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Blame iPhone Antennagate on AT&T, Not Apple

New research shows reception issues plague users of 3GS more than iPhone 4.

Blame iPhone Antennagate on AT&T, Not Apple
Steve Jobs iPhone

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New research backs up Steve Jobs’ claims that Antennagate is a just a whole lot of hoopla.

Apple’s been getting pummeled for Antennagate, as it’s been dubbed, the controversy over whether a design flaw in the iPhone 4 has caused reception problems. Several weeks ago, Jobs shot back in a press conference at the criticism, blasting other phone companies for similar reception issues and touting Apple’s anechoic chambers.

The report, released today by research firm ChangeWave, suggests that despite widespread complaints from fanboys, users have experienced fewer dropped calls with Apple’s latest iPhone iteration than users of the 3GS. The survey found that 5.2% of iPhone 4 owners reported frequently experiencing dropped calls, compared with 6.3% for 3GS owners.

Such a conclusion suggests that it’s not a “death grip” or design flaw plaguing the device, but the phone’s carrier. “The biggest Achilles’ Heel for the iPhone 4 remains AT&T with 27% of owners saying they don’t like the Requirement to Use AT&T’s Network and 24% disliking the Coverage, Speed, [and] Quality of AT&T’s 3G Network,” writes Paul Carton, VP of research at ChangeWave. Indeed, the top gripes among iPhone users all relate to AT&T–not Apple.

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This comparison between the iPhone 4 and 3GS is the only valid test for Antennagate, and it’s one Jobs should’ve demonstrated during his response. While he mostly chose to go after competitors, knocking Nokia and BlackBerry for having similar reception issues, he should’ve gone after AT&T. A straight comparison between the two iPhone versions would’ve put an end to the brouhaha. Instead, Jobs mentioned the 3GS only to explain that there has been less than 1 additional call dropped per 100 on the iPhone 4. ChangeWave’s research shows that consumers actually hadn’t noticed the difference.

And why should they? Consumers overall have been remarkably satisfied with the iPhone 4 and have been returning the device at record-low rates (1.7% vs. 6% for the 3GS). Moreover, about three-quarters of users are very or somewhat satisfied with Apple’s proposed solution (the free bumper).

What accounts for the disparity in customer satisfaction between the iPhone 4 and 3GS? If this latest report is to be believed, it’s crosshairs wrongfully aimed at Apple rather than AT&T.

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About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.

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