Verizon iPhone 4 Death Grip Saga Continues, Despite Antenna Update

 
 
By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2011-03-03
 
 
 

The Apple iPhone 4's antenna continues to attract news. Whether the Verizon version of the smartphone, like its AT&T predecessor, drops calls when held in a certain way-aka the "death grip"-seems to depend on whom you ask.

Bearing some cup-half-empty news Feb. 8, tech site iLounge reported that the Verizon iPhone-which is based on CDMA technology, not GSM, like the AT&T version, and so features a different antenna design - did indeed suffer from death grip.

"What we've noticed is a dramatic, dramatic slowdown of the speed at which the phone is loading up pages over Verizon's network," an iLounge reporter said in a video on the site, showing the device's bars fall as it was tightly held. "We've also experienced the same thing when doing it over WiFi-at least depending on how the phone is gripped."

Although, as with the AT&T iPhone 4, the site added that "Use of a protective case appears to fix the antenna issue and attenuation"-or more simply, signal loss-"may not be noticeable in areas with stronger signal strength." Consumer Reports, in a Feb. 25 blog post, reported that it also found the Verizon iPhone to suffer from attenuation. In a special controlled environment the consumer watchdog ran a series of tests, mounting the Verizon iPhone 4 on a phone stand and then placing a finger in a variety of locations around the device. It did the same thing to five other Verizon smartphones - the Samsung Fascinate, the Motorola Droid 2 Global, the HTC Droid Incredible, the LG Ally and the Motorola Droid X.

"The only phones in which the finger contact caused any meaningful decline in performance was the iPhone 4, the sides of which comprise a metal band broken by several thin gaps," states the blog. "As with our tests of the AT&T iPhone 4, putting a finger across one particular [antenna] gap-the one on the lower left side-caused performance to decline."

Adding that Verizon iPhone 4, like the AT&T iPhone 4, offers "great multimedia functionality, a sharp screen and the best MP3 player we've seen on a phone," Consumer Reports said it was nonetheless unable to add the phone to its list of recommended smartphones.

However, AnandTech, the analysis group that reportedly first discovered the initial death grip problem - launching "Antennagate," as Apple CEO Steve Jobs cheekily called it - says the problem has been addressed, CNN Money first reported.

AnandTech ran signal attenuation tests on a number of popular phones. When clutched in the death grip, the AT&T iPhone 4 scored a rating of 24.6dB to the Verizon iPhone 4's 16.5 (the lower the rating the better). The BlackBerry Torch, by comparison, scored a 15.9, while the Droid 2 came in at 11.5.

When held naturally, the Nexus S scored a 6.1, the Dell Streak an 8.7, the Verizon iPhone 4 a 15.5 and the AT&T iPhone 4 a 19.8.

Still, "toss a case on there, and obviously attenuation is way lower at around 9dB," wrote Anantech's Brian Klug in a Feb. 13 blog post. "Death grip is essentially mitigated, and the attenuation when held is now comparable to other smartphones. What we're measuring, of course, is just the numerical signal strength being reported."

In short, Klug added, "I feel completely confident using the [Verizon] iPhone 4 without a case, and did so for the duration of all this testing without once dropping off the network. Getting a case still makes sense, but using the phone without one is no longer something that will dramatically affect phone usability."

Death grip or not, Apple sold a record 16.24 million iPhones - an 86 percent year-over-year growth - during its fiscal quarter that ended Dec. 25, 2010. Suggesting, perhaps, that it's an issue some people don't mind.

 
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