/ Technology

Do you hold your iPhone 4 the ‘wrong way’?

Steve Jobs and the iPhone

Apple’s iPhone 4 has been pulling our geeky heart strings for the past week ‚Äď but some unlucky owners are losing reception‚Ķ when they hold it. An interesting flaw for a mobile phone.

The iPhone 4, which launched on 24 June, bragged that it would improve reception with a¬†fandangled antenna plastered to its¬†skinny sides. At the phone’s unveiling, Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs dubbed its stainless steel¬†receiver¬†“really cool engineering”.

That’s been dampened with reports from users experiencing poor reception. Many found that the phone was worst affected when they held it – especially when using their left hand. Obviously, we only like to look at our iPhone from afar.

Amusingly Jobs advised one customer to “avoid holding it in that way,” with Apple later telling us not to grip the phone’s “lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band.”

Which is fair enough ‚Äď it’s not like Apple advertises holding the iPhone in this way. Oh wait:


A little embarrassing, but the iPhone 4 isn’t the only phone that suffers from this – complaints about Google’s Nexus One have also made the rounds. It appears that our meaty digits don’t mix well with radio waves, so splaying them all over an antenna regrettably impacts signal quality.

Apple also suggests buying a case to shield the antenna from our grubby fingers. But if your pockets are already empty (spilling £500 on the phone itself has got to hurt) you could create your own handle with a little bit of ingenuity and duct tape, like the folk at CNET UK.

After helpfully telling us not to hold our iPhone 4 in our left hand, Apple has now said that there’s ‘no reception issue‘ and we should stay tuned for a fix. We’re just tuning the reception now…

Why does it look like we’re losing signal?

Is Apple saying that the reported reception issues are imaginary? If they are, they might not be far wrong. Reception may drop a little when you hold your iPhone 4, like most mobiles (except Nokia’s apparently), but the phone’s software could be exaggerating this degradation.

Anandtech reports that the iPhone 4’s reception is indeed much better than previous models, but that the signal bars shown on the phone simply go down too fast. Apple today admitted that the formula used to calculate how many bars of signal strength are shown is “totally wrong”.

We’ve actually tried gripping our iPhone 4 in every way imaginable, specifically covering the metal antenna with our brass bands, but we see no visual degradation in signal. But that’s just us and we’re currently doing more in-depth testing in the Which? labs.

The question is, have you experienced a loss of signal when you hold your iPhone 4 in the ‘wrong way’?

Tony says:
6 July 2010

Lets face it, Appple do technology well, but in a right-hand dominated world the iPhone 4 represents a case of a manufacturer failing to fully consider the left handed community when testing products and services. With a disproportionate number of left handed people in the upper levels of the creative, government and logical thinking rankings (according the Left Handers Club web page that I just found :-), 4 of the five designers of the original Apple Macintosh were left handed and the proportion of left handed astonauts in the Apollo programme was 250% higher than the national average – so it can be argued that left handers could represent a significant target customer base for a technology company). Now Apple have launched a phone that is less effective when used in the left hand than the right. For a company that prides itself on creating truly customer centric designs and solutions, and generally does it exceptionally well, the least that Apple should be doing is including a sufficient proportion of lefties in their usability tests when evaluating new products. Where do I volunteer?

Bluealienfish says:
6 July 2010

Can’t quite see where you’re coming from Tony. As a right hander I hold my iphone in my left hand so that I can write with my right. As a left hander, surely the opposite occurs thus Apple are actually favoring the lefties!

Mike says:
6 July 2010

In the letter, Apple say they ‘went back to the lab’ to test the reception of the iPhone. I can picture the lab now, iPhone sitting wired up on a lab bench. No one holding it…

So Apple has just announced that it will provide free bumpers to all iPhone 4 users to help protect the signal from dropping.

In the press conference Steve Jobs was very defensive – blaming Physics, smartphones in general and, most worryingly, owners of the iPhone 4 who have been holding it the wrong way!

Adam Miller says:
17 July 2010

What about those customers who followed Apple's early advice and bought a bumper for themselves already? At £25 for what is essentially about the same amount of plastic as a toothbrush, it always seemed expensive, but with limited other options for a case from day one, what else could customers do?

I think Apple needs to reward their loyalty and offer to refund the cost of the bumpers already sold.

Adam Miller says:
26 July 2010

Should follow up on this… Apple refunded the credit card used to purchase the bumpers with no action needed on my part. At least they have handled the refund situation as cleanly as possible,

richard gorrie says:
23 July 2010

hey guys
besides the manufacturer's responsibility to get their stuff right, what about the consumer ( us.. ) doing the smart thing which is :
read all about it, make sure it's features are the right ones/the ones you NEED for our specific use, admire it from a distance for a couple of months ( not buying it IMMEDIATELY really WON'T kill you , you know ?.. ) let the gremlins that ALWAYS plague these toys be fully sorted & THEN go out & buy one. there….simple, easy, sorted !
now, if the very day a product hits the shelfs, millions of zombie like creatures rush to the local branch of Whatchamacallit Inc. to buy the newest, latest XPTO whatnot, manufacturers WILL tend to pay more attention to production volumes being met & delivery dates being kept than actually getting the technology ALL sorted in the first place.
ultimately consumers do it to themselves because we should buy something because we need it & to reward a manufacturer's effort in producing it right – not because it's the latest, greatest, most feature laden, shiniest, ''mine's bigger than yours'' as unfortunately so many do today
ya reap what ya sow…