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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

How Often Does Your Phone Drop Calls?


Dropped calls

Slate

During the press conference Apple called last week to defend the new iPhone, CEO Steve Jobs emphasized that "antenna-gate" was an industrywide problem. Lots of other phones, Jobs explained, suffer diminished reception when you hold them the wrong way. Unsurprisingly, Apple's dig prompted an immediate response from Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, the co-CEOs of Research in Motion, the company that makes the BlackBerry. "Apple's attempt to draw RIM into Apple's self-made debacle is unacceptable," the CEOs said in a statement.

The executives went on to describe their company's extensive antenna research, and explained that RIM has "avoided designs like the one Apple used in the iPhone 4 and instead has used innovative designs which reduce the risk for dropped calls, especially in areas of lower coverage." They added, "One thing is for certain, RIM's customers don't need to use a case for their BlackBerry smartphone to maintain proper connectivity."

It was a strong, punchy statement from a company that still maintains the lead in smartphone marketshare. There was just one problem: RIM hasn't revealed any data to prove that its phone designs actually "reduce the risk for dropped calls." On Tuesday, I e-mailed RIM's press office to ask for that data. Would the company tell me how often some of its best-selling phones drop calls? Apparently not. RIM's media team acknowledged receiving my request, but as of Thursday morning, the company hadn't gotten back to me.

I also called Motorola to ask about the dropped-call rate for its phones. In a statement last week, co-CEO Sanjay Jha said, "In our own testing we have found that Droid X performs much better than iPhone 4 when held by consumers." That sounded promising—if there are actual tests showing that the Droid X drops fewer calls than the new iPhone, wouldn't the company be proud to show off the results? Again, apparently not. Motorola's media-relations team didn't acknowledge my repeated requests for dropped-call data.

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