Antennagate: Only 10 Months to Go

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When will "Antennagate" end? Not until Apple ships a new iPhone model. And based on Cupertino's annual upgrade cycle, that probably won't occur until June 2011--yes, 10 months from now.

When the new handset arrives, it's a safe bet that its antenna will work impeccably with or without a protective bumper or case. Why? Because Apple's next phone must silence the iPhone antenna debate once and for all.

Cupertino claims the iPhone 4's antenna attenuation problem is no worse than that of other smartphones, but PCWorld's tests strongly suggest otherwise. While competing devices do experience some degree of signal attenuation when a user's hand firmly covers the phone's antenna, the problem is much more pronounced on the iPhone 4.

Until Apple fixes the problem, Antennagate won't die. In fact, the company's actions are a major reason why the story remains fresh. This weekend's news that Mark Papermaster--the Apple engineering executive responsible for the iPhone 4's antenna design--has left the company, is a good example.

While Papermaster's exit doesn't necessarily mean that a Great Purge of sorts is underway--that Cupertino is clearing its ranks of employees responsible for a rare and embarrassing misstep--the timing is indeed curious. The New York Times , sourcing anonymous insiders, reports that a series of hardware problems, including some with the iPod touch, led to Papermaster's ouster.

Steve Jobs and the noisy throng of Apple cultists blame sensationalist bloggers and journalists for the iPhone 4 hubbub, but that's not quite right. Remember, "antennagate" only kicked into high gear after Consumer Reports--hardly the National Enquirer--found significant problems with the phone's antenna.

Apple kept the story alive too by posting competitive antenna video tests (since removed) to its website. The tests were designed to show that competing phones, when held in a certain way, lost signal strength as well. For a company that insisted antennagate was no big deal, Apple was defending itself a bit too vehemently. Even worse, it was helping to keep the story on the front pages.

So who's responsible for antennagate? Who knows--maybe the Illuminati and El Chupacabra played a major role. What's important is that Antennagate won't die until Apple launches a new iPhone--preferable one without the number "4" in its name.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter ) or at .

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