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iPhone 4 defenders debunk reception, 'grip of death' issues

Mel Martin

Most of the news about the iPhone 4 has been negative, particularly about the reception and 'grip of death' that causes the phone to lose signal and sometimes drop calls.

Apple has famously responded to all the bad press, and perhaps has dug an even deeper hole for itself in terms of PR.

All the chatter is not apocalyptic though, and I thought it was worth a moment to point out the other side of the proverbial coin, both from a respected antenna designer who has tested the new iPhone, and from the venerable Consumer Reports group.

First, our antenna expert Spencer Webb, President of AntennaSys Inc. In a first look at the iPhone, Webb concluded:

1) The iPhone 4 is not nearly as hypersensitive to "hand" effects as I was being led to believe from the media buzz.

2) The iPhone 4 seems to be as sensitive to hand effects as the Primordial (first generation) iPhone.

3) Electrical tape over the "band" did nothing.

Further Webb notes:

Regardless of how we applied the Grip of Death, we could not cause the call to drop. I realize this says more about my local signal strength than it does about the phone.

It's worth a look at the whole blog post, so read it for the context of his comments.

Another surprising booster has been Consumer Reports. In a blog post yesterday, they wrote that the iPhone alleged signals woes aren't unique:

Underplayed in the discussion is the fact that all phones are subject to interference from the human who is using them. And even if the alleged signal loss is real, there's an absence of hard evidence that iPhone 4 reception is problematic compared to past iPhones; indeed, there's evidence of just the opposite.

They even take the step of advising readers considering the phone to not worry:

There's no reason, at least yet, to forgo buying an iPhone 4 over its reception concerns. And even if those do materialize, Apple's Steve Jobs helpfully reminds new iPhone buyers that "you can return your undamaged iPhone to any Apple Retail Store or the online Apple Store within 30 days of purchase for a full refund."

In my own experience, I could not duplicate the signal loss, but I am in a great signal area. That's not to dismiss all the reported problems, which seem real enough.

What's confounding is that for everyone that says the new iPhone is far worse than the iPhones that came before, another reader writes and tells us their reception has never been better. That indicates that local conditions clearly play a part in the controversy, and that won't be resolved by changing the way the iPhone displays signal strength.

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