Earlier we reported on the widely experienced phenomenon of the iPhone 4 dropping 3G signal when gripped in the left hand. The problem is caused when the skin bridges the left and bottom antennas that also happen to be the device's stainless steel outer bezel. We asked Apple if it was aware of the issue, and on a lark copied CEO Steve Jobs since the flaw contradicted his statements about the "brilliant" antenna design during WWDC.
Jobs responded to our question this evening, in his usual terse manner. "All phones have sensitive areas," Jobs wrote. "Just avoid holding it in this way."
TUAW reader Craig Brockman was able to get a more detailed response, which Engadget reports is Apple's official statement on the issue: "Gripping any 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," Jobs wrote. "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."
So, it appears that our worry that Apple's iPhone 4 bumpers would be a recommended fix was founded after all.
What Jobs and Apple are saying about all phones being affected by this issue is true to some degree. Your hand can attenuate the signal to any radio antenna—try playing with the antenna of a portable AM/FM radio, for instance. Spencer Webb, an antenna engineer with Antennasys Inc, explained in a blog post that the placement of antennas in mobile devices is predicated partly on FCC and carrier testing requirements, so Apple's design isn't entirely out of the ordinary. Issues of signal degradation similar to that of the iPhone 4 have also been reported with the iPhone 3G and 3GS, as well as Google's Nexus 1.
One inconsistency is that numerous examples of using the iPhone 4, including Jobs' own WWDC demo, have shown users gripping the iPhone 4 in the exact manner that triggers the issue. Macintouch reader Saam G said that Apple Support confirmed the issue, blaming "a missing protective coating on some of the parts," so there may be more to this issue than what Jobs is admitting.
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