AppleCare has confirmed what we already knew: The incoming software update won't fix the iPhone 4's transmission and reception problems. They acknowledged the antenna problem exists, offering the same solution as before: Buy a case or hold the iPhone differently.
I was secretly hoping that the software update would magically fix the iPhone 4's antenna design problem, because I really wanted to buy what otherwise is an great gadget. Unfortunately, the cosmetic change to the bar display—which promises to show the actual signal strength—will not fix the transmission/reception problem that countless iPhone 4 users are experiencing.
We called AppleCare three times today to confirm it. We told them that we were experiencing voice quality problems and call drops, as well as problems with internet access. Their response was immediate and unequivocal, the same in the three cases:
• There is an antenna interference problem when you hold the iPhone 4 in a certain way (the tests by Anandtech and many demonstration videos in the internet show that the signal drop will happen every time when you touch the phone's dead spot, on the left bottom corner).
• One solution is to hold the phone differently, avoiding to touch the left bottom corner of the phone (coincidentally, this is how models hold the iPhone 4 in most of Apple's promotional material).
• The other other solution is to buy a case or one of Apple's $30 bumpers (we are hosting a petition to ask Apple for free cases. You can sign it here).
• The incoming software update will not fix this antenna problem, only change the way the phone displays the available signal, make it more accurate.
While we already knew about it, the official AppleCare response is sad news. Like Gizmodo reader and former RF engineer for HP Medical products Gordon Cook said in a recent email: "Wrapping a metal antenna around a phone is simply asking for trouble, and Apple may in fact have realized too late that they had a real can of worms, so chose to release what they had instead of enduring a lengthy shipping delay. Now, after millions of phones shipped, and given the alternatives, screwing with the software is the only realistic way of fixing this, even if it's mostly cosmetic."
But cosmetic fixes will not stop the problem from happening. Apple should provide with a real fix to a design problem that ruins what could have been the best smartphone experience out there, bar none. And if they can't fix the units currently in the market, they should fix their manufacturing so this doesn't happen and at least provide with a free solution, like free bumpers or cases.
If you want Apple to solve this problem for free, sign the petition here and pass it around to other iPhone 4 users.