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Cellphones Handhelds Iphone Wireless Networking Apple

Apple Hires Antenna Engineers. Really. 417

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you're-holding-it-wrong dept.
kangsterizer writes "Sometimes, news items are just about a good laugh. You may or may not like Apple, but the way it has been handling its antenna issue has been like a small tech soap opera — Steve Jobs, the CEO, saying 'not to hold the phone that way,' rumors of software issues, and the latest but most crunchy part, since the antenna issue has been widely discovered, on 23 June, several 'antenna engineer' positions opened up at Apple. Seems someone got fired: Antenna engineer job position 1, Antenna engineer job position 2, Antenna engineer job position 3." I just figure they did all their testing in California, where AT&T dropping calls is as common as $4 coffees.
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Apple Hires Antenna Engineers. Really.

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:21AM (#32744064)
    The worst part of this is that I can't tell if this is a troll or just a fanboi. It gets so hard to tell sometimes. I'm guessing troll, because a fanboi would probably suggest sucking Steve Jobs' dick as a solution.
  • by Culture20 (968837) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:23AM (#32744102)

    I just figure they did all their testing in california where AT&T dropping calls is as common as $4 coffees.

    Shouldn't they cost more than $4 in Cali?

  • by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:25AM (#32744138) Homepage

    Specifics? Last time I checked, there is nothing that the iPhone OS can do that Android can't do (and, aside from Android being "open", the reverse is more or less true as well.)

  • by Saishuuheiki (1657565) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:27AM (#32744166)

    Somehow I doubt it was the idea of an antenna designer to put it on the outside where one would hold it. Anyone with any antenna theory knowledge at all knows that your gain would then be changed easily based on how it was held by a conductor (eg, you)

    The only think you could blame the antenna engineer for is not properly stating what a bad idea it is.
    Heck, it's entirely possible they didn't have any antenna engineers and now realize that's probably idea for a product masquerading as a phone.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:28AM (#32744192)

    ...Putting the horse behind the cart?

    It's a perfectly good solution if you're headed downhill.

  • by random coward (527722) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:29AM (#32744194)
    So how likely was it that someone in marketing thought it would be "cool design" to have a visible antenna on the outside of the unit?
  • by Bing Tsher E (943915) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:32AM (#32744266) Journal

    Most companies have a hard time recruiting any good RF engineering. It's not a 'digital' domain and the Educational System just plain isn't putting out many (any?) good RF engineers anymore. It isn't even something you can passably fake with 'SPICE' like some of the lower-frequency analog.

    I doubt if Apple can afford that kind of engineering. They can't even afford mechanical engineers with the skill-set to design a robust replaceable-battery-compartment into their products. (the most recent attempt I can remember is the battery compartment in the Newton, and almost every Newton I have ever seen has a broken battery compartment)

  • Prototype fail (Score:2, Insightful)

    by damnfuct (861910) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:33AM (#32744268)
    It sounds like they didn't have this problem while they were testing them in cases that look like iPhone 3s. Maybe apple will start shipping them with iPhone 3 cases?
  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:35AM (#32744314) Journal

    From the Customer Handbook:

    1. So you say there is a problem if I hold the phone the wrong way? (wait for response). Please show me the correct way.

    2. That seems very impractical and uncomfortable. I'm liable to get hand cramps. Is it true you have a rubber bumper that will fix the problem?

    3. Well since we've established the phone is defective, and this rubber bumper fixes the problem, then it should be free. So I'll give you a choice: Either give me a full refund for my phone, or fix the problem at no charge. Pick one. Or else I and a million other customers will drag you into court, and make your life a living hell.

    4. Remember:

    There's no excuse for corporations to Steal money from customers with inferior or defective products. The customer is not always right, but in most cases the Consumer Protection Laws are on your side. Previous corporations that challenged the U.S. Government typically lost, and the customers received refunds or free fixes.

  • by ceejayoz (567949) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:42AM (#32744442) Homepage Journal

    I doubt if Apple can afford that kind of engineering.

    Tens of billions of dollars of cash-on-hand and they can't afford a few engineers with six-figure salaries. Sure.

  • by B3ryllium (571199) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:49AM (#32744552) Homepage

    Uh, isn't this credit card fraud?

    I suppose, if you had to pick *any* industry or group of companies larger than Apple to piss off, that would be a good one. However, I don't think it will end well for you if you give it a try.

  • by afidel (530433) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:56AM (#32744700)
    You mean like Steve Jobs? Very likely.
  • by epiphani (254981) <epiphani.dal@net> on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @10:01AM (#32744798)

    Yes, because committing fraud is a reasonable response. How about you just return the damn phone.

  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @10:13AM (#32745032) Homepage Journal

    Because that piece of metal is only useful as an antenna when someone's not grabbing hold of it. Even close counts when it comes to RF (try walking around an FM radio with marginal reception), but grabbing the thing with your hand is going to *wreck* it. Apparently Steve wanted too much for it to look like a Leica camera (whose stainless steel bodies were, surprisingly, *not* doubling as antennas) and too little for it to work in every possible situation (like being held by a sweaty person.)

    This is only reasonable engineering if function follows form. I try not to bash apple, I really do, but in this case it's painfully obvious what they are after when they "engineered" this thing.

  • by NJRoadfan (1254248) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @10:16AM (#32745068)

    Maybe Apple should learn a thing or two from Samsung. My Omnia has the following on a sticker attached to the bottom of the battery cover:

    -----Internal Antenna Area----
    For best performance, Do NOT
    touch this area when using your phone

  • by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @10:32AM (#32745348) Homepage

    The primary difference is that you don't have to give up your warranty to do it on Android.

    We already had this discussion here, folks...don't use "just hack the device" as support for an iPhone when you can do the same thing with an unmodified Android device. I'm all for modifying my gadgets, but not when I can buy a gadget that does what I want right out of the box.

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @10:32AM (#32745356)

    BP is now hiring drilling engineers. There's never enough money to do it right the first time but there's always money to try to fix it the second time.

  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @10:38AM (#32745474) Homepage Journal

    Ok, I do have ONE regret about my switch: a unified mailbox. There's probably one in the android market...hmmm brb!

    If you find one, let me know. I am a long time BlackBerry user, and would love an Android phone but it's just not as tightly wound as the BB platform is, especially with the messaging boxes as you said. I love the ability to click "messages" and see anything that's gone on from IM to calls to emails, in one list. A phone needs to save me time first, and be a cool gadget second.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @11:34AM (#32746444) Journal

    >>>Your fault for not keeping copies of your timecards.

    No not my fault. A woman does not deserve to be raped just because she wore a skimpy black dress, and neither did I deserve to be unpaid just because I didn't print my timecard. Don't blame the victim when it is the criminal/corporation that is at fault.

    Besides I couldn't print the cards since no such function existed. (Even the prnt scrn button did nothing.)

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @11:39AM (#32746552) Journal

    Corporations are responsible for the actions of their agents while said agents are on the clock. So sorry I'm not buying your "the corporation is innocent" defense.

  • Re:Bumpers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @11:51AM (#32746766)

    Jobs said let there be the iPhone 4 and there was the iPhone 4 and Jobs saw the iPhone 4 and said it was good. Then he sent them forth to multiply.

    But he never actually held it and made a call with it. That was the problem.

  • by VGPowerlord (621254) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @12:16PM (#32747184)

    How did people make phone calls if their cameras didn't have that functionality?

    They used their mp3 player to make phone calls instead! DUH!

  • by sean.peters (568334) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @12:39PM (#32747566) Homepage

    We already had this discussion here, folks...don't use "just hack the device" as support for an iPhone when you can do the same thing with an unmodified Android device. I'm all for modifying my gadgets, but not when I can buy a gadget that does what I want right out of the box.

    Quite clearly, the Android DIDN'T do what the GP want right out of the box, as evidenced by the overclocking, rooting, loading custom roms, etc. This is neither a hit against Android nor iPhone - practically every device needs some degree of customization to make it fit a particular user's needs.

    I'm not sure where you're coming from on the jailbreaking-terminates-your-warranty thing either. The sequence of events goes like this: 1) jailbreak 2) discover problems 3) restore to factory settings 4) get warranty service 5) jailbreak again.

    I agree that Apple's control freakery over the iPhone is a bad thing. But you certainly can achieve all the same geeky stuff on an iPhone that you can on Android, which requires only a jailbreak, and that's really not that hard.

  • by stewbee (1019450) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:03PM (#32748728)
    So what. I have designed patch antennas for 1.8 GHz on FR4. Yes the design equations are plug and chug, but on FR-4, the half wavelength of 2 GHz is still about 3 inches. Do really think that there is a spare 3 inches on the back of the iPhone? BTW, 2 GHz is the highest frequency of GSM phones. Typical frequencies are around 900 MHz, which then would be about twice as big as the dimensions stated. Ideally, Apple would like to use something like a patch antenna, since they can just fab it with the PWB. Because the size is prohibitive for the iPhone's requirements, you need to get clever; probably more so than you would find in the ARRL. Again, they can look in other publications in IEEE, but those will not always be plug and chug. If anything, you will see that they simulated some geometry that has some desirable characteristics. It will then be on you do the modeling and simulation yourself.

    Additionally, you hand made your antenna presumably. Apple need to make millions of these antennas. Did you model your antenna for any sort of yield analysis to meet the requirements? I'm again guessing no. Do you think that Apple wants some laborer to tune their antennas for them? Of course not. Variability in antenna elements can have drastic effects on VSWR and Q. It would be the antenna engineers job to take this into account also from the manufacturing tolerances and their effects on the antenna's performance.

    Now there is a chance you are trolling, and I realize this, but things around the 1GHz range and above are not easy to design because circuit approximations are generally no longer valid. If you do read the ARRL books, I think that they make a good point of trying to impart this on their readers. Also note how few projects there are that are above VHF in these books even though amateur bands go to 1.3 GHz.
  • by Facegarden (967477) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @03:36PM (#32749838)

    You have metal around the case to bring the front and back pieces together. Why not make that piece of metal useful?

    Sounds like reasonable engineering to me, except for the fact that it ended up introducing a new problem.

    You don't design a billion dollar product based on what "seems reasonable". You design it based on the ideas of the best goddamn engineers you can find, and do exhaustive testing.

    The problem at Apple is that the higher-ups get so entranced in design work that they might push too hard to make their engineers "deal with it". If an engineer told steve jobs "no, you can't do that", Jobs would probably fire him and find and engineer that said he could do it, even if that engineer was either just covering his ass, or was too optimistic.

    And then they required all the testers to have covers on their phones to make it look like an iphone 3G, which masked the meat-to-antenna issue.

    gizmodo posted a good article on the issue yesterday: http://gizmodo.com/5575412/apple-design-vs-apple-engineering [gizmodo.com]

    It is systematic, not accidental.
    -Taylor

  • by MoriaOrc (822758) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @06:08PM (#32751304)
    After a few tries, the interpretation I liked best was:

    $4 coffee is common in California implies AT&T dropping calls is also common implies that Apple testers didn't notice the antenna issue because their calls were getting they were used to getting many dropped calls anyway.

    As a Californian who doesn't drink much coffee and gets cell service through Verizon, I can't make any claims on the accuracy of their poorly written comparison..

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