Apple was warned about iPhone 4 antenna issues

Apple was warned about iPhone 4 antenna issues

Summary: An Apple engineer as well as a carrier partner reportedly warned the company that the iPhone 4's antenna design could be an issue.


Possible reception problems with the iPhone 4 were raised early in the design process by Apple's antenna expert, according to a Bloomberg report Thursday. A carrier partner also issued some red flags about possible antenna problem.

But Apple, which is known for its sleek designs and flashy interfaces, moved forward with the antenna design. And when it came time for Steve Jobs to unveil the iPhone 4, the cool sleek look that the antenna offered, as well as the implied reception improvements, was one of the new features that he highlighted.

Apple wouldn't make the antenna expert, who works as a senior engineer at Apple, available for comment to Bloomberg. The company also declined to talk. However, it has called a press conference for tomorrow to presumably talk about the iPhone 4's problems and hopefully address a fix. Analysts have dismissed the idea of a recall, calling it unlikely.

Sales of the iPhone 4 have been strong since its release and there's been no indication that they've suffered under the negative press. But the company received a blow when Consumer Reports said this week that it would not recommend the iPhone 4 and suggested that the problem was a hardware design flaw, not a software issue that could be fixed with an update, as Apple had previously suggested.

Since then, shares have stumbled and the publicity around the iPhone - which normally gets overwhelmingly positive coverage from the mainstream press - has been focused around its antenna problems, even to the point where it's become the butt of late-night jokes. Even headline happy Senators are getting in on the iPhone 4 act.

Meanwhile, the anecdotal evidence piles up. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has replicated the iPhone 4 problems. Here's Wozniak's take:

The first time I tried I was able to duplicate the problem. My wife was driving me to the airport and as soon as I got a short distance from my home, and no longer on wifi, I tried it by accessing a web page (using Safari on my iPhone 4) and observing the progress bar.

As the bar started to proceed I lightly (‘lightly’) touched a couple of fingers to the trouble area and the progress bar froze. When I lifted my fingers the progress bar continued it’s rapid progress. Putting my finger[s] back down halted the progress bar again. Lifting my fingers another time allowed the web page to finish loading.

I tried it again with one more web page I was in a moving car in the hills near my home. Currently I maintain cell phone calls fine there with my iPhones and with other cell phones, although this exact area used to drop AT&T calls reliably, a few years ago.

I was in a moving car in the hills near my home. Currently I maintain cell phone calls fine there with my iPhones and with other cell phones, although this exact area used to drop AT&T calls reliably, a few years ago.

I tried to repeat this experiment somewhere else a second time, I think in a San Jose restaurant, and I only had partial success. That time I could only slow the progress bar a little and only if I squeezed my iPhone 4 tightly. I concluded that the effect only occurs in some places. It’s like the AT&T dead zone has been extended with this new phone.

If you can afford it, carry a second Verizon phone for backup. Another option is to carry a Verizon mifi and rely on Skype on your iPhone. I have used this mifi technique to rescue my own, and others’, iPhones on occasion. If you buy a Verizon Palm Pre, you get free mifi on it so that is possible the best ‘compromise’ solution, to carry a Verizon Palm Pre along with your AT&T iPhone 4.

Sometimes when I’m back home I’d like to try this experimentation with an iPhone on the T-Mobile network. I don’t know if the iPhone 4 has been unlocked yet by the dev community.

Needless to say, the AT&T microcell in your home is another good solution if you live in one of the marginal AT&T areas.

iPhone 4: The saga

Topics: Smartphones, Apple, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, AT&T, Verizon

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • LOL, great advice!!

    [i]If you can afford it, carry a second Verizon phone for backup.[/i]

    Oh how classic, considering how many times the Apple zealots tell us that removable batteries suck because you have to carry them around with you. The Apple solution? Carry around a second phone!

    • RE: Apple was warned about iPhone 4 antenna issues

      @NonZealot It's not an "Apple solution."

      Steve Wozniak doesn't work at Apple. He left in 1987, but still receives an income and still owns stock. He's a widely respected engineer who's known for his tinkering, and his bluntness (especially regarding Apple).
      • exactly


        If the dude were an apple fanboy he would not have said he could easily duplicate the issue.

        This is one of those scenarios where there are three sides to the issue: thoise who hate a company no matter what, those who love a company no matter what, and those who see the whole picture. NonZealot, there are times when you can make valid points, but you have to lighten up on the blatent bashing. Your comments only fuel the rediculous fight rather than try and produce all the facts. I am by no means an apple fanboy, I dislike the way most large companies work, which is why I love linux and Open Source. And I do occasionally bash Apple, but come on man. There are more important things than getting your hate on for #2 giant computer corporation.
      • MS is #2!

        @KyleDDM ....and if Mobiles were classified as computing devices (which they are) Nokia would be #1, as far as distribution goes. Non-Zealot is just doing all the payback for us, that Apple and Steve Jobs so deserve, for it's 30yrs of theft and being the Infomercial King of the Tech Industry!

        When the IDC stuffs that cease and desist order banning all iPlatform products down Steve's throat for Nokia, then.... NonZealot should probably lay off!

        But until then...... Apple deserves this mess they're in now! Steve will most likely con his way out this time, but it's going to all catch up with him sooner or latter!

        In the meantime they only look like a #2 Computer Company, with their soft assets and no hardware like MS. They have no factories just like MS. That's why they are vulnerable to overnight devaluation of their stock, if not full collapse with all these lawsuits against them! ....throw mud pies at 'em and at least some of them are bound to stick!
      • RE: Apple was warned about iPhone 4 antenna issues

        @i2fun...Once a hater always a hater I guess. All this crying about big business and being too good to buy such things from "big business"...blah blah blah...get over yourself! You're no better than the rest of us and sure as hell havent done anything to improve the world in any capacity compared to what Jobs has done and is doing. So go ahead and keep pouting about what he allegedly "stole" or didnt "steal" and go hide in your mom's basement with all your little computer parts thinking your the next Jobs or Gates!
      • Wozniak FTW!

        [i]If you can afford it, carry a second Verizon phone for backup.[/i]

        You got to admit, this pearl of wisdom is a crackup. I mean really, should I tote around a second laptop to cover my keester for when my [i]factory deficient[/i] battery goes kaput? *ding dong*

        Keep 'em comin' Woz ;)
    • Let's Not Forget...

      apple's solution to no Mac apps or games or whatever, was apple boot camp.
      It seems that apple wants stupid people to buy their products, but also buy the other guys stuff, so that these morons won't be totally bummed by not having anything that will work. And in these two cases, the deficiency is considered a "feature" of the apple device.
      A friend of mine went to an apple store, and asked the "genius" (this moniker should be submitted to the Attorney General, as false advertising) about applications/software for the mac that he was interested in. The apple "genius" told him that apple macs were the perfect solution, because they could run apple boot camp, and therefore could actually run all of the apps and games that the customer wanted.
    • Spare batteries...

      My girlfriend always takes a spare batteries for her smartphone because one set is not enough for her (during the day).

      Apple does not offer such choice for heavy users - they have to buy a new iPhone instead.

      Interesting - how many of Jobs parishioners buy a second iPhone as a replacement batteries? And what psychiatrists think about it - who has a mental disorder: Jobs who pushed the non-replaceable batteries for the iPhone, his parishioners who buy it or both?
      Just True
      • Spare batteries

        @Just True
        You must not get out and look at the extra items for sale at the iPod sellers. One of the big items for those who consider themselves 'road warriors' is an external battery that connects to the iPod 30-pin connector. With one of these battery packs the user can recharge the device while still using it and not have to end a call to swap a battery.

        How professional is it to tell a client that you will have to call back because you need to swap batteries? Why not have an external battery that can keep you going AND recharge your device? No need to carry a spare phone, just an extra battery.
      • You did not get it -Jobs does not want SPARE BATTERIES & external batteries

        Buy the way - the design where external batteries must be used instead of spare batteries is a very inhuman decision.
        Just True
  • It is no coincidence

    [i]which normally gets overwhelmingly positive coverage from the mainstream press[/i]

    Apple becomes the biggest marketcap tech company and mainstream media turns on them. No coincidence.

    Hold on to your seats Apple zealots, it will only get worse from here on in! The irony is that you guys, who were such a big part of spreading anti-MS FUD for all these years, are the ones who are going to suffer the most from the FUD that is being spread, and will continue to be spread, about Apple. That's what you get for having an unhealthy emotional attachment to a multi-national, multi-billion $$$/year mega-corporation. :)
    • RE: Apple was warned about iPhone 4 antenna issues


      Very well said. And for some of us, sitting back and watching it all is...rather say the least, after watching the Apple Core's sit around sniffin' their 'SMUG' during the Anti-MS FUD days you speak of... Couldn't happen to a more deserving group of people if you ask me.
    • RE: Apple was warned about iPhone 4 antenna issues

      @NonZealot - LOL, I see that your unhealthy emotional attachment to all things non-Apple has made you the Mother Therese of trolls! 8))
      • That's why we call him NunZealot...

        LOL ;)
      • NonZealot is not a Troll! .... if he is then you people are too!

        @ImpartialObserver Otherwise crApple tards like i8thecat wouldn't be seen trolling the halls and stories of MS and Linux. Better look in the mirror before you go calling people trolls! ....and at your bosom buddy fellow iNazis!
  • RE: Apple was warned about iPhone 4 antenna issues

    not the first time company/organization leaders FAIL TO LISTEN to engineers.
    • RE: Apple was warned about iPhone 4 antenna issues

      @BitBanger_USA ...Like BP did, putting a substandard fitting on the botom of the Gulf?
      Feldwebel Wolfenstool
      • RE: Apple was warned about iPhone 4 antenna issues

        Nice! So true. I'm sure somebody internally at M$ warned executives about Vista issues before it hit shelves too...yet it did, and the M$ reputation suffered a bit for it (until Windows 7 came out).<br><br>I'll still carry an iPhone because of how I want to *use* the phone and the specific apps available to me until Droid grows a little more, but then I'll likely jump ship to Droid. Didn't say I wouldn't jailbreak though <img border="0" src="" alt="grin"><br><br>I've made a strategic business decision to drop my Apple Macbook Pro as my primary business machine and switch to a Lenovo ThinkPad. I'll be getting twice the RAM capacity, USB 3.0 ports, built-in monitor calibration and fingerprint security. Not to mention the next-day warranty service for three years.<br><br>I left the IBM PC idea three years ago for my Macbook Pro, but I noticed that I spent nearly 90% of my time on the Windows bootcamp partition anyways, so it feels like it's time for a change. Apple hasn't done anything lately to warrant my business.
      • RE: Apple was warned about iPhone 4 antenna issues

        @Feldwebel Wolfenstool

        "Daddy, did you plug the hole yet?'
  • Hopefully Wozniak will still be invited to Apple launches...

    After Wozniak's description of the phone problems, hopefully they don't bar him to anything Apple (even though he caught some heat in the iPad unveiling when he was shown the iPad before the launching hour - I think the Apple employee that did that was dismissed then)
    Roque Mocan