Big Fiction Writing Opportunity – co-creating the news

Ever since the iPhone 4 was released thousands of people have contributed to a huge shared fictional world centered on the “iPhone antenna problem.” Everyone has an opinion including many, often the most angry posters, who have never touched the iPhone. We have two iPhone 4 units that replaced our iPhone 3GS models on release day. It is absolutely true that bridging the gap with the “grip of death” has the effect of dropping the signal bars in the display and often, but not always, dropping calls and lowering 3G data services. I can see website loadings slow down if the iPhone 4 is held a certain way. But not always.

The fiction is coming from the human nature to demand an explanation for all things, and increasingly an explanation in Hollywood terms, in which there is a single bad villain (possibly assisted by minions in orange jumpsuits) who must be found and captured or killed. So bloggers take positions on self-appointed moral grounds and demand that Apple fix the problem, or when Apple fixes the problem it will cost $1.5 billion. Yet, while there is certainly reproducible, unexpected behavior with the iPhone, there’s no evidence that there is a villain to kill or design defect to fix. All we know is that there exists some symptoms of behavior in the device.

Apple will shortly (within the next ten minutes) hold their press conference and hopefully resolve the plot. Predictions range from: “Apple will deny the problem, piss off everyone and the stock will nose dive,” to my own estimate, that the iPhone 4 is unusually sensitive to its environment and requires some refinement in the software and possibly user expectation to work best.

We will know shortly.

My purpose in writing is to call attention to the ongoing co-creation of a world view simply by the use of foreshadowing, creation of suspense and involving the reader emotionally by tying a few observed events, to a range of possible dramatic situations. Mystery writers call this technique “red herrings.” Can you make money writing red herring news? Sure. If you can drop Apple stock by a few percent, you can clean up on short sells. The profits are greater than selling a mystery novel.

Here’s an example of a benign ¬†explanation of the iPhone dropping calls. Fact: the iPhone 4 is a more sensitive device than the previous models and competitive phones. Fact: the iPhone 4 can find a real signal where other phones can’t. Fact: sometimes an iPhone 4 drops calls where other phones either couldn’t make them at all, or they do not drop calls. A Hollywood plot calls for their to be some crucial defect in the phone that causes this. Is it however, a defect if the iPhone 4 can find service where others can’t–even if it sometimes loses the call? Cell towers (hopefully) are set up in circular patterns that overlap at the edges to provide service continuity. The places where service doesn’t overlap (or is blocked by a mountain or large metal buildings) is called a dead zone. A cell phone calling from the edge of one tower’s service is probably also at the edge of more than one cell tower. Not quite overlapping circles that almost touch; get it? So a traditional cell phone may see no service or one tower that it holds on to and keeps a call going. Because the iPhone 4 is the more sensitive phone (most everyone agrees this is so), it may see several choices of signal, gets confused and drops the call. Possible? I’m not an antenna engineer but I did waste a lot of my yoot tuning short wave receivers listening to ham radio. Is this a defect, a simple behavior, or an easy software fix? ¬†We are about to find out.

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