iPhone 4 Antenna Problems

Okay, enough is enough. Everywhere I read people discussing the iPhone 4 signal loss issue (by cradling the phone in the palm of the left hand), people imply it’s not objectively measurable, or it’s entirely nonexistent. It reminds me of the original MacBook Pro processor whine issue: “the only whine I hear is the people who think this is a real problem.” Right. We’re all morons.


As I mentioned with the MacBook Pro issue, the whining issue turned out to be very real. There were various conditions under which it occurred for different users, but I was “lucky” enough to get one of the affected laptops. I found older people couldn’t hear the extremely high-pitched whine, yet it gave me a damned “sick-headache” from its persistence. I finally narrowed it down to a fairly specific cause. I’m not a radio / antenna / electronics expert, but something didn’t seem to be correctly grounded. If I laid my finger (not an inanimate object, not conductive metal, not a ferrite rod – nothing) on the right-hand side of the rubber inlay between the hinges on the “lid,” the whine immediately stopped. As soon as I removed my finger, the whine slowly returned. If I “gently tapped” that same spot out of frustration, it might stop for quite awhile before returning. The whining didn’t come from the speakers. It was strongest near the very spot I could touch to make it stop. This told me it was some kind of feedback, interference, or some damned problem with one or more specific electronic components.

Apple refused to acknowledge the problem. Reading the various forums revealed a plethora of fan boys and fan girls repeating the same uninspired joke again and again: “The only whine I hear is from you.” Well …

It’s not as if I work with technology every day, so you’re absolutely right. The sickening headache I developed every day from this one Apple product among many I owned or worked with is all in my head after all! Thank God for your unilateral diagnostic skills! A sample size of exactly one surely accounts for all!

Yeah, I had that laptop less than a year.

Ugly Bags of Mostly Water

Humans are salty and wet. We tend to interfere with electrons and even radio signals. Which is the problem here? Are we blocking the radio waves or shorting the thing electrically? I say the iPhone 4 problem definitely seems to be caused by bridging the very part of the phone likely to be wrapped in a nice, salty, meaty hand – I think it’s electrical.

I don’t accept Jobs’ bullshit “you’re holding it wrong” answer. Anyone who holds the phone on the left side of their head is going to cradle the phone with its lower-left corner tucked into the palm, just under the fleshy root of the thumb. How can you possibly defend a phone that can’t be gripped on one whole corner without dropping its signal?

To be clear: my phone doesn’t just lose signal strength when I grip it “the wrong way;” it completely drops the signal in about one second flat. In three, a call is dropped entirely. No data gets through while I’m holding it that way.

… and it’s not in my fucking head.

And Steve: I’m not made of money and I rely on my communication device to communicate, so it really is a pretty big godamned deal when it’s so easy to cause it to fail. Considering how vastly easier it is compared to any other phone I’ve owned since my first one in nineteen-ninety-fucking-seven, I’d say it’s quite a bit more than a non-issue.

There is definitely a problem. I’ll accept it doesn’t affect everybody, but if your position is, “it works for me, so you’re an idiot,” then I can’t respect you let alone your opinion. Sorry.

One explanation that makes a lot of sense is the possibility of the sim card contacting the metal sim tray (which contacts the metal frame). I can confirm my own sim card was cut so that all the gold contacts along one edge come into direct contact with the metal sim tray. It was definitely shaved too close (much like a fingernail cut too far back, its nerves screaming at contact with anything, even air). My own 5-minute experiment with electrical tape failed because the thickness of the tape prevented the card from seating correctly. I may have to try again.

The one thing that makes me doubt this proposed solution is that the sim tray slides into the opposite side of the phone – the one that isn’t bridged by holding it “the wrong way.” This observation would seem to shoot holes in the running theory of interference by sim shortage.

What makes me so sure it’s some sort of short circuit is that today my phone failed me (signal-wise) for more than an hour. I was very sweaty, so even though I was avoiding holding it “the wrong way,” it still refused to transfer data or keep a stable call. Guess what happened when I wiped it down with a damp, then a dry cloth? Like magic, it was stable again. Perfectly. Instantly. Magic!

I’m Not a God Damned Idiot

So I’ll wrap this up by making this emphatic statement: the iPhone 4 most definitely has antenna issues for some users. My own completely drops the otherwise full signal on contact in multiple areas that all had strong signals for my 3GS and are far apart from one-another. I love the iPhone 4, but, being my only phone, this is quickly becoming a major issue for me.