iPhone 4 ‘Death Grip’ Confirmed by UK Researchers

While most Verizon iPhone 4 owners seem overwhelmingly satisfied with their purchase, last week, publication Consumer Reports decided not to recommend the device to its readers, and described in an article the device reception issues experienced by its engineers when the phone is held tightly – a.k.a the iPhone 4 ‘death grip’. Apple‘s phone is again getting bad press this morning, as according to a new study from researchers at the University of Bristol in UK, the signal degradation is confirmed, and bumpers may not be as effective at preventing it as expected. The researchers even wrote a paper about it, and according to them, “the results from the study indicate a 100-fold reduction in sensitivity of the device when held, or when the user’s thumb is mimicked by phantom material.” Apparently, the issue is not related to the way the phone propagates its radio signal to the wireless cell towers, but is related to signal distortions within the device itself: “this de-tuning of the antenna was found not to significantly alter the shape of the radiation pattern, but dramatically worsened the electrical match between the antenna and the electronic circuitry.” To add insult to injury, the research team even believe that the use of iPhone cases and bumpers may not fix anything, even though most iPhone 4 users seem to believe otherwise: “Further tests concluded that providing a gap between the antenna surface and the phantom thumb using a layer of plastic electrical insulator did not restore the matching and operational sensitivity of the phone for the antennas under evaluation. Thus, some phone covers in the market place may not improve the situation.” This is not the first time the iPhone 4 is singled out for reception issues. Shortly after the iPhone 4 was launched, some consumers reported that the signal strength of the phone was reduced when touching the ‘antenna gap’ on the lower left edge of the phone, the black stripe designed to keep the phone’s antennas separated from each other. As a result, users noticed an increase in dropped calls in some areas with lower signal reception. Note that most phones actually experience similar issues when held tightly, as demonstrated by Apple. However, the iPhone 4 seems to be much more vulnerable to the ‘death grip effect’ than most other phones out there.