TiPb Answers: Verizon iPhone, antennagate, and death-touch vs. death-grip
Not so far. That's the short answer. For the long answer, including an explanation of death-touch vs. death-grip and what, if anything this means for Verizon iPhone users, follow on after the break...
Every mobile phone has an antenna and -- we kid you not -- the design of modern smartphone antennas is as close as it gets to radio black magic. The need to support multiple domestic and international frequencies, often four or five GSM, a couple of CDMA, and sometimes GSM/CDMA hybrids (see our TiPb guide to wireless network terms for what all that means), while at the same time making the casings as thin and light as possible leads to the engineering equivalent of sorcery. They need to be specific lengths to hit the right frequencies and they need to avoid interference. That means interference from other components inside the phone and it means interference from large, water-logged masses like your hand. Hold a phone -- most any phone -- normally and you won't have a problem. Engineers have already figured out how you're likely to hold it and they've designed around just that type of potential interference. However, they can't design around total interference. Enter the death-grip.
If you take your big (or even not-so-big) fleshy, watery hand and wrap it around as much of your phone -- again most any phone -- as possible, you'll likely end up covering enough of the antenna to interfere with reception. If you're in a high signal area, 4 or 5 real bars, you'll likely see your phone drop down to 1, 2, or 3 bars. If you're in a low signal area, especially 1 or 2 bars, you can kill it dead.
I've done this with an iPhone 3GS and a Nexus One, and YouTube is full of videos of people doing the same thing with Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and other phones. (Apple controversially put up videos showing many competing phones being death-gripped). Most phones can be death-gripped. Even the Verizon iPhone 4, apparently.
The death-touch, infamous from the AT&T/GSM iPhone 4 is different in kind. You can death-grip an iPhone 4 -- just like most any phone -- but you can also achieve pretty much the same result with a single well-placed finger. Take that finger and touch it to the black band at the bottom left hand corner of the iPhone 4's stainless steel band -- the point where 2 antennas come close together -- and you can cause something very similar to the death-grip. Again, if you're in a high signal area you probably won't notice anything other than a few bars dropping off. If you're in a low signal area you can literally use it like network pause button. Touch it and the radio connection dies. Remove your finger and the connection starts again.
It's real, it's repeatable, and it's a problem for people in those low signal areas unless they put a case on their iPhone 4 that sufficiently insulates the antennas from bridging. (Apple gave away free bumpers to address the issue.)
Does the Verizon iPhone suffer from death-touch?
So far there's no evidence of the Verizon iPhone suffering from the AT&T/GSM-style death-touch issue that sparked "antennagate". Since it has a different antenna array necessitated by its CDMA radios it's possible death-touch simply isn't a problem for that hardware.
The Verizon iPhone does seem susceptible to death-grip, however, but again (again, really) most phones can be death-gripped. It's the nature of radios.