The Verizon iPhone is here and it's a beautiful thing. Well, it's actually the same old thing with a slightly modified antenna. It's been reworked for Verizon's CDMA network, but will it fix the iPhone 4's death grip issue? Updated
Check it out: the original AT&T iPhone 4's antenna notches have been shuffled. Instead of three (two on the bottom corners, one on top by the headphone jack), there are now four—one at each corner. The Verizon's extra notch appears at the top left, and the headphone jack notch has slid down to just above the mute button at top left. There's no MicroSIM card slot built into the antenna, either.
NYT says Apple's Tim Cook confirmed that the antenna design had to be optimized for the phone's new CDMA guts, which justifies a slight design modification.
But what's unclear is if the new four-notch design will alleviate the death grip issues which plagued the AT&T iPhone 4 upon its arrival. If you'll recall, users were quick to notice that squeezing the iPhone 4 tightly—especially so that the antenna notch on the lower left corner of the phone was bridged—caused a rapid and significant decrease in signal. It turns out that such is the case with a lot of smartphones, but the permitter antenna design of the iPhone 4 seemed to exacerbate the problem.
Update: The first death grip tests reports are coming in. Here's what people are finding.
Ars contributor Chris Foresman reported that bridging the remaining gap on the Verizon iPhone (using the "death grip," he says) did not result in any kind of CDMA signal attenuation. He also placed a call while death gripping and said that there was no noticeable signal loss.
Sitting at the demo bar, I managed to knock one bar off of the phone's signal indicator by tightly gripping the phone with both hands, covering all four antenna marks. Just covering the bottom of the phone didn't do it. But the demo room has excellent signal, and attenuation problems really show themselves in fringe signal areas. It'll take a real lab test to see how much Apple has improved the antenna here.
Segan's absolutely right—we won't know for sure that the Verizon iPhone has fixed the death grip issue until the phones end up in the hands of users themselves, especially users in locations that don't have perfect signal strength. The hands-on room at the Verizon event is likely aglow with signal-booster bandwidth, and as we know, the death grip claims its victims most quickly and cleanly in areas with medium to poor signal. Still, of the tests that are being conducted at the event, none have witnessed much signal attenuation to speak of.
We put our hand in the standard "death grip" location, making sure that we covered up all of the right spots, and held onto the device for up to a minute. When we started the test, the device was at four bars. It should be noted that full service is represented on the iPhone 4 with 5 bars. So, the test started with only four bars being shown. As we held the device, and we timed it at a minute, we watched as only one bar disappeared.
We then put our fingers over certain points on the device. Making sure to cover up the "new" top portion of the antenna, and we still couldn't reproduce the "death grip" symptoms that plagued the initial launch of the iPhone 4. You can check out the images from our test below, but it looks like Verizon's confidence in the iPhone 4 on their network seem to be pretty sound.
We'll keep updating this post as further tests are conducted.