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Serious design flaw on the iPhone 4

We thought that it’s really weird for the iPhone 4 WiFi to stop working during the FaceTime demo at WWDC10. At that time Jobs claimed that the over 500 wireless APs in the conference hall was causing problems for the iPhone 4, resulting in the botched up demo.

We thought that it was very unlikely that the WiFi routers were to blame for the failed demo. We noted that there could be something seriously wrong with the external antenna on the iPhone 4 when it comes to WiFi performance. It turns out WiFi performance is not the only thing the iPhone 4 is having problems with.

Many early iPhone 4 owners experiencing a dropped calls and a major drop is signal reception when handling the phone. All of these early iPhone 4 users have their fingers pointed directly at the “revolutionary” external stainless steel antenna.

We didn’t realize it at first but it has now become obvious to us. Is the antenna design on the iPhone 4 majorly flawed? We are inclined to believe that it definitely is. The logic behind this is simple, if you we’re to hold any antenna, be it TV, radio or even handphones, you are bound to experience signal degradation. To overcome this, product designers add some form of insulation around the antenna to minimize short circuiting the antennae with can cause interference and signal degradation. Could the exposed antenna design on the iPhone 4 be the root cause of all this?

Without a unit to test for ourselves, for now we can only speculate, but we have a very strong feeling that it is indeed the case.

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Speaking of cases, with the launch of the iPhone 4 Apple also introduced the Bumper phone protector thingy (we’re not going to call it a case because, honestly, it’s not really one). The Bumper is literarily a rubber bumper for the iPhone 4. Conveniently, it wraps around the external antenna of the iPhone 4 shielding it from the possibility of being short circuited by grimy, sweaty fingers. This is the first time Apple had ever produced a “casing” for the iPhone. Users who use Bumper cladded iPhone 4s have no issue with singal degredation.

Question: Could this mean that Apple knew about this antenna issue and realized that they’ve already spent too much time working on the hardware that it’s too late to change the design? Is the Bumper an afterthought solution to fix the antenna problem?

We can’t definitely say yes to these questions but we certainly can say why not? The external antenna flaw could also be a part of Apple’s genius marketing ploy making Bumpers a compulsory add on. If almost all the iPhone 4s sold used Bumpers that was purchased separately, that would make a nice side income for Apple don’t you think?

Apple can proove us wrong by making the US$30 (close to RM100!) Bumpers free in the subsequent shipments of the iPhone 4.

This is not the first time iPhones are suffering from very poor signal reception. In the iPhone 3G and 3GS, dropped calls and no reception are common problems. We’re pretty sure many of you using the current crop of iPhones today would have also experienced sudden dropped calls and problems getting connected to the data network even when the signal bar is full.

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Emails to Steve Jobs on the issue we’re replied with a trademark one liner from the man himself telling owners to “avoid holding it in this way.” He added that “all phones have sensitive areas.”

Shortly after that email from Jobs, Apple issued an official statement.

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.”

So in the meantime what is a iPhone 4 owner to do? You’ll just have to wait until Apple release a patch to fix this issue or live with it and figure out a different way to hold the iPhone. But we feel that this antenna issue is beyond just a software patch. Our contention is that, it is the hardware that is seriously flawed. There’s no software patch of hardware issues, the hardware itself needs to be fixed.

Yes, iPhone 4 – changing the way we hold mobile phones.

Here’s a CNN report on the iPhone 4 antenna issue.

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