The White iPhone 4

The White iPhone 4

Friday, June 25, 2010

What's Causing the Antenna Issue? Apple Rep. Responds

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.

18 comments:

  1. Thank you for the update. It is a relief to know that there is a solution (or be will shortly).

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  2. glad to hear it. a coating on the antenna would be cheap and easy to do to fix it. Now that, that problem is solved

    I still have another major issue with how brittle the glass is on the iphone 4. If Apple could sell self repair kits for the glass, then it would certainly remove alot of angst that ppl feel about the device

    I hear taking the iphone 4 apart and replacing the battery is very easy. So if Apple could sell spare batteries, that be great as well

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  3. Coating the antenna does not mitigate the issue. The antenna is simply blocked when one covers it with the heel of his hand. Taping, coating, or casing the antenna does no good. One simply must not cover the antenna - it's the same principle with all devices at these high frequencies.

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  4. Bill, the "antenna" is actually two antennae, a WiFi antenna and a 3G one, that run the circumference of the phone. Blocking them would require very large hands. The problem is caused by human fingers shorting out the 3G antenna by connecting it to the WiFi one with the human hand. The issue is alleviated by putting any non-conducting material between your finger and the gap between the antennae. I've tested it on mine, and it bears out. Hence, an insulating coating would and was intended to solve the problem. The problem only emerges on defective units that didn't get coated antennae. These are just the facts.

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  5. I've got the problem and have tried various types of tape. None of them make any difference at all. I still have the problem. I lose a 4 to 5 bar signal completely. No connection at all. Can't use the phone as a phone if I hold it in my left hand (which I do). Defective by design.

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  6. sneezingdog, you seem to have a unique problem, NOT the one being described here. I have tested it on four different iPhone 4's and it's the simple act of "bridging" the black gap in the antenna with your hand, key, etc that causes the bars to drop. In all four samples I have, simply covering that area with a bumper case or piece of tape solves the issue. The fix should be simple for Apple.

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  7. Funny to listen to you all equivocate around the fact that this is a design flaw, pure and simple... from the company whose industrial design is supposed to be second to none. If you iSheep didn't act like such superior tools about cell phones, maybe the rest of us wouldn't be reveling so much in this.

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  8. Mike. I agree with you. This is a MAJOR design flaw. Apple must act quickly on crisis management.

    My phone is an unusable brick unless it's sitting on the table. Goes to no bars within a minute.

    This story is making INTERNATIONAL headlines as it affects many thousands.

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  9. I used isolating tape coverin the metal bits, and it didn't help! I even tried 4 layers of this tape and it also didn't help!

    I am optimistic in this matter and I'm just hoping that I won't have to go though the hassle with replacing iPhone 4 and I'm hoping that it is software fiable...

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  10. Hi,
    Sorry for the off topic but i have a iPhone 3gs with the same problem, what could be the problem?

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  11. you are just promoting your site with fake news. csr's are as dumb as a rock, they are just reading what they are being forced to say. this is a hardware design issue PERIOD.

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  12. also white phone will come with other issues.

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  13. Hmm so the white iPhone 4 is to be released sometime in late July. Isn't the Droid X being released on July 15th?1 Could Apple have foreseen these manufacturing problems and purposefully avoided fixing them earlier so they could have a competitive second launch date close to that of the Droid X?!

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  14. Attention Average Americans:

    It's not a design flaw.
    If it was a design flaw, EVERY iPhone 4 would have the antenna issue.

    Not every iPhone 4 has the antenna issue, in fact, only some do; hence, it isn't a design flaw.

    In fact, the design is actually innovative:
    1) Boosts signal significantly (i.e. I have observed nearly full 3G everywhere I go).

    2) Allows for a larger battery inside the actual unit.

    It's obvious that the only Flaw here is the 5th grade reading level of all the Average Americans, that do not actually have an iPhone 4, but post about how they do, and that they think it's a "design flaw," when it's not.

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  15. It sounds like you're just making excuses, Ryan. People are having real problems, not imagined ones.

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  16. If it was a design flaw, EVERY iPhone 4 would have the antenna issue.

    The problem is real, and only real for some affect devices.

    Please understand the different between different flaws(will definitely affect all units) and some faulty units.

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  17. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading.

    Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    -
    iPhone Developers

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  18. The iPhone is one of the most advanced phones out there and buying one is a smart step. A step many people seem to forget is the need to buy an iPhone case. A study by a reputable company has shown that 1 in 3 iPhones will have been damaged beyond repair after two years of purchase.

    E_Cell

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