The smartphone battleground of today is filled with strong opinions and fierce loyalties. So when word broke that some Motorola Droid X users were experiencing flickering on their new phones' screens, members of the Apple mafia had high hopes.
Let me clarify: By "members of the Apple mafia," I don't mean casual Apple users who simply enjoy the company's products. I mean the emotion-charged superfans who regard any critical remarks about the company as blasphemy -- and leave angry comments all over the Web to make sure the whole world knows how they feel.
After the beating Apple took over its iPhone 4 antenna issue -- not to mention Steve Jobs' defiant response to the problem -- I've received more than a few messages from such folks asking why the media isn't making a big deal out of Motorola's smartphone mishap, too.
The reason: It's a drastically different situation, and it's being handled in a drastically different way.
Motorola's Droid X Screen Glitch vs. Apple's iPhone Antenna Issue
Let's look at the two scenarios, starting with Apple's iPhone 4 fiasco. In that instance, the problem was tied to the phone's design: By wrapping the antenna along the outside of the phone, Apple created a spot that can cause calls to drop with the touch of a finger. This spot is in a place where many people put their fingers during phone calls. (Despite what Steve Jobs claims, it's not an issue present in all smartphones; most phones have internal antennas in areas not commonly touched during normal phone operation.)
The Motorola Droid X screen glitch, on the other hand, appears to be limited to a defect in a single component on a small number of devices. It's not a question of the phone's basic design, from what we know thus far; it's a question of some faulty parts.
The companies' responses are equally important to consider: When users started complaining about antenna-related reception issues with the iPhone 4, Steve Jobs flat-out denied there was a problem. The man known for his magical e-mails curtly dismissed customers' reports, saying the iPhone was fine and that people were probably just holding it wrong. (His exact words: "There is no reception issue" -- and, of course, the classic: "Just avoid holding it in that way.")
We all know what happened from there. In short, Apple released a statement reiterating Jobs' remarks; Apple published an open letter declaring a software bug was actually to blame; Consumer Reports confirmed the iPhone's antenna was the problem; and finally, Steve Jobs admitted there was a hardware-oriented problem, insisted that all smartphones share the problem, and blamed the media for focusing on his beautiful device. He then offered a free piece of inexpensive rubber to all iPhone 4 owners to help keep their fingers from interfering with their phones' antennas.
Compare that now to Motorola and Verizon's response to the Droid X screen issue: The phone launched last Thursday. Soon after, scattered reports of problems with the display started to surface. This past Tuesday, the companies issued a statement acknowledging the glitch -- it affected less than a tenth of 1 percent of all devices, they say -- and offered replacements for all defective units.
That took five days. Apple's response, which never actually accepted responsibility for the flaw, took 22. Putting it all together, it's no wonder the situations evoked such strikingly different reactions.
Then again, maybe we need to "just avoid looking at the facts in this way." I guess it all depends on your perspective.
This story, "Motorola's Droid X Display Issue: No, It's Not Another 'Antennagate'" was originally published by Computerworld.