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iPhone 4 antenna woes rumored caused by lack of coating

updated 06:45 pm EDT, Fri July 2, 2010

Claims maintain Apple had bad production run

A tentative rumor largely gone unnoticed has raised the possibility that the iPhone 4's reception problems may have been caused by production issues. At least this and one other report claims that Apple support representatives were told there was an issue with a coating meant to prevent accidentally bridging the antenna but which wasn't present on all units. Apple couldn't offer a repair in either case, but one caller was told that their existing phones could be repaired or replaced once Apple had an official solution.

Later production runs could theoretically solve the problem if the material is the only issue.

The rumor is unconfirmed and first surfaced days before Apple's official response, which made no mention of hardware and claimed only that the phone was misreporting the actual signal, not losing performance. As such, the details could still be inaccurate.

While room for doubt exists, the rumors would potentially explain the inconsistent behavior of the glitch. Some customers have had few or no issues regardless of where they use the phone, while others have had signal problems even in known good areas. The losses could be dictated by grip but haven't been objectively verified; Consumer Reports said today that it can't reproduce the conditions.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Fast iBook

    Joined: Dec 1969



    It's interesting, as i was the only one stating there was a problem with a varnish about a week ago, people on a few forums told me i was a foaming fanboy for thinking that this could be the cause of this issue. Pretty much every stainless steel electronic device i've ever seen in my entire life has a coating on it to prevent electrical conduction and tarnishing (yes stainless steel can tarnish, and even rust). My Olympus Stylus 770 SW has stainless steel case parts, and the case parts have a thin clear varnish on them. Some metals have an anodized layer, some have a coating of oil, a patina, and some have the varnish.

    Someone else corroborated this theory with comparing serial numbers vs units affected, it seems one set of units from one factory, assigned a different serial number value far different than the other units, which DON'T have the issue.

    These facts point clearly to a manufacturing problem, and an exchange program should eliminate the bad units, be it before 30 days are up etc or some actual recall. This would clear the air and make sure future units are all shipped with the coating, and paying customers get properly produced devices.

    - A

  1. phlip79

    Joined: Dec 1969


    tentative rumor?

    What the heck is a tentative rumor? Like, it may one day become a rumor once the kinks are worked out?

    This whole antenna thing is a non-issue that has been blown up by irresponsible media, and frankly it's that irresponsible reporting that should be the fuel for public outrage. Not like it's a biggy to report badly on cell phones, but it's simply a great example of how skewed the news can be.

    The so called death grip has existed since earlier iPhone models. Consumer Reports has come out and demonstrated that it also exists on virtually every other cell phone. It's the nature of antennas.

    The only reason it's noticed in the iPhone is because of a software glitch. It's news now because there's a new phone to write about and, of course, 'cause everyone likes someone to sue.

  1. Parky

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Not true

    I too though this was a none issue, but I can loose total signal just by holding the phone.
    Yes it is a poor signal to start with, but it is lost totally with a light hold of the phone across the black join. The software change will not make a difference in this case as the signal will still be lost regardless of how they display the bars. I can see that the signal would be attenuated but my 2G and 3G did not lose signal in the same way the 4G does. I'm not worried about it as I have a bumper on the phone which stops the problem. But that is itself confirms the problem. It is was just the hand being in the way of the signal then the case would make no difference. The case only make a difference because it stops you shorting out the circuit with your hand.

  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Joined: Dec 1969


    the complains are coming from Apple fans ppl

    77% of people who bought the iPhone 4g, upgraded from an iPhone 3g or original iPhone.

    They are experienced with the phone and they know what they are talking about.

    Stop trying to say its every phone - yes you can block the signal of every phone by covering the antenna - but obviously this is a different level of problem, where its a significant issue, not seen on previous phones.

    Why would Apple fans be saying these things, except that they are experiencing issues?

    C'mon, while the issue isn't the end of the iPhone 4 - hardly - and one easy fix is to put the phone in a case - stop denying its an issue, its clearly a real issue.

  1. jamesfabin

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I get it "searching" 100% of the time

    I have had every iPhone, day 1, and am a huge supporter of apple - but I get dropped bars and then "searching" every time I hold my phone at home. At work it just drops to 1 tiny bar and data is very slow, but i can still use it. I added one of those clear stick-on armor coatings thinking it would protect my phone and cure this issue (my local apple stores have stayed out of stock on the bumper cases), but still have the problem. I'd be happy with a bumper case if it resolved this issue - but it is disheartening to see such a slow and poor response from Apple, it's very un-apple like.

  1. davidlfoster

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Consumer Reports... welcome to visit my home where I guarantee they will be able to reproduce the reception conditions using my iPhone. They can also photograph the yellow discoloration on my screen too, since neither time nor Visine has managed to make it go away. No Apple hater here; I've used Macs since early 1984 and iPhones since their first appearance. This time Apple really screwed up and their attempted cosmetic coverup is just plain pathetic. I guess its understandable; a product recall will cost them a huge amount of money. As for those willing to accept a bumper - well, that's miserably inadequate too. First, a bumper will likely never resolve the whole issue. Second, if I wanted a bumper I would have bought one; I shouldn't have to use one. The phone should function properly when held naturally (as any other smartphone), and without any add-on accessories.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. Gazoobee

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Total BS

    This rumour is complete nonsense. I'm not sure why anyone gives it enough credence to even deserve publication as a rumour. I mean, *think* about it for a second.

    Apple would have to have designed a phone that's made out of a specially designed alloy, custom craft it, etc. ... but then require that it's sprayed with lacquer or some kind of plastic paint just to work properly? Does that sound like a Jonny Ive design? Does it sound like anything Apple has *ever* made? No, of course not.

    Then ... they'd have to have a major failure at one of the manufacturing plants where a crucial, important part of the design (the coating) was totally *forgotten* on hundreds, perhaps thousands of phones, and no one noticed? And none of the QA testers noticed? And then (more importantly), no one did *anything* about it but just shipped them off to the USA?

    Then ... Apple would have to publicly *lie* about what happened in the press (the recent "open letter"), because some kind of conspiratorial cover-up is underway, even as *multiple* class-action lawsuits are initiated against them. Does that sound likely?

    It would put them on the hook for some kind of criminal deception to hold back info like that. It would certainly make them lose the civil cases being arranged against them as it's exactly what the lawyers seek to prove (that there is/was something wrong with the product that Apple wasn't fessing up to).

    This makes absolutely no sense at all. BS. Guaranteed.

  1. wrenchy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    re: Total BS

    We here at Apple agree with our loyal subject Gazoobee.

    There is nothing wrong with Apple Kit. You are using it wrong.
    If you are continually using it wrong and are getting frustrated, we here at Apple suggest you purchase another shiny iPhone 4. Perhaps you will use your new iPhone 4 correctly and your frustrations will disappear.


    Apple Customer Service

  1. Integr8d

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Didn't you hear, Gazoobee?

    All products designed by Jonny Ive are given special exemptions to the laws of physics!

    Apparently, this guy doesn't get that once in a while, a 'bad' Apple gets loose. My MBP completely borked on me, after six months of use. Full battery charge, pull the Magsafe, MBP dies immediately. Finally sent in to Apple, three days later, arrives on my doorstep (no signature required, scary), in working condition with a service statement saying the battery had been replaced. It was well-known that my gen of MBP suffered from faulty motherboards, yet no acknowledgement from Apple. Just 'We replaced the battery'.

    THAT seems to be how Apple handles business. And I guess, as long as it gets fixed, whatever. But it's really frustrating to the consumer to KNOW that something's wrong and be told they're crazy by Apple, while it does get fixed in secret.

    Funny thing is, not too long later, I started having issues with my new battery. Only 100-or-so cycles in and it was dying rather quickly. My Applecare had run out. So I went into the store and met with a 'Genius' who ran a USB diagnostic on my battery. GET THIS: The first question the diagnostic asks the technician is if the battery is under warranty!!! WTF???

    "Sorry, dude. You're battery is toast. I can offer you a new one for $130."

  1. indigoimac

    Joined: Dec 1969


    @ Integr8d

    Uh, the batteries, assuming you are talking about a pre-unibody mbp are made by Sony and suck a**. They must be calibrated constantly -- I get about a year out of one before it needs to be swapped -- a problem I have never had before on other macs, but a problem that was also address with the switch to lithium polymer. Additionally, Applecare explicitly doesn't cover batteries outside the first year...even the extended warranty.

    Also, the motherboard issue has nothing to do with battery life and everything to do with nvidia using the incorrect materials on literally countless chips -- an issue that actually continues even in their current models though at a significantly reduced rate.

    That said both of these issues were covered (depending on serial numbers) in large maintenance programs -- programs that will not exist for the iphone since it costs $200 and is disposable versus a $2000+ portable. You cannot compare the Apple the does computers with that which does iPhones it is a completely different market where the device only has to last a year at best...whether you subscribe to that or not is up to you.

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