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iPhone 4, Antennagate and Feet of Clay.

iPhone 4, Antennagate and Feet of Clay.

I was in the Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus, New Jersey on the day the iPhone4 was released. It took me a moment to figure out the long queues and beleaguered security staff keeping the fanboys in line.

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Since neither my wife nor I are Apple iPhone users it wasn’t until we pushed thru the crowds of sweaty, anxious worshippers to see an Apple Store waiting like the surreal light at the end of the spiritual tunnel that we realized that it wasn’t Lady Ga Ga or some other celeb but the iPhone launch.

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The demographics in the crowd were interesting as pretty much every age, race, group or gender was represented. We kept on walking intent on getting our shopping done and me a double espresso stat.

Subsequently, the issue of the dropped calls due to contact between user’s fingers and the internal antennae became big news. I have to wonder how people who invested in the iPhone4 feel about the bug, the failure to deal with this prior to release and Steve Jobs’ response.

From what I have seen the iPhone4 is Apple’s usual excellent combination of features and design and continues to change the game for their competitors (bugs aside).

As you might know QA is what I do and yes, I have some Cellular and Software / Hardware testing experience as a manager and a hands-on tester. I have seen a lot of QA folks in forums and LinkedIn groups seemingly point fingers at the Apple QA staff for this bug slipping through. QA professionals see themselves as  guardians of product quality or sometimes the last line of defence before product release.

I will start by saying I have no idea what happened whether the device was not tested under user conditions, there are no left-handed QA in Apple, Foxconn couldn’t produce enough devices for them to test on so emulators were used or if Product Management knew of the bug but decided to release on schedule anyway. At this stage, Only the Shadow Knows.

I’m not going to speculate about that but I am going to refer you back to a quote from a Download Squad article I have referred to in past blog pieces: Download Squad ,

“We’ve been there before, and intermediate layers between the platform and the developer ultimately produces sub-standard apps and hinders the progress of the platform."

This is Steve Jobs explaining why Apple is imposing  .. the developer restrictions that Apple have imposed locking out such platforms as Adobe’s Flash to iPhone converter in the impending CS5. (See my previous blog piece The Empire Strikes Back- Is Apple Risking an EU Slapdown-)

The current fix for the problem is called The Bumper, a non-conductive sleeve that prevents the user’s fingers coming in direct contact with the antennae in the frame of the device but which also prevents the iPhone from being placed directly into the dock.

Those wits amongst us may see the concept of a rubber or latex sleeve to allow "safe calling" as amusing and perhaps even rename it an iCondom but I’m sure to the folks who placed their faith in Apple to deliver a new phone that was well tested this is no laughing matter.

I’m not going to indulge in lecturing Steve Jobs or Apple on good QA process, heeding the warnings of your testing staff or even on not casting aspersions on the QA of Adobe and other 3rd Parties by comparison.

Apple is where they are today because of the brilliant designs and products but mainly because their customer base believes in them and continues to put their money where their beliefs are.

The thing to remember, particularly if you are looking for a good QA professional is that QA is the counterbalance to customer dissatisfaction and ultimately the best tool you have for customer retention. This is the best reason for QA to continue to include end-user testing or real-world test cases in their tests.

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