Then Don't Do That

One of my favorite jokes has always been the one where the guy goes to the doctor and tells him that it hurts when he does this. Naturally, the doctor tells him, "Then don't do that." It's a classic. A timeless classic. Granted, it's hard to say why it's funny, but it just is. And whatever the reason, it doesn't seem to have stopped Apple from using a variation of that theme as a remedy for poor iPhone 4 reception.

Here's the deal: The new iPhone 4 came out the other day. And by all reports, the thing is pretty darned cool. But of course, there are always going to be some glitches or some things that don't work just quite the way that you'd expect them (or like them) to work. And according to the astonishingly still in business CNN, one of those things is "...that holding the phone by its metal edge causes mobile reception to suffer." See, because Apple gets all wacky cool with their technology, they've wrapped the antenna on the iPhone 4 all the way around the edge of the phone. Thus, if you hold the phone the way a normal person holds a phone, you're going to see your reception go all to hell because the antenna is being blocked by your big ol' mitt there.

One guy decided to ask Apple's Grand Poobah about this problem. A chap named Amar wrote the following email to Steve Jobs: "Hi, Mr. Jobs. I love my new iPhone4 (nice work) but when I put my hand on the steel bands I lose all reception. It appears to be a common issue. Any plans to fix this? Thanks, Aram." Nice inquiry. Short. To the point. Complimentary. All of the things that you're going to want to have in an email in order to better your chances of a response. What's that? His response? "Just avoid holding it in that way." Wait. That's it? What now?

That's the response. The modern adaptation of "then don't do that". What exactly does he mean by that? The metal bands go all the way around the phone. How are you supposed to avoid touching them? I'm unclear as to how you're supposed to hold the thing if you're not touching the sides. How would you hold any phone without touching the sides? I'm not so sure that a great piece of technology is something that is only great when it's being held in a certain manner. Steve Jobs tends to pride himself on making the perfect piece of technology, so what is the deal with this?

Did the Apple folks really think that people wouldn't notice or complain? It's a worthy complaint. It's a less than worthy answer of "then don't do that". That's pretty weak. When you have a phone like the iPhone 4, you're going to be concerned with your data speeds and your reception ability. To have to hold your phone a certain way seems vaguely reminiscent of putting tin foil on an aerial TV antenna and then having to hold it with one hand as you stand on one foot. Don't get me wrong. I realize that there wasn't enough room in that teeny-tiny little phone to shove in an antenna as well and so they had to wrap it around the edges so that it would fit in there. I get that. But when it's a matter of getting reception or not getting reception, what say you sacrifice a millimeter of thickness and cram that thing in there, OK? I'm not real thrilled about paying a couple of hundred dollars for something that I have to hold a certain way in order for it to work at an optimal level of performance.