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iPhone Reception Issues Hardware or Software Related? (Updated!)

by Travis Harvey | June 25, 2010June 25, 2010 10:51 am PDT

Although yesterday wasn’t exactly iDay ’10, plenty of customers received their iPhone 4 devices atop plenty of other iPhone news.  White models won’t be available until July, there’s a number of Retina displays floating around with yellow discoloration, and sporadic reports are coming in of reception loss with normal use.  It looks like there’s more to the reception issue than meets the eye.

Gizmodo has a ton of videos linked that show a decrease in reception bars when the iPhone 4 is being held in-hand.  As more and more reports flow in, it has become apparent that when the two outer antennas on the left side of the device are connected via touch the reception bars slowly dwindle down to one or none.  Check out all the videos here.

In Walt Mossberg’s video review, he mentioned that on several occasions he managed to lose all bars while the iPhone 3GS in the same location maintained service.  It’s possible the scenario occurred through the same means that iPhone 4 owners have discovered the reception issue.  His video review can be found over at the WSJ.  From Walt:

“Yet, in some places where the signal was relatively weak, the iPhone 4 showed no bars, or fewer bars than its predecessor. Apple says that this is a bug it plans to fix, and that it has to do with the way the bars are presented, not the actual ability to make a call. And, in fact, in nearly all of these cases, the iPhone 4 was able to place calls despite the lack of bars.

However, on at least six occasions during my tests, the new iPhone was either reporting “no service” or searching for a network while the old one, held in my other hand, was showing at least a couple of bars. Neither Apple nor AT&T could explain this. The iPhone 4 quickly recovered in these situations, showing service after a few seconds, but it was still troubling.”

A different video of an iPhone 3G has surfaced that shows the same issue as the device is held in hand, slowly dropping in bars as time passes.  A software issue seems odd though, as there’d have to be something telling it the device has been picked up and another relating that to reception.  Hmm.  Watch for yourself.

It’ll be interesting to see if this issue is hardware or software related and if there’s a fix for either.  Mass recall or a simple software update?  One of those would cost Apple a pretty penny.

Updated: Official word is in from Apple.  Hold it differently or buy a case.

“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.”


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