Nokia prioritize antenna performance over design

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As a follow-up to Apple's emergency iPhone 4 press conference yesterday, in which Steve Jobs claimed that all smartphones suffered from similar reception problems when held tightly (and also erroneously quoted Nokias as having "stickers on the back that say 'Don't touch here'"), Nokia has apparently responded with a statement, quoted below.

Nokia say:

"As we’ve all seen, Apple had mentioned Nokia in their press conference today regarding the iPhone4. I wanted to take a moment and send you a statement regarding Nokia’s own antenna design and function.

Antenna design is a complex subject and has been a core competence at Nokia for decades, across hundreds of phone models. Nokia was the pioneer in internal antennas; the Nokia 8810, launched in 1998, was the first commercial phone with this feature.

Nokia has invested thousands of man hours in studying human behavior, including how people hold their phones for calls, music playing, web browsing and so on. As you would expect from a company focused on connecting people, we prioritize antenna performance over physical design if they are ever in conflict.

In general, antenna performance of a mobile device/phone may be affected with a tight grip, depending on how the device is held. That’s why Nokia designs our phones to ensure acceptable performance in all real life cases, for example when the phone is held in either hand. Nokia has invested thousands of man hours in studying how people hold their phones and allows for this in designs, for example by having antennas both at the top and bottom of the phone and by careful selection of materials and their use in the mechanical design."

For what it's worth, I've never seen a sticker on any Nokia smartphone that matches what Steve Jobs said. I've also been gathering some data points via Twitter and reckon that, on average, most Nokias drop a bar or two when held tightly in both hands (i.e. worst case antenna coverage), which sounds about right. In contrast, the iPhone 4 tends to drop most of its signal because you're directly touching and bridging the two main RF antennae. 

Jobs demonstrated similar signal loss on three non-Apple smartphones, but rather tellingly he didn't include anything from Nokia, Sony Ericsson or Motorola, the three industry giants who have been making 'phones' for a couple of decades. Apple did handle the issue of customer service quite well, in my view, offering penalty-free refunds and free 'bumper' cases, as appropriate. Whether these measures appease the baying for Apple blood remains to be seen, of course.

(via The Nokia Blog)