July 16, 2010

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iPhone 4 Antenna Problems

Last month, Jon talked about the iPhone 4 and one of the things he discussed was the antenna design and like many new things, “The real question is: will it work well?”

Thus far, the answer seems to be a resounding no.

For those of you who may not be aware of this, shortly after the phone was released people started complaining about dropped calls, and at one point Apple responded by telling people that they were “holding the phone wrong”. They later amended that statement with a

more PC version: “Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, depending on the placement of the antennas.” At one point they even claimed that it was actually a software issue that has been around since the first iPhone. This bug apparently overestimates the number of bars you have by 2 in certain cases. Apparently, no one bought that excuse.

As the teeth gnashing continued, Apple started recommending people buy one of their bumper cases for around $40. The bumper cases however make it difficult to plug things into your iPhone. Things like your headphones, and possibly more importantly the iPod interface cable. It seems that anything but the very latest iPhone adapter will not fit in the case. I noticed this problem yesterday when my boss asked me if I had an iPod cable. He tried both of the cables I had and neither fit. He had to peel off the bottom of the case in order to get the adapter in and charge his phone. If you only had to do that to charge the device, maybe it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but if you have a car adapter or anything like that… well, do you really want to constantly be peeling off the bumpers?

There have been suggestions that Apple should provide every iPhone 4 user out there with a bumper case. It was estimated that Apple could do that at less than a $1 per case, and since this would be much cheaper than doing a recall it seems like a cheap option, but I don’t think that is what Apple will want to do.

The Apple press conference will be starting shortly and supposedly they will be explaining what their fix will be. Considering that one or more engineers raised concerns that the design could result in dropped calls, it should be interesting to see how Apple spins this. As usual, engadget will be blogging it live. Check it out here.