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An Unprecedented Look At Apple's "Black Labs"

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  • by Chas (5144) on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:42AM (#33028996) Homepage Journal

    Maybe their testing isn't, exactly, "exhaustive".

    • Considering the past 20 years of structural design flaws, as well.
    • by cpscotti (1032676)
      That's not the case..
      To put something like that into market they NEED to do extensive testing.
      The thing with apple is that it just wasn't enough testing... so it wasn't AS exhaustive as the one RIM, Nokia or Motorola does.
      • by MrNaz (730548)

        This "inside look" given to the ABC is just more PR spin to offset the iPhone 4 stink.

        "Hey look how good our testing is. So you see, it *can't* be a product defect, it must be AT&T's network or a software glitch or somehow the fault of Nokia/RIM/Samsung. Can't be us, no siree, we have 'black labs' to do our exhaustive testing."

    • Have you EVER tried to exhaust a Black Lab? I mean, your Golden Retriever may be something to talk about.

      But the Lab? They're indefatigable!

    • Re:Considering ... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sonnejw0 (1114901)
      I think it's QC, not R&D. An Apple store recently opened near me so I got to play with some iPhone4's for a while in the store, and I might go back because I found some interesting things. Two iPhone4's right next to each other, one dropped to 0 bars in the store within 30 seconds of merely touching the antenna gap, the other one dropped 2 bars after a couple minutes of death gripping it. There was NO discernable exterior difference in the phones. I even scratched at the metal to try to see any noticea
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hitmark (640295)

        i get the impression that apple want people to feel the coolness of brushed metal directly. Observe the metal back of the first iphone (before they found it to affect signal quality, and changed to plastic) and the ipad. Its almost as if its a company fetish.

    • by Tumbleweed (3706) *

      Maybe their testing isn't, exactly, "exhaustive".

      Just because the iPhone 4 has antenna problems doesn't mean they weren't known about beforehand and dismissed as "not enough to break the reality distortion field".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Just too easy... does exhaustive testing include: HOLDING THE PHONE?

    Apparently not.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Don't blame the testers. They did their job. Blame the guy that decided to launch the product despite its known performance issues.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        Don't blame the testers

        It's not a problem with testers, it's a lack of testees.

        • Don't blame the testers

          It's not a problem with testers, it's a lack of testees.

          Or ignoring the testers.

        • by Tejin (818001)
          Steve Jobs has plenty of testees, did you see his "Don't hold it that way" response? Testes of steel.
  • by Adaeniel (1315637) on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:43AM (#33029006)
    Apparently, their exhaustive testing doesn't actually include using the product.
  • by not already in use (972294) on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:43AM (#33029014)
    Where Apple tests for flaws in other phones to justify the flaws in their own phones.
    • by Keebler71 (520908)
      No joke... I'll bet recently their competitors' phones have been in these labs more than the iPhone 4g (to "prove" that they have similar problems)
      • by Lars T. (470328)

        No joke... I'll bet recently their competitors' phones have been in these labs more than the iPhone 4g (to "prove" that they have similar problems)

        How silly of them - they could have just gone to YouTube and found tons of videos showing that.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      And even then they have to fake it by showing (at least one) phone(s) that were on minimal battery power and had thus entered a power saving mode.
  • teehee (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:43AM (#33029022) Homepage

    where it puts upcoming products through exhaustive testing

    Does that involve letting Apple fanboys and Apple haters handle the devices, just to be sure they can make sufficiently outrageous claims about the product?

    • Does that involve letting Apple fanboys and Apple haters handle the devices

      They can't let fanboys handle the devices, because then they have to run them through the autoclave and that messes up the electronics.

      • by rjch (544288)

        Does that involve letting Apple fanboys and Apple haters handle the devices

        They can't let fanboys handle the devices, because then they have to run them through the autoclave and that messes up the electronics.

        Fanbois have electronics? No, this can't be true. No fanboi would put themselves in the position where they could be called an Android...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:43AM (#33029026)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fq6sjH1W7hA

  • by Dynamoo (527749) on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:45AM (#33029060) Homepage
    ABC is owned by Disney. Steve Jobs owns 138 million Disney shares [wikipedia.org] or about $4.7bn worth of stock. Anyone else think it odd that Disney is running a puff piece for one of its major shareholders?
    • No, it's Jobs using his advantages. While Jobs owns that many shares, it is about 7% of Disney. He is the largest single stockholder. However, his place on the Disney board might be of more influence. Is it unfair for him to use that position? Perhaps. But judging by the large amount of press coverage this issue has gotten, it is also a scoop for any news outlet that would have gotten access.
      • by hitmark (640295)

        tho the shares may allow jobs and apple marketing more say in the final presentation then they would get with any other outlet.

        and heck, its fun to see apples press presence backfire on them, as i claim they get much more (especially outside the tech press, where they are virtually the only company talked about beyond stock market trends) coverage then their market presence should make one think (but then their products are old school in media creation circles).

        • I think part of the press coverage is the fact they don't do a lot of interviews and stories. When they do grant media access, it's a big deal to anyone who can get it.
      • However, his place on the Disney board might be of more influence.

        I might be tempted to add that perhaps his influence might be better spent on impressionable children.

        Oh wait...
    • by vlm (69642) on Monday July 26, 2010 @10:13AM (#33029380)

      Anyone else think it odd that Disney is running a puff piece for one of its major shareholders?

      Somewhere around 5 media companies control about 99% of what the general population sees, hears, reads, and frankly, thinks.

      So, if a rich dude invests in a major media company, then pretty much by definition there is about a 1 in 5 chance that a report from a major media outlet will be covering one of their own shareholders.

      Its not like we have a free market of numerous equal competitors trying to push commodities in the media world.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        Somewhere around 5 media companies control about 99% of what the general population sees, hears, reads, and frankly, thinks.

        Unfortunately, (or not) Geeknet, Inc is not one of these 5 companies.

    • by Lars T. (470328)
      There is one tiny flaw with your argument - http://apple.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=10/07/18/1239249 [slashdot.org]

      See that? On the same day, 16th of July, they funneled dozens of journalists through those "Black Labs". Now this may have been the only one who has video footage - but lets face it: this is a DUPE

    • by bynary (827120)
      Disney owns ABC. Disney owns Pixar. Steve Jobs sold Pixar to Disney. Pixar is now in charge of Disney animation studios. Steve Jobs is on the Board of Directors as part of the negotiations over Pixar. I don't think it's odd at all. In fact, if I had that much sway in a media conglomerate I would definitely use it to promote my new products or to help put out PR fires.
  • by Moskit (32486)

    Video of the "unprecedented look" is hosted on Hulu, which allows only US viewers.

    Racists! ;-)

  • by kyz (225372) on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:48AM (#33029100) Homepage

    I wonder how much it costs to get your damage-limiting press release videos on to national television?

    Apple are the brand that never make any mistakes. EXCEPT WHEN THEY DO. But that's because everybody makes mistakes, not just Apple.

    It's important to know: all phones are susceptible to the "death grip"... it's just a tiny minor detail, not really worth mentioning, that the iPhone 4 "death grip" is "holding it normally in your left hand".

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Joe U (443617)

      that the iPhone 4 "death grip" is "holding it normally in your left hand".

      Wait a sec, doesn't everyone use a rubber band to hold the phone to their head nowadays?

      • Wait a sec, doesn't everyone use a rubber band to hold the phone to their head nowadays?

        No, most people I know use Tarzan-Grip.
    • by Skuld-Chan (302449) on Monday July 26, 2010 @10:07AM (#33029314)

      Apple's demo videos seem faked. I have a friend with a Droid X and another with an Eris (I personally have a Nexus One - which is very similar to the Eris) - both of which seem to have negligible signal loss no matter how I hold them (at first using their video as a reference). Eris dropped a whopping 6 db signal when I held both hands around the bottom of the phone - and I have really sweaty hands most of the time. There really is no way to just hold the phone like normal or even abnormal and go from full signal to zero.

      The Droid-X actually has two antennas - one at the top and bottom - holding both had similar effect.

      I've only been able to handle one iPhone 4 - and just touching the two antennas on the gap for me (again sweaty hands) causes reasonably large signal loss (I really don't know because unlike Android the iPhone doesn't have an actual s-meter buried anywhere it seems).

      • by Joe U (443617) on Monday July 26, 2010 @10:30AM (#33029632) Homepage Journal

        There really is no way to just hold the phone like normal or even abnormal and go from full signal to zero.

        Sorry, you're wrong, after holding the Eris with both hands, and feet, underwater, on top of a mesa while in a Faraday cage I experienced significant signal loss. While in comparison, I saw absolutely no signal loss after using the new bumper Apple issued (while attached to the 12 ft iTenna, but most iphone users have at least one of them)

      • by hellfire (86129) <deviladv AT gmail DOT com> on Monday July 26, 2010 @10:55AM (#33030054) Homepage

        This is not a defense of Apple, but a statement about how large corporations work. I seriously doubt that the videos were completely faked. As with anything, the results can be spun or manipulated, but there has to be a least a shred of truth, or the lawyer attack dogs would be out by now.

        Apple basically called out every single smartphone developer and said "you all suck too!" and posted videos to "prove" it. Those companies all responded so far with nothing but the same tired PR statements. If Apple was actually slandering these other phones and faked the results entirely, I'm sure these companies would love to have some extra cash plus a chance to smear one of their biggest competitors.

        Now, Apple's video proof is mostly annecdotal since it's one phone and one hand. Yours is too, however. I know people who say they can't make the Apple Antenna issue happen on the iPhone 4, and I see videos on Youtube posted both before and after the iPhone 4 that point out signal loss issues with other smartphones. All of this evidence is, again, annecdotal.

        From a scientific standpoint, you have to admit Apple's doing a good job of basically trying to throw a bunch of "proof" out there and making people pick thru it. It stirs in just enough doubt to make everyone stop and think. The hard core haters and fanboys won't change their mind, but this is like election politics, it's not about swaying everyone, just trying to tilt the balance in their favor.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mjwx (966435)

          This is not a defense of Apple, but a statement about how large corporations work. I seriously doubt that the videos were completely faked. As with anything, the results can be spun or manipulated, but there has to be a least a shred of truth, or the lawyer attack dogs would be out by now.

          I have a very good idea as to how marketing works, I used to work for a marketing^W, sorry Corporate Communications company.

          It is far easier to fake the results you want then to go through an elaborate testing procedu

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dogzilla (83896)
        I don't have an iPhone 4, but I've been following this pretty closely as I'm interesting in buying one. One thing I note is a similarity between what many people report with the iPhone and what you describe with the Droid X. This is borne out by those people I personally know who already own an iPhone 4 - none of them have reported a problem in daily use. Two of 4 report being able to cause the issue although it doesn't affect them in normal use, the other 2 can't seem to replicate the issue. I don't person
        • by jkoke (1112287)

          Another anecdote to offer support to what you're saying. I was at a poker game the other night and noticed that two of the other guys also had iPhone 4s. I asked them about their reception and both said they hadn't had any problems and couldn't replicate the problem -- neither one was using a case. I have a case on my phone now, but I used it without a case for 3 weeks and was able to reproduce the bar drop one time when I was in a fairly weak signal area. It dropped from 3 bars to 1. I haven't dropped a ca

      • by mjwx (966435)

        Apple's demo videos seem faked. I have a friend with a Droid X and another with an Eris (I personally have a Nexus One - which is very similar to the Eris) - both of which seem to have negligible signal loss no matter how I hold them (at first using their video as a reference).

        Steve's only telling a half lie (half truth for the optimistic fanboys).

        He's right in that all phones drop signal when being held but normally it's imperceptible. The effect tends to become less pronounced the closer you get to a

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday July 26, 2010 @10:19AM (#33029468) Journal
      It's more than that: All antennae in the frequency bands used by cellphones will suffer some attenuation if your meaty hands are wrapped around them. You are absorbing a chunk of the radiation. This applies to all brands, and is why many cellphones have an area, or areas, they encourage you not to touch during use. Typically, phones are designed so that you won't tend to hold this part during routine use.

      On the iPhone 4, the antenna is external and does not have a dielectric coating. In addition to attenuating the signal with their meaty consumer-hands, the user can actually modify the performance characteristics of the antenna(for the worse); by being conductive enough to count as part of it, or by bridging the two sections.

      Apple has, naturally, been doing their best to conflate these two distinct antenna issues. All phones suffer from finger-meat signal attenuation. The iPhone is pretty much the only phone in the industry that has an exposed, externally conductive, antenna. Even the old-school designs with external pull-up antennas generally had those coated with plastic, and the user was hardly encouraged to hold the phone by a flexible extending antenna, rather than by the body.
      • by kaiser423 (828989) on Monday July 26, 2010 @10:48AM (#33029930)
        +1. Mod parent up. I think that the iPhone is a great phone, but as an RF engineer I'm tired of two people conflating the issue. The issue with the iPhone is that some RF engineer lost a fight and there's no conductive coating, so you effectively bridge two antennas if you happen to touch a specific spot. That's a totally different problem from the "my hand is absorbing the radiation and weakly coupling to the antenna" that all phones have.
        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          by dzfoo (772245)

          Although you may be right, this is only a problem if the calls get dropped. And it is not so certain that they will as a result of the new antenna design, except in areas where the signal is weak to begin with.

          This is Jobs' point, not necessarily conflating two separate issues. In essence, he is saying "something causes our phones to attenuate signal, but something causes all phones to attenuate signal." The fact that these two somethings are different is not really relevant.

          What's relevant is the degree

          • It's totally relevant why the issue occurs, since one is a minor issue, and the other is a guaranteed dropped call.
            • Except that it isn't a guaranteed dropped call. It's a drop in reception, which may cause a dropped call. Similarly, attenuation can result in a dropped call, although its effects are generally less severe.

              From the user's point of view, the important thing is that the iPhone 4 has an unusually large drop in performance when touched at a certain spot. Nothing else matters.

            • by dzfoo (772245)

              It may guarantee a drop in signal strength, but not a dropped call. A dropped call will occur as a result of this issue when the signal is weak to begin with. However, since the iPhone has higher sensitivity than other phones at lower signal strengths, this issue is still mitigated.

                    -dZ.

          • by dzfoo (772245)

            Wow, "troll"? Really? A response that qualifies and adds perspective to a previous post a "troll"?

                    -dZ.

      • by Lisandro (799651)
        Mod parent WAY up. The issues with the iPhone 4 has *nothing* to do with human hands absorbing RF radiation, and everything with having two exposed antennas right there where it's supposed to be gripped by the user. Theres a good reason why it's the only phone on the market with this "feature".
    • This whole fiasco is really
      1 part Engineering Mistake by Apple (Placing the week spot in an easy to use spot)
      2 parts Anti-Apple fan-boyism (We want to feel cool and smart for choosing an Android phone over the Iphone).
      1 part Apple Competitor egging on.
      1 part viral internet spreading
      1 part non-geek reproducible allowing for non-geeks to confirm the problem, it is easy to show and copy.
      1 part customer problems

      Yes Apple Messed up... But it isn't a huge mistake. I have seen Apple Mess up on their designs for m

  • Hulu sucks (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Ugh, Video is from Hulu and is region restricted.
  • Except Steve will have you shot in the head if you don't do what he says, instead of just turning you into a blueberry.
  • So, what this about Apple's black labrador retrievers?

    Cute dogs always makes people happy.

  • Puh-lease! (Score:1, Troll)

    by Trip6 (1184883)

    OMG, when will the Apple spin machine take a fricking rest? Secretive "black labs?" Sure they aren't killer canines?

    • Apple's main product is spun hype. Their physical products are just the dongle. So it shouldn't surprise anybody that their spin machine never takes a rest.

  • Living in the past and breaking the international web with your territory blocking BS. Screw Hulu
  • ...waterboard/torture room where they jog the memory of people who lose or misplace their prototypes?

  • Apple are currently having manufacturing challenges with the white labs, but they'll be available to the public later this year.
    • The white ones will turn out to be valuable collectors items. Because the market demand for the product is dying * before the white ones can be brought to market. Look for 'White iPhone 4' to be a rare collectible on eBay in about 10 years.

      (*all the true-believers already have theirs. regular folks aren't going to buy a turkey)

  • And yet, (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Iburnaga (1089755)
    And yet they still miss obvious bugs in design. Now, I'm an Apple hater, I admit it, I will never buy an Apple or encourage someone to do so. I don't imagine anyone would change their opinion about Apple after seeing their testing chamber that may or may not have been set up on the fly for the purposes of marketing.
  • ...with 3 steely fingers do the usability tests
  • Call of Duty: Black Labs

  • They did not show Sector C Test Labs & Control Facilities.

    • by mjwx (966435)

      They did not show Sector C Test Labs & Control Facilities.

      They were about to bring the anti-mass spectrometer up to 110% power when Steve had to cut the tour short.

      However he promised to show them the Apple Enrichment Centre and provide cake on their next visit.

  • A top-secret photo of the Black Labs is here [petmafia.com]

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