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Stop fondling your phone on camera

I'm sorry to be so graphic, but this has to be said.

Ever since Apple led off its defense of the iPhone 4's reception in Friday's news conference by saying that other phones can also drop calls when held the wrong way, a certain segment of the phone-using population has been flocking to the Web to repeat Apple's demonstrations on camera.

For example, this Boy Genius Report post shows a Verizon Wireless BlackBerry 9650 losing signal strength when grasped by its sides. Here's a similar demo with the HTC Droid Incredible. And this page points to those videos and similar demonstrations involving three phones running Google's Android operating system.

But pay attention to the headline on that BGR post: "Can you make your current phone lose signal depending on how you hold it?"

That is the wrong question to ask. People clenching smartphones on camera to prove that Apple was right -- or collecting scans of pages from phone manuals that warn users not to hold the device in certain ways -- miss the point.

It's less than relevant if you can make a phone lose reception -- that's a rigged demo as useless as a carefully scripted presentation that glides over a product's weak points. I'd rather know if the phone will lose reception when you're not trying to break it or do anything but, you know, use it as a phone.

Based on what I've heard from readers, even the iPhone 4 only exhibits that problem in a minority of cases. As the Wall Street Journal's John Paczkowski suggested this morning, that may be a consequence of design compromises made to improve overall performance in such a compact device (which doesn't mean that Apple made the correct trade-off or explained its choice well).

For what it's worth, I've re-inspected the last three phones I've reviewed -- Sprint's HTC Evo 4G and Verizon's HTC Droid Incredible and Motorola Droid X -- to see whether they lose signal when held like any other phone. None has shown any meaningful reception issues. Nor have I heard from any readers complaining that these models drop calls when held the wrong way -- even as they've griped about other issues with them.

Meanwhile, Apple doesn't seem to need the help. It just reported yet another record-breaking quarter: $15.7 billion in revenue and $3.25 billion in profit, with sales of 3.47 million Macs, 8.4 million iPhones, 9.41 million iPods and 3.27 million iPads. Something tells me the company will continue to do fine, and that all this hubbub won't amount to more than an asterisk of detail in its next earnings report.

I hope this can be my last word on this subject. Please?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 20, 2010; 5:34 PM ET
Categories:  Mobile , The business we have chosen  
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My son in NY bought his latest (fourth) iPhone two weeks ago. Every time he has called me (and others), the phone has dropped the call multiple times. He was in a teleconference in SF and it dropped the call. He had to go to his BB to complete the conference. His face also dials random numbers. He is so frustrated he is planning to take Jobs up on his offer of a refund and wait until the bugs are fixed.

Posted by: maxinea | July 20, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Yes, please stop writing about it! Who made you the official play by play guy for this issue. I am honestly sick of you complaining about what you are "allowed" or "have to" write about, grow a pair!

Posted by: rmt008 | July 20, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

I think the problem was exacerbated by AT&T poor service in most areas.

Of course, the interesting question no one's bothered to ask is: why is it that earlier iPhones didn't have this problem (or if they did, why wasn't it as severe)?

Posted by: tundey | July 20, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

@tunday Not an interesting question. The design on the 4 is different because the antenna is part of the phone's outer shell. Other phones including previous iphones have antennas inside. Everyone knows that this is the issue.

Posted by: prokaryote | July 20, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Well, you are doomed to report further Apple debacles. I've warned you about that if nothing else, and Job's jerky reactions show why that's the case more clearly than I could.

Stuff like this will end up being news, but it won't be anything new. They're a badly behaved company in many respects.

Posted by: Nymous | July 20, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

All you Apple fan boyz and girlz are fondling smart phones because you are unable to fondle yourselves. You have no genitals to fondle, do you use the latest iPhone as a poor substitute.

If you must be trend-setting technoid, be prepared to deal with the unintended consequences of being on the bleeding edge.

As if you cretins need to buy your third iPhone in 2 years.......

You deserve all the disappointment that's coming to you.

Posted by: angelos_peter | July 21, 2010 12:10 AM | Report abuse

Maxinea, I'll bet serious $ sonny boy does not return his iPhone..

The rest of the comments here so far were written by people who have never experienced the productivity of a single Apple product. I own a business and our Apple Macbooks, desktops, iPads and iPhones are like additional employees that always start on time, always finish projects ahead of schedule, and require no IT support whatsoever. The iPad I use myself paid for itself hours after I bought it. I converted my business to all Apple gear in 2005 and placed 50% of the business investment money in Apple stock in February, '05, '07 and '08. No reception or bonus complaints whatsoever among my crew.

Posted by: thw2001 | July 21, 2010 12:51 AM | Report abuse

I don't get it... if I like the lower left corner of an iPhone 4 while on a call it displays fewer bars. What's up with that?? ;) (Just kidding, no phones were harmed in this comment.)

Posted by: davezatz | July 21, 2010 6:54 AM | Report abuse

Holy cow, there's a lot of emotion going on over a phone. I'm a technofile but sheesh, my world doesn't begin and end at a gadget or a brand. Apple stuff is nice, real cool design, some great user interface work, but that's it - it still runs under the same physics as most phones, all of which have compromises. Some do have bad antennas, but can you tell that from a bad network or shielding. I do know electronics, the antenna design was a clear swing and miss so trying to defend it is bad but I don't think the average user will really notice. And the same impact for the recent e-fuse 'controversy' on the Droid. I have more pain about my cell company charging the same rate for service after a contract expires. And regarding app counts - how many of those apps will be in the closet with the Pet Rocks, Lisa computers, CB radio, or dot com stocks in the next few years. I also have to add my awe at all the people who gave either an iPhone or Droid a perfect rating hours after they went on sale. Ditto for the innumerable reviews for the Kindle and the Amazon newspaper subscriptions before they went on sale or by people who didn't buy them.

Posted by: southVAHmptn | July 21, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

I blame George W. Bush, Brietbart, the right-wing gun nuts, birthers, John Birch Society, the KKK, Sarah Palin, and whoever leaked the Shirley Sherrod tape.


Posted by: bs2004 | July 21, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

> I hope this can be my last word on this subject. Please?


First you have to tell us the extent to which normal 3G phones do this (and it's not "zero").

In fact, I've always wanted to know this, since water attenuates RF and my phone drops calls.

Also tell us if the phone signal is less effective if you're lying in bed due to the relative angle of the receive and transmit antennas being 90ยบ.

I'd also like to know which side of my phone the antenna's on so I can avoid blocking it.

But then again, I wish a LOT of things...

--faye kane, homeless idiot-savant
Read more of my smartmouth opinions at

Posted by: Knee_Cheese_Zarathustra | July 21, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse


You have my permission to move on, Rob.

Posted by: CafeBeouf | July 21, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, Rob. Stop it already. There are more important things to discuss than just the iPhone4.

Posted by: docchari | July 21, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

You forgot high fructose corn syrup.

Rob, when will there be a Verizon iPhone?

*ducks and runs*

Posted by: wiredog | July 21, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

So if I buy an iPhone now with a bumper, will it let me draw Mohammed?

Posted by: Booyah5000 | July 21, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Maybe you can tie the antenna issue to a patent controversy.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | July 22, 2010 1:35 AM | Report abuse

When are people going to quit defending Apple and get real? Why do people blame the problem on coverage? Haven't you seen the ATT commercials? They cover 95% of Americas. LMAO, isn't that halerious? I have been across the country, and believe me, there are places no one covers.

Posted by: jdriggers1 | July 22, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Did you you hear about the the guy who sat on his iPhone? He lost reception but had a great rear view photo.

Posted by: CMVienna | July 23, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

It's true. When I grip my Incredible around the bottom, reception goes down 10 or 20 dBm. If it's lying on the table, and I push it so the bottom sticks out over the edge an inch, reception goes up.

We're just gonna have to live with this. Nothing's perfect.

Besides, I didn't buy it to get a phone -- I need the Internet in my pocket. And a girl magnet.

Posted by: SoloOwl | July 25, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

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