The problem: The antenna design (on the exterior of the iPhone 4) is vulnerable to performance problems based solely on how the user holds the phone to their head. Signal strength degrades appreciably when users touch a certain corner of the phone.

The antenna problem that caused Consumer Reports to deny endorsing the iPhone 4.0 has been strenuously rebutted by Apple CEO Steve Jobs who complained about the media frenzy and about how the issue has been blown out of proportion. ‘Antenna-gate’, according to RIM and Motorola is a design flaw of Apple’s own making. (See Wall Street Journal article).

Last week, Apple’s CEO showed videos of similar problems with other competing smartphones, reported that customer complaints were off 50% from previous phone releases and that customer returns were only a third of previous releases. Jobs also announced that Apple would issue a free phone cover to all customers. The cover prevents hand contact with the weak spot.

According to some observers, these steps significantly reduced the negative commentary on the Internet (blog and commentary tracking companies report on how your brand relates in real-time). But, as the WSJ reports, is this an Apple-specific issue, or is it true that other smart phones suffer the same issue?

RIM defended themselves with this statement issued on Saturday from co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie (day after Jobs’ press conference):

“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.”

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