Answers to your iPhone 4 questions: The antenna issue

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Now that the iPhone 4 is out, we were sure you have plenty of questions about the new device—and when we asked you to send us your questions via e-mail, it turned out we were right.

We’ve been flooded with your iPhone questions since Thursday. And we’ll do our best to provide answers to as many questions as possible, based on our own experience with the new iPhone. Keep watching throughout the day, as we post what we’ve been able to find out about your many iPhone 4 questions.

Let’s begin with this one from Edwin:

Can you reproduce the reception diminishing when holding the Phone (antenna) in your hands? It supposedly drops a few bars when you connect the left lower side with the back or when shorting the left antenna with the lower one by your conducting (moist) hand.

Hey, why not start with an easy one, right?

Edwin is referring to reports of users having iPhone 4 antenna reception issues. Specifically, the reception bars that appear on the top of the iPhone 4’s menu bar disappear when you place your fingers over the antennas, which are built into the sides of the phone—or so some users have reported. You can watch a video of the phenomenon here:

But to Edwin’s question: Have we been able to reproduce it? Yes. It’s unclear if this particular hand jive will cause your iPhone to drop a call—though it might in cases where your reception is questionable to begin with. For what it’s worth, we’ve also seen reports that similar issues existed with the iPhone 3G and even Google’s Nexus One, which suggests that this may not be an iPhone 4-specific phenomenon—though the iPhone 4 could be more prone to it, given the placement of the antennas.

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We’ve also seen reports that Apple’s iPhone bumper accessory—the $29 cover that wraps around the edge of the iPhone 4—prevent this effect. The idea here is that the cover prevents your fingers from coming into direct contact with the antenna band, which appears to be the culprit for the problem.

Apple released a statement Thursday saying that holding “any mobile phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance,” and recommended that you change your grip if you notice this phenomenon. “Stop holding it that way,” appears to be Apple’s position, at least for now.

So, is this effect a major or minor problem, or none at all? (Steve Jobs reportedly believes that it’s a “non-issue”—at least that’s what the CEO apparently wrote in an e-mail response to a MacRumors forum poster.) Is it a quirk or a serious flaw? Will people need to hold their iPhones in a claw-like grip in order to complete calls? It’s too early to tell. Until we know the real scope of the issue, there’s no way to say for sure.

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