The iPhone 4 is defective by design ... get used to it!

The iPhone 4 is defective by design ... get used to it!

Summary: The issue might not affect everyone, but those affected by the iPhone 4 "grip of death" problem need to understand that the design flaw isn't going to be solved by something as simple as a software update.

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The issue might not affect everyone, but those affected by the iPhone 4 "grip of death" problem need to understand that the design flaw isn't going to be solved by something as simple as a software update.

There's little doubt that the iPhone 4 (or at least some handsets under certain signal conditions) suffers from signal degradation when the handset is held "the wrong way" (specifically, in the left hand where a finger can bridge the gap between the two halves of the antenna which forms part of the chassis). Plenty of testing has been done and for the skeptics out there there is video evidence. The problem undoubtedly exists.

Last Friday Apple published a letter to iPhone 4 owners which basically amounts to little more than a bunch of weasel words. It was released the Friday before the July 4th weekend (in the hope that it would be buried quickly), and basically reframes the problem as an one that affects other handsets, and being a carrier issue (in other words shifting the blame to AT&T) rather than an Apple issue. Then there's a load of waffle about the algorithm controlling the signal strength meter being flawed, and promises of a software update to fix this cosmetic issue.

But none of this will fix the underlying issue ... that the problem is a design issue. Putting the antenna on the outside and make it part of the chassis of the handset might be revolutionary, but it's a case of two steps forward, one step back. Yes, the antenna does offer better overall reception, but under certain circumstances the antenna performs much worse than for previous iterations of the iPhone. Period.

Oh, and if you're still not convinced, AppleCare support staff have confirmed to Gizmodo that the upcoming software update for the iPhone 4 will not fix reception issues.

Bottom line, affected iPhone 4 users have four options:

  • Return the handset (Apple will waive the restocking fee)
  • Live with the problem
  • Get a case or bumper
  • Hold the handset a different way

One thing you can be sure of, this problem isn't going away.

Oh, and then there's the proximity sensor, which is also challenged ...

Topics: iPhone, Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones

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94 comments
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  • Slam dunk Adrian.

    nt
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~ Your Linux Advocate
    • RE: The iPhone 4 is defective by design ... get used to it!

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate


      Apple, Apple, Apple. What has happened to you? Just four weeks ago you were riding high on the iPad and the iPhone 4's pending launch. Then you let AT&T kill the unlimited data plan and gave us a phone that has lots of problems. You gave us a lame response from a petulant CEO and now you cannot even get the mea culpa right in iteration #3 or 4.

      Read this awesome article that lays into Apple for its quasi apology. Very funny.


      http://www.dailygoat.com/2010/07/apple-announces-stunned-iphone-suck/
      pchrun
      • RE: The iPhone 4 is defective by design ... get used to it!

        @pchrun Ever think this may have been done on purpose?

        Let AT&T hose users with the data plan change, release a defective IPhone 4 and sell millions of them....fix the defect with a software update that will make it look like it's all AT&T's fault....

        Then pull the rug out from under AT&T and move the IPhone to another carrier who won't have the same rotten network issues and bad customer service.

        Win-Win for Apple, big fail for AT&T.
        Ron Burgundy
      • RE: The iPhone 4 is defective by design ... get used to it!

        We as a family have had the iPhone from version 1 Day1, and now we have 4 units, two Iphone 4s, and the 2 hand-me-down 3gs. During the years since its inception, when unlimited data was all there was, based on checking my bill data detail, we have rarely ever used more 200MB basic plan limit, and never came close to 2GB. Most everywhere I wanted to use the phone for browsing had WiFI, and lots of the streaming apps won't deliver video at full resolution in 3G, so I would rather wait until I am in a place with a good signal than watch low-res video.

        We switched 3 of the 4 plans to the basic $15 a month, left mine on unlimited for the moment. I saved $50 a month, and that is like getting 2.5 users on my Familytalk FOR FREE!!! OR...the $600 I will save over the year made the upgrades to the 2 iPhone 4s free....great deal.

        At this point in time with general use, most people do not need unlimited amounts of data. Maybe in the future as the networks get faster and the apps more demanding, but not now, IMHO.

        Also, the iPhone 4s perform better as a phone in all respects than the 3GSs...

        1) they sound better, louder, more clarity less background noise than the 3GS, most likely due to the inclusion of a second noise-cancelling mike.
        2) they drop calls much less in the same places...we are in a fringe area, and the 4s work in the basement, the 3GSs will not, and never have
        3) the 4s seem to be impervious to losing calls when driving through what has always been a dead spot for the 3GSs
        4) the 4s have better range with my bluetooth headset...3 of us have the Jawbone ICON, with the 4s I can leave the phone in the kitchen and go to the end of my driveway, the 3GS dropped at the garage...about 15-18 feet more range, and the bluetooth sounds better as well.
        5) Significantly better battery life in the 4s

        While nothing is perfect, I see the new data plans and the new phones as a worthwhile upgrade. I wonder how many of those complaining here actually own the past and current iPhones?
        Kevin Doyle
    • RE: The iPhone 4 is defective by design ... get used to it!

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate What, no long rambling Linux ad? BTW Adrian is wrong for reasons I state further down.
      athynz
    • RE: The iPhone 4 is defective by design ... get used to it!

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate
      This makes me so Angry!
      I already pay too much in taxes not to mention the global warming hoax and the President not being an American citizen.
      Let's teabag them all.
      yobtaf
      • RE: The iPhone 4 is defective by design ... get used to it!

        @robertmro The US tax rate's one of the lowest in the world, nit. Maybe if you guys paid your fair share, the economy wouldn't be in such a shambles!
        RST
        erapka@...
    • RE: The iPhone 4 is defective by design ... get used to it!

      If Mr. Kingsley-Hughes has an iPhone 4 with a bad proximity sensor, he should simply take the thing back to Apple for a replacement. Or he could carp about it online, instead.
      Yaminom
  • I'll be getting the Droid X

    Better network and an OS that isn't controlled by apple. I can't wait.
    travis.duffy@...
    • I got a Samsung Wave

      Decided there were too many trust issues with Google, many of the apps look a bit shoddy as does the Google interface.

      The Samsung hardware is just stunning, that screen is far superior to anything I've seen and it's really thin and beautiful.

      Don't want any more Apple control nonsense, don't want Google's seemingly endless data grab.

      The down side is the limited apps (this is a BADA phone), but it's just a Linux/Java platform and so it won't really be difficult to port to from Android. Plus I realized that on my iPod touch, I put many games and tools, but the ones I use were the basic Internet, mail, audio recorder, calender ones, now I'm adding personal GPS phone.

      On the missing list: Skype, it has a messenger client that works with a lot of them (and 2 cameras front and back), but Skype would be nice.
      guihombre
      • RE: BADA

        @guihombre
        BADA will be dead real soon. There simply isn't enough motivation for a developer to code for Android, iOS, WM7 AND BADA (which is also a closed system like Apple's iTunes App store)
        Scrat
    • RE: The iPhone 4 is defective by design ... get used to it!

      @travis.duffy@...
      I'm not sure that Verizon's network is necessarily better (at least in some regards - the ATT 3G is better, Verizon coverage somewhat better for remote areas).

      I hate Apple (or anybody) controlling my OS (on anything). There are good alternatives for iOS, jailbroken. It's still very much an Apple product, but you can exercise a fair amount of autonomy.
      Schoolboy Bob
      • RE: The iPhone 4 is defective by design ... get used to it!

        @Schoolboy Bob The jailbreak is one of the reasons I'm waiting on getting the new iPhone - right now I'm good with my 3G running iOS4 jailbroken...
        athynz
      • RE: The iPhone 4 is defective by design ... get used to it!

        @Schoolboy Bob
        Verizon coverage is ALOT better for remote areas. Here in the Dakotas and surrounding areas there is NO att coverage. Also, ATT's customer service is constantly rated terribly.
        travis.duffy@...
  • RE: The iPhone 4 is defective by design ... get used to it!

    How can you link to the Anandtech article as a reference to say the iPhone 4 is defective by design when their conclusion was that it was one of the top 2 smartphones on the market? Their testing showed the antennas of other smartphones suffered similar degradation in signal and that of the iPhone 4 was only marginally worse when being held and with a case as better than other phones. Deceptive article....
    Harley_Dude
    • RE: The iPhone 4 is defective by design ... get used to it!

      @Harley_Dude
      Ask yourself what the criteria is for there score....

      Each user has their own criteria.
      In mine the iPhone was ground breaking as it vrought the user experience to the forefront.
      With the 4, and iOS4 there are several significant issues that significantly impacts their score (IMHO) negatively.
      rhonin
    • RE: The iPhone 4 is defective by design ... get used to it!

      @Harley_Dude Perhaps APPLE should have referenced the Anandtech "conclusion"...but they didn't, so don't expect ZD to.
      dmccall
    • RE: The iPhone 4 is defective by design ... get used to it!

      @Harley_Dude
      Agreed, another "writer" capitalizing on sensational journalism. Every phone suffers from attenuation. I have upgraded from a 3GS and it "drops" bars when I pick it up but I can make calls fine without dropping a call, except in specific areas in NYC. There is no design flaw, it just doesnt magically eliminate attenuation, not sure that anyone can solve that problem.
      TiredofHype
  • "Yes, the antenna does offer better overall reception"

    If it provides better overall reception and you spent all that money on an iPhone, buy a case for it and ensure you always get that better reception. The real bottom line here is that if standing on your head with your tongue hanging out while wearing hemp shorts and a pair of Doc Martens were the required sequence of events in order to experience reception degradation, people would whine like a six year old girl with a skinned knee about how Apple screwed up.
    jasonp@...
    • Silly season (nt)

      nt
      Economister