HTC, BlackBerry, and Nokia to Apple: Don't Drag Us Into Your Antennagate Mess

iPhone 4 antenna

Antennagate (side note: the "-gates" are just getting more and more frivolous, aren't they? I'm talking to you, roommate responsible for ToiletPaperGate) has been a PR disaster for Apple, worse than they've seen in years. Apple's response on Friday has been decried as smug, unapologetic, and condescending--but that's nothing compared to the words of Apple's smartphone competitors.

During Friday's conference, Steve Jobs claimed that all smartphones inherently suffer from antennae susceptible to interference. Jobs even demonstrated some of the iPhone's leading competitors dropping calls when held in the problematic "death grip" that fells the iPhone's reception, including RIM's BlackBerry Bold, HTC's Droid Eris, and Samsung's Omnia II.

Three competing companies--RIM, HTC, and Nokia--weighed in this weekend, slamming Apple for what they see as an uncalled-for attack on their products, solely perpetrated to shift deserved blame for a major design flaw away from Apple.

Said RIM, whose BlackBerry smartphones are the market leader here in the States:

Apple's attempt to draw RIM into Apple's self-made debacle is unacceptable. Apple's claims about RIM products appear to be deliberate attempts to distort the public's understanding of an antenna design issue and to deflect attention from Apple's difficult situation. RIM is a global leader in antenna design and has been successfully designing industry-leading wireless data products with efficient and effective radio performance for over 20 years. During that time, 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.

Nokia, the world market leader in the smartphone category, issued a statement that doesn't name Apple explicitly--though it might as well have:

Nokia has invested thousands of man hours in studying human behavior, including how people hold their phones for calls, music playing, web browsing and so on. As you would expect from a company focused on connecting people, we prioritize antenna performance over physical design if they are ever in conflict.

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.

HTC, makers of leading Android phones like the Evo 4G, Google Nexus One, and Droid Incredible, spoke to Pocket Lint, saying its own complaint rates for the HTC Droid Eris's antenna are lower than the numbers Apple reported in Friday's press conference--only 0.16%. Apple's antenna complaint rates for the iPhone 4 are 0.55%. HTC's PR chief said, "We have had very few complaints about signal or antenna problems on the Eris."

Though only RIM's response can qualify as a "snap!," these three companies are clearly a bit pissed off that Apple dragged them into its own screw-up, especially since none of the manufacturers called out by Apple have endured this kind of controversy.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in San Francisco (no link for that one--you'll have to do the legwork yourself).

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