is an interesting data point. If there are supply problems, that means that Apple didn’t execute well enough to manage for stasis, never mind growth. If there are demand problems, that means that antennagate is hurting them far more than they would like to admit.

    An article that I previously linked to says that “the Galaxy has so far sold over 1 million handsets globally” (since mid-June) and that they hope to sell 10 million by October. Depending on what “by October” means, that’s a run rate for a single Android platform that’s right in the ballpark of Apple’s. And, if there are supply problems, Samsung might be better off than Apple — they make the processors, the memories, and the displays.

  32. >And of course, Android is apparently above 160K/day right now.

    That’s probably not true. I recall an analysis here suggesting that 160K/day was probably peak sales, not representative.

    My best guess, based on the share data I’ve been able to glean from various sources, is that Android is selling at about half that volume – 80K a day, just a bit more than Apple. The real difference is that most of Apple’s sales are upgrades by Apple customers, rather than taking share from Android or RIM or Blackberry.

  33. This whole thing about smart-phones is getting to be sort of sickly funny. The whole problem with internal or hidden antennas is a stupid styling issue. I don’t have, and will likely never get, a smart phone. I have a cheap-cheap (less than $20) Tracfone I have been using for several years now, with a short stubby antenna, and never a dropped call, despite living in Appalachia. See my review on Amazon of Virginia Postrel’s “The Substance of Style” for people who put stylishness above function.

  34. @Tom: “I notice that neither RIM nor Nokia refute the specific claims made by Apple about their antenna performance.”

    Nokia said “In general, antenna performance of a mobile device/phone may be affected with a tight grip, depending on how the device is held. 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. Nokia has invested thousands of man hours in studying how people hold their phones and allows for this in designs, for example by having antennas both at the top and bottom of the phone and by careful selection of materials and their use in the mechanical design.”

    RIM said “RIM has avoided designs like the one Apple used in the iPhone 4 and instead has used innovative designs which reduce the risk for dropped calls, especially in areas of lower coverage. One thing is for certain, RIM’s customers don’t need to use a case for their BlackBerry smartphone to maintain proper connectivity. 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.”

    (quotes from http://www.boygeniusreport.com/2010/07/16/nokia-statement-antenna-design/ and http://www.boygeniusreport.com/2010/07/17/rim-co-ceos-apple/ )

    How those statements are not a specific refutation of what Jobs said is unclear to me. I read ‘Yes, antenna position is a challenge, and we don’t have those problems, because we didn’t design our dinky phones the dumb way’. They also said “Apple should ‘fess up, shut up and stop smearing the rest of the industry for its own dumbassery.”

  35. My BlackBerry has the same exact problem and my provider is Verizon. I didn’t know it had the same problem until today when I tested it. So why the specific hatred of Apple?

    And the conspiracies stories about Jobs being warned before the product launch is just a bunch of tinfoil hat nonsense. Probably going to stop following ESR’s feed because this is getting a little annoying and coming across as some kind of vendetta.

    When you ignore other very relevant facts while holding one company to a certain standard you quickly start to sound disingenuous, which is a huge pet peeve of mine.

    If you say Apple put the antenna on the outside to satisfy a purely aesthetic purpose yet other phones display the SAME EXACT PROBLEM while their antennas are on the inside you are not using the whole truth to support your argument and you are becoming the religious fan-boy zealot.

    Too bad.

  36. @dhs:

    My BlackBerry has the same exact problem and my provider is Verizon. I didn’t know it had the same problem until today when I tested it. So why the specific hatred of Apple?

    If you didn’t know it had the “exact same problem” until you “tested it,” well, then it didn’t actually have “the exact same problem”, because apparently the problem with the iPhone 4 is that, when a lot of normal people hold it the normal way they hold it, they get poor reception. But don’t take my word for it. Ask Consumer Reports.

    And the conspiracies stories about Jobs being warned before the product launch is just a bunch of tinfoil hat nonsense.

    As are, I’m sure, the rantings of all the people who claim that Apple keeps “cleaning up” the message boards. Sorry, but all the truly paranoid people apparently work for Apple. BTW, so does the antenna engineer who allegedly gave the warning to Jobs. I noticed that Jobs denied the story, but I haven’t seen any reference to the engineer doing the same, although he’s the guy that has given the media tours of the antenna lab.

    When you ignore other very relevant facts while holding one company to a certain standard you quickly start to sound disingenuous, which is a huge pet peeve of mine.

    What relevant facts? Your post is remarkably fact-free, and it’s Apple that put themselves up on the pedestal.

    If you say Apple put the antenna on the outside to satisfy a purely aesthetic purpose yet other phones display the SAME EXACT PROBLEM while their antennas are on the inside you are not using the whole truth to support your argument and you are becoming the religious fan-boy zealot.

    If your phone works for you, then fine. A lot of Apple customers, including some previously satisfied iPhone 3 customers, say their phone doesn’t work for them, or only works for them with the bumpers or the tape or whatever. Jobs says they’re wrong. Which is stupid. Even if they’re wrong. But Jobs is a nice guy, so he’s going to give some of them bumpers or cases or whatever, even though they’re wrong. Which is even more stupid. But only because he keeps insisting they’re wrong. Otherwise, it would have been a great gesture.

    One other thing to bear in mind — apparently the problem affects lefties significantly more than righties. So perhaps most of the 0.55% of all users with reception problems (that Apple knows of) are left handed, and the real problem rate is closer to 3 or 4% for that minority.

  37. Doc,

    I think many here (though obviously, not Eric) would agree that the
    age of the PC is, while not over, definitely drawing to a close. There
    just isn’t going to be the continued level of investment in the PC market
    that the ‘network’ market and now ‘mobile’ market enjoy.

    This future should (and does (*)) terrify mobile carriers, given that
    under a truly open network model they not only lose revenue from
    the death of high-margin voice minutes and SMS — but since generations
    living as pampered, government-protected monopolies have left them
    incapable of substantive innovation or competition — they very
    likely won’t be the ones making money from content and services,
    either. Carriers therefore believe that the only recourse if they
    want to please investors and remain even remotely as powerful as
    they are today — is to artificially constrict the pipe and begin
    charging ridiculous premiums for wireless data.

    So while bandwidth gets progressively cheaper and technology like
    LTE drastically expands available capacity — AT&T and Verizon have
    decided to start pricing each wireless byte as if they were bottles
    of water during the apocalypse. In reality, their only real choice
    will be to run a top notch network because (despite the dreams of
    ISP executives of being everything to everyone) that will be their
    only real purpose, and half-assing network builds to placate myopic
    investors will no longer be an option. We’ve seen the beginning of this
    with products like iPhone.

    Products like FaceTime and Google Voice are only the very beginning
    of a future where your phone company has to stop trying to be
    everything to everyone — and start doing its one and only job.

    People are only just starting to see a future where all communications
    is just data, the concept of a voice minute is completely irrelevant,
    and carriers themselves face life as little more than a dumb pipe.
    It’s a future that for some reason is difficult for many people to
    get their head around (note how many people don’t understand how
    Google Voice changes things) — so familiar we are with the idea
    that your phone company must also be in control of your choice of
    network connection device, the apps you run, and the voicemail and
    calling mechanisms you use. Again, it was Apple, via iPhone that
    started this change, not Android.

    Google contributed though. Note that FCC’s auction for the 700MHz ‘C’ block
    (some 22Mhz of spectrum) came with ‘open access’ rules attached. Google
    made this happen by offering to pony up nearly $5B to buy the spectrum, and
    had it won, would have had to build-out a network, too.

    Verizon won those auctions, everywhere but Alaska, Puerto Rico, & the US Virgin Islands (Triad 700, L.P.)
    and the Gulf of Mexico (won by Small Ventures USA, L.P). And this is the spectrum that Verizon plans to
    use for its LTE service. https://www22.verizon.com/opendev/

    Verizon starts lighting up its LTE network late this year, but will most likely won’t have voice over LTE until the network is built out fully in 2013, so expect many of its 4G devices to be dual-mode phones or single-mode data devices. But here, again, I think we’re about to see a mass change to how cellular telephony is viewed.
    This 3 year gap is enough that special-purpose devices (say, a data-only iPhone (something like an iPod Touch with an LTE modem, in addition to WiFi, or a data-only Android ‘phone’ of the same architecture, only with built-in access to Google Voice) will dictate the new playing field.

    Verizon literally won’t be able to dictate the devices used to connect to its LTE network, nor the applications which run on same. As the diversity and number of both increase, AT&T will be forced to also allow the same terms and conditions, in order that its LTE investment and customer base not wither to (literal) worthlessness.
    Sprint will continue as a third-rail via WiMax. T-Mobile will tuck its tail and return to Germany.

    People here forget that it was only three years ago (July 31, 2007) that a soft-spoken Kevin Martin brought two phones to an FCC open meeting at which the agency presented the rules for its then upcoming 700MHz auction. Both phones were made by Nokia, the European version allowed access to WiFi networks, while the American version did not. It wasn’t open source software on phones that fixed this, it was good-old policy-making by
    the likes of Google. (The iPhone had just been introduced June 29, 2007.)

    I view Eric’s railing against Apple as a plea to maintain the status quo. This isn’t suprising, coming as it is from the mind of someone on the far side of 50.

    (*) The entire concept of network neutrality is really very simple.
    It got its start when then AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre proudly, though
    dumbly, proclaimed that Google got a “free ride” on his network.
    According to Ed, this unfairness could only be rectified by charging
    companies who already pay for bandwidth money to ensure their traffic
    reaches AT&T consumers quickly. Such a bizarre statement obviously
    resulted in fear that phone companies planned to act as trolls under
    the metaphorical Internet bridge, grumpily extorting passers by.
    That created a desire by content companies and consumers for laws
    that would prevent this from happening.

    So net-neutrality was born out of phone company executive greed,
    and remains driven by legitimate fear of market abuses by companies
    with a long history of them. Unfortunately, over the years the
    debate has been so badly mutilated by PR folk, shoddy journalism
    and policy wonks that it has become a nonsensical mess.

    As for Eric’s pipe-dream of mesh networks… he’s been shouted down
    on this very blog for not understanding mesh networking protocols,
    and more recently (by me) for not understanding radio architecture.
    There is no answer there, at least, not with commodity parts.

  38. I view Eric’s railing against Apple as a plea to maintain the status quo. This isn’t suprising, coming as it is from the mind of someone on the far side of 50.

    It’s not. It’s an accurate prediction of future technology market trends based on reliable history and experience. Ever hear the old adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same?” It’s more or less true. The reason is that people tend to do the same things over and over and all the players are filling the same roles that have been filled before.

    BTW–fanboyism changes nothing. It never has. I remember in the BBS community 25 years ago there was a seemingly vast amount of Amiga fanboys. All of their misplaced belief in the “technical superiority” and “superior user experience” of that platform meant nothing. Ditto for the equal rabid Apple fanboys of that day. The only difference between Apple and the Amiga is that the Amiga got purchased by Commodore and the failures of management at Commodore were epic. Apple, for its part, has always found a way to live in a small, but comfortable niche.

  39. I view Eric’s railing against Apple as a plea to maintain the status quo. This isn’t suprising, coming as it is from the mind of someone on the far side of 50.

    I view Eric’s railing as a sign that he understands just how sneaky large companies with threatened interests can be. Yes, we’re all happy google did the work at the FCC, but that’s not the end of it. If google themselves thought it was the end of it, they wouldn’t bother with Android — I view Android partly as google understanding things the same as Eric.

    While it’s true that Verizon won’t be able to directly control what’s attached to its network (and it’s true that right now, the FCC seems mildly interested in open networks), the two phrases “regulatory capture” and “type acceptance” could combine to throw a huge monkey-wrench in things. Not to mention the fact that it would be quite easy, natural, and defensible for Verizon to perform whatever traffic shaping they want under the guise of prioritizing voice — after all, they are a phone company! So much for not controlling applications on the phone.

    So it’s vitally important to have a lot of benignly hacked handsets floating around before LTE truly takes off, to show the government that average citizens can be trusted, if anything, more than huge corporations to not fuck up the commons. In fact, if I were a conspiracy theorist, I would bet on Verizon, AT&T, et al. funneling money and even technical expertise to what they consider to be “bad” hacker groups, just to cause a crisis that would require the maintenance of the status quo.

    It’s also vitally important that competition be maintained even during the transition period to LTE, otherwise people will simply accept whatever suckiness the LTE vendors will cram down their throats. If, in your scenario, for some reason, Sprint were to fold or get acquired by one of the other carriers, we would be reminded that life under a duopoly can be just as painful as life under a monopoly.

    So, I’m really curious why you think Eric wants the status quo, when he has stated repeatedly and clearly that phone companies should be dumb pipes.

    So net-neutrality was born out of phone company executive greed,
    and remains driven by legitimate fear of market abuses by companies
    with a long history of them.

    That may be true of the term “network neutrality” — haven’t researched it. But if so, it’s only because the term was needed to defend a concept that had already been around at least a couple of decades from the aforementioned greed.

  40. @Patrick Maupin

    @dhs:

    My BlackBerry has the same exact problem and my provider is Verizon. I didn’t know it had the same problem until today when I tested it. So why the specific hatred of Apple?

    If you didn’t know it had the “exact same problem” until you “tested it,” well, then it didn’t actually have “the exact same problem”, because apparently the problem with the iPhone 4 is that, when a lot of normal people hold it the normal way they hold it, they get poor reception. But don’t take my word for it. Ask Consumer Reports.

    I had the symptoms, dropped calls, bad reception, etc., but I didn’t analyze the problem until after all the media attention give to the iPhone 4 and watching the reports of people having the SAME EXACT PROBLEM with their other phones.

    The SAME EXACT PROBLEM, get it? When I hold my BlackBerry using my natural position it drops 2-3 bars. SAME. EXACT. PROBLEM. I can’t state it any clearer.

    And the conspiracies stories about Jobs being warned before the product launch is just a bunch of tinfoil hat nonsense.

    As are, I’m sure, the rantings of all the people who claim that Apple keeps “cleaning up” the message boards. Sorry, but all the truly paranoid people apparently work for Apple. BTW, so does the antenna engineer who allegedly gave the warning to Jobs. I noticed that Jobs denied the story, but I haven’t seen any reference to the engineer doing the same, although he’s the guy that has given the media tours of the antenna lab.

    Apple cleans up message boards. I don’t think that guys that give unofficial statements to the press are allowed to give media tours. Pure speculation.

    When you ignore other very relevant facts while holding one company to a certain standard you quickly start to sound disingenuous, which is a huge pet peeve of mine.

    What relevant facts? Your post is remarkably fact-free, and it’s Apple that put themselves up on the pedestal.

    Don’t be obtuse. Take 5 seconds to look at all the other videos of people using other phones. Again, you are being disingenuous while trying to make a point. Don’t do that. I think that people that hate Apple, which is silly, because you can just ignore them, think they put themselves on a pedestal because that gives them something to shoot at.

    I hate RIM/BlackBerry because my phone is shitty, it crashes frequently, it drops calls, has a horrible user interface, their e-mail system is moronic and on and on.

    If you say Apple put the antenna on the outside to satisfy a purely aesthetic purpose yet other phones display the SAME EXACT PROBLEM while their antennas are on the inside you are not using the whole truth to support your argument and you are becoming the religious fan-boy zealot.

    If your phone works for you, then fine. A lot of Apple customers, including some previously satisfied iPhone 3 customers, say their phone doesn’t work for them, or only works for them with the bumpers or the tape or whatever. Jobs says they’re wrong. Which is stupid. Even if they’re wrong. But Jobs is a nice guy, so he’s going to give some of them bumpers or cases or whatever, even though they’re wrong. Which is even more stupid. But only because he keeps insisting they’re wrong. Otherwise, it would have been a great gesture.

    Show me a quote where Steve Jobs says they are wrong. He said, “avoid holding it that way.” I have to avoid holding my BlackBerry a certain way. Where is the parity of media and tech blogger outrage? Why isn’t RIM’s CEO on stage offering me free stuff?

    One other thing to bear in mind — apparently the problem affects lefties significantly more than righties. So perhaps most of the 0.55% of all users with reception problems (that Apple knows of) are left handed, and the real problem rate is closer to 3 or 4% for that minority.

    I’m a lefty and yes, my BlackBerry sucks.

  41. esr: My “extreme partisanship” has a reason behind it. Steve Jobs’s vision of the future of computing – the locked-down, untinkerable device with policy dictated by the vendor – must fail. This is not just about esthetics or my personal preferences, it’s about huge systemic risks and whether individual human beings will have actual control of the devices they increasingly rely on to handle their communication and information needs.

    Far be it from me to claim that I know more about the intricacies of the smartphone market than you do, but you do seem to be muddling the argument that the iPhone 4 should fail, and that it will fail. Your predictions seem to be driven by a combination of the evidence (good) and your own wishful thinking (bad).

  42. From the HTC Droid Eris user manual:

    “Contact with the antenna area may impair call quality and cause your device to operate at a higher power level than needed. Avoiding contact with the antenna area when the phone is IN USE optimizes the antenna performance and the battery life.”

    Huh.

    Why isn’t the HTC CEO up on stage giving me free stuff? Apparently he was warned in advance that his phone has flaws. Where is the outrage?

  43. >Your predictions seem to be driven by a combination of the evidence (good) and your own wishful thinking (bad).

    Every rationalist has to cope with this. Since we are goal-seeking animals, we always have an agenda. The important questions begin with: do we hide it from others, or (worse) from ourselves? Do we let it distort our judgment?

    This possibility is one reason I make my analysis in public – so that if my agenda is distorting my judgment, others will call me on it.

  44. >Where is the outrage?

    When Consumer Reports says they can’t recommend the Droid Eris because it’s misdesigned, and then the CEO of HTC calls a national news conference to deny that there’s a design problem and the stupid customers are holding the phone wrong, then there will be grounds for outrage.

  45. @dhs:

    Sorry if I misunderstood — when you said “I didn’t know until I tested it today,” that sounded to me like “I’ve had a phone for awhile, and I can make it fail if I hold it just right.”

    But, to me, when Jobs says “don’t hold it that way” he really is saying “you’re wrong.”

    I’m not saying that other manufacturers don’t have this problem, but Consumer Reports says previous iPhones don’t have this problem.

    “Why isn’t RIM’s CEO on stage offering me free stuff? ”

    Because RIM’s CEO hasn’t been shamelessly manipulating the media for the past umpteen years? Because you’re not outraged enough? I don’t know — I’m just a non-smartphone carrying bysitter. But, from my perspective, Apple really is just reaping what they sowed, and not that big a crop of it, all things considered.

  46. @Patrick Maupin
    > Was that before or after installing the fix that makes it display bars correctly?

    Before. It was about a week from launch.

  47. @Aaron:

    That’s what I suspected. It would be interesting to hear your report after you download the fix that makes the bar display more accurate. Also, it’s my understanding that a lot of people have done a more meaningful test by measuring download speeds while holding it differently.

  48. >>Where is the outrage?

    >When Consumer Reports says they can’t recommend the Droid Eris because it’s misdesigned, and then
    >the CEO of HTC calls a national news conference to deny that there’s a design problem and the stupid
    >customers are holding the phone wrong, then there will be grounds for outrage.

    Consumer Reports? The same organization that rates the iPhone 4 higher than all the other phones and then does a back-pedal? Have they publicly released all the testing results of all the other phones.

    Again with the ‘stupid’ and ‘wrong’.

    Again, my BlackBerry fails in the EXACT SAME WAY. The RIM guys put out a really childish press release yesterday saying they don’t have that problem. They do. I can see it with my own eyes.

  49. @Patrick Maupin

    > But, to me, when Jobs says “don’t hold it that way” he really is saying “you’re wrong.”

    HTCs documentation tells users to not hold their phone in certain ways. So are they telling all their users that they are wrong or are they telling them “don’t hold it that way”?

    >>“Why isn’t RIM’s CEO on stage offering me free stuff? ”

    >Because RIM’s CEO hasn’t been shamelessly manipulating the media for the past umpteen years?

    Really?

    I guess we won’t agree. I just don’t understand the amount of venom that is being spewed towards Apple. When comparing the Apple products I have had to non-Apple products there has always been a significant difference. Are they prefect? No. Can they be annoying sometimes? Yes. But it has been very minor.

    The current issue with the antenna seems like a completely overblown issue considering other phones have the same problem. It’s seems like people are piling on because they can and not because of any other motivation than their hatred for a company. I don’t hate companies, but I certainly do hate a lot of their products and I just won’t buy them if I don’t like them. I understand that ESR has an agenda and movement, but it seems like this is the wrong way to go about it.

  50. Consumer Reports? The same organization that rates the iPhone 4 higher than all the other phones and then does a back-pedal? Have they publicly released all the testing results of all the other phones.

    No, they didn’t back-pedal. Consumer Reports is generally a pretty unbiased publication; they did rate the phone highest in other tests, but because of this antenna glitch, they simply withheld the status of “recommended.” Consumer Reports only gives out it’s “recommended” status to products that it feels are good buys for consumers; it often withdraws recommended status when previously unknown problems with a product come to light; a perfect example of a similar withdrawal came during the Toyota recalls; CR pulled the “recommended” status from all the affected models.

    Apple and its fans would do well not to attack CR; they are very well-known and well-respected institution.

  51. > Apple and its fans would do well not to attack CR; they are very well-known and well-respected institution.

    Only for the over-50 crowd.

  52. >>Consumer Reports? The same organization that rates the iPhone 4 higher than all the other phones and
    >>then does a back-pedal? Have they publicly released all the testing results of all the other phones.

    >No, they didn’t back-pedal. Consumer Reports is generally a pretty unbiased publication; they did rate
    >the phone highest in other tests, but because of this antenna glitch, they simply withheld the status of
    >“recommended.” Consumer Reports only gives out it’s “recommended” status to products that it feels
    >are good buys for consumers; it often withdraws recommended status when previously unknown
    >problems with a product come to light; a perfect example of a similar withdrawal came during the
    >Toyota recalls; CR pulled the “recommended” status from all the affected models.

    So it seems like they are easily swayed by media hype and misinformation.

    >Apple and its fans would do well not to attack CR; they are very well-known and well-respected institution.

    Really? I’m a big fan of calling ‘bullshit’ on well-respected institutions when they deserve it. Keeps them in check.

  53. @J. Jay:

    That’s really old news.

    Unlike Microsoft or Apple, google doesn’t fancy themselves to be in the hardware business. Why would they want to do that? They just paid for someone to buid a prototype to get things rolling. The goal was always to have lots of partners (21 AFAIK), and it would be really stupid of them to compete with their partners on this in any sort of serious fashion.

    As far as your other comment about Nexys One 3G problems, that’s even older news. But google isn’t the one criticizing Apple, and to my knowledge nobody here is making or selling mobile phones, so which glass houses are you talking about?

  54. Morgan and dhs: Part of the confusion about Consumer Reports is that different things were said about the iPhone 4 in their blog and their magazine/website. And while they didn’t recommend it, I believe it did get the best marks in the smartphone tests….

  55. But google isn’t the one criticizing Apple, and to my knowledge nobody here is making or selling mobile phones, so which glass houses are you talking about?

    Not unless they can be made out of wood, PVC pipe, or snow. That’s about the extent of my fabrication capabilities, and judging by the temperature outside, I’d say snow is out. ;)

  56. Apple may just have hit a practical limit on how much of an instantaneous success a brand new phone design can be. Based on initial hype, they sold three million phones in the first three weeks. Phones are complicated. No matter how good your QA is, there are some problems you won’t find until the product is out in the field. A product having *known flaws* really isn’t a problem, and certainly not a big enough problem to drag the CEO away from his vacation to do damage control. All products have known flaws; customers for whom the flaws matter just don’t buy it. What pisses people off is *unexpected* flaws. Those who lined up around the block to buy the first two million phones were buying a pig in a poke; the fact that there can be signal issues (if you’re left-handed and live in a poor signal area and don’t use a case and hold the phone a certain way) was not a known issue (and still isn’t a particularly well-understood one), so they unknowingly bought a phone that was flawed *for them, given their particular usage pattern*.

    Suppose this problem harms, say, one in a thousand users. If you sell three million phones in three weeks, you’ve got 3000 angry users you can’t give a good answer to because you haven’t had enough time to investgate . If it harms one in a hundred, you’ve got 30,000 angry users. Either of those is enough to raise quite a fuss in the blogosphere.

    Had the phone been an order of magnitude or so less ludicrously successful at bursting out of the gate – like, say, your average Android phone – you wouldn’t have so much potential for a problem to catch the company flat-footed *and affect a lot of people*. Rare issue reports would trickle in slowly, the affected users wouldn’t form a “community”, and by the time a significant number of people had encountered the issue the company would have a good story to tell them.

    In short, Apple was a victim of its own success.

  57. >In short, Apple was a victim of its own success.

    I think there’s something to this. But you left out another amplifying factor, which is Apple’s branding and positioning. If you position yourself as the embodiment of flawless cool, build up a legend of your leader as the guru of insanely great product design, and market to fashionistas, then ugly consequences when you misstep are less surprising.

  58. In short, Apple was a victim of its own success.

    No, Apple was a victim of their own marketing formula. What other company would attempt to go from zero (a real zero, with no outside beta testing) to 3 million units in under a month? That’s just nuts, but Apple’s proven-yet-never-emulated formula for catching mindshare requires it. Well, guess what? Once you catch the mindshare, everybody’s watching you and talking about you — that was the whole point, right? It’s up to you to execute well enough that they’re only saying good stuff. Cellphones are more complicated than MP3 players, you say? Well, that’s not really the press’s or the public’s problem, is it?

    Seriously, I don’t get the attitude of a lot of people here who seem to think some people are being too hard on Apple: if you pimp really hard for my attention, and then you actually get my attention, nothing good can then come from complaining that I’m too harsh of a critic. Steve Jobs apparently knows as well as anybody that attention is the most valuable commodity in the world, so for him to complain after the attention was duly delivered right on schedule is just whining.

  59. Sony solves this problem by selling in Japan first, then selling the same design to the rest of the world a year later. Apple usually solves this problem by *being really expensive* and/or by being production-limited. If all you do is double the price, you’ll have fewer initial customers, more time to find problems, and more buffer to make your few, extra-motivated customers happy when problems occur. Sell to a few at a ludicrous markup and then only after you’ve shaken out any potential issues with the design you can drop the price by a couple hundred dollars to sell the now proven design to the general riffraff. That’s exactly what they did with the first iPhone.

    As for the claim that being positioned as “flawless cool” is dangerous, my usual go-to metaphor is sports cars. Being a little “high maintenance” might be okay, even an asset for a luxury good. Everybody knows sports cars are finicky but the people who can afford the car can afford to fix it. A little hardship makes you “part of the club”. Consider, say, Porsche versus Honda.

    But if we stick to computers, Apple is special in that their positioning creates a *virtuous circle*. Because Apple employees aspire to create a great user experience Apple customers demand one and vice-versa. That gives Apple a little extra credibility when entering new markets that, say, HP doesn’t have. If HP releases a crappy tablet, it’ll probably just get discontinued. If Apple releases one, you know all their whiny customers will point out all the flaws and tell Apple how it should be improved; the next version will be better. Knowing that makes people feel safer buying the current one, which gives Apple the reliable income it needs to keep the improvement cycle going.

    BTW, Scott Adams thinks Jobs totally nailed the “apology”:

    http://dilbert.com/blog/entry/high_ground_maneuver

  60. @Glwn:

    Yes, awhile back (well before the antenna problem) I actually suggested here that some of Apple’s more interesting maneuvers were because of difficulties with their unexpected success in the smartphone market.

    I think your point about Apple’s traditional model is accurate. Apple usually makes things really expensive, then ramps up the hype machine to get the right number of people to buy them at that price. It’s a great value pricing strategy, designed to maximize profits.

    But Apple was not used to the subscription market, where things can be really expensive, yet are not viewed that way by the end customer. But instead of realizing that they didn’t need to hype the iPhone 4 as hard, they went the other way, made a good guess at how many sales their hype machine would get them, and then went for it. In short, they got greedy.

    I still think it’s nuts. The first iPhone 4 units must have rolled off Foxconn’s assembly line two months before customers started getting them. No other company on the planet would voluntarily hold onto a billion dollars worth of inventory for a millisecond longer than they had to, never mind an average of a month. Or to put it another way, any other CEO would be fired for such a stunt…

  61. Eric said: Especially since Android was looking like it’s going to overtake the iPhone in share sometime in 2010Q4 even before this fiasco.

    Yeah, funny thing there.

    The only reasons people don’t think “Android phones have shitty reception!!!” are:

    A) Nobody but geeks really thinks of them as “Android phones”; they think of them as specific phones, like the Droid, the Incredible, etc.

    B) Nobody cares about piling on HTC or Motorola because nobody cares about them.

    The Incredible has a “don’t hold it like that” warning in its manual. The Nexus one has the same problem. The Touch Pro 2 has it.

    Some kind soul has even made a Tumblr blog containing snaps from a collection of phone manuals with the same sort of language or pictures. 8 now, and dozens more exist.

    (Nexus one thread here; none of the Google manuals say anything about the antenna one way or another, but the Android fans there sure seem to think it has the exact same problems every other phone has for the exact same reasons. I’m willing to believe that the fans aren’t lying to trash their side, especially from six months ago…)

    Given that all the data I’ve seen about return rates and satisfaction results still place the iPhone 4 as more successful than the 3GS, the idea that this is a “fiasco” that is an “tragic flaw” and “epic fail” is ludicrous.

    Seriously, “epic fail”?

    (And the “must fail” for the iPhone because it’s locked down? Yeah, well, I understand from the OSS-evangelism point of view, but I don’t recall ever seeing you rail with post after post about locked Android phones…?

    If I was being a cynical troll I’d suggest it’s because they have such terrible UI that one suspects it’s malicious, and full of junkware, and thus they don’t matter, because they leave such a bad taste in one’s mouth in comparison.

    Not being one, I’ll simply ascribe it to seeing Android as a platform vs. Android as concrete phones, which unfortunately people who want to buy one can’t do.

    That said, the advantage to consumers of Apple’s top-down control of their phone is that a new iPhone doesn’t come with several screens of crap that Apple’s making two cents a sale on by including it, or that the carrier demanded they tack on (see second link just above, re. the Need For Speed demo preloaded on the Droid X, etc.) – this is the equivalent of the avalanche of crap you get on a commercial Windows PC vs. the complete lack of any pack-ins on the Apple products.

    Consumers see that and care about that a hell of a lot more than they do “openness”*. Android needs top notch UI and bundlers that aren’t remoras, for it to beat Apple in consumer mindshare, I think.

    I hope the Android world does better, because, while I own an iPhone 3GS and love it, I like dynamic competition, as producing superior end results.

    *This is really important to perceptions, actually. In my experience a lot of people think Windows is “slow and buggy crap” not because it is [it isn't much of either these days], but because they bought a mass-market PC loaded down with so much bundled crap that it’s a wonder it can even boot, let alone run! This might make Sony or Dell or whoever happy with their extra marketing bullet-points or $2 in income, but the Consumer hates it and it makes the OS provider look bad.)

  62. > The goal was always to have lots of partners (21 AFAIK), and it would be really stupid of them to compete with their partners on this in any sort of serious fashion.

    Yet try they did.

    > what glass houses?

    The owner of this very blog has a Nexsus One

    ESR says: …which has yet to drop a call no matter how I hold it.

  63. @esr> which has yet to drop a call no matter how I hold it.

    Ditto for my iPhone 4. Yet both do for many other people. Next question?

    @Morgan> I read Consumer Reports and I’m 38.

    Says a lot about you, actually.

    Some interesting insight in this Wired article.

  64. The goal was always to have lots of partners (21 AFAIK), and it would be really stupid of them to compete with their partners on this in any sort of serious fashion.

    Yet try they did.

    Oh, come on! Raising the bar with a “concept phone” isn’t competing. Selling it unsubsidized isn’t competing. It was all about getting the android buzz out there, and that was transparently obvious even an hour after the launch:

    <a href= "http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122252774

    “>
    So there’s a question about whether all these other manufacturers might get upset at Google kind of entering this business much more directly. But I think what Google wants to do is create kind of the flagship, the standard bearer for the Android phone and then all the other Android phones will get pretty much the same functions. And so it might be that Google is just kind of providing, let’s call it like the concept car for the industry and then other people who are building similar phones will just kind of build – try to build the same thing.

    Google’s not exiting the phone market because they’re losing. They’re exiting it because they’re winning.

  65. @Jay> “Yet try they did.”

    (Yes, responding to my own post, because Eric’s WP blog seems to have a problem with the Mobile Safari on iOS 4. Among other things, upon any paste event followed by an insert of any text, the “Submit Comment” button disappears.) Probably Safari’s fault, too.)

    Anyway, Google did try to go it without carriers on the Nexus One, and failed. Further, the Nexus One is the only phone that will currently run Android 2.2. Droid… Doesn’t (yet).

  66. >Google’s not exiting the phone market because they’re losing. They’re exiting it because they’re winning.

    I agree. Still…I like my Nexus One a lot. I’m sad that it’s being end-of-lifed.

  67. @J. Jay:

    Well, you’re free to believe that google really wanted to sell phones, and google really wanted billions of dollars of wireless spectrum. Me, I just believe they’re going to try to open a kick-ass online music store in a couple of months.

  68. I agree. Still…I like my Nexus One a lot. I’m sad that it’s being end-of-lifed.

    You should be rejoicing. As Patrick states, it’s proof th at Google doesn’t need it any more. If you ask me, Google’s Android strategy has been downright brilliant and well-played. Larry and Sergei know exactly what they’re doing.That they caught Apple completely off guard was …. simply priceless. I predict in coming years that this will be the stuff of college marketing courses.

  69. The owner of this very blog has a Nexsus One

    ESR says: …which has yet to drop a call no matter how I hold it.

    Yeah, but maybe you’d lose a bar or two if you grasped it like the Apple fanboys seem to think you have. Hard to tell without a flashlight and mirror, though…

  70. My friends who have iphone 4s say they work great, they can reproduce the problem with a little work, but they like the phone even better than their 3gs’s

  71. @Morgan> What? That I’m white, college-educated and middle-class? You could’ve figured that out by reading my blog.

    and that you probably make an OK salary. (hee hee)

    > it’s proof th at Google doesn’t need it any more.
    Hardly. Oh sure, it will have a short additional life as the newest dev phone, but Google thought they were going to pull an Apple, and change the rules of the market for cell phones (a lot like Apple did). Only, they failed.

    The rest (“they don’t need it any more”) is as much spin as anything Apple has done of late. It was a failure, but I’m sure Google learned a few things in the process.

    I’m still considering buying one to replace my G1DP, too.

  72. >if my agenda is distorting my judgment, others will call me on it.

    Your agenda is distorting your judgment. Until you wrote the above, I figured you were proselytizing rather than stating your honest judgment, but if that’s not true then consider yourself called on it. I actually agree with you that it would be better if closed lost to open, but consider:

    - iPhone 4 has sold, and continues to sell, more than any other iphone, and this means it’s selling faster than any smartphone. In 3 years, it has become the majority of Apple’s business. All this despite the fact that the reception issue blew up on launch day.

    - You said iPad was the new Newton. Then they sold 3 million in the first 80 days, and it continues to be sold out everywhere.

    I think you’re well within your remit to gleefully harp on the failings of these devices and platforms, but you keep acting as though it’s a fact that the business is failing for Apple, and that’s clearly, manifestly false. They haven’t even peaked yet in terms of their control over the market.

  73. >All these “slight problems” are connected together by fundamental things about the closed-source business model and its governance. I take your criticism seriously, as a reminder that I need to be better about explaining those connections.

    >Other commenters have already pointed out the connection in the antenna-design case: it’s related to my observation that Apple (as a vertically-integrated single vendor) gets to own every failure.

    Ok, having waded through the anti-Apple vitriol and thought about this more deeply I think I am more favourably disposed to your argument.

    As I see it, the point is that Apple’s position as the only manufacturer of iOS devices makes users of the platform more vulnerable to hardware problems because they are unable to choose a different device should there be design or chronic manufacturing problems with the iPhone. I think that is a serious criticism of the vertically integrated business model. It is also fair to say that the recent antenna issue could be used as an example of how such a flaw might cause problems for users in a way that an antenna issue in an HTC device would not (because HTC users could buy a Samsung Galaxy or some other Android device). Is this an accurate representation of your substantive criticism?

    I would say that the point about Apple ‘owning every failure’ is separate from this. It seems to me that this is a potential PR weakness, but not a genuine problem for the consumer. Indeed it would seem to be an advantage for the consumer because Apple is more likely to take responsibility for problems, since they have nobody to blame but themselves. I would be interested to hear your opinion on this.

    The point is that I did not understand any of this from your article. In fact I can see nothing in there but sales and PR analysis served up with a generous helping of personal loathing for ‘the turtlenecked one’.

  74. >The point is that I did not understand any of this from your article. In fact I can see nothing in there but sales and PR analysis served up with a generous helping of personal loathing for ‘the turtlenecked one’.

    I see. You hadn’t read my half-dozed previous posts on the smartphone wars, so that one looked like snark out of nowhere.

    In fact I don’t personally loathe Steve Jobs at all. I loathe his vision of a locked-down future;that’s different.

  75. @J. Jay:

    The rest (”they don’t need it any more”) is as much spin as anything Apple has done of late. It was a failure, but I’m sure Google learned a few things in the process.

    If I accept your premise, then I still think that pulling out of the market (google could have easily thrown a lot more money at it), was indicative of decisive intelligence. The consumer electronics market is brutal. If google achieves one of their major objectives (ubiquitousness of Android), that just makes the market more brutal. It will be like the difference that the ubiquity of MS-DOS made to PC prices. So, (a) google won’t want to play in that market, because customer service is not their forte, certainly not the kind of customer service that has to deal with products made of physical atoms going bad and needing to be replaced; and (b) MS-DOS never would have achieved its ubiquity if Microsoft were selling computers, because that would have made the other vendors leery. If Android is to truly take over, that will happen a lot faster if the other cell phone vendors trust google not to steal their customers.

  76. Tom Says:

    > I would say that the point about Apple ‘owning every failure’ is separate from this.
    > It seems to me that this is a potential PR weakness, but not a genuine problem for the consumer.
    > Indeed it would seem to be an advantage for the consumer because Apple is more likely to
    > take responsibility for problems, since they have nobody to blame but themselves.
    > I would be interested to hear your opinion on this.

    This is the ‘one neck to choke’ mentality beloved of CIOs everywhere.
    In practice,
    1. You (in this case, an individual consumer) need to have a pretty good choke-hold
    2. Your vendor (in this case, Apple) has to be susceptible to your choke-hold
    3. Your vendor needs to be able to actually work the problem you identify throughout its value chain.

  77. I loathe his vision of a locked-down future;that’s different.

    I don’t like it either. But that hardly matters. You and I don’t get a say in what eventually transpires. Hackers have been great at being loud about closed platform concerns, but haven’t mustered the clout necessary to shape the industry, nor have they been any good at producing something better than a closed platform — something with a positive value proposition for consumers and vendors.

    We’ve seen this before with DRM. The main arguments against DRM have been ones of convenience. Make the convenience problems go away and DRM becomes a part of daily life. This has already happened with the Steam service. Only open source beardos give a shit about Steam DRM. The rest accept it because hey — the games are pretty good and cheap.

  78. @dhs: You can’t ocmpare this to the antenna issue at all. The (very childish) article writing in the linked article was complaining about dead pixels. Anyone who’s been around IT and electronics longer than 10 minutes has encountered an LCD screen with dead pixels. I’m sure even Apple has shipped out a few iPhones with dead pixels. It’s not unusual — dead pixels are caused by the very awful, expensive and error-prone LCD panel manufacturing process. It’s gotten a bit better in recent years, but dead pixels are still a pretty common occurence.

  79. We’ve seen this before with DRM. The main arguments against DRM have been ones of convenience. Make the convenience problems go away and DRM becomes a part of daily life.

    Very poor example, Jeff. Even Apple has dropped DRM from iTunes as much as they can.

    Only open source beardos give a shit about Steam DRM. The rest accept it because hey — the games are pretty good and cheap.

    Also a very poor example: lots of people hate Steam due to all sorts of problems. The biggest one seems to be availability of the servers.

  80. > Only open source beardos give a shit about Steam DRM.

    Ah say, ah say, ah resemble that remahk! And my beard resents the association.

    Though, I think Steam has done absolute _wonders_ for PC gaming. Nevermind the reasonable prices. My concern is not DRM in this case, but the single pof. If Steam goes away, so do my games. Very sad, very scary, as I have a large Steam library. : )

    DRM on store-bought games, though? I had one too many legally-aquired games that simply wouldn’t run because of crappy DRM, forcing me to crack them. Steam as the advantage of actually Working, so long as the servers are doing O.K.

  81. Apple earnings call just finished.

    It’s impossible to tell if “antennagate” caused any issues — they’re still supply-limited on the iPhone 4. (Same with iPad.)

    Sales might still be ahead of Android — phone shipments were up 61% for the quarter, which should put them between 155K and 160K sales/day average for the entire quarter. Obviously some of that was iPhone 4 replacements, but even if you subtract iPhone 4 out, they’re at an average of almost 140K shipments/day. I don’t know how far “activations” lag “shipments”, but Android “activations” were not averaging 160K/day until some time in June. Says a lot of users were happy getting iPhone 3, not waiting for 4. Could indicate some market acceleration for iOS.

    The iPhone is apparently really taking off internationally, but I didn’t see a units breakdown on that. Obviously AT&T slows them down a bit domestically.

    I can’t imagine they’re too happy about being supply limited on the iPhone 4; the risk is that if enough people “settle” for non-Apple phones and are satisfied, that’s a meme they don’t need. And with Samsung controlling a larger portion of the supply chain for their own smartphone (including the display), that could spell trouble.

    One interesting thing: “more than 80% of Fortune 100 companies are deploying or doing pilot tests of the iPhone.” They spin this as a real positive, but the smallest Fortune 100 company is Amazon, and it’s really hard for me to imagine any company that big or bigger not having a skunkworks to at least look at something as disruptive as the iPhone…

  82. And with Samsung controlling a larger portion of the supply chain for their own smartphone (including the display), that could spell trouble.

    Remember what I said about Apple not being ready for this game? There’s another clue.

  83. @Morgan:

    Yes, vertical integration is a double-edged sword. Motorola never pulled it off very well; Apple’s done a great job integrating hardware and software, and is now even building some of their own chips. I would not be surprised to see Apple to take some of those billions they have in the bank and make some more strategic hardware acquisitions.

  84. What spin!!!

    According to reporting on the earnings call (emphasis added):


    Cook doesn’t rise to bait about Android devices getting a lot of press but just says iPhone sales were up 61% this quarter, growing faster than the overall smartphone market.

    Yes, there’s a lot of levels of indirection there. Should listen to the transcript if I cared enough to see if Apple really lied, or if it was a terrible misunderstanding.

    But in reality:


    The Company sold 8.4 million iPhones in the quarter, representing 61 percent unit growth over the year-ago quarter.

    Well, that really sucks (for Apple), and the “faster than the overall smartphone market” was a huge lie, unless the market contracted last quarter — Apple sold 8.75 million iPhones the quarter before.

    That’s less than 100K units/day, and if you take out the 73% of the 1.7 million iPhone 4 units that were upgrades, it’s downright abysmal.

  85. >That’s less than 100K units/day, and if you take out the 73% of the 1.7 million iPhone 4 units that were upgrades, it’s downright abysmal.

    Indeed. This isn’t just Android winning, it’s a brutal kerb-stomping. If only 28K of those aren’t conversions, Android is capturing about six new users for iPhone4′s every one.

  86. >iPhone sales were up 61% this quarter, growing faster than the overall smartphone market.

    I have to admit, this is extremely clever tapdancing. We know from a couple of different numbers-on-the-ground studies that everyone but Android is losing overall smartphone share, so how can iPhone sales be growing faster than the whole-market growth rate? Wellll…I think the key fact that makes sense out of this is that 73% of iPhone 4 sales are iPhone 3 upgrades. What’s happening is that the company is being very, very effective at seducing its existing userbase into taking another bite of the Apple; they’re converting fast.

  87. Yeah, but they sales are really down quarter-over-quarter; they’re only up compared to the same quarter last year. And while it may be true that the overall smartphone market (counting Nokia and RIM) didn’t grow that fast (a factoid I’m not sure of but could believe), the market is certainly at least growing since the previous quarter, but Apple’s sales actually shrunk.

    And if Android was activating 80K/day in February, 100K/day in May (and presumably monotonically increasing inbetween) and 160K/day in June, Android had to have already passed Apple’s 8.4 million units last quarter already.

  88. BTW, most of the “marketshare analysis” floating around on the web references the comScore report I dissected before. Unfortunately, numbers from this report keep getting reported as “market share”, but the comScore report is actually a consumer survey, and the numbers are about phones in use (installed base), not about phones bought last quarter. That’s why everybody keeps saying bullshit like Apple still has 24% of the market. That may be true from an application vendor perspective, but that number is not at all reflective of what’s going on.

  89. Wringing my hands and waiting for Motorola / Google CEO joint apology news conference and free stuff

    What you mean like taking it back to the store and getting a replacement free of charge?

    You know… that option you get when its a manufacture issue rather than a fundamental design flaw.

    And why would google be involved. Its not their phone. What do you think “Apple gets to own every failure” means?

  90. Should listen to the transcript if I cared enough to see if Apple really lied

    If it affects your care factor any, I believe there’s a transcript here (believe as in, it says it is but I haven’t fact checked).

  91. Yes, there’s a lot of levels of indirection there. Should listen to the transcript if I cared enough to see if Apple really lied, or if it was a terrible misunderstanding.

    Not too far in so maybe it gets said later, but so far i’ve seen 61% iphone growth quoted as year-on-year. Q3 2009 iphone sales were “over 5.2 million” 5.2 * 1.61 is 8.37 so that number is in the right ballpark territory.

  92. Morgan and jsk, you have only proved my point. People have problems with Steam, but they no longer have problems with its DRM. It’s become transparent. Part of life.

    The same thing will happen to other games, and movies, and apps. Once content access restriction passes a threshold of convenience to the end user, it becomes accepted, and the third-party vendors will flock to it because it means where there’s a market there’s revenue. We saw it with Steam; we’re watching it happen again with iOS.

  93. > People have problems with Steam, but they no longer have problems with its DRM.
    > It’s become transparent. Part of life.

    The DRM is just part of the problem, though. They got the usability and transparency down (though not completely; try buying a game on Steam in one country and then connecting with the same account in another country.). But, it is still a more brittle system because of it. They’re doing good by mitigating the failure modes by finally porting to Mac and (as I understand but could be mistaken) eventually Linux, but it’s still got the single chain of Steam Client -> DRM -> Network -> Steam Server, where any part failing means legally-purchased software can no longer be used.

    Point is: they’ve shown how to do it well. Now they need to show how to account for future obsolescence, and that includes DRM functionality.

    I can and still do play my original registered copy of DooM on any of my systems through various means (emulation, ports, whatever). Will I be able to say the same 10-15 years from now about, say, Half-Life 2? It’s not a deal-breaker question, but it is a massive Concern that I’ve yet to hear properly addressed.

  94. @Jeff Read:

    The main arguments against DRM have been ones of convenience.

    I’d say the only arguments against DRM are ones of convenience, as in “DRM makes it inconveniently impossible to exercise my Fair Use rights with respect to this content.” But then, I watch movies and listen to music — I’m not a gamer.

  95. Is there now *any* reason to think that the iphone 4 suffers from a signal issue over and above that common to all smartphones

    Yes. The signal loss in the other phones requires substantially surrounding the antenna with flesh at a short distance. The signal loss in the iPhone requires merely touching the band gap.

    Imagine Honda is accused of having its cars catastrophically fail in a 15 MPH collision if the bumper is hit at a specific angle. Honda comes out and says the catastrophic failure in a collision isn’t unique to its cars, but is universal. To demonstrate, they show video of Hondas, Toyotas and Fords all being hurled at 80 MPH against a wall, where they all crumple. Would that convince you that Honda’s cars had no defect?

    Apple screwed up its antenna design, plain and simple. It’s been blowing a lot of smoke, though, to give Apple fans an excuse to close their eyes to the error.

  96. @Patrick Maupin: You brought up a good point yesterday in regards to the difference between market share and installed base. These terms are often conflated. They aren’t the same thing, yet they are related.

    Truly stated, market share reports are statistics about new sales, while installed base reports are statistics about what people are using today. Of course, market share directly affects installed base. If a particular product grows market share faster than the growth rate of the overall market, then that product’s installed base percentage will also rise; consequently if a product grows market share slower that than the growth rate of the overall market, that product’s installed base percentage will shrink.

    In an emerging market like smartphones, it isn’t the installed base that matters most for predicting future trends; it’s the rate of growth for each product, and hence the market share. In a mature, stable market like desktops, network effects tend to make market share look a lot like installed base; therein lies the confusion.

    This distinction

  97. @Morgan:

    You have a keen grasp of what should be obvious, except to many people, it obviously isn’t. As we all know, several commenters on previous posts here have been trying to spread the meme that marketshare doesn’t matter. But of course, it matters, and as you point out, in a growing market where snowballs can occur, marketshare (velocity of installed base) is a good indicator, but change in marketshare (second derivative, or acceleration of installed base) is also a good indicator. It’s a huge feedback loop with multiple paths — developers want users, or the probability of users, and users want apps, or the probability of apps. People use these numbers to make decisions, and those decisions later affect these numbers.

    Here’s a good recent example. AFAICT, onstar apps are available for iOS, Blackberry, and Android. Without Android’s recent surge, it would have been left behind with the also-rans.

  98. @Jeff:

    Maybe Apple phones are currently better than some android phones in this respect, but of course, Apple has patents on forcing you to view ads before you can use your device.

    People like to point to the ability of a phone manufacturer or carrier to customize Android as uniformly bad, leading to “fragmentation.” Some developers are starting to push back hard against this viewpoint.

    But the ability of a phone manufacturer or carrier to customize Android is really a wondrous thing, a tool that helps the engine of the free market to give people the crap they’re willing to tolerate for the amount of money they’re willing to spend. If carriers get an extra $2.00 for all the bloatware, somebody’s going to introduce a model that might look a bit different, but has exactly the same electronics, and less crapware on it, and sell it for $10.00 more. Google was premature with unlocked phones, but not by much. If the carrier has the customer by the short and curlies during the contract period anyway, and they see Apple fighting a long, drawn-out, class action about unlocking after the contract period expires, the obvious answer is to sell subsidized unlocked phones under contract. Why would a manufacturer do this? I’d buy a phone like this in a heartbeat so I could slip a different SIM card in it when I’m in Europe. That’s a huge advantage. They’d probably get an extra $50 for that from a lot of customers.

    Advantage: anything except iPhone, because Apple’s not going to be slugging it out for feature vs. cost at the bottom of the market.

  99. Carriers will never go for unlocked phones. They will lose the capability to sell “tethering plans” that simply flip a bit in the phone’s firmware at a $30 per month surcharge.

  100. Sorry, too many meanings of unlocked. Just meant the ability to use on a different network in this instance.

  101. >Carriers will never go for unlocked phones. They will lose the capability to sell “tethering plans” that simply flip a bit in the phone’s firmware at a $30 per month surcharge.

    This assumes they’re going to keep the ability to surcharge for tethering. That won’t last much longer, not given the direction Sprint is pushing its 4G network.

  102. Apple simply does not let this happen to the iPhone.

    In my life, iTunes would qualify as crudware attached to the iPhone. I have no other use for iTunes and find it to be buggy and bloated, my only reason for having would be because I can’t access certain functions on “my” phone without it (“Because it might require me to install iTunes” qualifies as about reason #3 or 4 why I will never buy an iPhone (or an iPod for that matter)).

    Carriers will never go for unlocked phones. They will lose the capability to sell “tethering plans” that simply flip a bit in the phone’s firmware at a $30 per month surcharge.

    And if you don’t buy your phone via a carrier?
    If carriers refuse to play ball on unlocking phones nothing is stopping (for example) Fry’s, Best Buy and Walmart from offering , completely network free. Well except for Apples exclusivity deals of course. It’s not going to happen tomorrow (several people I know were surprised that I’ve never gotten a mobile phone on a plan) but it’s not that great a leap either.

  103. Crud… i always forget about ibiblio squelching tags when i do my < > groupings… that should be :-

    from offering < smartphone offering of the month >, completely network free.

  104. @JonB: Walmart, Fry’s and Best Buy are examples of cellular phone dealers. Even if you buy your phone from “The Sprint Store” or “The T-Mobile Store,” chances are you aren’t buying your phone from “Sprint,” or “T-Mobile,” but instead you’re buying your phone from a franchisee who is, in turn, nothing but another cellular phone dealer. All these places get their phones from the cellco’s warehouse and they sell the phones with a contract subsidy.

    Could a big player like Walmart start buying phones directly from the manufacturer? Sure, I’ll bet it could happen; Walmart grosses $400 billion in sales (and you guys thought Apple and Google were big. Ha!). With that much cash, they’d have no problem getting the big smartphone players to sell directly to them. Of course, Walmart is a pretty conservative company and they’re not likely to piss off the cellcos that way unless someone were to give them a reason not to care about the cellcos.

  105. In my life, iTunes would qualify as crudware attached to the iPhone.

    iPhone, iPod, iPad, etc. are all intended as fashion accessories for your Mac. If you switch to Mac you will find many of the problems and nastiness associated with iTunes go away. :)

    That’s immaterial, however; my real point is that iTunes is a piece of crudware for your computer that’s unfortunately required to help you drive your phone. It is the habit of providers and vendors to load crudware onto the Android phones themselves, where CPU time and memory are even more at a premium than on your PC. My HTC Hero came with some NASCAR garbage on it that I don’t think I can remove. (As the namesakes of the Nextel Cup, Sprint is a big NASCAR sponsor.)

  106. > iPhone, iPod, iPad, etc. are all intended as fashion accessories for your Mac. If you switch to Mac you will find many of the problems and nastiness associated with iTunes go away. :)

    Yeah, you just have to install the crudware that is all intended (by your boss) as working tools on your PC.

    Yours,
    Tom

  107. >Obviously AT&T slows them down a bit domestically.

    When the AT&T contract runs out, it’s Game Over for Android. You read it here first.

  108. >When the AT&T contract runs out, it’s Game Over for Android. You read it here first.

    Highly, highly unlikely. Android will probably pass the iPhone in market share in 4Q2010; the exclusive won’t expire until 2Q2012. That’s two years for Android to build share after it’s the majority platform and the network effects have started to seriously kick in.

  109. Steve Jobs is a prick and is about on par with Billy G at this point. Apple lost all credibility with me when Woz left as he was the only true genius at Apple. Candy-coated GUIs and a religious user base sounds a little too much like fascism to me.

  110. Eric,

    See here:

    http://money.cnn.com/2010/07/23/technology/iphone_4_att/index.htm?section=money_latest

    Second to the last paragraph: 77% of iPhone owners say they’ll buy another iPhone, compared to 20% of Android customers who say they’ll buy another Android phone.

    Android won’t survive the iPhone going multi-carrier in the USA. The number of people who have your political motivation to put up with an inferior product simply isn’t big enough to keep a half-assed Java-based iPhone knock-off in business. Android’s suckage is the same as all previous Java phones.

    See “Linux on the desktop” for the previous example of wishful thinking proving inadequate to Change The World.

  111. @Some Guy:

    The Yankee Group, home of the infamous Laura Didio (among others), does carefully designed studies, architected to create FUD, but with plausible deniability, to maintain a thin sheen of respectability, so that they still have some residual value for the next client that needs a whitewash. But even the author of this Yankee Group study thinks that the “statistic” you quoted goes too far in the FUD direction. Since you are incapable of or unwilling to do even a modicum of real research (obviously preferring completely unsupported and unsupportable assertions from mass market publications), I will now quote straight from a web page of the Yankee Group itself, and emphasize one of the relevant sentences, and then even explain it for you. Please read slowly:


    So what is the right statistic for Android owners? The honest answer is that we don’t know. You’ll note in the excerpt above, we were careful to say “Google-branded Android phone owners”. That’s because our data keys on the manufacturer of the phone as the way to determine what type of phone a consumer owns. Because all brands other than Google make phones using other operating systems. Google-branded phones are the only ones we can be certain run Android. However, restricting ourselves to that category means that we leave out a big segment of Android owners, specifically those who own Motorola Droids and HTC EVOs among others. Clearly these owners may have differing future buying preferences, but our survey is unable to differentiate Android phone owners by these manufacturers from non-Android phones.

    Basically, people who bought a Nexus One will not be buying another Google phone. I’ll leave it as a homework assignment for you to figure out exactly what that means, and what other useful information the study contains. (Hint: it does actually appear to have some other useful information, but I saw nothing particularly surprising.)

    BTW, your example of Linux on the Desktop might be relevant if Apple actually owned the PC market. It might even be relevant if Apple licensed iOS to third party manufacturers. But it’s not at all relevant to the cell phone market today. You can’t compare a market where MS achieved dominance by charging PC vendors less total cash if they only ship Windows and no other OS than if they were to ship 50% Windows and 50% other OS, to a market where those sorts of anticompetitive pressures have never been in place. Cell phone vendors will ship Android, because it is supported and cheap, and Android will become better supported and cheaper as a result.

    In fact, over the long term, adoption of Android on cellphones could actually spur adoption of Linux on the desktop. For example, there’s already an Acer netbook that can dual-boot Windows and Android. As an aside, that must mean that the legal actions against Microsoft are working — there’s no way Microsoft would have let this happen even 5 years ago.

  112. Some Guy Says:

    > See “Linux on the desktop” for the previous example of wishful thinking proving inadequate to Change The World.

    It may not change the world, but when my my 80+ y.o. father does his home banking, he re-boots to an Ubuntu Live CD (with the pretty packaging, and shrink-wrap he expects from software).
    I may not be able to train him to not click on ‘Your PC may be infected’ ads, but his every banking session starts with a clean, known, repeatable starting state.
    Before signing him up, I used to cringe when I heard stories of the geek squad spending hours trying to clean his MS-Windows machine, and I was always afraid a keylogger was hidden there.

    BTW, I have seen reviews of Mint with the common proprietary codecs, so he can watch youtube, hear MP3s, see flash menus, etc. Without these, he cannot simply wipe MS-Windows. Putting aside free-as-in-free-speech issues, has anybody had good experiences with Mint as a consumer OS?

  113. BTW, I have seen reviews of Mint with the common proprietary codecs, so he can watch youtube, hear MP3s, see flash menus, etc. Without these, he cannot simply wipe MS-Windows. Putting aside free-as-in-free-speech issues, has anybody had good experiences with Mint as a consumer OS?

    I run Ubuntu, which Mint is based on, I watch You Tube, hear MP3s, see Flash menus, watch videos in all the popular video codecs, including Quicktime and Windows Media (even when they’re embedded on a site), etc. I even run a few Windows apps under Wine because I sometimes do graphics design work here and there (mostly volunteer) since I used to do that professionally years ago. These days I use Inkscape and GIMP a lot, but once in a while there’s something I need to do that still only exists in stuff like Corel Draw or Photoshop.

    Linux distributions these days are good enough that there’s really not much you can’t do.

  114. > the exclusive won’t expire until 2Q2012.

    Can’t be true. Too many of the terms have changed on AT&T’s end.

  115. >Can’t be true. Too many of the terms have changed on AT&T’s end.

    But it is. See the Engadget story. There’s some evidence that Apple and AT&T have since added codicils that alter some of the details, but the basic agreement must still be in place. If it weren’t, Apple would have strategically leaked that information already.

  116. Page 228 of Paul Graham’s “Hackers and Painters”, contains the following footnote:

    [...]. If Apple were to grow the iPod into a cell phone with a web browser, Microsoft would be in big trouble.

    link

    > If it weren’t, Apple would have strategically leaked that information already.

    Do I really need to explain your logic error here?

    It’s not an Engadget story, you pointed to, either. The site you linked to is 9to5Mac.COM. However, the Edgadget link contained in the 9to5Mac.COM story actually does explain why the original 5 year agreement probably isn’t still in-place.

    Let me Google that for you:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=apple+five+year+contract

  117. >Do I really need to explain your logic error here?

    If you’ve actually found one. Apple would be in a much stronger position if it were known that the iPhone were going to go multicarrier, in particular to Verizon. Apple’s minimax move, if this were a near term possibility, would be to leak those plans while preserving just enough deniability to not trigger a confrontation with AT&T. No such leak had occurred; therefore either (a) Apple is playing stupidly, or (b) there’s no way for it to get out of the exclusive before 2012.

  118. No such leak had occurred; therefore either (a) Apple is playing stupidly, or (b) there’s no way for it to get out of the exclusive before 2012.

    Actually it’s conceivable that the “not trigger a confrontation with AT&T” thing is being handled by the leak not being theirs but Verizon’s. They can hand-on-heart swear that they gave strict instructions to Verizon to keep a lid on it when in reality they’re cheering from the sidelines.

    Having said that, i would have described Apple’s MO as shut the hell up and let people work themselves into a frenzy speculating. So silence wouldn’t surprise me a lot even if, as you say, it’s not the minmax move. That was one thing that stood out about the apple antenna press release. It’s not often that Apple let someone else dictate their press agenda.

  119. @JonB and esr:

    Apple works people into a frenzy in 2 ways: 1) spread rumors by carefully leaking information and 2) spread disinformation. An example of the second is when Apple announced the iPhone 3 years ago, one of the pieces of disinformation that was spread was that Apple was working on a tablet. (Interestingly, Apple was working on a tablet, but it was Jobs who redirected that work to a phone, so there was a grain of truth to that.)

    Chances are pretty good that the rumors of the Verizon iPhone were started by Apple, but that they are of the disinformation variety. Apple and AT&T may have amended the original agreement, and I have absolutely zero doubt that they did (since this sort of thing happens a lot), but it isn’t likely that the length of the agreement changed any.

    BTW–if you’re looking for the grain of truth, the first wireless provider that Apple approached was Verizon and Verizon said no. That’s why the iPhone ended up on AT&T; it never had anything to do with GSM. The original iPhone, at least, was designed so that it could accommodate either a GSM or a CDMA radio; Jobs didn’t care which.

    (My sources for the above information are a Wired magazine article that seems to be no longer available on Wired’s site.)

  120. >>Do I really need to explain your logic error here?
    > If you’ve actually found one.

    You stated: “If [the basic agreement] weren’t [still in-place], Apple would have strategically leaked that information already.

    Problems:

    1) Apple could have strategically leaked same, via Verizon, or any of many other paths with plausible deniability, as JonB points out.
    2) the conclusion doesn’t follow. (deductive fallacy.) Apple wouldn’t need to announce that the agreement had been voided.

    > Apple would be in a much stronger position if it were known that the iPhone were going to go multicarrier

    The iPhone is already multi-carrier, just not in the US. The currently-swirling rumors are that it shows up on T-Mobile in Q310

    Shaw Wu, (an analyst with Kaufman Brothers), stated in a June 10 research note, “While the general consensus is around Verizon (which we believe will happen eventually), we continue to believe that T-Mobile USA is the most likely candidate given its use of similar cellular technology such as AT&T.”

    iPhone 4 supports all the requisite frequencies for usage on T-Mobile and AT&T in the US. The iPhone 3G/3GS did not. res ipsa loquitur!

  121. 1) Apple could have strategically leaked same, via Verizon, or any of many other paths with plausible deniability, as JonB points out.

    This is not a logic error. Invalidating a premise does not harm the validity of the logic merely the truth of the conclusion.

    2) the conclusion doesn’t follow. (deductive fallacy.) Apple wouldn’t need to announce that the agreement had been voided.

    I believe the more fully expressed version of Erics logic is (based on the reply you quote) :-

    There has been no leaks from apple,
    It would be stupid(given the context) to not leak being no longer bound by exclusivity
    Therefore either Apple is still bound by exclusivity or Apple is being stupid.

    If there is a flaw in this logic I don’t see it.

  122. There is one possible flaw in the logic.

    In fact, if I were Steve Jobs, I would not leak the date that you can get an iPhone on another carrier until you can, in fact, get an iPhone on another carrier. Such a premature leak could depress current iPhone sales, as some people will choose to wait.

    In fact, from this perspective, Verizon is the absolute best next choice for an iPhone. Since it’s a large network which can presumably handle the traffic better than others, and since it’s CDMA and not 3G, there are good technical reasons why an AT&T customer would have to buy an additional iPhone to switch. Apple can pick up extra sales without being scapegoated for not unlocking phones.

  123. Shaw Wu, (an analyst with Kaufman Brothers), stated in a June 10 research note, “While the general consensus is around Verizon (which we believe will happen eventually), we continue to believe that T-Mobile USA is the most likely candidate given its use of similar cellular technology such as AT&T.”

    Maybe. There are also the rumors that ASUSTek/Pegatron is ramping up production of a CDMA iPhone 4 with a similar timeframe.

    I doubt that one, too. If ASUSTek really did leak that info, I’m pretty sure Steve Jobs would send his goons to [--violent imagery censored--]

    Patrick’s scenario also sounds plausible.

    However, I still doubt Ma Bell would agree to change the terms of the agreement. If it does happen, I’m betting that Apple ends up making (financial) concessions to AT&T to make up for breaking the contract.

  124. In fact, if I were Steve Jobs, I would not leak the date that you can get an iPhone on another carrier until you can, in fact, get an iPhone on another carrier. Such a premature leak could depress current iPhone sales, as some people will choose to wait.

    Sure, that would invalidate the second premise which would falsify the conclusion. It is not a flaw in the logic it’s a flaw in the argument. And yes i know thats pedantic but my response to people pulling the word “fallacy” out in a blog comment is to assume they’re moving to formal logic because I need all the practice I can get.

  125. @JonB:

    Hey, check my argument and my logic:

    1) JonB posts:

    I believe the more fully expressed version of Erics logic is (based on the reply you quote) :-

    There has been no leaks from apple,
    It would be stupid(given the context) to not leak being no longer bound by exclusivity
    Therefore either Apple is still bound by exclusivity or Apple is being stupid.

    If there is a flaw in this logic I don’t see it.

    2) Any casual reader could easily think that JonB had used the word “logic” in an informal sense to describe the whole argument, especially since the actual logic was embedded rather informally in the arguments. This could be true, even though JonB had previously distinguished logic from argument, because of the informal presentation, and because the argument/logic stood out as a proposed summary of prior postings.

    3) That casual reader could then post a reply, using “logic” in the same informal sense.

    4) JonB could get all pedantic over that and take exception to words like “fallacy” that the casual reader had nothing to do with.

    5) The casual reader could easily come away thinking that JonB was a wanking asshole.

  126. One other potentially interesting platform that’s still under the radar and threatening yet another disruption from below; Amazon’s Kindle. Sales to date are unknown, but likely in the millions, they just slashed the price again to $130 for the cheapest model (and claim a big jump in sales)…

    The dev kit is out now, and apps should be coming out soon – as I understand, it’s somewhat like Android, a java userspace over Linux…

    If they get the price under $100 and functionality up a bit further they could storm the education market…

  127. Apple works people into a frenzy in 2 ways: 1) spread rumors by carefully leaking information and 2) spread disinformation.

    Wrong on both counts. Apple doesn’t spread rumors: they maintain as near to total silence as they can about any upcoming products, so any rumor that a blogger can infer or even make up out of whole cloth gets amplified in the mother of all echo chambers.

  128. Wrong on both counts. Apple doesn’t spread rumors: they maintain as near to total silence as they can about any upcoming products, so any rumor that a blogger can infer or even make up out of whole cloth gets amplified in the mother of all echo chambers.

    Officially they maintain silence. But this year it came out that unofficially and off the record, Apple PR people sometimes seed the rumor mill in order to generate buzz about an upcoming product or project.

  129. But this year it came out that unofficially and off the record, Apple PR people sometimes seed the rumor mill in order to generate buzz about an upcoming product or project.

    [citation needed]

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