iPhone 4 Antenna Misdesign Causing Dramatic Reception Drops When Picked Up

iPhone 4 Antenna Misdesign Causing Dramatic Reception Drops When Picked Up

Those in the know of how cellular antennas work have been expressing misgivings about the design of the iPhone 4’s antenna for a while now.

As a simplistic summary of the problem, with the iPhone 4, Apple chose to essentially make the stainless steel band wrapping around the phone act as the phone’s antenna by separating it into three distinct chunks delineated by the gaps in the handset’s frame. Superficially, that should give the iPhone 4 more reception bars, but as MAKE’s Dave Matthews said two weeks ago: “Having been in the cellular business most of my career, I think it’s really odd that you’d want an antenna grounded by a moist hand.”

It looks like this fear may have been grounded in reality. Numerous users are reporting — with video proof — that the iPhone 4 loses up to four bars of reception when it’s actually picked up. If you don’t touch the bottom of the phone, you’re fine, but as soon as you connect the left side with the bottom of the phone… reception goes in the toilet.

On Apple’s part, according to Walt Mossberg’s review of the iPhone 4, Apple says this is just a bug related to the way the bars are presented. It would be great if that were true, but unfortunately, speed tests like the one embedded in a video above confirm that a very real signal drop is occurring.

The proof seems conclusive, and with Apple’s sudden entry into the case market with their iPhone 4 bumpers — which seem to have been purposely designed to prevent human hands from coming into contact with the antennas — you’ve got to wonder what they were thinking. What’s the point of building a cell phone like this, which gets industry-best cellular reception when it’s left alone, but drops calls the second you hold it to your ear?

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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