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!