As Erica demonstrates in the video above, for some iPhone 4 users it's not that hard to show how the phone's reception is affected by holding it 'wrong.' BoyGeniusReport has a copy of what they claim is AppleCare's internal troubleshooting procedure for iPhone 4, which boils down to "the iPhone 4's antenna is great; avoid holding it that way; and no, you aren't getting a free bumper." BGR also points out that if this is the official line, notably absent is any hint of a software fix coming (counter to what AppleInsider suggested last week). Of course, if there isn't a problem, then why would Apple be planning to fix it?
To an extent, Apple (and Steve Jobs who was widely reported to have told a user not to hold their iPhone a certain way) is right. All cell phones have this issue. Yes, Nokia, even yours. But Apple's blasé response to this issue is going to give it legs, especially when Apple's solution is to buy a $30 bumper that they just happened to have started selling to coincide with the iPhone 4 release.
Speaking as someone who remembers when iPhones used to come with a dock in the box, and who assumes that the actual production cost of a bumper is probably closer to $5 than $30, I'm surprised Apple isn't trying to avoid the seemingly inevitable class action lawsuit by throwing in a bumper to anyone who has the problem and brings their iPhone 4 into an Apple Store. After all, Nintendo put a wrist strap on the Wii Remote but still gave away plastic grips to help people who were losing control of them. And the story died.
There's no doubt that this issue is clouding the iPhone 4's release, even if the issue is only affecting a small percentage of iPhone 4 users (and we don't know what that percentage is). My friend Richard Gaywood posted a detailed explanation of the issue and why it is more likely to be discernible in areas of weak coverage (which AT&T customers refer to as "just about everywhere"). AnandTech posted a detailed explanation as well. MacRumors reported the experience of one user who resolved reception problems with a reseating of the iPhone's MicroSIM, which is easy enough to try on your own.
So our question to you iPhone 4 owners is: have you seen it?