Apple Engineers Sleeping At Work To Fix Antenna Problem

When Steve Jobs says Apple, Inc. is going to “work our butts off” to solve the antenna problems on the iPhone 4, what he really means is… engineer slumber party! Bloomberg reports that Apple has moved cots into the engineering department, and cars have been in the parking lot overnight as the employees work on a fix.

During a press conference yesterday where Jobs announced the palliative measure of free iPhone cases to soothe those customers enraged over reception on the newest iPhone, the Apple CEO assured consumers their engineers were doing the best they could.

“We’ve been working our butts off in the last 22 days to understand what the real issues are here so we can come up with real solutions,” he said yesterday.

What we want to know is who is going to try to freeze Jobs’ underwear first during these work sleepovers? He totally deserves it.

Apple Sets Up Cots for Engineers Working “Butts Off” on IPhone Antenna Fix [Bloomberg]

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  1. OtakuboyT says:

    Anyone else getting “Pirates of Silicon Valley” flash back reading that.

    90 hours a week anybody?

    • cardigan says:

      That was exactly what I was thinking when I read this article.

      “Better to be a pirate than to join the navy.”

  2. maztec says:

    When did Gizmodo start writing for the Consumerist?
    “What we want to know is who is going to try to freeze Jobs’ underwear first during these work sleepovers? He totally deserves it.”

  3. Benjamin Stearns says:

    This is really creepy. Do people REALLY stalk Apple’s engineers this much? You can bet your ass that Apple is paying these engineers very well.

    • BATMAN!!!hAHA says:

      Fun fact: Apple’s “antenna engineer” position pays approximately 120K, while apple’s staff orthodontist makes approx 250K. Source:self reported salaries on glassdoor.com

    • Donathius says:

      I know an Apple engineering director (laptop/desktop stuff) and he makes around $250k before stock options. He’s a senior director and he gets some serious options grants. That sounds like a lot but considering the area their house isn’t really that big (1700 sq ft). It’s a nice house, but they decided to invest more of their money instead of blowing it all on some crazy huge house.

  4. twophrasebark says:

    Everything – and I mean everything – about Steve Jobs is about the appearance, the pitch, the perception…

    Cots in the office. Cars overnight! This will impress some people. But how many facts did Steve really present yesterday at his press conference? They show videos of other phones supposedly having the same reception problems. But did they provide the data to back this up? No. Again it’s about the appearance. They showed their fancy labs for testing their phones. But did they give any data from their testing results? No.

    And for those who will say “sure they said only blah blah blah people had dropped calls” Apple still didn’t provide the data to back that up. Remember – they never directly responded to the Consumer Reports tests. Or pretty much anything.

    Finally, when all else failed, Jobs made emotional pleas saying people at Apple felt hurt. Hurt! This is a guy who spares nary a word to criticize other companies and individuals. He was so desperate to make any argument that would stick at all that he figured maybe some people would feel sorry for him.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      Thus it has always been. Thus it always will be.

      Apple, like it’s customers, is dedicated to an emphasis on style infinitely moreso than substance.

      Because there are millions upon millions of consumers in the world who also emphasis style over substance, Apple will happily be raking in mad money for a very, very long time.

      • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

        Does it get boring being a hardcore anti-Apple person? I mean, I don’t like Windows (I prefer Mac OS X or Linux), but I like the XBox, and I think a lot of MS’s standards are fantastic (Silverlight). I also don’t really think Steve Ballmer is the best PR-driven CEO out there, compared to Schiller or Jobs. However, I can’t say that Microsoft is “bad” because they take a more mass market approach. I just don’t like one of their products.

        It doesn’t mean I have to go out and insult people who like their products.

        It’s interesting to me how many people make it their hobby to hate Apple and Apple users. It reminds me a great deal of the 16-bit console wars. What is so bad with other people being happy? If I like my Apple products, how does this hurt you or anyone else?

        You have plenty of choices, and so do I. For goodness sake, brush that chip off your shoulder. It’s all good. Tech is all cool. Even fancy designed tech.

        • Zini says:

          I think it’s more about skiting it too apple snobs then hating apple. I don’t use OSX since I need cad and solidworks for work so my main computer at home is a windows machine however i do have a macbook kicking around my house as the communal internet computer and i love the little guy. But i do love making fun of apple to people that are apple snobs. Its just funny how riled up they get i know that its childish but a lot of them will jump on how bad other company’s are and how great apple is. But now that apple had a blunder even if you consider it small they cant see anything wrong and will defend apple to the death. just to be clear its not all apple fans that have this mentality.

    • wootbot says:

      I disagree. There was plenty of hard data cited. For example, 0.55% of iPhone 4 support calls related to anything to do with the antenna or dropped calls. The return rate of iPhone 4s is one sixth of that of the iPhone 3GS. And, again comparing the iPhone 4 to the 3GS, there are fewer than 1 more dropped calls per hundred. Hardly as big a problem as the media are making it out to be.

      • twophrasebark says:

        “Plenty of hard data was cited.”

        That’s not hard data. That’s testimonial. They gave figures without anything to back them up. And — not surprisingly — they only gave “hard data” that supported what they wanted you to come away with. What data did they give that did not support their position? For example, Jobs touts that he received 5000 emails from users that said they had no problems.

        But he didn’t mention how many users emailed him saying they did have problems.

        There’s an expression for that — it’s called lying by omission. Anyone who wants you to draw conclusions while giving you only limited data that coincidentally proves their own position — well you have to judge that on its merits. If you are that easily convinced then I have a bridge to sell you. Here’s my hard data:

        - I own the Brooklyn Bridge.
        - I will sell it to you for $5000.

        Now of course the first thing you can do is check to see whether this is correct. Can you check to see if Apple’s data is correct? No. You can’t. That’s because they don’t want you to be able to check it.

        • wootbot says:

          It is hard data. And citing AT&T data that more calls get dropped with an iPhone 4 than an iPhone 3GS, albeit less than 1% more, is hardly only citing data that supports some made-up position that you seem to think Apple has. It’s a negative, but they cited it anyway because they delivered all the data they had – positive or negative.

          I blame two things. Firstly, only 20% of people bought cases with the phone vs. 80% for the 3GS because they simply weren’t available in enough numbers and choices. Cases solve the problem. Secondly, they screwed up the design by putting a groove at exactly the place where the antenna is most vulnerable to attenuation. A lot of peoples fingers naturally find that a nice tactile spot to rest on, even though that’s the worst place for your finger to be. That’s a problem but, again, it’s solved by having a case on the phone.

    • hansolo247 says:

      Hard data:

      iPhone4 attenuation when gripped “wrong”: Up to -25dBm

      competitors: not anywhere close to -25dBm

      all phones have attenuation when held…but -25dBm is extraordinarily BAD

  5. DeadWriter says:

    This happens at my work from time to time. I am likely paid less than those staffers, and am no less committed. Nobody is paid more when these kinds of days are put in.

    The real question is is it abusive and dose it lead to solving the problem faster. Tired minds don’t work better.

    • ellemdee says:

      My job actually pays less per hour for overtime work. Needless to say, I would not be happy if they rolled in cots so we could work longer hours at a lower wage.

  6. dreamfish says:

    Now you know this, you should follow the official Apple line – which is to shut up and be grateful for what you’re given.

    • mandy_Reeves says:

      Oh I am super grateful for Apple…currently I am hypnotized by my Ipod touch which I bought in March. It’s like welded to my hand most days.

    • TardCore says:

      Or, if you don’t like it take it backf or a full refund. What’s so hard about that?

  7. unchainedmuse says:

    If they’d QAed this design before producing it, there wouldn’t be these problems. In my opinion, someone turned a blind eye.

    • lockdog says:

      Just think…if Gawker hadn’t bought that Iphone that guy “lost” in the bar, maybe it would have been returned to him and he would have been the guy to discover this flaw.

    • CoachTabe says:

      Or it WAS QA’ed and management ignored the results of the testing. Nah, that NEVER happens.

    • Griking says:

      If this is a defect that effects almost all smart phones regardless of brand like Apple claims and Apple DOES come up with a fix for it, and then patents that fix prepare for s hit storm of Apple bashing here on the forums.

      • jnads says:

        It does affect all smartphones, but Apple’s moreso.

        The Nexus One only drops 17db when covered, the iPhone drops 24db when affected.

        24 db = 256 times less power. 17db =

  8. MakingAMillionDollars says:

    Apple was going for the sleek design on this one and the iPhone 4G is really nice. The strange thing is that I bought my son one recently for his birthday, now 24. He has had absolutely no problem and talks on his all the time with no dropped calls. I think it needs to be researched and corrected for those that want to hold it in a way that it gets bad reception, but why not just hold it the right way so it works correctly? I think this has been blown way out of proportion and I am basing it on the iPhone we just bought. I am sure Steve Jobs will get the job done. I mean his last name has the word job in it. Apple is a leader and I personally enjoy every product we have ever bought from them and they are top notch and no I am not getting paid for this, it is just the truth in my opinion. I own 3 iMACS, an Apple Laptop, iPhone, IPODs and will be getting an iPAD in the future. They are all great products. They will get this issue fixed, if there really is that big of an issue.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      This:

      “I own 3 iMACS, an Apple Laptop, iPhone, IPODs and will be getting an iPAD in the future.”

      Explains this:

      “why not just hold it the right way so it works correctly?”

      I could try to educate you on the fact that a phone is not a device that has an “incorrect” way to hold it, but it’s too late for you.

      • 47ka says:

        “I could try to educate you on the fact that a phone is not a device that has an “incorrect” way to hold it, but it’s too late for you.”

        When a phone’s manual tells you not to hold your device a certain way, it’s usually meant to prevent you from speaking into the earpiece.

      • zentec says:

        Actually, it does have a wrong way to hold it.

        The cellular signals are vertically polarized. Holding it horizontally results in a 21dB reduction in signal for both transmit and receive. Applies for all phones, smart, dumb, any carrier.

        Fortunately, avoiding this situation is rather intuitive because holding in this manner makes it hard for the other person to hear you. But it demonstrates that indeed, there are ways that the user can impede the performance.

        I don’t agree with Apple’s handling of the situation. The truth is that the phone has a vulnerability the size of my thumb. And while I consider it a failing of Apple’s testing and the subsequent firestorm a failing of Apple’s PR, let’s not lose sight of the fact that every damned phone on the market can be affected by obstructing the antenna. Apple just made it damned easy (oh sweet irony).

        We’re giant bags of water. 850MHz and 1900MHz signals are greatly affected by it.

  9. jpdanzig says:

    I didn’t think it was possible for any tech nerd to be more annoying than Bill Gates, but Steve Jobs may have attained that distinction in his incredibly defensive press conference deriding other smartphones while not fessing up to the new iphone’s antenna problems. Really now, it seems as if the emperor is looking pretty threadbare these days, if not entirely naked…

  10. lodleader says:

    i know i dont get paid any extra for all the extra OT I put in for my job (SysAdmin for a large manufacturer), but thats why salary is so awesome, right?!

  11. jurupa says:

    It was about time Apple shot themselves in the foot again.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      Why? Won’t make any difference.

      They’re like the Paris Hilton of consumer electronics. Primarily big and famous because they are big and famous, and everyone therefore wants to hang out with them. Underneath, equal parts of condescension and vapidity.

      • jurupa says:

        I take it you are not aware of Apple’s tack record? If you where them you would know why this makes a difference.

      • TardCore says:

        Do you have a life, or do you just troll various forums shrilly bitching about Apple? A wife or girlfriend might be helpful in your case.

        • YouDidWhatNow? says:

          …I showed your post to my wife and asked if she thought I should bother responding…

          “…to a guy who calls himself a tard? Why bother?”

          Indeed.

  12. XTC46 says:

    So what. Ive spent the night at my job several times. I work as a systems engineer for a company that does IT consulting. In the last year, we have brought on some very large client whos networks were is very bad shape, and they werent going a day without server crashes and complaints from their staff. I spent the night with 1 or 2 others each time to work out all major issues, and get them stable by the next day. Working 20+ hour shifts is something I have somewhat specialized in over my career. My bosses know that if we need to, I, along with 1 or 2 others can step up, and work non-stop for 2 days straight and it not be an issue.

    Its part of being an engineer. And I think its something we take pride in. Anyone can work an 8 hour shift and do good work. Work 25 hours straight and have the same quality at the end of it and you have something special. work 40 of the last 48 hours and do the same and its just incredible.

  13. Mike says:

    First I call BS on Steve Jobs on this 100% of the way. The problem with the iPhone is simple. The antenna is on the outside, they designed it with gaps to prevent attenuation. This makes sense, you need for the antennas not to touch in order for them to work. HOWEVER, if you bridge that gap with your fingers you can make the gaps useless and cause attenuation. This is antenna engineering 101. Steve Jobs spent five minutes at the WWDC conference talking about why the gaps were in the antenna and why the design was so awesome, just go back and watch it.

    Steve Jobs then pulls out another phone, the Blackberry and the Motorola, and covers the antennas in those phones with his hand. Blocking an antenna is an entirely different problem than causing attenuation between separate antennas. It is apples and oranges. All antennas can be blocked, but not all phones experience attenuation because there is a gap in the exposed antennas being covered. This was a smart move on Jobs’ part because I now see the Apple parrots repeating what he said like it is fact. NO, the iPhone antenna problem is unique. RIM called Apple out on this issue saying:

    “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”

    So Jobs’ explanation was good enough to placate the Apple fans, but in reality it was a half truth at best.

    All the apologists excuses are lame, including these most common lame excuses:

    1) Just buy a case, everyone does! This is lame because believe it or not, not everyone buys a case. If you watched the WWDC where Jobs introduced the iPhone 4 he spent several minutes talking about the design of the external antenna. If you go to the website right now there is an entire tab on the page for the iPhone dedicated to the design, and it specifically mentions the stainless steel band. So this beautifully designed band MUST be covered up for my phone to work properly? Sorry, that is unacceptable. If you are going to sell me on the design, I shouldn’t have to cover it up.

    2) “I can’t create the problem, nor can any of my friends who all love their iPhones.” Engineering problems don’t necessitate 50% experience rates for them to be legitimate problems. I have known hundreds of people who owned Ford Explorers, but only one did I know who actually had a tire blow out and flip his car. The iPhone antenna problem is inherent in the design of an external antenna. If you have an iPhone and are not experiencing the problem on your phone without a case thank your lucky stars that you happen to have a moisture level on your hands that doesn’t cause the attenuation. Unfortunately, you can see many people DO have the problem. If it wasn’t a serious design problem would Apple be giving away free bumpers AND have people sleeping in the office working on it?

    3) “Look at the stats, hardly anyone had returned the phone because of this problem.” I am going to share something with you. When you work retail, and you run an RMA, you don’t always have time to put the exact reason why someone returned something. Often you just check the box “customer was unhappy” or something to that effect. I used to run RMAs for Apple products when I sold them, so I know first hand. Also, the customer does not always come right out and tell you the reason. Sometime you did learn the full reason until you are already done with the RMA. So Steve can throw those numbers out there, but I can tell you from the front line, those numbers are semi-accurate at best.

    4) “This has been totally blown out of proportion.” This is 100% Apple’s fault. Apple has spent millions bombarding us commercials about how It just works” and how their products are so much more reliable than their competitors. They built their reputation on their reliability. Now they have a major design flaw in one of their flagship products. Hardly anyone cared about the Kin when Microsoft killed it because people expect Microsoft to screw up, and the only commercials MS has been really pushing are those ones where they claim PCs are so much cheaper than Macs. If MS then came out with an OS that was outrageously priced you’d better believe the media would be all over them for it. Apple got caught screwing up in the very thing they pride themselves on- reliability. In some way they are the victim of their own success.

    Sorry Apple, led by Steve Jobs, has been a total prick about this from the beginning. The simple answer they needed to give was: “Hey, our bad. Sorry the external antenna was not such a good idea, here is a bumper.” Instead they went from: “You’re holding it wrong” to “Your signal is not as good as you thought” to “OK there might be a problem, take a free bumper when we get around to making enough for everyone.”

    If you love your Apple products, good for you. But by any objective measure this is an engineering disaster.

    • ZukeZuke says:

      Check and mate. Nicely said.

    • TardCore says:

      Wow, you have A LOT of free time! If you’re unhappy, bring it back.

      /problem

      • Mike says:

        It’s not that I have a lot of time,I worked in the industry so I am aware of the problems that arise. I knocked this out in 15 minutes. What’s great is that people will ask me about this issue since they know I keep up with these things, so if I write out my thoughts here it saves me the time later, I just cut and paste when someone asks me.

        You said “if you are unhappy, bring it back.” Well I have nothing to bring back because I never bought an iPhone in the first place. I used to sell them, and from my personal experience I would never buy another another new Apple product. I especially would never buy a new Apple product with a contract with AT&T.

        I would buy a used Apple. I have my eye on a used G5 iMac right now. But I have no need for the new ones, especially since they went to Intel chips. Hackintosh allows me to play with OSX all I want, so there is no need for me to over-spend on an Intel processor with an NVIDIA video card. Some people need the shiny case, not me.

    • idip says:

      Your number three section is wrong. I think you have some facts mixed up about return rates, and rates of iPhone 4 users calling about the antenna issue.

      I guess as someone in the “industry” (seriously this could mean anything) you make mistakes too :-)

      And like you, there are some things out there I would NEVER buy because I listen to others and don’t bother to try things out for myself and then I trash that product without the first hand experience.o

      • Mike says:

        OK. What mistake did I make on #3. Perhaps you misunderstood what I said. (FYI, I was an Apple Product Professional, I attained the highest level in Apple product training that you could achieve. I sat through hours of training and took dozens of examines to get certified.)

        Steve Jobs cited two numbers in his iPhone 4 press conference. He said the 1.7% of all iPhone 4s were returned, and only .55% of users called Applecare complaining about the antenna issue. What I am saying is that you have to take those numbers with a grain of salt. If you have ever had the displeasure of doing phone support for Apple Products, or any electronic, let me tell you it is messy business. People will call you up with an ambiguous statement like: “I can’t call.” And you can take 500 questions to final figure our what they mean is that they can’t use their bluetooth. Customers are often idiots.

        Now what I am saying is that as much as Steve Jobs likes to think that his numbers are accurate, I can tell you firsthand, just because you check off the box saying the customer was having one problem, doesn’t necessarily mean they were having that exact problem. You could easily mark your form as a bluetooth sync problem when really it was an antenna problem. Three quarters of the way through a tech call you might find out it was a different problem entirely than what you originally though. Jobs throws the .55% number out there like it means something, but I can tell you from my experience it doesn’t. Now if you want to argue that all Applecare calls end up with 100% accuracy in the problems they report you can make that argument. But I know on a good day for me it would have been maybe 60% accurate, or even 75%.

        You also said: “don’t bother to try things out for myself and then I trash that product without the first hand experience.”

        Are you implying that I am being unfair of my assessment because I don’t own an iPhone? Do you know how many hours of Apple training I sat through to get a pin and a little certificate? By your logic you should not trust any art critic because they have never painted a masterpiece themselves. Or you should never let a Dr. stitch you up if they have never has stitches themselves. I sat through hours of training to know these products, I listed to countless Apple reps talk about these things. I demoed and sold Apple products to literally thousands of people. But if you insist that I need to have one in my pocket to speak with any kind of authority then you are free to think that.

    • runswithscissors says:

      + 1000 internets for you sir, well written.

  14. baristabrawl says:

    At least they have jobs. The alternative is that you sit at home, and eat bon bons until they come repossess everything you own because you’re too weak to work the occasional 90 hour week. Seriously? Who gives a shit? In America, you can choose to leave your job or you can STFU and work. Target is always hiring.

  15. common_sense84 says:

    Come on? Is it really that hard? They need to cover the antenna with something non conductive. That is it. No other phones have this problem because no other phone expose their antennas.

    They either need a cover, or a coating. Anything to keep the holder from actually touching the metal.

  16. ZukeZuke says:

    Apple. It Just Works.

    Or not.

  17. BigHeadEd says:

    Never enough time to do things right from a design and testing standpoint, but always enough time to do things over. Typical corporate America: marketing and flash supersede any rigor.

  18. PDQ2 says:

    Just buy a Blackberry. Problem solved!!

  19. CompyPaq says:

    Dear HTC:

    When I hold my phone with my thumb along the right edge, my data speed it cut in half. According to the dBm display on my phone, I have near perfect reception when I am not holding my phone.

    Please fix this issue.

  20. Wang_Chung_Tonight says:

    So-what of the “it’s actually a software issue”?

    Is apple ever going to say “we screwed up and lied to cover our butts”.

    Apple has lost so much rep with me through this one long drawn out debacle.

    Seems big companies just can’t man up what they screw up, like Apple and Toyota. Why can’t anyone be as responsible as Tylenol anymore? Oh yeah-they’ve flubbed up too lately. Despressing.

    • zentec says:

      Agreed. The biggest problem isn’t the mistake, it’s how they kowtow to Wall Street in order to keep the stock price up. Companies do that before doing what should clearly be the ethical solution; just tell the truth.

      I think it would have went a long way if at first they said “we don’t know, but we’re looking into it” and when they found something, announce “yep, you’re right, something isn’t right and we’re working on a fix”.

      • jurupa says:

        You are expecting a business to be ethical? That is like expecting a politician to tell the truth. Its only going to happen when it serves their needs. Besides if you want business to be more ethical then the general population has to be more ethical as guess who runs these companies. People do.

    • Mike says:

      “Is apple ever going to say “we screwed up and lied to cover our butts”.

      No, Steve Jobs has made it abundantly clear. Not only has Jobs made it abundantly clear that he is not going to admit to his mistakes. He also gave the finger to investors:

      “To investors, you know, you invest in the company we are, so if the stock goes down $5… I don’t think I owe them an apology.” he said

      Apple stock has dropped 8% since the release of the iPhone 4. If I was an Apple stockholder I would be a little upset about that. 8% is a lot of money to lose after the release of a product that sold as well as the iPhone did. If you sell a phone in the kind of numbers the iPhone sold the stock should be going up, not down. But don’t add insult to injury by saying you don’t owe your investors an apology..

    • jurupa says:

      Apple a big company? lamo. At best its a mid size company. It only has barely 40k employees. Toyota has over 200k employees. Secondly there are companies that do own up to their mistakes. But lately its been about protecting profits.

      • Geekybiker says:

        Its valued more than microsoft. Its a big company now. Its only through a well executed PR campaign that anyone believes they are the underdog anymore.

  21. Radiating says:

    Why not simply clear coat the antenna? Problem solved. I think some one else suggested diamond dust too.

    • Kahless says:

      This was my exact solution also the problem occurs when you creative a conductive bridge between the two antenna, a clear acrylic coat over the brushed steel would look great and solve the problem w/o raising the costs significantly

  22. shufflemoomin says:

    I would have thought the solution would be to test the damn thing thoroughly before releasing it to market so as to avoid these situations in the first place, but then again, I’m not an engineer so what do I know?

  23. HoJu says:

    You’re all missing the point here. Cots are not going to make a lick of difference. What the boys in engineering need are business hammocks.
    Check downtown in the hammock district. There are several options.

  24. Jimmy37 says:

    COP OUT.

    Jobs is trying to deflect criticism of his asinine decision by falsely claiming everyone has similar antennae problems. If so, it’s a proximity thing, in that the human body will interact with a magnetic/electric field. But in Apple’s case, it’s quite reproducible. Short out the two antenna pieces with your hand and kiss your reception goodbye.

  25. NumberSix says:

    Couldn’t they just make the edge of the phone out of polycarbonate plastic? That’s tough stuff right?

  26. axiomatic says:

    Yeah why again are we punishing the engineers for an obvious management/marketing problem? Typical corporate bureaucracy crap….

    Artists and engineers make and design most everything and marketing/management still gets the highest paying jobs and all the credit.

    Sorry for my side rant but this issue really ticks me off. Maybe they should have listened to the engineers the first time? Eh?