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The iPhone 4 Antenna Coverup

Apple - and Steve Jobs - knew about it a year ago. The continuing free-for-all.

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Apple's senior antenna expert Ruben Caballero voiced concern to Steve Jobs in the early design phase of the iPhone 4 that the antenna design could lead to dropped calls. A carrier partner voiced similar concerns.

Apple of course decline to comment.

They have on the other hand announced a press conference for Friday 16 July to discuss the matter.

'It's going to be about some kind of fix or compensation', Charter Equity researcher Ed Snyder told the WSJ.

79% of those polled at CBS agree the iPhone 4 should be recalled.

Gripping any mobile 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. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 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.
 - Official Apple response

Unleash the Loonies

Getting to the bottom of a story where Apple in typical fashion try to hide the truth isn't enough for some people.

Lauren Milsom runs the Left-Handers Club in the UK. They have 90,000 members or 10% of the country's left-handed population. Lauren finds it appropriate to comment - as if only left-handed people can hold something in their left hand.

It seems ludicrous to suggest that 10 per cent of potential users should be told they have to adopt a less natural hand hold to use this latest technology. I would strongly suggest that Steve Jobs employs left-handers in his design and testing team in future, and urgently address this issue to ensure the phone is fit for purpose.
 - Lauren Milsom

The 'experts' are now out in force as well. Aaron Vronko of Rapid Repair offers the following.

We are, after all, water-filled creatures. And it's a fact that water affects radio signals.
 - Aaron Vronko

Danish professor Gert Frølund Pedersen of Aalborg University claims he predicted this issue back on 10 June - a fortnight before the phone was released. Pedersen called the iPhone 4 external antenna 'old news' and added the following.

The human tissue will in any event have an inhibitory effect on the antenna. Touch means that a larger portion of antenna energy becomes heat and lost.
 - Gert Frølund Pedersen, Aalborg University, Denmark

And John Gruber, who's of late demonstrated occasional brief moments of neutrality, went into Full Panic Mode™.

Seems nutty to me to give it a 'don't buy' for this single annoyance alone.

UPDATE: A bunch of people are giving me shit on Twitter for saying this is 'nutty'. What's the sentiment behind that, though? That the iPhone 4 antenna issue is so profound, that the problems are so severe, that the iPhone 4 is a bad product (or at least a bad phone) and people shouldn't buy it? Then how come so many iPhone 4 users love their phones? And, to the point at hand, how come it's still Consumer Reports' top-rated smartphone? If the problem is that bad, shouldn't the product be poorly rated? And if it's not that big a problem, why give it a 'don't buy'? That's what's nutty.

Think of it this way: if they can't recommend their top-rated smartphone, their buying advice must be to buy a lower-rated product. What should people buy instead? An iPhone 3GS? (That's their second-highest rated smartphone.) Sorry, but that's nutty, because the iPhone 4 is way better - antenna attenuation when held in certain ways or not - than the 3GS.

UPDATE 2: CR didn't actually give the iPhone 4 a 'don't buy', they just didn't give it a 'recommended'.
 - John Gruber

The Facts in Hand

The facts in this case appear to be rather elementary.

  1. There are two antennas in the rim of the iPhone 4. The rim itself is two antennas.

  2. The antennas must not be connected. Doing so destroys their ability to send and receive data.

  3. People holding the iPhone 4 in their left hand will likely connect the two antennas.

  4. Signal loss can be 20 dB or more. This is enough to break connections in areas with low signal strength.

Steve Wozniak's known about it too.

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 its rapid progress. Putting my fingers back down halted the progress bar again. Lifting my fingers another time allowed the web page to finish loading.
 - Steve Wozniak

And of course the ambulance chasers are out in full force. 'Refund' isn't in their vocabulary. 'Class action' is.

So nice to be loved.

See Also
Rixstep Industry Watch: iAntenna 4
Fortune: The iPhone 4 Death Grip saga
Fortune: What Steve Jobs will say on Friday
Apple accused of 'discrimination' over iPhone 4
WSJ: Apple, Under Fire, to Discuss iPhone Friday
Fortune: Lawyers seek iPhone Death Grip victims
Fortune: Verizon: these are the Droids you're looking for
Washington Post: Apple Will 'Survive' iPhone Antenna Flaw
CBS News: Apple to Answer Calls to Explain iPhone Glitches
Rixstep Industry Watch: Consumer Reports: iPhone 4 Defect Confirmed
CBS News: Steve Jobs Knew about iPhone Antenna Problem during Design Phase
AnandTech: The iPhone 4 Redux: Analyzing Apple's iOS 4.1 Signal Fix & Antenna Issue
The Next Web: Screen Cap Mail Online: Apple boss Steve Jobs reveals iPhone 4 may be recalled
Engadget: Some iPhone 4 models dropping calls when held left-handed, including ours (Update: Apple responds)
Engadget: Apple respond to iPhone 4 reception issues: you're holding the phone the wrong way
Guardian: Apple iPhone 4: an object of rare beauty that leapfrogs the competition
Mobil Phone Insurance Direct: Apple criticised by left-handed org over iPhone 4
Fortune: 11 Things Apple Should Announce on Friday (but probably won't)
Lab tests: Why Consumer Reports can't recommend the iPhone 4

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