Some of the world's biggest cellphone makers sent a strong signal Monday to Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs: The iPhone 4's antenna problem is his alone.
In strongly worded rebuffs of Jobs' claims that reception problems are an industrywide issue, HTC Corp., Research in Motion, Nokia Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. and Motorola Inc. said the kind of signal loss plaguing the new iPhone 4 does not afflict their handsets.
"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," the BlackBerry phone maker said.
RIM, based in Ontario, Canada, said it avoided antenna designs similar to the one Apple used in its newest iPhone.
RIM and the other companies said their antennas are packed inside the plastic cases of their handsets to avoid well-known problems with antennas in exposed metal casings. The iPhone 4's antenna is in a steel frame that wraps around the device.
"Humans have moisture, salts and all sorts of stuff in the skin that can interfere with reception," said HTC spokesman Keith Nowak. "Antennas are high-tech pieces of equipment, but they're very sensitive, which is why you don't want external sources touching the metal."
Apple declined to comment on the backlash from its Friday news conference, where Jobs stated that poor reception is "certainly not unique to the iPhone 4."
"You could go on YouTube and see videos of Nokia phones and Motorola phones and other phones doing the same thing," Jobs said at the company's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.
His presentation followed Consumer Reports' announcement last week that the magazine could not recommend Apple's newest phone because it drops too much signal when held a certain way, alluding to an apparent design flaw in the antenna.
In defending the iPhone, Jobs showed videos of the BlackBerry Bold 9700, the HTC Droid Eris and the Samsung Omnia II losing signal strength when held in certain ways. He offered free rubber cases, called bumpers, to all customers who bought or will buy the iPhone 4 by the end of September.
"We had no clue we'd be called out in the press conference," HTC's Nowak said. "We have absolutely no context into how that video was made, where it was filmed, what the reception was like. We didn't know what was going on."
And iPhone 4 users have complained to Apple about reception problems at a much higher rate than Droid Eris owners have complained to HTC, he said.
Charles Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research, said Jobs could have gotten his point across without mentioning rival phone makers.
"It's not fair to make the claim without providing more concrete testing methodology," Golvin said. "What they showed didn't evince careful engineering and comparison of their competitors."
Kenneth Dulaney, an analyst with research company Gartner Inc., said it's understandable that Apple rivals would be upset.
BlackBerrys dominate the U.S. smart phone market, he said, so industry experts would have heard about similar antenna problems — had they existed.
"We didn't hear that," he said.