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3 Options Apple Had to Avoid the iPhone 4 Antenna Issue

by Travis Harvey | July 20, 2010July 20, 2010 10:00 am PDT

Even after last Friday’s press conference where Apple dismissed the iPhone 4’s antenna issue as an industry problem, there’s no mistaking the issue is real.  While it may only be noticeable in day to day usage by a very vocal minority, Apple could have – and still can – alleviate the issue with several alternatives to its current hardware design.

Internal Wifi/Bluetooth/GPS Antenna

The most obvious of these changes is to simply push those pesky antennas back inside the iPhone’s guts but that would defeat the purpose of Apple’s “magical” idea to maximize reception at all times.  After Apple moved away from the aluminum iPhone design in part because of reception blockage, there were very few reception complaints with the 3G & 3GS’s unobtrusive plasticantennagapmoved housing.  Glass certainly can’t be worse than aluminum, especially when it comes to transmitting the more permeable Bluetooth, Wifi, and GPS signal.  So why not move that antenna internally and let the cell antenna wrap completely around the outside?  Yeah, you might not make the ‘thinnest smartphone in the world’ but there’d be no shorting between the two.  Best of all?  You get to keep the design essentially unchanged.

Relocate the Antenna Gaps

Is it even arguable at this point that the death grip (or touch) is resulting from anything but a short by your conductive skin?  Apple argues that most smartphones suffer from a similar death grip but there’s something different about the iPhone 4’s.  Covering the gap with a nonconductive tap, nail polish, or band-aid reduces the reception loss you’d see by bridging the gap.  The remaining signal loss is likely due to the less drastic industry-wide decrease in reception.  Instead of placing the gaps between the antennas in such a high traffic areas, why not start them between the volume buttons and end on the bottom near the 30 pin connector?  Just move the gaps.

Nonconductive Antenna Coating

The least expensive way that Apple might actually alleviate the issue is through a clear coating around the outside of the antennas.  People have reportedly been coating the problem area with clear nail polish to prevent the short between antennas and it might actually be working.  iFixit is under the impression that Apple has already started to coat the external metal bands with a nonconductive coating to prevent such an issue with their outgoing supply.

When Apple reevaluates the issue in September, we’re likely to know if any changes were made in the manufacturing process.  I’m no antenna expert but none of these suggestions seem too crazy, right?  If you think you can do better, drop a line in the comments or let us know what you think Apple’s going to change sooner rather than later.


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