As I mentioned earlier, the black iPhone 4 I have is experiencing the dreaded antenna issue. So I decided to do some digging and find out what's behind the problem. Here's what I discovered.
A lot of people have speculated that the issue is caused by a faulty design, noting that an antenna on the outside is logically going to be affected by contact from skin, and that testing should have picked this issue up right away. The design, as cool as it is, should've been nixed as impractical.
However, this ignores the fact that the issue is sporadic. Not every phone is impacted, only some. I further learned that simply sticking a piece of scotch tape over the lower left corner of the phone alleviated the issue. So I got to thinking. If adhesive tape is enough to prevent the problem, why didn't Apple put some kind of high-tech, insulating coating over the top of the antenna pieces.
Turns out, they did.
As reported by Ars Technica, though they buried it in the story (presumably because bagging on Steve Jobs is a reliable way to earn clicks), an Apple CSR confirmed that a coating was in fact applied to the parts to prevent the issue, but some units did not receive the coating by mistake. That CSR made those comments when replacing a user's phone.
To confirm this, I decided to make a call of my own. Calling Apple Tech support, I told them I was having the antenna issue, and then asked if they were aware that a missing coating on the antennae was causing the issue. The rep. I spoke to said that they are fully investigating the problem, and should have an answer for the iPhone 4-owning public very soon. He said that Apple was advising FOR NOW that people do 3 things:
1. Reset the network settings.
2. Flip airport mode on and off.
3. Avoid holding the phone in the lower left corner.
He didn't offer to replace my iPhone 4 outright, but did say that once a solution is decided upon, I would be able to get it repaired or replaced at an Apple store free of charge.
The verdict? Don't run out and buy covers or attempt a home fix, or gasp think about becoming a Droidbag. Though Steve's exhortations on the issue seemed insensitive, Apple is working very hard to resolve the issue in a way that doesn't involve giving you hand cramps or covering up that pretty phone with an ugly case or scotch tape.
For white iPhone 4 buyers, this is exceptional news. Essentially, we're going to be getting a 4.1 release of iPhone 4, with the most glaring initial bug resolved before the handset even goes on sale. So cheers, everyone. The white iPhone 4 has spared those waiting for it some angst. Add that to the list of reasons it's worth waiting for.