We’ll leave serious industry matters aside this week. (If you must, you can wade into Apple’s Q3 numbers here, or luxuriate in the impending ouster of Nokia CEO OPK and consider the list of possible replacements.)

Instead, we’ll look into the fun side of Apple’s antenna, or antennas (not antennae, a solecism from last week. A reader reminded me that antennae is reserved for actual bugs, as in insects.)

As they always do, savvy entrepreneurs immediately saw how to convert a problem into an opportunity, how to spin an unintended “feature” into $$.

Tongue-in-cheekiest of them all, we have Antenn-aid:



Nothing more need be said.

Etsy’s offering is a bit less subtle:



(and the pricetag is $4, not the $29 shown in the picture.) The label is a intentionally contradicatory: Placing the sticker over the gap will prevent involuntarily dropped calls, but the humor (and the product) works.

Let’s talk bumpers.

I like the sleek industrial design of the iPhone 4 but because the bumper and the charging dock are mutually exclusive, I’ve remained defiantly “unprotected.” I should have known better. One small slip of the hand, one bounce off the concrete and…



The local Apple store folks tried to console me: ‘Oh, this is nothing. Do you know why we have moisture sensors inside the iPhone? No idea? Ok, what’s the smallest room in your house? Yes, that one. The phone slips out of the jeans pocket and…”

I got luckier when I ordered a custom decal for the back of my iPhone. GelaSkins, a gem of a Canadian company, make skins for laptops, smartphones of almost any brand, and now iPads. Over the years, they’ve managed to incorporate interesting art, from Van Gogh to punk and Japanese street art (you can see their gallery here)

Recently, they’ve started offering custom skins: Create your very own special decal showing a picture of your family, your dog, your yacht or even your boss (if you think that will help). You upload a picture, crop it to fit your phone or laptop and they’ll ship you a neat decal printed on a clever 3M adhesive. It’s clever because it works for klutzes such as yours truly: Tiny channels crisscross the sticky side of the decal. One quick swipe and the air bubbles magically disappear. And, of course, no one gets the placement right the first time, or the second, or even the third (I know this from personal experience). With the GelaSkin adhesive you can try again and again until you get it right.



(Full disclosure: I have no relationship with GelaSkins other than being a full-price, satisfied customer.)

For my older iPhone, I submitted a picture from a now defunct art store on rue Saint Placide in Paris:



When I got my new iPhone 4, I repeated the process with the same picture and got a welcome surprise. GelaSkin knows the difference between the 3GS back skin:



…and the back of the iPhone 4:



The arrows at the top right point to three holes: one for the Mute button, the other two for the + and - keys on the phone’s side. Furthermore, the skin incorporates a correctly placed cutout for the camera and LED flash:



What I didn’t expect were two separate wrap-around skins for the phone’s sides, yielding this:



Reacting to critics, Apple has pointed to the weak spot on its interesting Antenna Performance page…



..but my custom skin covers the sides and the weak spot is “healed”:



Is it modesty or merely a combination of luck and ignorance? The Gelaskins site makes no mention of the “bonus feature”.

Let’s turn to an even sunnier side of the street. During his years at Pacific Bell, Scott Adams created the long running and still sharp Dilbert comics series, lampooning corpocatric culture and the drones infesting large organizations. You can find Scott’s insight into Job’s handling of the iPhone antennas problem (The High Ground Maneuver) on his blog. And, while you’re there, take a look at his weigh-ins on the iPad and Active Listening. I feel a little embarrassed to have only recently discovered Scott’s blog, but I’ve entered it into my Google Reader subscriptions.

One more Monday Note next week, then we go on break for two weeks.

JLG@mondaynote.com

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