iPhone 4S Seems to Fix 'Death Grip' Antenna Issue

One of the big controversies surrounding the launch of the iPhone 4 was related to its antenna design. Several customers reported issues with significant signal loss when holding their iPhone in a natural way. The complaints grew louder until even Consumer Reports stated that they couldn't recommend the iPhone 4 due to the signal issues. Not all customers saw the problem, as the issue seemed to be related to regional signal strength.

Apple even held a press conference to address the controversy. Apple, however, focused on a related but separate issue during their press conference. They discussed normal signal attenuation while gripping any phone tightly, and rightfully pointed out that all mobile phones exhibit this behavior to some degree. The other iPhone 4 specific issue which wasn't addressed during the press conference was the effect of simply bridging the left lower antenna break also causing problems for some. This video from 2010 best demonstrates the effect.

Early testing and reports from iPhone 4S users seem to show that the signal drop from tightly gripping the iPhone has been diminished or even eliminated. One user tested their iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S from the exact same spot and found no signal drop at all in the iPhone 4S while gripping tightly with their left hand and covering the band.

deathgrip
The above picture tries to demonstrate the reduced effect, but even the iPhone 4 attenuation is rather minimal as compared to the worst case scenarios we've seen.

The iPhone 4S is known to have significant antenna upgrades, allowing it to switch antennas to maximize their signal. iSpazio also posted a video showing little effect from the "death grip" on the 4S, though the video shows the demonstrator holding it in the wrong hand for the demonstration. Typically the effect is most seen when holding the iPhone in your left hand to bridge the lower left antenna gap.

Regardless, this should be good news for anyone interested in an iPhone 4S. We expect to hear more real world experiences as more readers get their iPhone 4Ss activated.

Update: InsanelyGreatMac does a great followup video showing the issue seems definitely improved on the new iPhone 4S.

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Top Rated Comments

arn Avatar
165 months ago
I know there are some people who seem to think the antenna issue wasn't real, but I can say from first hand experience it was real. So let's please not get into the debate about whether it was a manufactured controversy or not. :)

There were two separate issues

a) "death grip" - holding tightly
b) just bridging the lower left band

a) is common in all cell phones
b) is iPhone 4 specific

arn
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
FloatingBones Avatar
165 months ago
The "death grip" issue ain't over until Consumer Reports says it's over! :)
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dugbug Avatar
165 months ago
I know there are some people who seem to think the antenna issue wasn't real, but I can say from first hand experience it was real. So let's please not get into the debate about whether it was a manufactured controversy or not. :)

arn

Thank you.

Right handers that had their pinky touch the lower left break saw major db loss. Left handers that had their palm touch the same break had the same issue.

Grip had NOTHING to do with it. NOTHING. Any phone will suffer from the water content in your hand. This was just making light contact to a soft-spot in the antenna design of the iPhone 4. You get an almost inexcusable 10dB loss. In VERY strong signal areas, you would not see bar drops (such as ATT stores), but if you had average signal or worse, you would likely lose the call.

Hopefully what is happening is if you hold a 4S the way you are comfortable in doing so and contact is made on that spot, it just switches to use the top antenna bar.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Four oF NINE Avatar
165 months ago
Makes me glad I skipped the 4 and waited for the 4S
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mavis Avatar
165 months ago
This is the first thing I checked when I got my 4S, and I'm thrilled to say they have finally fixed the problem. For the past 16 months I've had to hold my iPhone 4 very carefully at home (and at certain points on my commute) to avoid losing signal entirely (I'm right handed but I usually hold the phone in my left hand, and I can't stand bumpers/cases) and for the first time since June of last year, I don't have to worry about it anymore. It's GREAT!!!!
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MagnusVonMagnum Avatar
165 months ago
Oh, you mean the problem that was never really a problem anyway? That's some R&D well-spent.

I realize Apple had no choice but to "fix" the problem due to the bad PR, but the fact that they had to in the first place is ridiculous.

Some people just don't get it. The problem was real. It really sucked if you were left-handed and held the phone in a perfectly normal manner and it cut out. It's now been FIXED and yet people like you say how stupid it was of them to fix it. (shakes head) I'm certainly thrilled you aren't in charge, that's for darn sure. :rolleyes:

Kudos to Apple for fixing the issue for everyone else that actually wants a phone free some such misery. ;)
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)