iPhone 4 Reception Issues When you HOLD It? [Updated]

Update 1, June 24, 1:05AM PST: New video posted below from Insanely Great Mac notes this issue is isolated in the bottom left of the iPhone 4. Check it out below:

Okay, so today is not the best day for iPhone 4 news. Early iPhone 4 users have had a field day examining their devices from head to toe (like this iPhone 4 unboxing). So far, the following issues have been reported:

…and now, the latest is reception issues when you HOLD the iPhone 4. Yes, take a look at the following video and watch the AT&T signal bars decrease as this user holds the iPhone 4 in his hands. Not sure if everybody is experiencing this, but the video sorta speaks for itself:

What do you think? The reason for the signal drop could be AT&T or maybe there’s something tricking us in the video. If there are signal issues, an iOS firmware update could definitely fix it.

If that was my iPhone 4, I’d be flabbergasted. The engineering involved with implementing the antennas on the outside is genius. However, can our hands really decrease signals that quickly?

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of iPhoneinCanada.ca. Follow me on Twitter, and @iPhoneinCanada, and on Google+.

  • andrewboarder

    This isn't a good start to the new iphone! Maybe it's good us Canadians have to wait a bit to get it….let them figure out the issues and if there are solutions. BAH!

  • Andrew-a

    oh wow … they'll prob fix this somehow

  • Sparky

    Wow that's weird… I would think the body would act as a conductor. Blocking the signal when touching the antenna isn't what I would expect. I hope it's an isolated incident. All that's been happening is very odd for Apple. I also wonder what the manufacturing difficulties are for the white iPhone… I hope it simply means manpower and not design problems or something similar.
    I'm on GM iOS 4 and it's quite buggy. Not terrible but considering it's the same as the full release one has to wonder what's going on. I hope Apple admits to the issues with iPhone 4 and iOS 4 and does something about them.
    Time will tell I suppose.

  • Rileyfreeman

    this is not surprising. older phones with external antennas do this if u cover the antenna. so this is not surprising but its something u would have thought they checked. so this is kind of weird

  • I find it difficult to believe that this is a real problem and that it would not have turned up during Apple field testing. Seems to be easily reproduced in this video for this individual.

    If it's a real issue, it will no doubt NOT be isolated, so we will see numerous similar reports of it within the next 24 hours. If we don't, then this is likely spurious.

  • All of these complaints are B.S or isolated incidents. Dozens of professional journalists have spent night and day with this phone for weeks and haven't seen these issues. It's just link bait.

  • TeenWolf

    Sadly I believe this to be true. But only in how the signal strength is displayed. The current used to measure signal strength is being rerouted through through the hand. Picture it as flowing water. The flow would normally travel from the external antenna to what ever is measuring that flow on the inside of the phone but in stead it is flowing from the antenna through the hand to the other antenna.

  • Randy

    I'm not one of those who thinks Apple can do no wrong, but come on. I give Apple more credit than to design and release a phone that loses signal when it's held.

    To think this wouldn't have surfaced prior to release, or that Apple realized it and released it anyway thinking people wouldn't notice, is beyond the realm of reasonable thought.

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  • james

    Why would you assume a firmware update could fix it? If the problem is that the antennas are shorting out, then the only thing that could fix that finding a way to avoid, physically, shorting the antennas.

  • Don

    I am not at all suprised by this… Being a radio frequency tech, as soon as it was revealed that the antennas were on the outside of the iphone, and that you'd be touching the antennas when using it, I cringed at the idea… It's the most basic of knowledge that you do not want to have the user touching the antenna… The problem is that your body becomes part of the antenna… Antennas are supposed to be of a certain length for a given frequency. When you become part of the antenna, it's no longer the proper length… Not only will it significantly negatively affect the signals, users may also be subject to RF burns… And yes, you can get an RF burn from these power levels… My feeling is this is the real reason apple has come out with bumpers… They stop the user from contacting the antennas…

  • Jmoisey

    Looks like when the hands touch the metal antennas you lose the carrier signal. Put some clear tape and try it again to see if the problem goes away.

  • Joker Eh

    I knew it was odd Apple was showing these bumpers at the WDC. Man this makes alot of sense and this really sucks. I also found it weird why steve would not use 3G when he had hte wifi issues. Hmmm. I don't think this is something that can be fixed with a firmware update.

  • Joker Eh

    It makes sense now, once you ask yourself why did Applie promote these Bumpers at the show? You have to ask yourself.

  • Wuju

    Wow, that is really bad but I imagine by touching it might even produce stronger signal. Why I say this because my TV rabbit ear antenna gives me stronger TV signal when I touch it – just a reference.

    I do hope it will be fixed somehow and if a rubber case is required all the time to isolate, what is the point of the design if it's always covered up. Not good at all!

  • TeenWolf

    Unfortunately I don't think i will buy one until this issue is resolved. It's easy enough to put the bumper on but I am a naked phone fan. With the exception of the invisible shield of course.

  • Certainly appears that there are several people experiencing this issue early on launch day.

    I see that Engadget is also reporting this AM that the bumpers seem to alleviate the problem – so, you may be on to something. In my mind this is a major drawback for an otherwise superior device. Very disappointing.

  • Ralph

    i hope they will fix this some how i really look forward to this phone…

  • Rx7racerca

    Your body is mostly water, and water absorbs RF, although the extent depends on the frequency. Your body can act as a conductor too, so what the net effect is I can't say, but I would be very surprised if product testing and hands-on with journalists hasn't uncovered this if it were a general problem.

  • Jim

    Cripes, Americans have it bad with AT&T. In Montreal with Fido I consider my signal to be weak if I have don't have full bars on my 3g. The odd time I get 4. Heck there's even parts of the metro (underground) where I can go from one stop to the next and not lose the signal.

  • Tish

    Does exact same thing on my 3G since I updated to 4.0. But only when I hold the phone completely in my hand. When I just hold around the edges it stays full.

  • canadan

    I'm kinda happy now that we don't have the iPhone released here yet. Hopefully, they'll figure out what the problem is and whether it can be fixed by a software update or if it's a initial manufacturing problem or worse yet a hardware design problem. If it's hardware, then we've got a problem because Apple will have to redesign this antenna system somehow which means more delays. Not a good day of Apple if this is the case, yikes.

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  • KC Knight

    The bumper will fix it. I also think Apple should give it free as they knew about the antenna problem before and is why they were announcing the bumper at the sametime as the iPhone 4 at E3. Apple wants you to pay $30 extra for their device to work!

  • KC Knight

    I mean WDCC 2010

  • I hate to admit it, but credit given where credit due. You were right Joker 🙂

  • Justin, you're one of my favorite iPhone people on the internet – so I hate to disagree, but I'm sure you've seen this by now. Total Bummer.

  • Thank you.

    I'm generally suspicious of these complaints, but I was wrong this time. This is a serious problem, but I'm sure Apple will take care of the people who are experiencing the problem and fix it for new phones.

  • Dsdchoy

    This isn't an isolated problem though.. This is the iPhone 4 design. This will happen with every single phone if the outside band is used for the antenna. How can they “fix it”?

  • Randy

    I have to say, after a day or so since my initial reaction, it definitely appears this is a legitimate issue and is definitely a huge black eye for Apple. Jobs' response to “just hold it differently” reminds me of the old joke, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this. Then don't do that”. The reason it's an old joke is because the doctor's response is ridiculous; just like Jobs'.

    The iPhone 4 had finally pushed me over the ledge I'd been advancing toward for a couple of years now; abandoning my beloved BlackBerry in favour of an iPhone. Now, I'm not so sure. Hmmm, this Android thing looks kind of cool…

  • Vic

    Like Don below, I am a radio systems engineer. I am appaled at the RF design of this device. The first lesson you learn in Health and Safety in RF engineering is not to touch a radiating antenna,it can burn, or worse.

    Remember also that WIFI is EXACTLY the same frequency as a microwave oven but at lower power levels. However, directly injecting a signal at these levels is a bad idea. How Apple got this through FCC approval I have no idea. It's only a matter of time before the Iphone4 will be recalled I am sure.

  • Vic

    ..Also, I don't think this will have been experienced to much of a degree in field testing as their was a strict policy from Apple to disguise these units as existing Iphones, how? by fitting a form of specially shaped bumpers!

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