David Pogue weighs in on the iPhone’s strange reception problem:
Some people are reporting, and even posting videos showing, that when you wrap your hand around the iPhone 4, the cellular Internet strength visibly drops. You can actually see the bars disappearing.
My experience, at home in Brooklyn and at work in Manhattan (both notorious for dropping AT&T calls), has been stellar. Far, far fewer dropped calls. I’m willing to bet that there’s more behind the death grip than meets the eye.
PC Magazine, for example, has been able to reproduce the problem. For them, it happens only if (a) your hand is somewhat sweaty and (b) you hold the phone in such a way that your fingers are covering all three black gaps in the stainless-steel band around the phone’s edge. (For this reason, left-handers seem to be the most-affected population.) In that configuration, signal strength drops a little.
I can repeat that effort on my iPhone 4, too. From five bars it will drop to four bars or three bars if I hold the phone a certain way, or stand a certain way, or even squeeze hard on the phone. I have yet to experience a dropped call from doing so. Is the problem hardware or software or a bad design?
This doesn’t seem like a problem that Apple can fix with a little software update; it is baked right into the design of the iPhone 4 itself. And considering the hysteria that surrounds the phone, combined with ignorance about the nature and probability of the problem, it could wind up being a huge black eye for Apple and the phone.
The black eye is there already and is likely to get sore in the weeks to come unless there’s a good explanation for the problem.