So does your international iPhone 4 have death-grip or death-touch?

One of the lingering questions surrounding iPhone 4 and the whole "antennagate" saga is just how much, if any, of the problem could be blamed on the traditional network whipping boy, AT&T. Sure, you could reduce or kill iPhone 4 data and voice reception by gripping it firmly around the base to attenuate the signal or touching it at the bottom left corner to de-tune the antenna, but would that be a problem on carriers with stronger networks?

So, the moment I got my iPhone 4 up and running on Rogers Canada yesterday, I aimed to find out and the answer -- is as complicated and confusing as always.

First test was right outside the Apple Store, inside the mall. I had 4 bars on both iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS running iOS 4.0.1. Holding either one in a death-grip, even lightly, dropped them a bar. Covering the lower-left spot of iPhone 4 also dropped it a bar. Neither had any real-world problems. 3 bars is fine.

Next test was to go out and find low signal areas. Interestingly, driving through areas where iPhone 3GS briefly drops to EDGE, iPhone 4 stayed on 3G longer and came back to it faster. When I stopped and stayed in an area with 1 to 2 bars of 3G signal, that's where the fun began. And by fun I mean crazy.

My results, on both iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS were all over the place. Again, I could drop a bar, sometimes both bars, by death-gripping either phone or death-touching iPhone 4. Every so often, however, death-touching iPhone 4 got it to jump up to 3 bars. It happened enough that it wasn't a fluke, but I couldn't do it every time. Once I managed to cover enough antenna to get iPhone 4 to search for the network. I couldn't get iPhone 3GS to do that -- it stayed on 0 bars but on network -- but unless I was trying to crush the phone with both hands I'd never hold it that way in real life.

In terms of data speeds, again the results were crazy. I could drop speeds by half with death-grip on both iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, and death-touch on iPhone 4. Starting from 1 or 2 bars, I could even stop network connectivity completely, again with death-grip on both or death-touch on iPhone 4.

But sometimes only HSDPA (download) would drop while HSUPA (upload) would go up or stay steady. Sometimes the opposite. The results were so crazy, so varied, I'm considering calling the whole thing black magic and just forgetting about it.

So, on Rogers in Canada, death-grip is real but certainly not limited to iPhone 4, while death-touch is also real and limited to iPhone 4 but presents much the same way. Areas of poor signal can be problematic in theory but in a way that's utterly impossible to predict. In practice, dropping calls didn't happen, dropping data was easy to work around, and dropping network had to be forced.

UPDATE: I just ran similar tests on the Nexus One in the same area of poor Rogers reception. Death-touch has no effect, one finger held along the left side drops it a bar and reduces data roughly 25%, death-grip drops 2 bars and reduces data 75%. Death-grip and putting my other hand behind the phone as well killed data but didn't drop any additional bars.

If you've done similar tests, or have similar real-world experience to share on other networks, let us know in comments below!

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

So does your international iPhone 4 have death-grip or death-touch?


No issues in Orstraya on Telstra. Death grip drops 1, sometimes 2 bars, but nothing major like 'no signal' etc...

If you don't know the conditions of the tower, you can't really understand your performance. The tower and or phone can decide to boost signal levels to get a better signal. When you have 2 or more devices, a dance begins.
And like a TV antenna, your hand changes the tuning characteristics of the antenna, sometimes better sometimes not. Depends on the signal levels that day. It's crapshoot for every phone in low signal areas.
And like always, if you hold the two sides of the iPhone 4, you are bridging the two antennas. The only difference is several inches of skin.

Australia, as it's spelt. I'm with Vodafone Australia & don't find the deathgrip a problem. If in full strength areas, it drop 1 or 2 bars & stops. If I'm in a weak spot with 1 or 2 bars then yes it drops back 1 but doesn't go searching for a network. I think the deathgrip stuff is blown way out of preportion. Who in there right mind holds a mobile like that anyhow.

I'm on Telstra in Australia and haven't dropped a call while gripping the phone by "death-gripping" it, and there is sometime a 1 to 2 bar drop, but most of the time it just stays there.

This is one of those pointless articles to me that just keeps this whole antenna deal alive. Some will be affected, most won't. If you honestly try to reproduce the "death grip" you can but in terms of daily usage, no, you can't. (at least for me) So that's why you can, if you choose to, get a free bumper. Case closed, move on, and if it's so bad, return it. But all these articles are just annoying to me. (sorry for the rant, just my two cents on the matter)
P.S. Love my iPhone 4. Pretty Shweeeet.

I'm on Rogers in Canada/Montreal and I don't have any drop calls or anything lime I've seen on the Internet!! I think that it's AT&T is the one to blame!! Because here with Rogers everything is fine!!

I never actually seen less than 5 bars on either of my iPhone 2G, 3G, 3GS or 4 in the city (Montreal) sometimes drop to 4 outside in the city though. Death grip always been a non-issue. Problem in the us is the high number of low-signal zones... We don't have that problem here.

UK, Portugal, Hong Kong Singapore. all places tested. can drop a bar or 2 but no 'No Service' or loss of 3G or dropped calls = Media hype (or AT&T fault).

I have my iPhone 4 for a month now. No real life problem. I can make it drop 1 bar sometimes and sometimes I can't. No dropped calls.

AUSTRIA (T-Mobile): got iphone4 yesterday noon from postman. everything works smooth (as expected) - no "deathgrip"-behaviour so far (and i really tried hard to simulate, but no chance).

No issues on Telstra, Vodafone, 3, or Optus in Australia in downtown (CBD) Sydney. I took a drive out to the outer suburbs and was able to make the bars drop a bit but no change in call quality.
As I've said before, its a non-issue. It has NO effect on the actual functionality of the phone. I <3 my iPhone 4s!

All of you are starting on 4.0.1 with the "new" formula. Since then I am also unable to drop to zero bars but before that it was quite easy. Like everyone says... Dead topic.

Reliably down from 4bars to NO SERVICE in Glastonbury, UK on O2. However, no noticeable problems with the free Apple Bumper I received today.

All everyone ever talks about is the death touch. I would like to talk about the life touch of this phone. Ever since the launch of the 3G here in Canada, I have been lamenting my location. There is a cell tower literally within view of my house, yes I have no signal because of a ridge that runs between the field the tower is in, and my house. I brought my iPhone 4 home, ad was astonished to see that it still showed signal. My 3GS used to do this from time to time, but the signal would always mysteriously disappear if you tried to do ANYTHING with the phone. So I opened up a web page... And it loaded at 3G speeds no less. The signal still showed 2 bars. I tried to make a call, it went through. I looked at my old 3GS... No signal.
Can I make my iPhone 4 drop some bars, yes. But nothing I tried has EVER gotten my 3G or 3GS (or my sisters winnow phone, or my friend's blackberry) to have signal anywhere in my house.
That my friends, is the iPhone 4 touch of life, and what the press doesn't want you to hear, because it would make them seem petty and childish. Oh wait....

no issue in Singapore. I tested it indoor. Signal only dropped by one bar when the antenna was being held for a long while. Hmmm

My phone here in the UK (o2) on 4.0.1 is affected by this. I'll have a consistent 4-5 bars over 3G at home & at work, but if I remove the bumper & hold over that bottom corner, I'm lucky to get 1-2 bars over GPRS. Was hoping I could get rid of the bumper, but no such luck! :-(

Yeah, this is a dead topic. Asking regular people to test and offer conclusions about the complex interaction between the transmitter, the unseen electromagnetic environment in between, and the handling of the receiver will not help the discussion any further.
What Apple needs to do is to physically change things so that "regular people" and the media cannot discuss this anymore and truly make it a dead issue.
--- Here is one solution
My recommendation is for Apple to continue to employ the [electromagnetic and structural] advantages of an external antenna and make the metal band around the phone an array of antenna segments that can be dynamically ganged together in real time depending on how the phone is being held for maximum benefit, and call it the world's first "touch antenna."
They could make the gaps between the segments invisible and the same color as the metal so no one knows where the gaps are (like the way Apple hides indicator lights in the surfaces of many of its products) and thereby "detune" the endless and meaningless discussion.
You may quote me.
Mark Hernandez
The Information Workshop

No dropped calls or anything. Although in some low signal areas (like where I've only got 1 or 2 bars) I can get to drop my 3G service. Than it will fall back on the GSM (GRPS/EDGE) network. I can not replicate the problem on the GSM network.

Glad to see the international peeps not having nearly as huge an issue with the "death grip"... Goes to prove and show that a) the issue was blown out proportion here in good ole litigious US of A, and b) AT&T sucks as a network #attfail

Another problem is that the cell towers are configured differently than in the biggest part of Europe. And if there's no 3G, it will jump back to the GSM network (GRPS/EDGE) so you can still make calls. In a big part of the USA, if you don't have 3G, it will just say "No Service".

Just goes to show that the media blows things out of proportion and that the biggest problem is due to the network here in the USA

Thanks for reminding the population, that the one finger death-touch is the problem. Not the death-grip.
Reason I say that is because, it personally bothers me how Apple is trying to divert attention from the real issue at hand, to a more common death-grip occurence- one that under normal real world circumstances, an individual would not experience.
Thanks for showing the rest of the world, that we can still think things through, and not be brain washed by whatever corporate company wants us to believe.

I for one think it is complete nonsense to have to have a special case on a phone so that you don't lose signal (I wonder how well this case even works?). Iphone 4 still has issues that should have been corrected by now... It just launched yesterday in Canada with these antenna problems still. They tested the phone before launching it and were clearly well aware of the signal problems but did nothing about it since they knew people would still buy it because its an apple product. Customers that have been warned about these issues and still purchase an iphone4....well you can see where I am going with that comment. No 4G networks in Canada only 3G, so Apple nice try on blaming the issues on the companies with 4G networks in the States. I did have a good laugh when I went to apples website though. They try and attack some of the other manufactures out there with images showing models that have similar problems with the antenna. Sorry apple my blackberry works just fine no matter how I hold it.

Oh and FYI I work for one of the mobility carriers in Canada and I have seen the death grip, as customers have already come back in store to complain...

I'm in Canada on the Bell network and I don't have any issues with signal strength. If I completely wrap my hand tightly around the bottom, I'll drop a bar or two but I don't ever hold the phone that tight, nor do I think anyone else does.

@ Mark Hernandez - ..."an array of antenna segments that can be dynamically ganged together"...
Wow. That's a great idea if it could work. Not sure how to electrically group physically separate segments together, but if that could be done, it's the solution. Maybe some kind of semiconductor between the segments that could be switched between insulation and conductivity...

I'm on O2UK mine drops to no bars at all but i still get a 3g signal i've never had a dropped call

I am able to let it drop one or two bars with the death-grip/touch.
BUT - In real life usage I can honestly say - No problem at all.

Rene, we all know full well that the "death grip" is a full on hardware problem. EVERY SINGLE IPHONE 4 EVER BUILD has this issue if you decide to hold your finger/hand over that lower left corner antenna space. Anyhow, it hasn't affected me yet in day to day use.
More important question: How do international customers get free bumpers? There's no free case app in the Canadian store.

Here in Canada with Rogers ... I have tried it in many different places... It would drop 1 or maybe 2 in worse signal areas. I believe this is an AT&T issue. I have to say that everything works perfect and unable to duplicate the antenna nor the proximity sensor. 10/10.

Fantastic idea, to get people around the world to report their take on this. For those with no issue with their units but are blind enough to conclude that other should not either are silly, as obviously this issue is real. I just wish Rene did his tests with say a Nokia or a BB side by side with the iphones. thanks.

I was just in Italy from north to south. U tried the death grip everywhere and I could not duplicate it

I could definately duplicate the issue at home. I tried the death grip in Venice' Rome and Capri but it would not drop any bars. It has to be an AT&T issue. I'm convinced.

@Joe I was able to find the iPhone 4 case app just fine in the Canadian app store. Try searching case instead of bumper, that's how I found it.

I'm on Fido in alberta and i have not been able to make my signal drop on my iphone 4 but i have been able to death grip on my 3g.
the 4 does nothing with a death grip.

Spain, no death grip. Any carrier. No news from deathgrip anyhow from consumers. People say deathgrip= ATT

That is odd. On my iPhone 4, I was able to reproduce the same signal drop with a "death touch" time after time in the same areas. It would go from about 2.5 down and 1 up to .3 down and 0 up in the span of a minute after touching the forbidden spot. Of course some of your fluctuation might be due to network traffic, but I bet you can reproduce the signal drop consistently. It's a real issue, and one Apple apparently has either absolutely no idea how to fix, apart from a complete redesign, or is just willing to live with the flaw because people are buying to phone regardless.

First thing I did when taking it out of the box was attempt to death grip(on the bell network) but it wouldn't drop any bars at all .. I'm not saying there isn't a problem with the antenna but I was concerned about paying $779 for a phone and on top of that waiting in line for 8 hours ..

I actually was using a belkin bluetooth receiver last night and found, if i touch the black strip along the top on my iphone 4, the music stops playing on my bluetooth device immediately.
This is a significant issue, because if I put the device in my pocket I almost always have a portion of my hand covering the top of the device.
Can't believe apple didnt try this stuff out properly first.

I am a Bell Canada Employee, I activated 12 iPhone 4's yesterday AND, in my store which has FULL service on every single phone. I did drop 1 bar while holding it. I ALSO tested the "death grip" on the Blackberry 9700 and got no less of signal. One thing will be, i'm going to test it in a area where service is weak with my 3GS

Nobody should have problems on Bell/Telus shared HSPA network. We get full 3G out at the lake ( Jaffary BC). Not many dead zones anymore with either of those carriers. Rogers out there, hah, forget about it.

Great reception in Pointe-Claire and Montreal area....not able to reproduce issues seen elsewhere. Most important...I LOVE my iPhone 4. What a HUGE upgrade from 3G. I'm experiencing the same giddy excitement I felt when my 3G arrived in 2008. It is awesome.

Thank you Dylan, I did find it when I searched up "Iphone 4 case program"
I ordered the Incase slim hard case. The guys at Future Shop threw in a rubberized Incipio 2mm case, so I figure no sense in getting a rubberized bumper. Also got an invisible shield for the front and back. FANTASTIC product. Easy to install, works excellent.
Back on topic: To clarify, on Rogers in Vancouver BC I've yet to have any reception issues, but like I said, I can voluntarily reproduce reception loss by gapping the antennae.

Eventhough I've tried every grip possible with iPhone 4, the reception in Saudi Arabia is always good.

I live in rural New Zealand, and just upgraded from 3G to iPhone 4, I have no problems, generally reception is not great where I live but have found the iPhone 4 reception to be far better than my old iPhone 3G. I never got 3G connection at home only in town, but now with my iPhone 4 I get 3G connection at home, I am really happy with the upgrade.

Lined up for 5 hours get my hands on an iPhone 4 and the first thing I did is grip it in every way with no loss of signal.In fact I am death gripping as I write this message with 4 bars showing!!!!

I have tried 2 different iPhone 4's in Australia now and tried the "death grip" but couldn't even get 1 bar to drop, not 1 problem with the iPhone 4 here in Australia

I'm from Singapore got my iPhone Friday,tried the grip and in some cases dropped 2 bars but didnt lose connection. When I have full bars though it seems it wouldn't drop at all. I guess it not a huge problem although i feel reception is indeed a bit worse than the 3G

I have noticed one strange situation. My iPhone 4 is awesome, but when I went to TN, my friends iPhone 4 did not register the same signal strength. His was consistently lower then mine. Could it be a bad batch of phones?

Picked up my iPhone 4 in Switzerland on Friday and have had absolutely no problems with reception and without bumper or case. Fabulous!

I bought the Incipio NGP from the TiPb store the week before launch knowing I'm going to want a case before hand anyway.
btw I can now see the case program app in the AU app store (apparently only through the link and not search) where before I would just get a "not found" page

In Ireland
In an area with 3/4 bars signal strength, I can get it to drop 1/2 bars with either death grip or death touch. No effect in areas with full 5 bars

'All of you are starting on 4.0.1 with the “new” formula.'
I'm in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and I can't speak for everyone else but my phone came with iOS 4.0 installed on it. iTunes told me 4.0.1 is ready to be installed but I haven't done it yet.

Look no matter what Apple does they will continue to dig their own grave. I mean it does have some great features but white or not the iPhone 4 has major design flaws. Design should never come before function and usability. Apple seems to have forgotten that.
I mean the iPhone 4 held the number one spot in the top ten ranking on pc world. Once Apple gave that press conference they took it down with out explanation. However, took a look into it. The results are rather interesting.

I just got my wife the IP4 on Thursday. I have the 3GS and previously she had the 3G. While I agree it can be an issue from using it on my porch (which normally has poor reception) by touching it in the infamous location it hasn't impacted her real world usage thus far. My opinion on the matter is this: while I think Apple was much more descreet in the intenuation location on the phone, I think it was a risk they were willing to take in order to get the best reception and form factor from the device. So while I think it's easier to affect the reception the tradeoff is a sleeker phone with better overall reception. I think the smart phone market is full of tradeoffs and this is just one of them. If you can't live with it find another phone that has the features you want with the issues you are willing to live with. This was just overblown by a desperate media, entitled people that like to complain and the miserable masses that like to see people/companies that have what they don't dragged down to their level. It does always seem to be the usual suspects.

I have my iP4 running for 3 weeks now in northern Germany (just north of Bremen) on t-mobile (Telekom) network. Compared with my former 3G (on iOS 4) and my wife's current 3G (on iOs 4.01) there is a slight trend towards more bars on the iP4 and I didn't loose any calls so far, nor any data connection (3G deliberately turned OFF all the time).
I have to add, that all this antennagate-discussion has influenced the way I hold my phone. Without really noticing, I tend to avoid death-grip now. When applying it on purpose, I can typically erase 1-2 bars, slightly more (but may be not significant) than on the 3G.

Another Sydney-Australia iPhone 4 owner.
No death-grip issues.
Feel sorry for the guys & girl chained to AT&T

No issue's here in Adelaide, Australia on the optus network. I can certainly make the phone lose a bar or two with the death grip when the signal is a bit weak, but i haven't dropped any calls, so im happy

I have used the iPhone 4 in Dubai, U.A.E. and in New Delhi, India without any major problems. Tried the Death Grip in Dubai but only got the iPhone to drop to 2 bars, and that was by holding it with both hands covering as much as the phone as I could, which is not how anyone would ever use it normally. In fact, I am getting a better signal everywhere than my BlackBerry 9700.

Zurich/Switzerland: I bought two iPhone 4 from the Apple Store on Friday, both SIM-free (finally available through Apple, which is great!), and before I gave one to my friend, I was able to test them both:
They both seemed to work just exactly the same. I got 5 bars at my location with Sunrise no matter how I held them, even when gripping the left line. Inside the house where 3g was low, I was at least able to reproduce somewhat of a Near-Death-Grip behaviour with one or two bars less life when trying hard to kill reception, but in a way I don't usually hold my iPhone. Basically, reception on the iP4 seems to be very good, actually feels even a little better than on the 3GS. I've had not one lost call so far (lots of calls, having a flat rate).
The only issue I have is all my friends making jokes about the antenna, as bad media coverage on it was huge...

c'est la dernière fois que je viens sur ce site de merde quand on est incapable de traduire correctement une langue dans une autre on s'abstient! ceci n'est pas du français mais du petit nègre

vous n'avez même pas été foutu de recopier bêtement mon texte alors
culer en vous faire aller cul de trou

Please this delete both messages from mossay. Those are very stupid/vulgar messages written in French.

In West Palm Beach, no antennagate so far for me no matter what I try. Signal is usually excellent around here tho but I'll keep testing.

i got new iphone4 from online store and it is very good and the price is cheaper than other suppliers,just $392 including shipping fee,if you are interested in it ,please feel free to contact me

To all you iPhone 4 owners, the deathgrip exists. All you have to do is hold your finger on the spot for at least 30 seconds before you see bars starting to dissapear. Keep your finger on the spot longer and they all go away.
The sad part is reception is affected immediatly, regardless of how many bars are showing.
Don't lie to yourself. Wait until apple fixes this hardware issue before you buy an iPhone 4.

It doesnt affect Singapore. I tried holding on the antenna for more than 30 seconds. The signal went down by only a bar. SO nope, no death-grip in Singapore. I think it must be the AT & T network

the solution is clearcoat. just take clearcoat and then coat the matal frame. (not tested jet, waiting for my iphone)
the reason why the death touch works is because you connect the 2 antennas with your finger. sorry for my english

Melbourne, Australia on Telstra. Generally Telstra coverage is great compared to when I had Optus. Death gripping the device results in dropping a bar which I imagine means dropping a call in weak signal areas. I dropped a call in one such area today, but it's hard to know if this was due to this or not.

No issues on Telus in Atlantic Canada. The first thing both myself/Telus sales guy tried after activating the phone was the death grip/touch just to see what would happen. No matter what we tried, bars stayed at full. Didn't drop at all.
That was with the default preloaded iOS 4.0. Fast forward a day later with the iOS 4.1 update which resized the signal bars and now I am getting random signal strength readings... sometimes it only drops by 1 bar, other times it drops almost down to nothing, other times it's not affected at all.
I think this "update" may have actually made things appear worse. I say "appear" since calls still work fine regardless of how many bars are showing and I've yet to drop a call anywhere I've traveled. I even notice more fluctuations in the signal bars with a full skin case present on the phone. The tallest signal bar keeps "blinking" in/out at random intervals. When I had iOS 4.0 it was at full strength all the time regardless.

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Seems to have worked ok for me as well. Thanks for the solution. Hopefully Apple will look at this problem as well at some point.

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