The Business-Technology Weave

Jul 15 2010   1:34PM GMT

Apple iPhone 4 – Maybe It Should Have Been Called the “aPhone”

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

I think the Apple iPhone should have been called the aPhone. For us, the public, the “a” could have stood for “Apple.” More on what the “a” could have stood for in a minute.

Apparently, the new iPhone 4 has a metal antenna surrounding the phone – this yields a lighter, thinner handset. (My present phone is so thin and light that it verges on a point of diminishing return – that is; it’s so small that pressing icons and onscreen keys with speed and accuracy is becoming a challenge even for my modest size fingers). Apparently this design yields another “return” (and bad outcomes are most definitely returns on what you do): That of dropped and degraded calls.

Consumer Reports will not now endorse the iPhone 4, which has impacted the company’s stock and increased pressure on Apple to issue a fix. [Source: Peter Burrows and Connie Guglielmo, Bloomberg.com]. In fact, the possibility of a recall is very real.

For engineers, the “a” in my proposed aPhone would have stood for “antenna.” It seems there were several warnings from a variety of people regarding the antenna’s poor performance: An Apple “senior engineer and antenna expert,” Ruben Caballero, told CEO Steve Jobs that the design of the antenna could cause dropped calls. Also, a carrier partner voiced concerns specifically about the antenna.

Despite the sophistication in engineering involved, the concept of an antenna seems to be a pretty simple one: it must transmit and receive signals – and, it must do that with strength, fidelity, and regularity. Cutting corners on so rudimentary a concept, in service to design aesthetics, and having speed-to-market with the latest, lightest, thinnest whatever doesn’t make a whole lot of sense – to me.

In the course of my consulting, I see more and more cutting of corners – frequently to save money, but often because people seem to be losing the ability to perform due diligence. Then, when something (wholly preventable) happens, the fix is twice or more the price.

Apple’s priority seemed to be putting the gimmick of looks, with attendant sliver of weight and thickness benefit, ahead of the primary concern: reliable functionality.

Don’t you do that; engineer systems and tools for functionality and reliability.

July 15th: On this day in 1869, margarine is patented in Paris, for use by the French Navy.

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