The Apple "crisis" has me conflicted, and reinforces my concern about the stature of engineering
It seems like everyone – pundits, journalists, editors, man in the street, analysts, Apple groupies, Apple haters, and even engineers – has to have an opinion on the Apple iPhone RF dropped-call/antenna problem. Of course, we at EE Times have had some insightful comments, "It’s Applegate, not 'antennagate' " and "Apple 'not perfect,' but 'antennagate' overblown " are just two examples. So I figured I take my turn – it's almost an editorial mandate to say something – and here's my problem: I am severely divided in my feelings.
First, I'll make it clear: I am not at all a glassy-eyed Apple groupie who stands in line on the release date for their latest, greatest product; in fact, I don't own any of their products (there's no particular reason for that, it's just the way it is ). At the same, time, I do fully recognize that they have done some outstanding, innovative product design, both in the internal circuitry as well as the user interface, functions, and overall package. And who can diminish their excellent marketing, use of buzz, and the occasional recourse to Steve Jobs' "reality distortion field" to make Apple's wishes look like they are true?
So here's my dilemma: no question, Apple should have checked out the antenna, RF path, and signal-strength algorithm more thoroughly. If there was any data or any substantive doubts or concerns from the technical staff, they should have been pursued and not have been pushed aside, if they were. Quality and consistent performance are important product attributes, period, end of story.
But on the other hand, it seems to me like the audience – paying customers and commentators – have become a bunch of whiney crybabies who just live to pile on. You'd think dropped calls were the only thing they had to worry about in their lives. Worse yet, it's symptomatic of the dilemma that engineers have created for themselves, by creating almost unimaginable technical miracles (not too strong a word, IMO) and by doing so, have diluted any sense of awe or appreciation.
I'd hope people would say "this iPhone (or whatever product) is truly amazing, how did you do it?". Well, I guess I should just dream on. Instead, people moan and groan and cry that it is less-than-perfect. All I can think is "Oh, boo-hoo, you poor baby" and "you have absolutely no idea what it takes in multiple technology disciplines and tradeoffs to conceive of, design, and make a device such as an iPhone, and yet you whine and have an attitude of 'gimme, gimme, I'm entitled to everything, and more' ".
I addressed this problem in a recent columns "Opinion: For engineers, no good deed goes unpunished" and "Comment: Laser or Lady Gaga, what's our priority?", and nearly every day I see further confirmation of my thesis. I wish I could be proved wrong, I really do, but I don't see it happening. But I can still hope, can't I??