Apple Responds to iPhone 4 Antenna Problem

Apple officials as well as Steve Jobs respond to reports of iPhone 4 weak signal issues tied to the phone's antenna.

Apple's iPhone 4 signal problems have been the source of a barrage of complaints by customers complaining of a faulty antenna and now Steve Jobs has broken the silence. In an e-mail Jobs downplayed users' reception gripes as a "non-issue." Meanwhile others within Apple are advising iPhone 4 users to avoid gripping the device from the lower left corner.

As the first batch of iPhone 4 smartphones reached the market on Thursday, several users reported that they are having poor reception issues with their new device when holding the phone by its metal sides in two opposite places.

The metal bands surrounding the sides of the iPhone 4 also acts as antennas for the device, and the signal drop problem seems to appear when a user touches both of the black lines on the phone's metal sides towards the bottom, according to corroborated users reports.

"Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone," read an official Apple statement on Thursday.

"If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases," the statement concluded.

Jobs also replied to a few complaints sent to his e-mail inbox. One MacRumors reader asked Jobs what is going to be done about the signal dropping issue, and the Apple CEO replied in his typical brief manner: "Non issue. Just avoid holding it in that way."

Spencer Webb, an antenna designer, explained on his blog that the iPhone 4 has two symmetrical slots in the metal frame, which when covered, will affect antenna performance. "There is no way around this, it's a design compromise that is forced by the requirements of the FCC, AT&T, Apple's marketing department and Apple's industrial designers, to name a few," Webb wrote.

Apple currently sells a US$29 rubber 'Bumper Case" for the iPhone 4 (pictured above), which covers only the sides of the device, something which made Mashable's Barb Dybwad ask whether this indicates that Apple already knew about the potential reception issues with the phone.

PCWorld also did its own tests of iPhone 4 signal and took the new phone for a spin in San Francisco, alongside an iPhone 3GS. PCWorld was able to replicate the signal problems when covering the bottom left edge of the phone, something which did not occur when the phone was laid flat on a table with the antenna untouched.

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Daniel Ionescu

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