Study: Death-grip antenna problems unique to iPhone 4

Study: Death-grip antenna problems unique to iPhone 4

Summary: A new study of the iPhone 4's antenna problems revealed that the issues are unique to the iPhone 4


Yes, I realize it feels like we're beating a dead horse. And yes, I also realize that Apple has "fixed" that blasted iPhone 4 antenna problem by offering free bumper cases to iPhone 4 owners.

But UK-based PA Consulting Group has found that the antenna degradation problems caused by holding the iPhone 4 in the so-called "death grip" is a problem that's unique to the device. It also suggested that AT&T's weak signal may not be fully to blame for the iPhone's reception problem.

The firm's tests, which involved putting other smartphones through similar scenarios, found that the iPhone 4 performed "significantly worse" than its competitors. More importantly, it added that the iPhone 4's radio performance was already poor, operating at the lower end of the range and more likely to drop calls earlier than other phones. From the post:

In the case of the iPhone the grip avoided bridging the gap between the two antennas. When the “death grip” was used and the gap bridged, the signal level dropped to the point where it was not possible to conduct the test as the call could not be established to begin with. This effect was not seen when handling either of the other mobiles. Note that all these tests were conducted in a test chamber, calls with the iPhone could still be established outside the chamber even when using the “death grip."

The firm did find that placing a rubber band around the antenna, replicating the bumper case that wasn't yet available in the UK, significantly improved its performance.

The findings are important because, during an Apple press conference to discuss the problems, company CEO Steve Jobs went directly into a "it's not just us" presentation to show that smartphones in general suffer signal problems when held a certain way, a move that prompted the smartphone industry to fire back. And the firm did confirm that there was some signal degradation by the others when the devices were held in a certain way - but the others didn't suffer to the extent that a call couldn't even be placed. The iPhone 4 did.

It's also important to note that because the firm is UK-based, it suggests that the antenna problems and poor reception aren't just problems affecting U.S. customers on AT&T's network. These particular tests were conducted on the Vodafone network.

In the end, it still appears that the iPhone 4 represents a trade-off between a product that works effectively and one that looks pretty and has a lot of cool features.

Related coverage:

Topics: Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Smartphones

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  • RE: Study: Death-grip antenna problems unique to iPhone 4

    Iphone users remind me of aol users when the internet first became popular. ppl who didnt know how to do many things used aol for isp and similarly we have the same set of ppl using the iphone.
    And we can see what happened to Aol similar is the fate for apple
    • RE: Study: Death-grip antenna problems unique to iPhone 4

      funny I say the same thing. And just like AOL stock prices, apple shares are moving with the same characteristics. Lots of yayyyy right now but nobody wants to pay attention to the fundamentals and if they keep partying they are going to get trapped when the share prices fall to below $175 and beyond.
      • RE: Study: Death-grip antenna problems unique to iPhone 4

        Live in a fantasy world much?!?
        "And just like AOL stock prices, apple shares are moving with the same characteristics. Lots of yayyyy right now but nobody wants to pay attention to the fundamentals and if they keep partying they are going to get trapped when the share prices fall to below $175 and beyond."

        With no evidence at ALL that Apple's stock price will do that in the future, making the declarative statement that Apple's price is behaving the same way is simply ludicrous.
      • Right, and they'll be out of business in six months

        I bought 200 shares of Apple stock in 1997 at $6 per share. 13 years later, after 5 or more splits, it's made me a small fortune. Sold half about two years back. Open your eyes and look around, everyone has an iPod and you'll see more iPhone than any other single smart phone. So keep your head stuck in the sand.
      • RE: Study: Death-grip antenna problems unique to iPhone 4

        That's a lousy metric. You have to compare Apples market share to every other manufacturers marketshare. Unlike Apple, most hardware manufacturers release several models each year. What's more, most of them don't reuse the model name over and over.

        I don't follow this market closely, so I don't know how apple compares using total market share as the comparison, but it's certainly worse. As for stock prices, they are not a valid metric. The market frequently over values one company while undervaluing another. Earnings, revenue, EPS are all better metrics. Microsoft's Stock has generally been flat for 10 years. However, EPS has grown at 12%/year. Why? Partially because people pay a premium for companies that are growing quickly. The problem is that eventually the company becomes so large, that it can no longer grow at 15%/year. The good news is that everyone DOES NOT have an iPod or iPhone. If that was the case, Apple's growth would drop dramatically. The bad news is that many who don't have one, have no desire to get one. I personally find Apple far to similar to MS in the 90's to do business with them. With that said, until Justice stepped in, it was those practices that helped MS grow so quickly, so that's good for your Apple stock. The bad news is I believe Justice is starting to pay attention to Apple.
      • re Apple dying... yep! :-)

        I say sell now... Well even though Apple is running pretty solid at $266 at the moment....

        Maybe you should buy Microsoft... Steve Ballmer says its going up... any day now..... up I tell you, .... up. LOL

        Just a thought,
    • RE: Study: Death-grip antenna problems unique to iPhone 4

      @snoonw: AOL users are the "same set of people" as iPHone users?????? LOL!! How much do you want to bet on that? Far more likely is that the AOL crowd are equally retarded about the OS they use, which would make them Windoze victims.

      The iPhone continues to sell, and continues to have a very low rate of customer return (this despite Apple's free return policy.) Funny how the antenna issue "affects" you apple-hating bozos to a vastly greater extent than it affects iPhone owners! That being the case, I don't think Apple has much to worry about.
      • CrApple is About to LOSE this Round Too!

        @jpdemers@... In the early 90's CrApple owned the personal computer market. Then Microsoft dropped the MOAB (Mother Of All Bombs) on them, when they released Windows 95 on the World and the shrapnel changed history for ever. CrApple lost their lawsuit against them and M$'s OS sold $$$MILLION$$$ as M$ completely obliterated CrApple's domination over personal PC's. M$ buried them in the stock market, to the point it was M$ that had to come back to save them from the scrap heap. Especially when Windows 98, NT, 2000 and XP bloodied their nose even worse. NO!!!! ..... more like completely disemboweled them!!! haha......

        Nokia and the IDC will be giving CrApple their first lesson on their iNoob phone enterprise, when their soft assets only value gets severely KICKED in the teeth...... again by Cluster Bombs of cheaper devices that don't drop calls when you hold them right!

        Next with all these gloriously delicious WP7 Phone Clones (like PC Clones.... but MORE.. lol) are launched, iPwn'ds and iFads will be in their dying days..... banned from being sold in AMERICA! Now the land of crApple-less Pie and Windows (lots of them), M$ will rise again!

        Only this time with 40 $$$MILLION$$$ Gamers (Xbox 360 owners) and Citizens looking for replacement phones for all the crApple iFads and iPwn'ds no longer on the market, they can buy real PHONES instead of the ones they then can't buy. When crApple's America On Line Pwn'd Company has been ruined and Dominated Over by M$ MOABs...... AGAIN! :P haha..... :D
      • RE: Study: Death-grip antenna problems unique to iPhone 4

        @jpdemers@... Gosh, so basically what you're saying is that 90% of computer users are 'retarded' victims, since they're not smart enough to use Apple products like you. Or should I misspell Apple in some derogatory way, as you did with Windows? No, that's stupid. Or maybe retarded...

        Actually though, it is a very similar situation. AOL had a devoted following, brought about by making everything bonehead easy, at the expense of functionality. So what if the web page you get is hours old, so what if your phone can't make a call, it's cute and can tell you the temperature. The only thing AOL didn't have was the hero worship and the hostility toward those who made other choices; seldom would you hear an AOL user refer to a normal internet user as a bozo or 'retarded'...perhaps just because they were less insecure than Apple folks are, so they didn't have to keep telling everybody how smart and cool they were, and how stupid, retarded, and uncool the bozos were who didn't use AOL.

        On second thought, AOL users were a lot nicer folks than Apple zealots...
      • You're either...

        Way too young and have drunk much too much Microsoft Koolaid, or you're just plain ill-informed.

        Apple did not "own" the personal computer market in the 90's they lost anything like a lead they ever had when IBM (it had very little to do with Microsoft) entered the PC market back in the early 80's.

        From that point on your rant just gets sillier and less supportable in any sense.
      • RE: Study: Death-grip antenna problems unique to iPhone 4

        Maybe we can all pitch in to get @i2fun so meds, they are obviously much needed.
      • RE: Study: Death-grip antenna problems unique to iPhone 4

        @jpdemers@... well said
    • RE: Study: Death-grip antenna problems unique to iPhone 4

      @Sam Diaz - Thanks for the proof that Jobs wasn't lying when he said it wasn't just the iPhone 4 with the reception problems. Wait! Windoze fanbois will quibble about a 3.5% difference! My bad!
      The Danger is Microsoft
      • The Chart Numbers Are In db...

        @The Danger is Microsoft <br>a decrease of 3db is equal to a 50% reduction in signal strength (for those of you who aren't familiar with RF power measurements).<br>So yeah, Windows users, who are infinitely more technical than fan boys, will quibble about 3.5 db...<br>And I would guess that all of you fan boys will ignore the other point about AT&T not being the problem that you and jobs swear that it is. As I've said before, if AT&T was a problem, apple wouldn't keep licensing all their toys for AT&T connectivity ?????
      • Death Grip is not the same as Firm Grip.

        @The Danger is Microsoft

        The Death Grip is unique to iPhone. The table can't show the Death Grip as a connection could not be established.

        Also db is a logarithmic scale.
      • RE: Study: Death-grip antenna problems unique to iPhone 4

        @The Danger is Microsoft

        There isn't a single Windows phone mentioned in this article or in the comparisons. Anyone that has a non-iPhone today, has either a RIM product or an Android product. So why do Apple fanbois immediatley throw rocks at anyone that says a word about an Apple product and acuse them of being a Windows fan? You sir are an idiot.
      • RE: Study: Death-grip antenna problems unique to iPhone 4

        @The Danger is Microsoft <br><br>Oh yeah and 3.5 dB is really significant. Every 3 dB is half the power so 3.5 DB worse means about 35 % of the signal!
      • Folks, it really is a 3.5% difference.

        @ Rich_F

        I love Android idiots that think they are RF engineers and are dumb enough to convert a logarithmic scale to a linear scale for comparison. I bet it makes them think they are smart.

        This data is mostly meaningless without knowing the full range of the reception. In the case of the iPhone, it is around 121 dB. I don't know the other phones but they may be more or less.

        What this data shows is that ANY phone that is gripped in a death grip or simply the wrong way will DROP THEIR call if the signal starts out low enough. Without knowing the lower limit of the signal, this data does not really show anything of importance.
      • 'Cuse Me?? Unh Re-read the column, cause...

        @The Danger is Microsoft (and any other Apple lovers): The test org. confirmed what I have been sayin' since day one! Steve layed down a smoke screen with irrelevant half truths to cover the REAL truth! (Musta learnt this crap from Gates ;) ) All!-YES I said ALL; radio equipment is subject to signal attenuation when antennas are blocked by an interference causing artifact! (And Yes, Cell phones fall into the two way radio category!) Said artifact can be a building that is steel or aluminum lined (or worse, covered in it like mobile homes), or electrical interference like that of the human body, and other electrical wave producing products!
        I say smoke screen, because Jobs acting like that there was NO difference between what happened to the iPhone4 and the 'other guys' signal problems was/IS an irrelevant smoke screen! The difference is that Apple's design for the iPhone4 utilized a rookie engineering mistake in placing the antenna in an unshielded position---ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE PHONE!! Any first year electronics engineering student should have been taught better than this!! This instantly made the phone susceptible to ANYthing that would block signal, and when touched by the electrical generator of a homosapian (iPhone4 owner), KILL SIGNAL COMPLETELY! The fact that all radio receivers suffer from attenuation is irrelevant in this case, because the design of the iPhone-4 makes the signal attenuation WORSE! Sure a rubber boot or leather case (or even a piece of tape) causes the problem to dissipate to a degree, BUT it doesn?t change the fact that they used a flawed design in the first place! And the fact that they DID use an outside antenna, should lead Larry Dignan, Sam Diaz, and all other journalists to the conclusion that Apple products are being designed by engineers that don?t know what they?re doing! I don?t care how much you love or hate Apple, This fact (a rookie engineering design mistake) Should make tech savvy consumers wary of purchasing Apple products until Jobs owns up to it, and replaces said engineers! What do you say Larry??
    • RE: Study: Death-grip antenna problems unique to iPhone 4

      @snoonw <br><br>No - we have people who get great results from their iPhones and are unhappy with Nokia and other smartphones, because they caused them problems.<br><br>I speak from the experience of the people I know.<br><br>I can tell you now that before Apple's press conference I established that this could be replicated with non-smartphones and more dramatically.<br><br>I am a bit dubious of this study - but at least someone has done one.<br><br>I would say that there is more work to be done, and more studies to be done on this matter.<br><br>And for those who claim this design is about style over substance: THIS DESIGN IS TO IMPROVE THE USABILITY OF THE DEVICE. THE ANTENNA IS OUTSIDE THE CASE TO PROVIDE ROOM FOR A LARGER BATTERY!!!!<br><br>It seems I have to shout because so many people just do not read, nor listen, they just make stuff up to fit their desire to bring down Apple.<br><br>@ rengek<br><br><i>keep partying</i><br><br>This is a very long party - Apple has been growing for many years now - your reality distortion field won't work on anyone who does the simplest of analysis before purchasing shares.<br><br>AND YOU ALL MISSED THE IMPORTANT NOTE:<br><br><i>Note that all these tests were conducted in a test chamber, calls with the iPhone could still be established outside the chamber even when using the death grip.</i><br><br>So the iPhone in the end was not affected by the issue at all in the real world!!!!<br><br>THERE IS NO REAL WORLD ISSUE ACCORDING TO THIS TEST!!!!

      And I can cause complete signal loss in a Sony Ericsson K750i - so this issue is 100% not only iPhone 4.

      So this test indicates to me that there is a need for more tests!!!