Thursday, July 15, 2010

On the iPhone 4 Reception Issue…

Until today, I've kept pretty much quiet on the iPhone 4 reception issue. Part of that was simply that I didn't own a phone until a week ago when my pre-ordered phone finally arrived. Part of it was just that I'm crazy heads-down on the book and doing client work right now. And part of it is that I'm having trouble deciding exactly what I feel about it. It feels to me like the issue is being overblown, but I doubt that people who are severely impacted feel that way.

I also don't think Apple has handle the situation as well as it, perhaps, could have. Apple is normally exceptionally good at "spin", but the response to this issue has felt a little ham-handed.

For me, I can recreate the issue if I try, but not in the drastic way that some people can, and not consistently. I've been able to get my phone to drop from five bars down to three, on a few occasions even down to two. Sometimes it won't go down at all. I don't know if it's whether there's moisture on my hand or what, but sometimes no amount of pressing will cause it to drop, other times, simply placing my thumb over the break on the left side will cause it to drop one or two bars.

Fortunately, even though I usually hold my phone in my left hand both for voice and data, this just doesn't affect me. The way I hold my phone, I don't bridge the gap. But even when I do bridge the gap intentionally, my phone still functions fine even with the lower bars. In fact, my reception and data transfer speeds are measurably faster over 3G than they were on my iPhone 3Gs. We have some large "warehouse" stores in the area (Lowes, BJ's) where I have always lost reception with every cell phone I've ever head when I get more than fifteen or twenty feet into the store. That was true even back when I was on Verizon. My iPhone 4 gets signal in those stores, throughout the store. I also haven't had a single dropped call since I got my iPhone 4. So, for me, not only is this not an issue, I'm thrilled with the reception my phone.

I know it's a real and serious issue for some people and for them, it's preventing them from fully using their phone, and that's gotta suck. But for me, and for all but two people that I've talked to (and I know a few people with iPhone 4s) it's mostly a non-issue in terms of real day-to-day usage. The foofoorah over this really seems a bit overblown to me, not that I've come to expect anything more from powerhouses of journalistic integrity like Gizmodo, but still…

If Apple were to recall the phones or offer a refund, I wouldn't let them have mine. I wouldn't willingly go back to an iPhone 3G at this point. Now, if Apple offers a free bumper, I might take them up on that. I've been thinking about getting one anyway, and only the fact that I live 45 miles from the nearest Apple Store has kept me from getting one already, but I'm not going to be upset if they don't.

I'll be curious to hear what Apple does say tomorrow in their press conference. I have to think that the days of ham-handed responses to this issue are over. They can't afford for those days not to be over. This is hurting their reputation far more than it should.


aggiejy said...

Come to my house. You'll see.

Henrik said...

I think this explains the antenna issue very well:

If you read that you'll know why the bars drops drastically at times, and not at all in other situations.

Shawn said...

I agree. It seems like this whole thing has been totally blown out of proportion, partially because of the way Apple mishandled it. I haven't had any problems with calls on my phone, either, and I've also had much better reception in areas that I didn't have any reception with my 3G.

Jeff LaMarche said...


I'm not doubting it's a real problem, only stating that it doesn't affect everybody equally, and among the people I've talked to, it seems to be a small percentage who are impacted enough to be concerned.

But, as I stated, for the people it affects, it's gotta suck.

Henrik said...

Recent developments in the AnandTech coverage of the antenna issue, and how Apple are working "around it" with SW:

codecarpenter said...

I agree with your description of Apple's handling this being 'ham handed.' The situation reminds me of when the Wii first came out and people were destroying their televisions with flying remotes. There was no recall, they sent out new wrist straps and rubber pads. The Wii seems to have recovered from the problem and I think iPhone 4 will be in the same boat. Is it a problem? Yes. Is it easily resolvable? Yes.

Mostly Torn said...

I live and work in areas with poor AT&T coverage. With my iPhone 3GS, I'd usually get a one bar 3G signal in these areas and would frequently drop down to EDGE service and data rates were very low.

Now, with my iPhone 4, if I don't physically touch the phone, reception is improved in comparison to the 3GS. The annoying thing however, is if I do touch the phone, things get MUCH worse - I can completely lose my signal, which did not happen with the 3GS.

If I just had a consistently bad signal like my older 3GS, I'd think nothing of it, but the change from a working signal to no signal at all just because I touched the phone is what makes the iPhone 4 frustrating for me to use.

If I get a phone call in a weak signal area, I now have to carefully handle the phone making sure I don't touch the antenna in the wrong places otherwise I risk dropping the call.

Having to always be consciously careful of how I hold my phone (especially since I'm left-handed) is a pretty big annoyance, especially for something that is supposed to be a hand-held device.