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June 25, 2010

Jobs speaks out on iPhone 4 antenna issue: Hold your phone differently

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by Darren Allan

The CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, has spoken out on the antenna problem that has been reported by some iPhone 4 users.

Since the phone went on sale yesterday, a number of complaints have popped up across the net, along with illustrative video clips on YouTube showing that the signal strength of the iPhone 4 clearly drops when held in your hand.

More specifically, Ars Technica reports that the problem is caused by holding the phone with your skin touching the bottom left hand corner of the device. Which is causing trouble for left-handed users, who naturally hold the smartphone that way.

Steve Jobs told Ars Technica, in his usual forthright style: “All phones have sensitive areas. Just avoid holding it in this way.” Which isn’t much of a solution in our book – and we imagine doesn’t impress many iPhone 4 owners.

Jobs has since given a lengthier official statement, which several sources have reported, including Sample The Web and TUAW.

He explained: “Gripping any 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.”

So the solution is to either hold it differently (great; don’t hold your phone how it feels natural to you), or use a case or moulded plastic “bumpers” to prevent contact with the handset (which could rather dampen the aesthetic appeal of the super-sexy slim iPhone 4 for some, and of course it costs extra money).

And despite Jobs’ suggestion that this is a common problem for phones, we can’t ever remember a mobile where you can’t hold it in a certain way, or risk losing your signal. It certainly seems like a major design flaw that should have been spotted.

The problem is possibly caused by the way the antenna, which runs around the outside of the iPhone 4’s case, is set up with one section providing wi-fi and the other mobile reception. Touching the bottom of the phone perhaps bridges the gap between the two and causes the signal interference.

Or equally, it could simply be that the moisture in the human hand is affecting the antenna’s reception.

Whatever the cause, the solution is the real issue here, and it’s not very satisfactory to our ears. We’re wondering if any left-handed iPhone 4 users are going to be downgrading back to the 3G or 3GS, which might not have a “retina display”, but they can actually be held and used at the same time.

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