David Pogue: ‘The Mystery of the iPhone Death Grip’

Invisible Shield for Apple iPhone 4!“The hot tech news on Friday is the exploding scandal that’s been dubbed the ‘iPhone Death Grip,'” David Pogue reports for The New York Times. “Like everything else related to the iPhone, it’s turned into an overhyped emotional stew.”

“I must say, I was mystified at first. I’ve never seen it on the iPhone unit I’ve been reviewing. I can’t even reproduce it, no matter how hard I try. I’m sitting here right now. I’m wrapping my hand every which way — I’m even holding it with two fists, completely concealing the silver band around the edges — and my four-bar signal strength doesn’t waver. On Twitter, most of my followers seem to indicate the same thing; it’s a problem that just doesn’t exist for them,” Pogue reports. “But clearly, the problem exists for some people. PC Magazine, for example, has been able to reproduce the problem. For them, it happens only if (a) your hand is somewhat sweaty and (b) you hold the phone in such a way that your fingers are covering all three black gaps in the stainless-steel band around the phone’s edge. (For this reason, left-handers seem to be the most-affected population.) In that configuration, signal strength drops a little.”

Pogue reports, “If you do experience the iPhone Death Grip problem, one easy way to eliminate it is to put the phone in a case. Even a ‘bumper’ solves the problem — like the $30 one that Apple sells. It’s a thin rubbery silicon band, available in a range of colors, that covers the metal edge entirely… The paranoid might ask: Why is Apple introducing bumpers now, with this phone? Is it trying to profit from its own design flaw? Or, less conspiratorially: Shouldn’t Apple at least offer free bumpers to people who are having the Death Grip problem? I’ve asked Apple about the problem three times, and nobody’s gotten back to me…”

Pogue writes, “This doesn’t seem like a problem that Apple can fix with a little software update; it’s baked right into the design of the iPhone 4 itself. And considering the hysteria that surrounds the phone, combined with ignorance about the nature and probability of the problem, it could wind up being a huge black eye for Apple and the phone.”

Read more in the full article – recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: Only time will tell if this huge black eye will go away on its own (not likely) or if Apple will have to “take a loss” on those 29-cent (probably even less) rubber bumpers for which they currently overcharge US$29 by including one in every iPhone 4 box as they should have been doing all along.


  1. My phone doesn’t lose signal no matter how I grip it, and I’m a disgusting sweaty old man ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  2. I sense MDN turning the corner from it’s rabid pro Apple stance to a more sensible position. First Verizon, now 29 cent rubber bumpers. Hang in there guys, the Verizon Kin is on it’s way to you third class mail.

  3. ugh. everybody quit bitching. if you’re gonna smother your phone with your hands, it’s gonna lose signal.

    i’ve been using my iPhone 4 for 2 days now and it’s fine.

    oh, and MDN, you’re talking like you’ve never even seen the bumpers. they’re a lot more than a cheap piece of rubber. It’s reinforced plastic with metal buttons.

  4. If apple included a bumper, it would seem fishy and undermining of the new phones sturdiness claims. It would also put a significant dent in 3rd party case mfgs sales me thinks. $29 for a bumper seems too high though. They used to sell a whole set of iPod socks for that. Bumpers should of been the same deal.

  5. Whole thing is kinda dumb since as Pogue makes clear most people haven’t been able to replicate this issue even if they try. People making such a big deal of this I decided to see if I could upgrade my perfectly good 3GS just so I could carry my 4 around without a stupid condom as MDN (apparently buying into whatever the day’s hype as usual) now has convinced itself everyone needs.

    Alas, just checked and not upgrade eligible 🙁

  6. I will again state for the record that I can’t wait for iPhone 4 to come to Fido in Alberta and have none of problems about which people are complaining.

  7. PC Magazine. PC Magazine readers, with sweaty, greased laden hands, from touching greased laden hair, from lack of hygiene. Spending all that time in moms basement playing Windows configuration, drivers and taking apart PC and back together again. Then back to the iPhone with sweaty, dirty, greased laden, moist (yuck) hands. There your mystery is solved.

  8. I’m really starting to wonder if MDN is under new management. So much hate emanating from from here. I’ve been a regular visitor for a long time and the hate of late (sorry, it fit) is getting old.

  9. My phone does it but it doesn’t effect calls or data. I held the phone until it loss bars and then I did a speed test. It was almost as fast as when the bars were full. I have my iPhone4 in a case now, but not because of that issue, but to protect the glass. If this issue wasn’t so over hyped I wouldn’t even know it existed.

  10. engadget and gizmodo started this antenna rumor along with the yellow spots on the screen and the proximity sensor not working properly. The apple bashers start these rumors and then they pile on with paid bashers and make a mountain out of a mole hill. Don’t believe any of it. My 2 new IPhone 4’s are beautiful and perform perfectly. Facetime is awesome, best video chat on any smartphone. Other smartphone makers can’t compete so they pay people and try to at least slow down the adoption of the best smartphone on the planet so they can try and catch up, but they are doomed just like palm and now rimm. Of course if the media can take down a General with an article in rolling stone magazine that nobody read or attributes to the General, anything is possible. If an article is untrue or the facts have been puffed, ignored or false info is made to look real somebody needs to go to jail. Myself, I don’t believe anything I read these days.

  11. We won’t know until after the software update.

    Regardless, the situation wouldn’t be as bad if Steve hadn’t responded to that one e-mail so foolishly. “Avoid holding it that way,” wtf? Talk about throwing gasoline on the fire. All he had to say was that they’ll have a software update soon.

  12. My new iPhone 4 behaves pretty much like every other iPhone I’ve had. Signals fade in and out. One moment I have max bars, a second later no bars.

    I am unable to reproduce the “death grip” problem.

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