iPhone 4 Antenna Issue on a 3GS

Written by: Adam Christianson

Categories: Mac Snac, News

Today a bunch of reports started to surface raising concerns that the iPhone 4′s new antenna design may be affecting cellular reception when it’s held in your hand. If true, it would be a major flaw and shocking that Apple would let something like that slip through. I’m picking up my new iPhone 4 in the morning and the news of this issue was putting a major damper on my pre-iPhone 4 excitement. I continued to read report after report and kept hoping to find more info about the cause of the issue. I also hoped to find a possible solution or work around. Luckily I found a piece on MacRumors.com that indicated the issue might not be new and it also might not be as serious as is currently being reported. Check out the video.

So it looks like the “issue” can be replicated on not only the new iPhone 4, but also on a 3G or 3GS iPhone. What remains now is to determine if this is simply a visual issue or if reception is truly being affected. Early reports seem to indicate that calls continue even with the diminished bars on the display which is a good sign. Either way I’m sure these reports will grab Apple’s attention and shed some light on what seem to be a long standing issue. Hopefully we’ll also see an fix issued soon.

There are 20 comments on iPhone 4 Antenna Issue on a 3GS:

RSS Feed for these comments
  1. Mel | Jun 23 2010 - 11:01

    Physics 101 says that when you grab an antenna you change its electrical length and by doing so change its characteristics. I am sure that Apple know all about this and have designed within these constraints.

  2. Jason | Jun 24 2010 - 01:41

    I cannot reproduce this on either an iPhone 3GS or 4 here in the UK. Anyone outside the US able to see this???

  3. Eaglesteve | Jun 24 2010 - 02:26

    I was also unable to reproduce this signal reduction phenomenon on my 3GS in Australia, on the Optus network.

  4. Christian | Jun 24 2010 - 03:46

    Sorry for the off-topic, but for some strange reason I thought, being a listener this may be a place to write about my frustration with the iPhone 4 and to share the frustration. Sorry.

    Pre-ordering started on June 15th in Germany. That is, if you are a new customer for Deutsche Telekom. If you are not, you had to walk into a Telekom store on June 15th in order to “pre-order” your iPhone manually. After several days I had to learn that those pre-orders weren’t actual pre-orders, but only declarations of intent to buy an iPhone, whenever it will be available. And of course, it is not available today. Because all the new customers receive their iPhones first and then it is my turn. Officially it is not that way, but in real life, this seems to be the case.

    I was just in the Telekom store. They told me that they don’t know, when they will be able to provide me with an iPhone 4. And left and right they were selling them like hot cakes.

    I am very frustrated. It is not fair. I do understand that you can only sell so many iPhones as are available. But please be honest with your customers, Deutsche Telekom. First-come, first-serve. I was there on June 15th.

    And Apple:
    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE stop those ridiculous releases. It is a very bad joke to pretend an international launch and then to deliver ridiculously low quantities to the carriers. Telekom complained last week that Apple does not even deliver the number Telekom had ordered from Apple. Why is that? I don’t get it. Maybe, it might be a good idea to produce a reasonable amount and to announce a date that enables them to keep their promises. Because frustration – let’s face it – does not help anybody.

    I am hugely disappointed.

    All of you, who were able to get the iPhone 4: have fun with it! :) I hope that all eventual quirks will work out.

    Thank you for reading.

  5. TJ | Jun 24 2010 - 04:45

    Thank you very much for this interesting article and the video link. It does indeed shed a new light on the iPhone 4 issue posted – and I remember during the past days, that I was wondering about the bad reception of my 3GS, just to think that it might only be my provider. But now I see the complete picture.
    Maybe – as some pointed out – this could be related to iOS 4… hopefully, Apple is giving an official statement soon.

  6. Dimi | Jun 24 2010 - 06:57

    This is not an issue of covering the antenna. This is an issue of just touching the two antennas. On iPhone 4 the issue can be reproduced with just one finger. Check here on how to replicate it: http://www.allnewsmac.com/2010/06/24/iphone-4-comes-with-major-design-flaw/

  7. Kurt | Jun 24 2010 - 06:29

    I can replicate this same issue on my original iPhone (not 3G or 3Gs). 4 or 5 bars drops to 0 or 1 bar when you hold the phone exactly as you show in your video.

    I am looking forward to getting my new iPhone 4. I have one reserved at the Apple store in Carlsbad, CA (as it sounds you do) but I plan to head down to the store once the lines die down a bit. Thanks for all the real-time tweets (and photos) about the line length and your experiences there!

  8. Dennis | Jun 24 2010 - 07:59

    Christian,
    That’s what happens when you try to buy a hot new product that is manufactured in another country.
    This happened to me when I tried to buy an Audi TT in December of 1999. I had to order one and wait at least 3 months to get it. You’ll get one eventually, you’ll just have a to be a bit patient. ;)

  9. Armand | Jun 24 2010 - 11:47

    I can replicate this on BOTH my iPhone 4, and my iPhone 3GS. Also, I have noticed that during the past few weeks, ever since the announcement of the iPhone 4 release, my signal with AT&T has been HORRIBLE. Period.

  10. SpijndriftSpindrift | Jun 24 2010 - 11:23

    Sorry… but unable to reproduce this here in Amsterdam, the Netherlands… everything works fineafter the upgrade to 4.0

  11. Adam Christianson | Jun 24 2010 - 11:03

    I am seeing several reports that this issue can’t be replicated internationally. I’m starting to wonder if the frequency that the baseband is operating in is also a component of the issue.

  12. Gatlin | Jun 24 2010 - 11:18

    I was able to reproduce this easily on my 3GS. I’ve never notice it before since I don’t usually hold a phone that way. I have a feeling this will turn out to be largely a non-issue on iPhone 4 – most people use a case. It will give the haters a field day though….

  13. Disappointed | Jun 24 2010 - 01:37

    I’m afraid the reports are true, picked up mine this morning in the UK.

    Goes from 4 bars to No Service in 30 seconds.

    3 bars to No Service in under 20 seconds.

    This is just holding the phone normally, as you naturally would when using it. Trying to send a text, I was holding the phone in my left hand and typing with my right ( as probably 90% of us would ), by the time I finished typing the text, I couldn’t send it because I had no signal.

    I’m about 1000 yards from the Cell.

    Never had any such problems with my 3G.

    Mine will be going back tomorrow, and will insist they restore my original contract.

    I now see the reason why Apple have released a “case” for the first time. The bumper looks as though it was designed to specifically address this issue.

  14. Ian Farrell | Jun 24 2010 - 04:50

    I’ve seen this happen on our Blackberry Pearls at work so this isn’t just an iPhone issues but other phones too.
    You can even do this with Portable FM Radios depending on the signal strength of the incoming station although with those it can go either way.

  15. Mud | Jun 24 2010 - 10:25

    I’m on the Three network in Australia and I cannot replicate this at all. Stays at 5 bars.

    It makes me wonder if this is just the AT&T network being really crap. Or just certain phones…

  16. Jfk67 | Jun 25 2010 - 12:54

    Hello
    When I hold my 3gs the same way, the signal is very weak.
    Greetings from Denmark

  17. the7htlover | Jun 25 2010 - 05:12

    cannot reproduce on the 3GS. i think this is more prominent if you are on the edge of a cell tower.

  18. jdreyes | Jun 25 2010 - 02:21

    I can easily reproduce this on my iPhone 3G here on the AT&T network in the US.

    Oddly enough, I never noticed this before. I really have to put a decent grip on the phone to get it to replicate, but mine goes into Searching… and my Wi-Fi dies off. AWESOME!

    Also … I am NOT on IOS4.

  19. Steve | Jun 26 2010 - 12:24

    I have a 1st gen iPhone, and am able to reproduce these antenna variations. I always wondered why the signal strength (cell and wi-fi) varied, and I’ve tried every variation in 3D positioning. Now I understand that all I have to do is set it down on the desk for optimum signal strength. Given the possibility of radiation hazards, I try not to hold the iPhone when in use, and put the headphones on as often as possible. What puzzles me is that people have all of a sudden started complaining about signal loss and only on the iPhone 4 (well maybe the metal frame plays a role).

  20. Haydon | Jul 02 2010 - 06:45

    Here in the UK (Vodafone) I also have the problem, but when you switch off 3G and revert back to 2G or 2.5 G the problem has also gone?!?!?!?!?!

    OK so I now have a slower phone but no dropped calls – I also think that it is nothing to do with the touching of the anttena as it also happens with the Apple Bumper in place.

    Looking forward to iOS4.01