Apple's response to iPhone 4 antenna problem -- hold different

Engadget followed up with Apple regarding the issue of lost bars/reception when iPhone 4 is held with the left hand, connecting the two antenna bands in the lower left corner. Apple's response -- hold different:

Gripping any mobile 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. 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.

Reports suggest doing either -- switching grips or putting on a case -- will let you avoid the problem, which Engadget reminds us is not isolated to the iPhone 4. But if previous iPhones and other devices like the Nexus One have similar issues, is that just a fact of life or an engineering problem that needs to be fixed?

What do you think?


Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • This is why I buy Apple prodcuts. That is quite hilarious.
    My phone has had zero problems with reception or this yellow blottage as some are getting. (knock on wood)
  • Don't get me wrong, i really like my new iPhone 4. However surely this should have been picked up during the test phases.
    It makes me think that maybe Apple knew about this, thus released the "Bumper" cases which will add an extra £25 to the total cost of you new iphone.
    Surely "Don't hold it that way" is not an acceptable response from a company that is respected for its quality in the past.
  • What would happen if the lower left corner antennas were "connected" by something more conductive then skin ? Wet skin or a piece of metal ? Would that some how short out the antennas and make the phone useless ? I'd love to see some test videos.
  • Yikes. I saw the YouTube video of the phone consistently dropping when held in the lower left... probably more of a pain for all the southpaws but a bit odd nonetheless. Glad I held out on the first wave of these as I can't imagine Apple won't do something with the manufacturing to address this issue.
  • I have two new iPhone4 and neither exhibit this problem nor the yellow screen dots so I do not believe it is the way you hold it. I believe it's a software issue
  • Not had any issues with mine.
  • I find this hilarious. So it's my fault for holding my wrong, and not a build problem....hahahaha
    Now in addition, now that almost everyone confirmed that the reception was much better on the iphone 4, is it safe to say that it wasn't entirely AT&T network problem with the earlier versions of the iphone, but rather how the antenna itself that cause for all the problems we had?
    Whatever, I'm returning this piece of sh**...and wait for the droid x
  • Are you ********* kidding me? I should return it, but I'm already selling my 3GS on eBay.
  • Doctor, Doctor, it hurts when I move my arm. Don't move your arm. Thanks for the cure!
  • It's doing it for me if I curl my hand around the bottom of the phone but my wife is having signal problems now with her 3GS when neither of us did in the past. Pittsburgh PA
  • I can reproduce the dropping bar condition if I hold the phone in what to me is a really weird death grip. If i hold it normally, the way I've held every other cellphone I've ever owned (except for my first bag phone way back in the day) there is no issue whatsoever. Oh, and no yellow screen condition on mine either. Very happy with the 4 so far. Makes my 3G look like a piece of crap by comparison.
  • look, everyone have looked at their phone and saw good signal, what ever the phone, then picked it up to find out the phone was lying to you. this is why people who are in good service have no problems.
  • This is so dumb that they tell u how to hold your phone.
  • I just love the hold it different or purchase our $30 solution to our known problem. Thanks
  • @Jazz1- LOL +1 how dare I use my new 2010 phone with my bare hands. I'm yet to pick up a 4, hopefully it won't be a problem for me. I'm a southpaw :(
  • Hold it differently? You shouldn't need to hold it differently; the phone should work whether you're right or left handed. That was a really inane response and Apple should fix the problem rather than deflect if it's being reported as a major issue.
  • And, by the way, my 3G can be held anyway you like and still gets great reception.
  • Well, I always had to hold my iPhone 3G and 3GS a certain way to avoid losing signal. I don't see how this is any different than those. Those were more of a blocking signal issue, not a conductive/ground issue.
    As long as Apple says there's nothing wrong with it an IT'S OPERATING AS EXPECTED then I'm happy. I always have or have planned to have a case anyway.
  • Hold the phone delicately with your fingertips, at the top. That increases the chances you'll drop it and have to buy a new one. Ha!
    In other words, for best reception, Apple recommends not holding your cell phone in your hand while using it.
  • That is an absurd response from Apple! Apple needs to recall the iPhone 4, mine will drop calls if I hold it in my left hand!
  • So fake. Come on people.
  • Droid + Verizon = great reception, open source os, no network issues. Love apple but got rid of two iphones for droids. Oh and swype FTW :D
  • Job's reply is unacceptable. It's like telling the doctor that your arm hurts when you move it, and doctor replies "Don't move your arm". It's just unacceptable.
    I'd expect a CEO from a respected company to explain about the problem, and willing to fix it instead of saying "Just avoid holding it in that way"!
  • @ rf9 too much koolaid. seriously if apple says it your good? you should get out more.
  • If I were Steve Jobs I would have answered the question the same way. Just put a case on the damn thing and you will be fine.
  • Apple are basically telling iphone owners to suck it up and deal with THEIR (Apples) design flaw. The email confirms it is not software related, the email is not fake. However, the issue is very real.
  • Yeah I think that email is a fake! But I do question if in fact that's why apple came out with those bumpers.
  • I must say this is disappointing. I have come to love Apple products because of the reliability in the products. This is a blow to my confidence in the company and this particular product. Only time will tell just how big of a blow it will be. I would expect this from HTC or Palm…but not Apple.
    P.S. I hope “Just avoid holding it in that way” makes an appearance on SNL soon.
  • What the problem? I did not know that iPhone users actually liked making phone calls. I thought that that was too 2006 for them...
  • If your having a problem, than make a genius bar appointment asap, within 14 days of purchase you can go back in and get a new phone out of the box.
    Also, the ones with the problem.. did you buy a case? A case would keep your hand from making physical contact with the antenna on either side. I didn't walk out of Apple this morning unless mine was in a bumper type case. I have been reading the comments from other sites on this all morning and that was the number one solution for this problem.... Put a case on it, whats so hard about that, and if you have further problems, go back and stop bitching.
  • Steve wants you to hold it "L" style cuz you know, thats the cool way to hold it. If you get that, you are just awesome :)
  • That's like Toyota telling it's customers just throw it in neutral when you want to stop. I got mine today and threw a bumper on it ASAP and no probs. Also no yellow. Maybe that was isolated to the people who got theirs two days early.
  • This is exactly why Im holding out until next year's model (when they work out the kinks and improve on this new model).
    Wait for the iPhone 5. 8 Pixel Camera from Sony and issues with FaceTime will be not confined to Wi-Fi by then.
  • The first thing I thought of when I read about the antenna problem is "use a Bluetooth headset". II love my new iPhone 4. Puts all other models to shame. I have had no problems. Thanks, Apple.
  • @Ben - I disagree with you. I wouldn't like a case in my iPhone 4 because it would make it look ugly and maybe uncomfortable. Apple shouldn't force every iPhone 4 owners to change the way they hold it or get a case. It's just ridiculous. What Apple should do is to FIX the problem. The hardware problem. Fix it! So there wouldn't be any signal problem when the antenna band is touched.
  • I feel like smashing mine to bits and mines got the case and it still doesnt work :@
  • I look forward to seeing this for myself. My current 3GS (and 3G before that) does the same thing when I'm in an area without a strong signal. When I'm in areas that I know have weak signal issues I make sure not to touch the lower half of the phone and the connection improves. I'm wondering if this is something that has been an issue even on the old models with the internal antennas. Keep in mind this only happens in areas with sketchy signal. Either way I was hoping for something better this time around.
  • This is not limited to a conductive issue. I put on thick insulated rubber gloves and held it with my left hand (which is more common for a right handed person) and BOOM!............... No signal
  • This is a serious question:
    How many people who are here complaining about Apple not fixing the problem actually have an iPhone4 AND actually have this problem? Yes, it's not right of Apple to react like this, but on the other hand is this really a widespread problem or maybe it only effects a handful (relatively speaking) of phones?
  • I'm going to be returning my iPhone now. I've had every generation but this is unacceptable. Anyone know how the 30 day return policy works with the new AT&T contracts we had to sign to get the cheaper price? I'm assuming those are terminated if you return within 30 days as well?
  • Hold the phone lightly... like a bird in your hand. Tight enough it won't fly away, light enough you won't choke it to death. I wish I could make up comedy material like this, but Apple provided it all to me with these e-mails.
    On another note, everything else about this phone is awesome. I just want them to move the antenna back internally, maybe also come out with a revision with both HSPA 14.4 and Ev-Do Rev. B/Sv-Do for both CDMA and UMTS carriers.
  • Droidloser, go away and troll at palm central. When you can surf the web over cellular data while making a phone call you can talk trash about how your network is better. I have not had any more or less dropped calls or network coverage with my iPhone than any other phone/network combo.
  • And now from the company that taught you to "Think Different"...
    "iPhone 4: Hold Different"
  • No problems here. I'm seeing better reception.
  • Call me when you have signal...better yet you can skype me or even give me a video ca .... Oh thats right, theres not an app for that on 3G
  • I haven't had any problems with my iphone 4. Maybe I should go on the fandroids fourm, and say I'm having problems with a droid that I don't even own.
  • Dimwit,
    That's nice to know but not much help for those in non 3G areas or those in bad AT&T areas (NY, SF ring a bell?) You cannot talk and surf at the same time on GSM, you can only do that on UMTS. I don't appreciate Fandroids using this as an opportunity to attack Apple, but let's not defend a bad UMTS carrier who cannot properly deploy anyway.
  • Maybe you have trouble reading. I have no problems with network service. And I can see my screen outside. And I can recieve an email while I'm talking to the person sending it to me. And there will be plenty of apps to send video over the net. And I can edit video without having to use a computer. And you're still a loser.
  • Droidlover, you may as well shield yourself with Verizon, that's the only thing you really have going for you anyway. I doubt you've even seen the iPhone 4 up close yet.
  • I don't have an iPhone 4 myself but a woman at work has one. I had to see if I could reproduce this. She got her phone on 23rd so early batch. I couldn't get the phone to lose full signal for the life of me. My 3gs which I got in OCT of last year gets perfect signal except when on my hip at my friends house. My friends phone acts the same, her fiancé on the other hand has an old 3g that sometimes GETS signal. Pretty much has to rely on skype over wifi.
  • This is really annoying - the normal way I hold it totally shuts down the antenna. My case is coming tomorrow, so hopefully it will fix the problem. I LOVE the new iphone 4, but I can't keep it if it doesn't work.
  • I found a solution. Lay the phone on a styrofoam block and do multiple touches on the screen while talking. Oh wait thats the awkward mess somebody went through to try and find a problem with an Android superphone. Nevermind.
  • i'm surprised it didn't occur to people earlier then this. when apple release the spec aspect stating that the steel band would be around the iphone and act as an antenna didn't this thought come up? i'm sure thats why apple made the bumper phone cover..imho they should have included it in the box for free like how asian cell phone store places would throw in a free cell phone cover with purchase and contact.
    and of course the antenna is on the bottom, the top would be closer to your head.
  • Fraydog, I agree that AT&T MUST get better. I'm just tired of all the fandroids acting like V* is so much better. Edge is only slightly slower than V's 3G. My point was simply that I haven't noticed a service difference between AT&T, Sprint, verizion, or friggin' Boost for that matter.
  • Just did this on my 3GS and same thing... solid grip around the bottom half of the phone for about half a minute leads to no bars. Release the phone and again wait about 30 seconds and once again full signal. I think a lot of us know this is how its always worked but it still sucks that it wasn't fixed with the new design. I learned a long time ago if i want to talk on my iPhone not to hold it with a solid grip but rather just thumb (left side), index (top), and middle finger (right side). I'm not defending Apple but this isn't a new thing in my experience. I've had several non Apple phones which required me to learn special techniques of holding in order to improve reception in areas of weaker signals. Again this sucks, but I don't think its something specific to this model iPhone or mobile phones in general (even though many phones do get much better reception).
  • I like turtles.
  • Yes, but that argument can be made redundant with LTE. Verizon, to their credit, has really promised to open things up and accelerate 4G deployment. I thought their newfound commitment to GSM and LTE was vaporware but they're seriously pushing forward here. Long term, they hold more spectrum and offer a better path forward. Short term, the implementations of CDMA suck but Verizon has won big investment bets before like FiOS for example.
  • I wonder if black electrical tape over the steel band would be enough to solve the issue. Ot would be easy enough to trim to fit well, wouldn't be as bulky as a case, would be cheap. The only downer in this whole thing is I like the way the iPhone 4 looks nekkid.
  • @Will - Well that will not happen, the phone is out to the public and this is it. If your unhappy you have 14 days of purchase to return the device.
    As for cases on the phone, I believe I want protection on my phone other than feeling it it will, "look ugly". Good luck to you with it, but this too just shows that not everyone will be happy.
  • Hurry, buy this "magical and revolutionary" case to make more money for Apple based on Apple's own problem. Talk about a cult...
  • In all seriousness I have seen an iphone4 up close and I can't say its bad at all and there is room for everyone at the party. What I like the most besides big red ischoice and apple/iOS4 doesn't give enough options for me. Themes...yep, tether w/o jb...yep, unltd data...yep, swype...yep, regular updates...yep, last but not least NFL network 24x7 and sling over 3g...yep! All about the choices for me.
    Think about it
  • god , droid fanboys are by far the worst of all kinda. first off even tho the bars are representing dropped signal , my call quality / dropped calls have been perfect.
    when the droid fixes the what looks to be 10 hz refresh rate on their handsets they will be worth talking about.
  • So let me get this straight. Did the main guy at Apple just respond to an obvious major design flaw in the new $300 phone I just bought by implying that it was my fault for holding it the wrong way? Are you serious?
    "Just avoid holding it in that way." You know, the casualness in which he says that makes me want to ring his scrawny little neck.
  • It's funny to see the android fanbois argue with the iPhone fanbois as if they actually have a shot at changing each other's mind. Who cares what phone everyone else has? Buy the phone YOU like and stop worrying so much about everyone else.
    P.S. Droid fanbois automatically look more pathetic for actually coming on an iPhone blog for the sole purpose of bashing. Sam goes for the iPhone fanbois on the devoid blogs...
  • Why is everyone complaining so much? Apple made a nice promo video showing precisely how the iPhone 4 should be held!
  • i havent noticed any dropped bars or signals on mine, calls are clear as they were with verizon
  • My signal is great no matter how I hold the phone. That might be because I'm homeless and live underneath a cell phone tower.
  • I haven't got my 4 yet. My buddy got his today. I held it in my left hand as normal without a case. Lost all bars within 30 seconds . I then held it from the top and all 5 bars came back. I could not get my 3GS to do the same. The 3GS is also on 4.0
    The way I hold my phone is the precise way to lose all bars on his iPhone 4
    Not impressed. I'll keep my 3GS and sell the 4 on eBay and wait until a new phone comes out. Apple should be ashamed......
  • I'm sorry, but F*ck You Steve, you arrogant a$$! I wanted an iPhone 4.0 to replace my current 3G, but not anymore! Not after seeing your response. The absolute disdain you hold for your customers to treat us like we're dumb children is shocking. I guess living in your ivory tower has gone to your head, and you forget who's paid for all that wealth you have. Us. Your customers. Or should I say, former customers.
    I was able to reproduce this issue 4 times in a row, on my friends brand new 4.0 that he let me play with today. It is an issue. It doesn't do it instantly all at once. It takes about 10-15 seconds to start reducing the signal, and then it goes down about one bar at a time each 3-4 seconds, so after about 30 seconds, is when it's down to 1 or no bars, but it does do it.
    Please, people...don't let him get away with this crap. Teach him a lesson. Hold off on your purchase of a 4.0 until they recognize that it's an issue and that they need to do something about it. I'm not saying don't buy one (as I think it's a great device otherwise), but it obviously needs to be fixed, and if we just keep accepting the flaws from their obviously less than stellar QA team, and we buy it anyways and "settle" for the flaws, then he has no reason to do anything about it. But hold off on purchasing it, and hurt their profits, and I'm sure it will suddenly become an issue worth fixing.
    Remember, he's the one who made the claim that with the Antennae on the outside, the signal would be BETTER. We didn't make that claim. The reviewers didn't make that claim. He did. He should be held accountable for that...
  • I can't see how people can still believe that this could possibly be a software issue. Its quite obviously a hardware issue, and one that seems to have existed even in the 3GS, (though probably easier to inadvertently cause with the exposed metal bands of the iPhone 4). OS Software cannot behave differently based on how you hold a phone... it may exaggerate fluctuations in reception, but given people seem to be reporting call drop outs, not just loosing bars, it seems pretty obvious to me this can't be a software issue....
  • Uh-oh. It's happening with a thick case as well!!! This will be the end of the iPhone reign just like Toyota. What a shame. :(
  • I agree. Steve is arrogant. They think everyone will buy their products. For once I think we should show solidarity and not rush for the phone. I have a 3gs and