I’m surprised that so many people have this wrong… so surprised that I had to break my own rules and actually write a news article before our August launch date.

The media has it wrong. The iPhone 4 death grip does cause signal issues, but it’s only on some iPhone 4’s. All of the mainstream news sources claim that it’s just the way the iPhone 4 was designed. If you hold the iPhone 4 like the picture to the right, you’ll be able to kill your signal in some service areas with bad reception. Wrong.

You’ll only be able to kill your signal if Apple gave you a defective phone. I’ve had several opportunities to test this theory over the last two weeks. The first was at our monthly Apple meet up. All of us (15 people) tried the death grip and only a handful of us were actually able to kill our reception. My iPhone 4 held 5-bar reception just fine, while the person sitting next to me was able to knock their signal all the way down to “No Service.”

My second verification came when I was working with a client whose company purchased 4 brand new iPhones. They had all read about the death grip and showed me their results. In an office downtown Denver, we saw 2 iPhone 4’s completely lose signal while the other 2 stayed at 5 bars.

Now before you say that we rigged it with the sweaty palms and conductive hands on the signal dropping phones, I’ll tell you this: we swapped phones in both scenarios. I verified that everyone was “properly executing” the death grip (pun intended). At the monthly Apple lunch and at the Denver company, everyone rotated phones and each time… the same iPhone 4’s would lose signal. Everyone who witnessed this was baffled but still believed that it was a general issue with the iPhone 4 — because the media said so.

The final verification:

My iPhone 4 died this past weekend… it just stopped turning on. One moment it was on and then next it was dead. This iPhone 4 was immune to the death grip: no matter where I was and who held it, I could never get my signal to drop from its untouched strength. Unfortunately for me, my replacement iPhone (yeah, it’s probably refurbished) confirms the death grip’s existence. I haven’t been able to get it all the way down to “No Service” but I can definitely get it down to 1 bar. Remember, I’ve been trying the death grip for a couple weeks in all of the same places — home, work, and the bar — never before could I reproduce the issue with my iPhone 4. I’m sad to say that I most certainly can reproduce the effects of the death grip on my newly refurbished replacement iPhone 4 the Genius Bar just gave me.

Since Apple has gone along with the media, I have no cause for retaliation. What’s better for a company’s image: admitting that holding the product a certain way could cause issues or recalling the 30% (my estimate) of iPhone 4’s that reflect the defect? That’s a no brainer. Tell us to put a case on it, yeah that fixes the problem… but the problem isn’t the design of the iPhone. No, the problem is a manufacturing defect — probably a grounding issue — that doesn’t affect all of the phones on the market.

That changes the situation a bit, eh? I have a defective iPhone 4, but Apple doesn’t have to do anything about it because the media gave them a way out. It’s time for Apple to cowboy up and admit fault. Even though I like the bumper, I want an iPhone 4 that works without one… it’s what they sold me in the first place.

Josh Carr
Josh founded eciov in 2008 and has overseen it's evolution into a lifestyle site. He enjoys all things digital, art, music, creativity -- anything that can evoke emotion. If he's not working on this site or at his day job as a UX Engineer, he's out riding his motorcycle or jumping his truck on trails in the mountains.
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