News Roundup: iPhone 4 Antenna Problems Continue

The furor over Apple's iPhone 4 antenna design and its impacts on reception when held in the so-called "Death Grip" continue and here are the latest developments. First of all, don't expect AppleCare representatives to replace your iPhone 4 if you're experiencing the issue. Not only this, but Apple employees have been explicitly told not to offer owners free iPhone 4 Bumper cases.

apple iphone 4 bumper case

A leaked document posted on BGR instructs Genius Bar employees to troubleshoot the problem, however if the antenna works fine when the iPhone 4 is resting flat on a table, then Apple considers the device to be properly operating. A software fix is not mentioned, and several solutions are to be suggested to the customer.

Apple instructs the employee to remind the customer that iPhone 4 has the best wireless performance of any Apple mobile device to date, and that holding any wireless phone will reduce its reception. The document continues by suggesting the customer avoid covering the black strip in the lower-left corner of the metal band. The final suggestion to improve reception is to purchase a case made of rubber or plastic such as the Apple iPhone 4 Bumper.

Third-party independent testing of the antenna problems was performed by AnandTech and posted online. They quantified the problem and found some interesting results. Although the iPhone 4 suffered worse antenna problems when gripped than an iPhone 3GS or HTC Nexus One, the new iPhone exhibited much better performance in situations where signal strength is very low. Testing with a case resulted in similar antenna performance to other phones.

Now lawyers have started jumping into the fray. Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff have started an investigation and are collecting statements from users about antenna problems with the iPhone 4. They plan to file a class action lawsuit as they did over the easily-scratched iPod Nano five years ago. The iPad Nano Cases Settlement Fund netted relevant owners checks for $37.50 each.

Houston attorney Danny Sheena has already filed a national class action lawsuit against Apple over the iPhone 4 antenna "scam" in Galveston federal court. He claims Apple knew the design was flawed and would cause calls to drop, and only offered to sell affected consumers a $30 case to fix the problem. According to the lawsuit, Apple "has opted to blame consumers for holding the phone in a manner in which cell phones are normally held."

Physicists and RF enthusiasts continue to weigh in on the issue, and it sounds like bridging the gap between the two metal strips simply changes the length of the antenna, causing it to track a different wavelength than intended. Meanwhile, intrepid users are affixing clear electrical tape, scotch tape, nail polish, rubber bands, and bracelets to the outside of their iPhones to correct the issue.

Apple is planning some more work on its future antennas, as the company posted eight related job listings in the past two weeks. Job titles include Antenna Engineer, RF Systems Validation Engineer iPhone, and iPhone OTA Wireless Systems Engineer. Rumors are still circulating of a possible software fix for the antenna issue, however this looks less likely given the latest information on the problem and Apple's response.

As with all hardware and software issues, there are also users who have not experienced a problem. With over 1.7 million units sold in just three days, Apple is struggling just to keep up with demand.