June 25, 2010 — -- Touted as one of the most advanced phones ever, Apple's eagerly anticipated iPhone 4 was greeted with some early criticism and began generating user complaints about the performance of the phone's antenna shortly after was released on Thursday.
Improved call reception was one of the most eagerly anticipated features of the new iPhone, as Apple claimed to have achieved better reception with a new antenna design that CEO Steve Jobs called "the most precise thing Apple's ever made."
But within hours of the phone's release, iPhone users and tech bloggers began talking about a problem with the antenna.
"People are saying if they hold the phone in a certain way...if they cover it in a certain way, the bars -- the AT&T 3G bars drop down precipitously and call quality goes down," said Lance Ulanoff of PC Magazine.
Previous iPhone models featured an internal antenna, but this model has an external one.
"It's got these integrated antennas right in the structure of the phone," Jobs said at the recent announcement of the phone.
But it appears call reception decreases when the user's palm bridges the external antenna. Users demonstrated the change in the number of "bars" of reception they had when gripping the phone this way.
In side-by-side comparisons with a previous version of the iPhone, the new iPhone 4 had fewer bars when held this way.
Apple responded quickly to these complaints. The company released a statement that said, "Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance.depending on the placement of the antennas." The company suggested holding the phone differently, or using a case with it, which it said would help alleviate the problem.
iPhone 4 Sparks Early User Complaints
Tech blog Engadget found that using Apple's rubber bumper accessory solved the problem because it placed a barrier between the user's palm and the antennas. Engadget noted that the problem was worse when the phone was held in the left hand, attributing that to the fact that the phone's WiFi, Bluetooth, and cell antennas all come together in the bottom left hand corner of the iPhone.
Engadget also published screenshots of an e-mail exchange between one user and Jobs. The unnamed user said that when holding the phone he lost all reception, and asked if Apple had plans to fix this problem. Jobs sent a seven-word reply, saying, "Just avoid holding it in that way."
Other users reported yellow spots on the display, but many have said these have disappeared with increased use.
Apple took a record number of pre-orders for the phone, and excitement reached a fever pitch ahead of Thursday's release. Concerns about the technical issues did not stop eager customers from lining up at Apple Stores around the world to get their hands on the latest iPhone.
Apple Store employees participated in the frenzy, giving away food to people waiting in line at a store in Chicago, and counting down -- "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 4, 4, 4!" -- in honor of the iPhone 4 at the San Francisco store, Engadget reported.
That excitement appeared to outweigh the early concerns over the antenna's performance. "If it's a big deal Apple will fix it. Or at least I hope they will," one iPhone customer said.