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Good ideas with bad execution, or good execution of what should be bad ideas - an analysis of inferior, off-beat or malfunctioning products, and how other people's failures can help us design better stuff.

Apple iPhone Grip of Death

iphone-4.jpgA major feature of the Apple iPhone is its stainless steel band, which is actually part of the phone’s antenna system. But recent reports suggest this innovation is part of a problem, the so called “Grip of Death”, with a user’s grip impairing comms.

Steve Jobs initially responded this was due to people holding the phone incorrectly, by cupping the lower left corner of the device. The Register reports this had southpaws up in arms, with a “Left-Handed Club” branding it insensitive discrimination…

More seriously, an interesting article on the Engadget technology website highlights that a Danish professor, Gert Frølund Pedersen, who is an antenna expert at Denmark’s Aalborg University, flagged his concerns about the iPhone 4′s external antennae two weeks before the phone was even released.


In an interview on June 10, the Danish brainbox explained that he wasn’t impressed by Steve Jobs’ promises of better reception, describing external antennas as “old news,” and suggested that contact with fleshlings could result in undesirable consequences to the handset’s reception:
“The human tissue will in any event have an inhibitory effect on the antenna. Touch means that a larger portion of antenna energy becomes heat and lost.”

Previous research at the Danish University has apparently shown that 90 percent of any phone’s antenna signal can be stifled by holding it in the wrong place. This is in addition to the skin-contact issue more specific to the new iPhone.

The professor’s suggested solution? That phones should ideally have two antennae, for one to become active when the other is blocked.

iphone-steel-band-2.jpg

The iPhone does have two antennas but both are in the same steel band. According to Apple, the stainless steel band is:

Created from our own alloy, then forged to be five times stronger than standard steel, the CNC-machined band is the mounting point for all the components of iPhone 4. The band provides impressive structural rigidity and allows for its incredibly thin, refined design. It also functions as both iPhone 4 antennas.

Point to note: Reception issues have also been reported for previous iPhone models.

What are your thoughts?

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