updated 11:54 am EDT, Tue September 18, 2012
Bezel gap antenna patent awarded
The US Patent Office has granted Patent No. 8,270,914 to Apple, covering "Bezel gap antennas." The antenna design described in the patent is the same one that led to Apple's much publicized "antennagate" saga in 2010 with the iPhone 4. The design gives Apple the freedom to make their smartphones smaller, but initially it served as a rare distraction in Apple's marketing efforts for the iPhone 4.
With the aim of "[satisfying] consumer demand for small form factor wireless devices," Apple designed the iPhone 4 so that the metal band going around the device both provided structural support to the device and incorporated elements of the cellular and Wi-Fi antennas.
The industrial design of the then-new iPhone received no small amount of praise, but flaws in the design became apparent upon the smartphone's release. Reports emerged that reception on the phone could be adversely affected depending on the way a user held the device, leading to dropped calls and a general inability to connect. Initially, Apple's response was to tell iPhone 4 owners "don't hold the phone like that." Apple's competitors pounced, belittling the iPhone's reception problems in ads while Apple insisted it was working on the problem.
Apple eventually decided on free cases and refunds for dissatisfied owners, all the while maintaining that antenna issues weren't particular to the iPhone 4. A class action lawsuit was eventually filed, one which Apple settled earlier this year for the option of either a free bumper case or $15 for eligible iPhone 4 owners.
Apple eventually fixed the problem with the iPhone 4's successor, the iPhone 4S. That model implemented a dual-antenna system that switches if an owner's hand attenuates the signal in one area. The patent granted most recently was initially filed for in December of 2009, six months before Apple unveiled the iPhone 4.