updated 06:50 pm EST, Tue March 1, 2011
U of Bristol says phone death grip common
The University of Bristol in a study issued Monday simultaneously supported and criticized Apple in arguments over the affects of the human hand on phone antenna. It saw a "100-fold" drop in the reception a signal on a test device's antenna when covered either by a thumb or by a material simulating the effect. Putting a plastic insulator such as a phone surface or a case didn't necessarily restore the signal, the discoverers Beach, Gibbins and Webb found.
They cautioned that phone makers could control how likely it was to happen. The position of the antenna could make obstruction more common.
The research helped support Apple's view that signal drops weren't limited to the iPhone 4. After receiving criticism on the AT&T launch, it attempted to minimize the impact by singling out phones like the Droid X that could suffer the same symptoms, even when their manufacturers claimed they were immune. Many users began looking for the problems themselves and found them in the HD7 and others.
Critics have noted that Apple's design is still an exception since it moves the antenna to the outer frame and has an easily blocked gap that bridges the cellular antenna with others, cutting off the signal much more rapidly. It only usually has an impact for those whose hold naturally covers the gap and who live in areas with low reception, where a tight grip could cut off data and voice altogether.
Doubts have existed over the exact reasons, but the iPhone antenna issue may have led to Mark Papermaster's ouster after the iPhone 4 design tarnished Apple's public image.