November 28, 2014

The EVO Has a "Deathgrip" Too... But Apple Is Still Missing the Point

Sure, everyone in the tech-world saw Apple’s attempt to remedy the iPhone 4’s antenna issue with free cases. Sadly though, much of the public has been duped into believing that all smartphones have the same problem.

As my friend pointed out to me over the weekend, what Apple’s PR team has done is quite ingenious. The iPhone 4 has a weak spot that, when covered, significantly drops the phone’s signal and in many cases causes it to go completely out of reception. People complained, and Apple responded by showing how other smartphones have the same exact problem. But, since Apple loves its customers and wants to make them happy, they’ll give everyone free cases to alleviate the issue created by their design flaw. They are essentially saying, “we’re the same as everyone else, except we give out free stuff!”

Brilliant.

Seriously.

From a PR standpoint, it was an amazing move by Apple. I commend them. I even agree with their argument to a small degree. However, here’s the problem I have with it…

Although Apple didn’t display the iPhone 4’s issue publicly (if they had, people would have seen that it actually takes far less effort to bring about the issue when compared to other devices), they did manage to show how other popular smartphones have the same issue. Since this public demonstration, videos have been posted to YouTube showcasing other phones and their “deathgrips,” or lack thereof.

However, most YouTube-video-making-extraordinaires fail miserably in the logic department. You see, the bottom line is that not all phones have their antennas in the same spots. Using the iPhone “deathgrip” on the HTC EVO, for example, is not an accurate test. The EVO’s antenna is placed towards the top of the phone, allowing users to handle their favorite 4G Android device in a normal, uninhibited manner. Apple is right. The iPhone 4’s flaw isn’t that it has a weak spot. All phones have one. The problem is where they decided to put it.

Below is a video showing the EVO’s very own “deathgrip” and why it’s silly to compare it to the iPhone 4’s. I hope this helps shed some light on the debate.



  • http://twitter.com/TFJ4 @TFJ4

    Honestly I think it's a bad move, I like my Nexus's design. I would rather get throat cancer than a brain tumor….

  • ari-free

    The whole point of getting an iPhone is that it is shiny and pretty. The antenna was designed that way in order for it to look stylish. You can't really fix that by putting it in a case. It's like getting a Movado watch and sticking duct tape around it in order to get it to tell time.

  • James

    Great point.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/juandg juandg

    The Samsung Moment has the same death grip, if you cover the top, signal drops to 1 bar… but as Benjamin said, Who holds the phone like that anyway?

  • Guillermo

    I thought the FCC was forcing mobile companies to put the antenna on the lower part of the phone in order to lower the amount of 'radiation' the head would receive…

    It's all about location. I can bring my 3G to 1 bar easily at home, but it's impossible to even lower one bar at work…

  • Kevin Mulliger

    Did Apple just tell the world that they are like Every Phone Manufacturer out there? Oops! I thought all these years they told us they were BETTER, hence their premium prices! Or am I over-simplifying?

  • geololj

    Send the video link to apple plx plox :P

  • mikeeeee

    so glad i bought an atari 800 in 1980 instead of jumping on the apple hype.

    remember the super bowl commercial with the hot babe smashing the 'evil empire'?

    that's what apple morphed into.

    i wish they went back to stubby antennas again, that way i'd know which way was up in the dark.

  • Clayton

    There's actually another very important difference. With most phones, the issue is that you can physically BLOCK the antenna. That's NOT the (primary) problem with the iPhone. The problem is that the antenna is exposed and touching the gap allows you to short out the two antennas (the Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi antenna on the top, the UMTS/GSM on the bottom).

    Think about it: All other phones have antennas that are already insulated from physical touch. Adding the bumper essentially brings the iPhone back on-par with other designs. Even with the bumper the antenna could STILL be blocked – just not shorted out (although the size/shape might make it harder to do on the iPhone, as the antenna runs around the bottom and right sides and partially around the top. I'm not sure how other phones do it.)

    By applying the bumper you are actually LOSING one of the features Jobs was so proud of at the initial announcement. The integrated and exposed antenna was supposed to significantly improve reception – otherwise they would have insulated it, like most phones. (Which, ultimately, I guess they ended up doing – with bumpers).

    For more info, check out the original iPhone announcement – near the end (about 3:30 in to the video on YouTube), when Jobs explains the gaps / antenna configuration. It's quite ironic in retrospect, actually.

    • http://twitter.com/scottyabrown @scottyabrown

      100% correct on all counts. Outside of a nicer screen, the 4G now looks pretty identical to a 3GS thanks to that bumper… What a shame that Jobs had to try and throw the other manufacturers under the bus in order to make his company look good.

    • ari-free

      I can't believe they didn't insulate the antenna. It's as if the engineers in Apple have been taken over by art majors.

      • James

        Insulating the antenna won't make much difference unless you insulate with something about as thick as the bumper they are already selling. Don't believe everything you read on teh interwebs.

  • Craig

    Another thing I noticed during Apple's press conference was that Jobs admitted that the iPhone 4 drops just as many (actually a fraction more per 100) calls as the 3GS. I thought the whole point of this "revolutionary" external antenna design was to have less dropped calls. I guess that didn't work.

    • http://twitter.com/BenjRubenstein @BenjRubenstein

      Couldn't agree more :) I believe Jobs' explanation for this was that with the 3GS, people are already using cases, making the reception better. Epic fail, I know…

    • James

      Except we don't know why the phone drops more calls. It could be because the antenna is better and more marginal calls connect than with the iPhone 3GS. Apple says they are investigating but don't know the answer.

      • Craig

        While that may be the case, that still doesn't help Apple. They said that the antenna design would lead to less dropped calls and that statement, so far, is false.

  • Kevin Mulliger

    iphone 4…the Apollo 11 of superphones…fix it with Duct Tape.

  • http://twitter.com/Gusteez @Gusteez

    I tried holding my G1 every way imaginable and had no signal loss in any of my tests.

  • Neo

    There is an important difference between the signal loss on the iPhone 4 and any other cell phone.

    So, either way, human bodies as big ‘ole meat bags (of salt and water) will, by nature, attenuate radio signal. So in areas of weak signal, you’d be able to visually demonstrate signal attenuation on most phones by tightly gripping and covering up as much of the phone as possible — basically having your body interfere with the signal. That's demonstrated here in the video.

    However, the iPhone 4 issues appear to stem from the aforementioned “human meat bag” attenuation *in addition* to the exterior antenna design that allows one to unintentionally alter the resonance frequency of the antenna (by joining the other antennas). Antennas are designed to to a certain resonance frequency (to match the signal transmitted or received), and the bands exist to maintain that. Join the bands and you've got another problem.

    In other words, while some signal dropping is standard, the iPhone 4 is certainly unique. Whether this unique deficiency is enough to cause noticeable problems for most people in areas of decent coverage is another question altogether.

  • Kevin Mulliger

    it’s mis-direction, in one hand I hold the iphone 4 and others with signal attenuation, in the other hand I hold free bumpers and cases!

  • Dinnouti

    I think apple is going through the seven steps of grief: denial, nothing is wrong with iphone, look at the other cell phones, all of them have the same problem; anger, all the videos at youtube are not true; bargain, here is the new IOS that will use a software upgrade to fix a hardware problem, d'oh; depression, meetings inside of Apple; acceptance, the press conference and iphone bumpers. There still a little bit of denial though, and the true acceptance will come when they change the design of iPhone 4 that still being produced as it is and make a recall.

  • http://twitter.com/scottyabrown @scottyabrown

    Good job on this article, Benjamin.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jaz013 Jamie Carl

    I've been messing with my Nexus to try and get it do drop signal by way of these "deathgrips". Normally, I have full reception (4 bars) and when I grip it in certain places (similar to the EVO above) it only ever drops to 2 bars.

  • James

    I have an iPhone 4. I doubt any of the other commenters or the author of the article do. It works very well in most situations. There is an issue with covering the black bar on the lower left side of the phone. You will drop several bars when you do that. If you are in a strong signal area, usually it has no effect. If you are in a weak signal area your phone starts having problems, you usually have time to move your hand before the call drops if you know what is going on. If you are in a very weak area, the call drops quickly.

    This problem area is small. A few millimeters around the black bar. It is pretty easy to avoid when talking on the phone. A little harder if you have the phone in your left hand while using 3G data but since you can see the bars drop, you get a visual reminder to not cover the spot.

    The trade off is that the phone gets much better reception than the iPhone 3GS if you don't cover up the weak spot. Personally, I'll take the tradeoff. In most areas that I frequent, the phone drops to about 2 bars when I deliberately cover the weak spot. At my desk at work, I've always had bad reception with AT&T. My iPhone 3GS would ring, I would pick it up and answer, and it would immediately disconnect. It didn't do this all the time but probably half the calls. It was better to let it go to voicemail and call the person back from another location in the building. With the iPhone 4, I can pick up the phone and answer. It still might drop the call during the conversation but at least I can answer and warn the person on the other side that I might drop and will call them back.

    Is the iPhone 4 a perfect phone? No. It has a problem if you aren't careful. I'm careful and it doesn't bother me much. I also have a bumper case from Apple that seems to stop the problem completely but it does attenuate the signal a bit so I prefer not to use it at work where I have the most problems.

    You can call me a fanboy if that makes you happy but I wouldn't go back to my 3GS because of this problem. I also wouldn't switch to any of the Android phones that I've seen. The tradeoffs there are worse for me. Either they have lousy ability to work in bright light, or are too big, or perform too sluggishly or get subpar battery life. The perfect smartphone hasn't been created yet. Apple has gotten closer with the iPhone 4 but they still have a ways to go. Android is getting closer but isn't there yet and has its own set of problems mostly caused by the carriers and phone manufacturers. For the next year, the iPhone 4 will suit me fine.

    • xen0blade

      I am not going to call you a fanboy, but allow me to pose a question. I’ve used Apple devices (used to own an Ipod video 160gb) and have even (gasp!) liked some of them. Now, if you purchase an item, wouldn’t you like that item to perform it’s primary function without having to “…avoid [the antenna] when talking on the phone”? Doesn’t the fact that they made a mistake and are refusing to do the honorable thing by recalling a product they designed instead of engineered strike people as wrong? If Dell released a laptop that only worked when you placed it on a plastic desk and not a wooden one would you just go buy a plastic desk instead of saying “I’m giving this company my hard earned money for a device that doesn’t do what it is supposed to do? I want a device that functions!” I don’t think you’re stupid for liking the iPhone, but I do think you are a tad bit retarded for keeping AT&T when there is no reception in your workplace.

  • John

    Good point on phone calls. However, I usually hold the phone in landscape when I browse internet, with the left hand holding the "top" part of the phone and right hand does the navigation. Wouldn't the HTC be worse in this case?

    • http://twitter.com/BenjRubenstein @BenjRubenstein

      I don't think you'd really be blocking the antenna enough for that to really matter. I've never had an issue.

  • Kevin Mulliger

    I wonder if I squeeze this phone in my eye, will it sting?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/stolsvik stolsvik

    Having the antennae placed at the bottom as e.g. the original iPhone had, is a better placement in two regards: If you are in a bad reception area, having it as far away from your radiowave-blocking head as possible will give better reception. But in addition, given that the 2 Watts of microwaves radiating from the antennae aren't yet ruled as beneficial for your brain and your cancer development, I'd rather have it 5 cm away from my head than pretty much embedded inside my head as the top placement does.

  • http://bambang.wijonarko.student.ipb.ac.id wij

    Apple should be fix and repair the weak spot of iPhone 4,,
    that's great post… thanks for info

  • Philip R. Mann

    There’s another error in Apple’s logic — no other phone in AT&T’s lineup has had the extremely poor reception for calls that all iPhones have had (as evidenced by the wrong algorithm that Apple admits having used prior to OS4.01).

    Poor signal strength (AT&T) poor reception (all iPhones) holding in wrong place (iPhone 4) = “death grip”.

    Seems like AT&T has obtained a horrible reputation largely because of Apple’s inability to design a phone (though it also is its fault as evidencedby the lack of complaints outside the U.S.). Apple makes a great portable multimedia player — the iPod touch; it just can’t make a decent enough phone and certainly not one for an inferior network.

  • ac

    A death GRIP is a completely different story. The iPhone 4 has a death TOUCH, and that’s what the problem is.

  • DARRELL NOWS AS AKA BIGD

    WELL THERE IS GOING TO BE A PROBLEM LIKE THIS WITH EVER NEW PHONE , LET BEING SAYING I,AM A HAM RADIO OPERATE WE STUDY WHATS CALLED LINE OF SITE WITH ANY RF HAND HELD UNITS LIKE PHONES , RADIOS , AM/FM RADIOS IN YOU CAR ITS BETTER TO HAVE A CLEAR VIEW TO ANY TOWER OR HIGH THE BETTER SO LETS SAY WERE TALKING ABOUT HF FREQUENCY WHICH IS 3.000MHZ UP TO 50.000MHZ IT SO EASY TO TALK AROUND THE WORLD BY LIKE OF SIGHT ON THIS BAND EVEN IF IT NOT LINE OF SIGHT SITE BECAUSE OF THE LAYERS OF THE CLOUDS ANT ATMOSPHERE , SO MY POINT IS WHEN YOU GET INTO GIGAHERTZ WHICH ALMOST ALL CELL PHONE RUN ON KNOW THREE IS GOING TO BE A BIG SIGNAL ANYTHING AND EVER THING WELL BLOCK THIS FREQUENCY PROBLEM . THERE IS A IS FIX TO THIS FOR CELL PHONE THE MORE CELL TOWERS THE BETTER FOR YOU MOVING THE ANTENNA TO A TOP OF PHONE WOULD HELP TOO , REMEMBER THE OLD MOTO BRICK PHONES THE HAD A GOOD EXT ANTENNA THE PHONE WOULD WORK KNOW BETTER THEN ANY OF THIS PHONES , BUT FORGET ANY OF THE EMAILS 2.2. AND I PHONE APPS SO GOSE THE EVO TOO , MORE CELL TOWERS THE BETTER BECAUSE THEY RUN GHZ WHICH REDUCE LINE OF SIGHT. SO NOTHING GOING TOO WORK VERY GOOD OR FAST IF YOU PHONE DOSE NOT GET TO THE TOWER SO MORE THE BETTER THIS IS FOR EVERY PHONE , IF YOU LIVE IN A BIG CITY YOU WELL HAVE BETTER SEVERS FOR THE PHONE AS FAR AS THE RF GOING TO BRAIN IT NOT A GOOD THING THE HIGHER YOU GO THE WORSE IT SO IT IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU , BUT PHONE ARE SO LOW ON RF POWER , IF YOU DONT TALK SO LONG ON THEM ITS NOT TO BAD FOR YOU , BUT IT NOT GOOD ETHER ALL PHONE SAY THIS IN THERE IN THERE PAPER WORK BUT WITH ALL THAT SAID I LOVE MY EVO BUT ITS NOT GOOD FOR THE BRAIN ETHER ON THIS SO CALLED MICROWAVE FREQUENCY SO I WOULD SUGGEST DO MORE TEXT-TING THEN TALKING ITS LIKE PUTTING A MICROWAVE SIGNAL TO YOU HEAD JUST LIKE HAVING TOO MANY X-RAYS OR CT SCAN ON YOU BODY , BUT WE LOVE ARE NEW TOYS AND AIM JUST AS BAD AS EVER ONE ON HERE WHEN IT COMES TOO THIS . IF YOU REALLY WONT TO SEE HOW THIS EFFECT YOU BODY GOOGLE IT ITS LIKE TAKING YOU BODY AND COOKING IT FRO THE INSIDE OUT OVER A LONG TIME OF USE .THANKS HAVE A GOOD AND REMEMBER TRY TO TALK LESS BUY NOT HOLD PHONE BY YOUR HEAD USE A BLUETOOTH THE ONLY USE MILLIWATTS OF POWER WHICH IS A LOT LES THEN YOU PHONE .

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