Apple responds to iPhone 4 reception attenuation issue: ‘A fact of life for every wireless phone’

Invisible Shield for Apple iPhone 4!“The ‘iPhone Death Grip’ is somewhat real, but it’s more subtle than a lot of people have been putting on. It’s not a deal breaker and it’s not a reason – by itself – not to buy the iPhone 4,” Sascha Segan reports for PC Magazine. “But the nearly hysterical online reaction to the death-grip news reveals what people are really thinking.”

“First, Apple has issued an official statement, with which I completely agree,” Segan reports. “‘Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone,’ Apple said. ‘If you ever experience this on your Phone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases.'”

“If I hold the phone in a slightly sweaty left hand, with my fingers covering the three black lines on the phone’s edge and the bottom left corner in my palm, signal strength is somewhat reduced. If I had to pick a number out of the air, I’d say it’s by 3 to 5 decibels per milliwatt (dBm). Feel free to correct me if you have the appropriate lab equipment. The hand involved has to be a little sweaty to encourage conductivity, or the trick might not work,” Segan reports. “This doesn’t have any effect on connecting voice calls in areas with a strong signal, but it can make the difference between connecting and not if you’re already in a fringe signal area.”

Read more in the full article here.

Arnold Kim reports for MacRumors, “Several readers have pointed out that, as per Steve Jobs statement, other mobile phones also suffer from similar signal degradation while being held tightly. In fact, a support thread for Google’s Nexus One described a very similar issue back in February:”

If you go to Settings -> About Phone -> Status you will see a display for “Signal strength”. When my phone is sitting on the desk, the signal stays consistent. However, the second I touch my phone, the signal drops up to as much as -20 dBm. I am able to replicate this test every single time, whether the signal is incredibly strong or weak.

Kim reports, “Another user filmed this video of his Nokia 6230 showing the same phenomenon:”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Joshua Topolsky reports on an email Engadget received from Steve Jobs in which Apple’s CEO rather ludicrously states, “Just avoid holding it in that way.”

Bzzzt! Wrong answer, Steve. Try again.

Check out how Apple employees from Steve Jobs on down held the iPhone 4 in demos and videos here. Funny, they didn’t “just avoid holding it in that way.” They all do seem rather entranced by something, though. Maybe it’s the disappearing bars?

iPhone 4. Not only does it disappear in bars when it’s put down, but its bars disappear when it’s picked up. Talk about “magical.”

So, it looks like our source was wrong (wouldn’t be the first time) about a software fix for this issue and this is the way the iPhone 4 will operate. Therefore, if the iPhone 4 requires a “case” or rubber “bumper” in order to operate properly, then Apple should provide one in every box free of charge.

And, no, a 29-cent (if that much) piece of colored rubber marked up 100 times to US$29, however nicely-packaged it may be, simply doesn’t cut it, Mr. Jobs. We’re willing to pay for quality, but we don’t appreciate being ripped off.

All that said, the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone/pocket computer we’ve ever used. We wouln’t give our units up even if they had to held with salad tongs.

101 Comments

  1. Wow, macdailynews actually critical about something concerning Apple.
    I guess miracles still do happen. Or it must be the end of the world.

    Having Mr. Jobs actually tell people that they are holding the iphone 4 the wrong way is BEYONNDDDDDD ridiculously unreasonable.
    If macdailynews had actually attempted to defend What Jobs said then I hoped all the hackers in the world would have crashed their website.

    But they didn’t. My faith in humanity has been restored.

  2. If you think this is the first time MDN has been critical of Apple then you ain’t been following them very long.

    While they are Apple Fanboys from the get go, just like Apple they are demanding in high quality.

    Glad I’m broke from buying my new 13″ MBP and was putting off iPhone 4 purchase for a few months.

  3. What an incredibly poor design, the user needs to be trained on how to hold the phone, or is forced to spend additional money just to get it to work properly. What part of the user experience was made better by this new and improved product.

  4. OK after much experimentation today, here is my quasi scientific conclusions.

    1) It is true that all cell phones will lower their signal if held tightly in their hand. This happens on the iPhone 3GS as well, but not to the extent of the iPhone 4. The 3GS will lower its signal, but won’t go to “searching” like the iPhone 4 does so the iPhone 4 is more susceptible to this phenomenon.

    2) This has nothing directly to do with electrical conductivity. The same effect happens with the iPhone 4 even when I wear surgical gloves. In fact, I put a thick rubber case on the iPhone 4 and still had the signal drop to 1 bar from 4, so for those of you who think that the rubber bumper will alleviate this phenomenon, you may be disappointed. I do think the rubber bumper will help though.

    3) This is not a software issue, but a physics issue that Apple may be able to optimize with software, but stems from the core design from the iPhone 4. This may be a PR nightmare for Apple.

    4) I still think that the iPhone 4 is the best phone available, but just not good to have something brand new with a flaw in it. Now every time I drop a call instead of saying stupid ATT, I may be saying come on Apple.

  5. If the bumper fixes it, then the iPhone design is flawed, and it’s not just a consequence of being a phone.

    MDN is right. That’s just not good enough for a company that trades on excellence.

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