iPhone-Style Antennagate Hits a Hypocritical HTC

The handset maker defends signal drop-out problems with its HD7 phone, notes that the effect is “inevitable.” Conveniently it seems to have forgotten it said the opposite when calling out Apple over the iPhone “antennagate” affair.

HTC antennagate


HTC’s HD7 handset is a sweet piece of hardware. It boasts a monstrously big screen, the hot-ticket Windows Phone 7 OS, 720p video recording, a handy little kickstand… and a signal attenuation problem when you hold the phone in a certain way. That’s according to numerous users who are aggravated at their new phones’ dropped calls.

Does this sound familiar? Oh yes, antennagate. Apple hit the headlines shortly after the launch of the iPhone 4, which sports a “revolutionary” antenna in which the metal frame of the phone itself is used to transmit and receive radio signals. Some people reported that when they held the phone a certain way (the “deathgrip”) they could see the signal strength drop on the phone’s screen. Others complained the phone dropped calls too frequently. All kinds of nonsensical legal threats were made.

We noted that the entire affair was overblown, partly because the scientific questions are actually pretty complex, partly because the media seemed keen to take Apple down a notch or two. Our take was, however, pretty rare at the time. The CFO of HTC, Hui-Meng Cheng, felt compelled to get a dig in at Apple’s expense, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal: “The reception problems are certainly not common among smartphones,” he said. “[Apple] apparently didn’t give operators enough time to test the phone.”

Now HTC is defending its HD7 handset with the following statement: “Quality in industrial design is of key importance to HTC. To ensure the best possible signal strength, antennas are placed in the area least likely to be covered by a person’s face or hands while the phone is in use.” Which, of course, is true–firms like HTC and Apple have extensive testing facilities to ensure that antennas work properly. Then there’s this line:

However, it is inevitable that a phone’s signal strength will weaken a little when covered in its entirety by a user’s palm or fingers.

So is this a classic example of corporate double-speak? Perhaps Cheng will call Jobs to apologize–assuming, of course, that he can get a signal.

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