Some iPhone 4 users have experienced signal strength dramatically decreasing when they hold their iPhone in a certain way. The problem has been pin-pointed to the gap in the metal band on the lower-left side of the device. Some users have seen their signal go from five bars to one just by placing their finger over the gap.
The key phrase in all of this is “some users” because it turns out that most iPhone 4 users are unaffected by this issue. Engadget has Apple’s official statement regarding the problem:
Gripping any mobile phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases.
Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky admits that while testing the iPhone 4 they experienced improved reception and fewer dropped calls.
John Gruber speculates that this problem is only affecting users in areas with spotty coverage — with nothing covering the antenna you’d be able to get five bars, but once you cover it the signal degrades.
Some writers have speculated that Apple didn’t even know about this issue until it was too late. Because of the Gizmodo/iPhone ordeal, we know that Apple tested the iPhone 4 in the public with a case that made it look like an iPhone 3G. They didn’t know they had this problem because they never tested iPhone 4 off campus without a case. And, Apple’s campus in Cupertino likely has fantastic AT&T coverage, which would probably keep this problem at bay.
But a fix may be in the works, one MacRumors Forum user emailed Steve Jobs about this issue and received the following reply:
There is no reception issue. Stay tuned.
Jobs’ response doesn’t sound like much, but AppleInsider’s Daniel Eran Dilger reports that Apple is working on a 4.01 software update that will address this issue. That’s likely what Jobs was referring to with “stay tuned.” The software update is rumored to be released on Monday and will hopefully resolve the problem for many (if not all) iPhone 4 users.