Apple (AAPL) issued a statement Thursday night after widespread complaints of iPhone 4 service failures by people gripping the phone with their left hand. Turns out lefties cradle the device in such a way that bridges a small gap that separates the Bluetooth-WiFi-GPS antenna from the GSM-UMTS antenna. This, apparently, causes the device to lose its 3G signal, which is needed to make regular cell phone calls.
Slightly less than 10 percent of the population is left-handed.
During the iPhone's launch last Month, Jobs proudly showed of the new antenna structure, which ingeniously wraps the two antenna bands around the edge of the phone. "This has never been done before," Jobs said to cheers.
What he didn't say was that holding the phone in a certain way would cause the device to lose its signal. Engadget posted a response to one reader's email inquiring about the problem from Jobs -- or someone at Apple impersonating him:
"Just avoid holding it in that way."
The full Apple statement:
I'll let Engadget's Josh Topolsky take it from here:Gripping any mobile 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. 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.
We know what you're thinking, and we're thinking it too: this sounds crazy. Essentially, Apple is saying that the problem is how you hold your phone, and that the solution is to change that habit, or buy one of their cases. Admittedly, this isn't a problem that exists only for the iPhone 4 -- we've seen reports of the same behavior on previous generations (the 3G and 3GS), and there is a running thread about this problem with the Nexus One. While it is definitely true that interference is an unavoidable problem, we can't help feeling like this is really a bit of bad design. If the only answer is to move your hand, why didn't Apple just move the antenna position? What we can say without question is that in our testing of the phone, we had improved reception and fewer dropped calls than we experienced with the last generation, and we never noticed this issue. Additionally, when using a bumper we can't recreate the signal loss. So, now we have an answer... all we're wondering is whether or not the company will start handing out bumpers pro-bono to those who are experiencing problems. It certainly seems like the right thing to do.