During the Apple press conference dealing with Antennagate, Steve Jobs made the case that the iPhone 4's reception issues were something common to all smartphones, including those made by HTC, Research in Motion, Samsung and Nokia. The manufacturers called out by Jobs struck back quickly, with RIM co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie distancing the company from "Apple's self-made debacle" and other executives disputing Job's claims in similar fashion.
Motorola managed to avoid inclusion in the low-reception lineup highlighted during Jobs' presentation. Nevertheless, the handset maker has taken full advantage of Apple's "death grip" antenna woes with a full page ad for the new Droid X in The New York Times Wednesday featuring the tag line "No Jacket Required" in large type.
The copy beneath an enlarged image of the Droid X reads, "At Motorola, we believe a customer shouldn't have to dress up their phone for it work properly. That's why the Droid X comes with a dual antenna design. The kind that allows you to hold the phone anyway you like to make crystal clear calls without a bulky phone jacket."
Ouch. The ad hits just as Apple starts to ship the bumper cases Apple announced it would give away to iPhone 4 users to alleviate any reception problems caused by holding the device by the lower left corner. The ad hits Apple where it lives, not only torching Apple for foisting a technically inferior product on users but one that's ungainly instead of the smartphone model of elegance.
The new ad follows up on a similar print ad Motorola ran saying weeks ago saying its double antenna design "allows you to hold the phone any way you like" in response to a much-publicized email by Jobs telling an iPhone 4 user "Just don't hold it that way" to avoid reception problems.
The Motorola ads also pick up on the iPhone-bashing that carrier partner Verizon Wireless adopted in TV spots around the launch of the original Droid, highlighting perceived shortcomings of Apple device and depicting its users as vacuous Perez Hilton-like socialites. Industrial and robot imagery used in other Droid spots, by contrast, make a hard-edged appeal to high-tech devotees.
For its part, Apple's iPhone ads, most notably its "There's an app for that" spots have typically focused on the device itself rather than slamming rivals. (A new Wired story about the relationship between Apple and AT&T points out that the former refused to help the carrier fend off relentless attack ads by Verizon.) But Jobs' effort to lump other manufacturers in with its own reception problems during the press conference was, in effect, an attack ad against smartphone competitors.
No longer trying to stand above the fray, Apple got down into the mud and mire of the smartphone wars. Facing a bigger threat than ever from the Droid and an army of Android-based phones, will Apple's paid advertising start to reflect more of Jobs combative nature than the company's easy-going avatar in the PC v. Mac ads?