iPhone 4 experiencing signal drop when antenna band is held?

Starting off with a complaint in the MacRumors forums and soliciting other user feedback from there, Gizmodo is compiling a hefty list of people whose brand new iPhone 4 would drop from full bars to next to none -- when they held it by the stainless steel antenna band.

Is it shorting something when both parts are connected by a conductive human hand? Is it a pressure issue? Just some units or all of them?

UPDATE: Engadget says it might happen most frequently when its held in the left hand and skin touches the area where the BT/Wi-Fi/GPS antenna meets the GSM/UMTS antenna.

We don't know yet but if you're having the same problem let us know!

[MacRumors, Gizmodo]

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

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.

193 Comments
  • I definitely am experiencing this as I usually get full bars in my house with the 3GS.
  • Happening to me but it's not really that big of a deal. Design flaw. Hold your hands differently on the phone.
  • its probably a software issue thats affecting the the signal or how many bars its showing or something. wait for update 4.1
  • Put it into plastic case it came in, full bars. Hold it 2 bars. Hmm...
  • I haven't seen this, though I have had weirdly variable bars (doesn't seem to actually prevent calling).
  • Having the same exact problem...4 bars consistently if I'm not holding it, as soon as I put my hands on it (like holding during a phone call) bars are gone and dropped call
    http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2475009&tstart=0
  • Just wear one glove at all times. Problem solved lol
  • Put on a case, that should solve it. lol
  • Mine drops at least three bars when I hold around antenna
  • Yep, happens every time i cover that switch to turn vibrate/ring off and on. Also gets so bad, it won't even send texts sometimes.
  • Does anybody have the bumper Apple is selling? Perhaps the bumper is the answer...
  • Works fine when I wear a catcher's mitt. Otherwise the reception is really affected. Uggghhh.
  • I'm not having this problem. but I'm also not squeezing the life out of my shiny new iphone 4 so I don't see why I would lol.
  • How is this a software issue when it happens by touching the hardware? This is hardware related, most folks will not want to use a case. According to Gizmodo, a Danish professor who is an expert on antennas, predicted this would happen. This is a major issue for Apple.
  • Hmmm…Maybe one of the real world testers of the pre-production device would have noted that issue, had he not lost it in a bar… Just sayin’
  • That's why apple sells the bumpers!!!
  • I've been trying my hardest to get my phone to do this but It doesn't work I always have 5 bars
  • Same problem, I drop to no reception when holding the phone. Man, I love this thing but this sucks!
  • Seriously? They're gonna make me pay $29 bucks for some rubber to actually be able to make calls?...-_-
  • Well, first of all -- the showed bars don't necessarily reflect the actual reception strength…
    And secondly -- if that was really an issue, I'm pretty sure Apple would have noticed during their testing period,m wouldn't they…?! Also, how come that none of the testing journalists (Pogue, Ihnatko, Mossberg and many other) even mention anything like that…?!
    I don't have my iPhone 4 yet, but I kinda doubt that it will really be affected by how I hold it…
  • If that's so, then they should have supplied the bumpers as part of the phone! (Of course, with some Apple fans, the Big A can do nothing wrong. It must be user error!)
  • I thought that was really weird that the antennae were on the outside of the phone like that. It seems kind of obvious that it would impact the reception. Go grab the antenna on an FM radio. What happens to the reception? Of course, there is a significant frequency difference between the two...
  • I'll still be picking mine up tomorrow with a case now. Lol
  • Ditto @Michael In Maine
  • I noticed it when I went outside to use my phone and was holding it my bars started dropping rapidly!!
  • My iPhone4 arrived at my house a little while ago. While at bestbuy last night I picked up an ifrogz case for it so if it is what people are saying then I am covered.
  • Really doubt Apple just sold 600k units of a product that breaks when you hold it like 90% of people are going to
  • In have been testing my phone since I got it this afternoon. It is storming where I am and signal is bouncing no matter what I do, but it's not going less than 3 bars... No issue
  • Anybody with video on this issue?
  • Seems like a really simple thing they should have noticed in testing, if true. Between this and the discolored screens, I'm kinda glad I wasn't able to get a preorder.
  • Mine has five bars no matter how I hold it.
  • I'm hoping that this is only for a certain % of units.
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHBOx4xtjIs&feature=youtube_gdata
    Watch this video on an iphone and unleash the magic!!!
  • An iphone 4 i mean
  • Nevermind... after watching the vids and holding differently I can reproduce this at will :(
  • It's like its a smart phone with no phone. Amazing! Apple is always ahead of the curve
  • I'll believe it when I see a video of it. Does nobody realize this site is full of trolljobs? Relax people.
  • both mine have full bars no matter what direction i hold it
  • i found same thing but seemed to be only when all three "sections" of the frame are being touched. there is a left, right and bottom "section" - if i only touch the left and right side, which seemed to be my natural way of holding it, the problem didn't happen, but if i touch the bottom one at the same time as the other two..signal gone.
  • What states are you people getting no service or less bars??
  • Hold the phone at the top. Not a big deal.
    -Steve
    Sent from my iPhone
  • How come none of the reviews that have come out mention this issue? In fact most say the iPhone 4 has better reception than the 3Gs.
    Maybe I should try and get my hands on one of those preview versions just in case haha
  • A case will be mandatory. Sometimes touching an antenna helps, sometimes it makes reception worse. But the other problem with an exposed frame/chassis is that if you drop it all the shock is directly transmitted to the internal components. There's a reason, besides appearance, why electronic devices come in cases.
    Next up, scratched screens. You can't have hardness and toughness at the same time, despite what the marketers say. They wanted to avoid cracked screens, but it's a comprise and there will be more scratches.
  • Gizmodo think they are the shot they should just stfu and get a real job and get off Apples nuts
  • Ugh, this is going to be the same thing as the reports of the 3GS overheating when it first came out. Yes, if I use Att navigator while playing music, all while my phone is on the dashboard in July, it over heats. Just like I'm sure if you hold your iPhone 4 awkwardly in your fist and squeeze the heck out of it, it loses service. These reports will be forgotten in a week.
  • Personally, I think this is b.s. Gizmondo was the one to report on AT&T and the account info being leaked during the first day of sales for the iPhone 4. They are the ones leading the report on the antenna. Do you really think this would have left r&d without someone catching this? Really? Gizmondo has an ax to grind with Apple and you are all sheep. I find it hard to believe that this many people have gotten their iPhones early. You're all believing the Gizmondo hype. And shame on TiPb for jumping on the band wagon minus any actual first hand evidence.
  • i dont think holding it is making a difference for me.... still depressing. cant the iphone just be perfect for once. it was until i read this.
  • I believe this is why apple is pushing the bumper, I'll bet the sales associate at the store will suggest it tomorrow.
  • mine doesnt do this :/
  • I have been using my new iPhone 4 like a machine. No dropped bars or calls. Don't believe this stuff if you have not received your phone yet. Like someone else said it is just like the 3GS overheating and that never happened.
    I have made and received about 8 calls on my new phone and I actually think the reception is better that my 3GS. Also you will love this thing screen and battery life!
  • Received my iPhone 4 this morning at 9:30 eastern time. This is the first I have heard of the signal problem. I have had nothing but luck so far with this phone, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot get it to replicate this issue. No dropped calls, and nothing but 5 bars in the Baltimore City area. I'm in love all over again.
  • My phone is most deff. Affected by this I just tries it about 30 times and long behold everytime I'm holding the two antennas I go from full service to NONE WTF apple better address this issue soon !!!!
  • Apperantly the issue is not the antenna of the iphone 4 its the software. This video shows how an iphone 3G has the same issue after being upgraded to IOS4. So no its not the iPhone 4's problem its the new iOS4 update.
    heres the iphone 3g with thw same problem running ios 4http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84Lpt2YkF3Q
  • its real http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ixIHyEPO5g&feature=player_embedded#! there realy loosing signal
  • Looks more like a case of providing the user with too much information, specifically an oversensitive signal display.
    In all the investigations so far (and previous reviews) there have been no significant reports of dropped calls. If anything the iPhone 4 has fewer dropped calls (I can make and receive calls on my i4 in a spot in my house that was previously a deadspot)
    So if the call quality is good don't worry about it.
  • @Cwells. Why would anyone believe you. Your not even...........literate.
  • actually am experiencing this issue now that i am using the phones.
    also my face time doesn't work. it's not even an option and yes i'm under wi-fi..my wife's phone has it though and we are sitting next to each other
  • in this video they show how the phone lost signal ...its real Apple better get on this nowhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ixIHyEPO5g&feature=player_embedded#!
  • I think the issue may be both software and hardware. Ever since I updated to 4.0 on Monday, my signal has been wacky. At my desk at work I only get 1 bar now but before I got 4-5. And I am using a 3GS. Interestingly, the connection still seems to be strong though but I didn't notice how my bars have been affected since the update. I didn't update my wife's phone and her's show 5 bars in our house. Mine show 3 and they are sitting right next to each other. I don't think this is a conspiracy theory against Apple either. I think the problem is existent but I also think some aren't having the issues. Whatever the case is, it's unfortunate and I'm sure Apple will fix the problem with either replacements or software update because I'm sure they are hearing about this with all the people calling them and AT&T about the problems.
  • @rob sorry I'm not an English major...but instead of criticism on other peoples English maybe you should provide us with something usefull about the topic....
  • My friend made a video - he can't reproduce it at this point...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvuoKw2cUBA
  • @Rich - Do a restore and start a new iphone.....
  • When it grip it tight now, nothing changes. Probably just everyone being a Nervous Nelly.
  • @ cwells I did, 7 comments above your original post. I see you are capable of righting intelligently though. Maybe you should continue paying attention to what you right even when your not defending yourself for being stupid.
  • God damn autocorrect made me look stupid right = write. You win cwells
  • RELAX! it's a software issue! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84Lpt2YkF3Q
  • well i did a test and i did not get any loos of bars and i also saw apost in gizmodo about the screen having some yellow spots or lines but i did not get that either
  • @Rob
    I believe it is "writing" and "write".
  • @Rob IDIOT. Is this literate?
  • iphonemilk.... ty, makes me feel 100x better
  • Everyone RELAX! call off the hounds! it's a software issue! plain as day!
    RELAX! it's a software issue! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84Lpt2YkF3Q
  • Is there any way TIPB can remove the pic of that botox laden brunette on the home page holding up the iPad case?
    She looks hideous!
  • Hey i just did the same thing on my 3gs. I don't know how but this has to be a software problem.
  • I almost guarantee it's a software issue. These problems happen all the time when you get a new iphone or when you update the software version IF you RESTORE FROM A BACK-UP. All the people experiencing this issue have you restored from back-up?? I would recommend restoring the phone to ios4 and then not restoring from back-up(save your pics!!)and just sync the phone to itunes. You'll lose all your texts and recent phone calls, but at least your phone will be running better... HOPEFULLY LOL
  • Here's a video of a 3Gs doing it
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOLuwZ_GVsc
  • video of my 3gs doing the same thing...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOLuwZ_GVsc
  • LOL thanks Paul... im trying to spread your video around :) thanks for making it.
  • I just did it with my 3G, running 3.1.3. Tried it five times in a row, it happened every time. Went from 5 bars to 2. Of course, I would never hold the phone like that when talking. Anyone else seeing this?
  • iPhoneMIlk.....great minds think alike...just trying to get the word our that it isn't limited to the iphone 4....
  • I am unfortunately and undoubtedly experiencing this issue. Holding the phone by the glass will maintain 4-5 bars. Moments after touching the metal side the bars start dropping until it says no service. Going back to holding it touching the glass only or setting it on a table almost immediately th e bars come back one by one. Good news: I have better signal then 3GS when not touching the sides. Bad News: I have worse signal than 3GS when touching the sides. 
  • This is not a software problem. My 3gs 4.0 is ok.
  • It looks like a software problem and not a major one. I'm sure Apple is working on the issue as we speak and will have a update for you guys ready in the morning or by mid-day tomorrow... So chill its not the end of the world! Side note: I'm glade I'm waiting for the white model ;) lol
  • Visi, just like everyone's iPhone 4 isn't having problems everyone's 3GS probably wouldn't see the problem either. I know my 3GS is having crazy signal changes when I pick it up and put it down. It was doing it all day at work and I just disregarded and now I see why. I do think there may be hardware issues too but seems to be mostly software.
  • I have a 3G with 4.0 that I did a complete restore to the original settings and its happening on mine too, with or without the protective plastic case.
  • My theory is this has to do with a certain settings.
    For example it could be ANYTHING. anything random like 60% screen brightness, or hell Push turned off.. and brightness on half... or ANYTHING..
    and that's why the results are all Sporadic..
    but the important thing to note here is that it's not JUST the iPhone 4. Which means it can't be a hardware issue.
    Unless someone wants to IMPLY that 3G owners and 3Gs owners have had this problem this WHOLE time and never noticed it until now. which i think is ludacris.
    It's software. and based on settings.
    ~There, problem figured out. Now lets sit back and watch apple Say what i just said. and tell us what the exact setting/bug is.
  • Scorp. I have 3g and 3gs. Both with 4.0, factory unlocked and complete restore. Maybe is a carrier/software problem.
  • I am having the same issue. I get three to four bars at home normally. The phone gets 2-3 when tethered to the computer. One when untethered, no signal when held in my hand. This has created a 2 year contracted ipod touch for me.....I wonder what the fix will be?
    Andy
  • Visi, yeah that may be true. I know mine only been acting crazy since 4.0. Prior to that everything was golden. I'm not saying the iPhone 4 doesn't have hardware issues but I think the software has something to do with this. I'm sure Apple has done extensive testing with the antenna on the outside so one thing that they may have missed was actually testing the antenna with the new OS. So now we have a bunch of "testers" now who have gotten theirs early who are probably doing something that Apple may not have been able to test extensively. Who knows. But I do know something isn't right with 4.0. Like many others, it had to be set up as a new iPhone rather than restore from back up like any other upgrade or else your data may not work. Now that's just crazy to me. I'm sure an update will be out in the next couple days.
  • Is this why there is the bumper?
  • Isn't the new iPhone
    suppose to run on 4g?
    Why isn't it say 3g on some phones
  • Look at this video. When the covers the black lines the bars drop.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-BR-LgA9Lw
  • Relax, folks. All radio devices are affected by the human body interference. I just "tested" my wife's Nokia phone and sure as hell bars dropped from 4 to 1 when I hugged the phone. That's why antenna design is important. It all depends on where antenna is located, what materials are used for the casing, how you hold the phone etc. You mileage may vary.
    Of course, with an exposed antenna, iPhone 4 is more prone to interference from touch. Then again, it depends how you hold a phone and conductivity of your skin (which is a separate topic in itself). In any case the interference either will not affect the call quality very much in most situations or, if you are really concerned, use a non-metal protective case as a shield.
  • My bars haven't been affected in the slightest way. I don't know what you all are talking about
  • @ (literate) Rob
    your = possessive pronoun
    you're = contraction - you are
    Noboby's perfect.
  • Same here needs a case!:(
  • I decided to wait on getting a new phone, mainly because I want a white one, but also because I wanted to see what the reception would be like. In Chicago, my iPhone sucks as a phone though data is great. I was hoping that reception would improve with the new design and the big deal about the antenna as the announcement.
    Bummer.
  • Oh NO, here's another problem! http://fonefrenzy.com/2010/06/23/iphone-4-screen-and-glass-issues-alread...
    Get a Droid X!!!
  • Oh snap. My 3GS does it too in Northern Virginia. I thought this was total BS until i watched the link above. Full bars in my house. I took my case off my phone and held the phone lightly from top and sides, all my bars disappeared. WTF?
  • I predict a substantial rush of iPhone users adopting Andorid in the near future.
    There are a huge list of problems in the new iPhone 4
    Signal collapses when you hold it in the most natural way
    Yellow color totally missing from many handsets
    Running HOT,
    Scratching back case cover,
    Activation failures,
    Loss of Data connection using iOS4 on 3Gs phones
    Very slow 3G data, almost approaching EDGE speeds.
    iOS4 a total bust on iphone 3G. Don't even go there. SLOOOW.
    9 hour upgraded for 3Gs phones in some cases
    The whole iPhone 4 launch seems to have been botched by Apple standards.
    People still using iPhones 3G will probably abandon them en mass and move to
    any number of the recent Android releases, even the ones offered by AT&T.
  • I talked to AT&T and they said they are experiencing some issues with the phone service in some areas. That could be the reason for the issue.
    Glad I am waiting until the 29th!
  • Mine drops at least 3 bars when I touch the sides.
  • It's so beautiful, apple punishes you when your holding the Device :O
  • If the new Iphone is IOS-4
    why does the phones still say 3g?
    thought it was going to be running 4g speed
    please clarify?
  • Hey guys I don't have my iPhone 4 yet but thought I'd let you know that the 3GS does this too. When first got mine it would do this. Had it replaced and it will still loose bars a signal strength when I hold it in certain areas. Not that big of a deal. Maybe it's different with the iPhone 4. I'll find that out tommarow.
  • @ Martin,
    Seriously! IT'S NOT A 4G PHONE!!!
    Anyways, I tried this on my 3g, also in Northern Virginia, and nothing changed, still had full bars in my basement. I plan on setting the iPhone 4 up as a new phone tomorrow and not restoring from backup.
  • Remember how Apple was concealing their test units in cases? It's no wonder they didn't stumble upon this issue when the phone was covered. Anyone think a bumper case could help. My issue is more than just the bars themselves visually displaying fewer, I'm dropping more calls and not getting pages to load in places that worked fine before.
  • To all the people that can't do it....its easy and I did it on 5 of my friends iphone's.....stop lying, 4 realz.
  • I can make my os 3.1.2 3g phone do this by laying it on my palm and wrapping my fingers around the edge... Goes down from full to 2-3 bars on cue. Inever noticed thisbefore because I don't hold my phone this way and it's never out of it's incase case. I can't make my phone do this if the case is on, only when naked.
  • That's messed up, I thought it was gonna be better
  • All iPhones do this now and they have always done it. In fact other phones do this as well.
  • Martin The iPhone 4 still runs on the 3G network. That's the network you are seeing. There is no 4G network available with ATT
  • I'm not experiencing any signal drops when I touch the frame...
  • These iPhone launches bring out the OCD in everybody, and the trolls. The new phone is fine. Enjoy it.
  • When I saw this, I went to try it out. My iPhone 4 drops bars also. The Nexus One does this also. This is so strange. But my iPhone 3GS doesn't do it.
  • $29.00USD for not experiencing signal drop on the iPhone 4... and we give you for free an iPhone 4 rubber Bumper!! (*beautiful colors available)
    Always yours,
    Apple -always trying to sell you something- staff.
  • Mine just goes down to 2 bars. I believe it's a long-running problem with how the OS interprets the amount of bars and not the actual signal strength itself.
  • @Nick
    How can you say it is fine with this problem, and the yellow splotches?
  • So does it not happen if you hold it by the front/back glass? I have a hard time thinking Apple wouldn't have figured this out during testing...
  • Just tryed it on my 3gs on 4.0 bars do drop
  • I hate that in the iphone 4 its suddenly drops all signal to no service :@
  • Another video of my friends iPhone 4. He couldn't replicate it at home but we were able to do it at the bar. Not as extensive and quick as others - but it definitely changed (sort of sporadic though, sometimes fine, sometimes completely lost signal). Please read description in YouTube video. Feel free to contact me at my username @gmail.com.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ174Dh4dv4&feature=youtube_gdata
  • My iPhone is also doing the same thing. This sucks.
    Is there any way to fix this?
  • I noticed this as soon as I activated my iPhone 4. I haven't lost service completely, but the signal indicator drops all bars. I'm very concerned!
  • Bridge the gap on the lower left side of the stainless steel band. That's what does it.
  • Yup mine is doing this as well, will drop from 4 bars all the way down to searching for signal when holding the iPhone.
  • Not the case I have a rubber cover on the phone and it still does the same thing. It has to be a software issue. I updated my wife's 3GS to iOS 4 and it is doing the same thing now. Riddle me that one Batman!
  • I should correct what I said above (to clarify)... Bridge the gap on the lower left side of the stainless steel band with the same finger and wait and the bars will drop. Then, take your finger away and the bars come back. You can even do this with the phone on a table and without touching the phone anywhere else.
  • how can this be a software issue if you PHYSICALLY hold the ANTENNA BAND with your HAND. its not like theres a button that tells the software to lose the signal
  • Upgraded my 3G to ios4, can't for the life of me get the signal to drop from full bars... I'm no longer feeding the trolls and I suggest you do the same. On Rogers in Canada btw
  • No problems here. And I have held it all over the phone and it stays at 4-5 bars. Wth is going on here are there bad phones and good phones?
  • Also I find that I have better reception on this phone then my 3GS in the house and at home. No problems at all been playing with it since 3:30 when it showed up at my door. Emailing texting 20 calls. Battery os great too. Awesome.
  • And it's doing it to mine. What a major disaster for Apple. It's hard to believe they'd release the product without realizing this.
  • Okay, I've run speed test after speed test after speed test, and there's virtually no correlation to win I have bars or not. I can cover the bottom of the phone and it will go down to no bars and I will test at 1400+ kbps. Or I can only hold it by the glass and it will have full 3G service and will test at around 800 kbps. Extremely odd. But it doesn't really concern me now after testing the service.
  • Seems to be a whole lot of issues with my iPhone. So Really frustrating when you dish out huge bucks for something that wont work.Thinking of just returning this sucks balls noway am waiting a week or 2 plan on going to verizon droid x looks good to me now
  • Just to chime in, been using my phone for twelve hours and testing all different ways to hold the phone. Have found zero change in bars, and zero change in reception.
  • I have the Black 16GB iPhone 3GS and I was able to replicate the same issue with my phone... however, when I held it normally, in both right and left hands, I experienced zero signal degradation. Only when I wrapped my hands and/or fingers all the way around the exterior metal band was I able to get the signal to drop.
    Note, when I hold the phone normally, I usually do not wrap my hand all the way around the metal band I hold it in the fingers with the fleshy pad of my hand lightly touching the iPhone. I think it may be a hardware issue but I think the fix might be to just handle the phone and not claw it. I will be very interested to see if I can replicate the issue on an iPhone 4 when I can get to an Apple Store and try this.
  • Thank god I didn't buy one. I thought it was a break through and that I was going to get significantly better service , less dropped calls , faster data etc.
    I think it's always been the phone that caused bad phone