iPhone 4 Silent Recall: Some Readers Confirm [Updating Live]

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Yesterday, a reader claimed that—after exchanging his iPhone 4—he couldn't reproduce the sharp signal drop caused by the antenna problem. Now, some readers have confirmed the story. However, others haven't seen any improvement in their replacement units. [Updating]


Keep in mind that we only have the readers' testimonies. For now, these should be considered anecdotes, not proof. We still can't tell if Apple is silently recalling the iPhone 4—exchanging them for new units with a fixed antenna—or not. The readers' reports, however, seem to be quite adamant: They claim that their iPhones no longer have problems with voice quality degradation, call drops, slow data transmission, or no internet access.

One of these reports comes from reader Jason Mohr, who says that the problem is completely gone after getting an exchange phone on July 10:

I had the problem with my iPhone 4 experiencing the "Death Grip". I took it back to the store and complained about "slow data speeds" as I knew the "death grip" wasn't a "valid" enough reason for them to exchange the phone. My first phone no matter, how great the signal was, the "Death Grip" was in full effect as I could make the phone go to "searching" with in a few seconds. This new unit (mind you has ZERO cosmetic differences) is perfect. The "Death Grip" is totally fixed an fluctuates no more than 1 bar in a bad signal area. Something is definitely different with this phone as IT WORKS!

At home we have a tower that is literally about 600 feet away from my house. The first phone I could death grip it and make it go all the way to searching within 20 seconds. This new one goes from 5 full bars to 4 bars then after a few seconds will kick back to 5 bars. That is without the bumper just raw phone in hand. I am in Arizona.


Dr. Jurg Sommerauer, from Santa Paula, California, seems to have done some more rigorous testing. He confirmed that he cannot longer reproduce the problem after a replacement. He says that he tested it repeatedly before getting the new handset:

I have replaced my phone because of freezing issues yesterday and my new iPhone 4 is by far less sensitive than the previous one with respect to antenna issues. I made extensive signal tests with and without the death grip and can not see any different 3G signal (inside a metal construction hangar) in Santa Paula, CA. Please see one screen shot representing an average of upload/download speed. I did about 20 measurements within 10 minutes. The speed span was between 0.6 Mbps and 2.1 Mbps. I could not see a meaningful difference between applying the death grip and without.


Reader Matt Smithers, from Jacksonville, Florida, had this to say:

I received my first iPhone 4 on June 23, like many that preordered for delivery. I immediately tested it for the signal drop issue when cupped in the lower left corner with the same results as most: a quick drop to 1 or 2 bars. I dropped it 2 days after I activated it (July 8). Apple replaced it the next day on July 9,, and I received the same hardware as the first phone. I have not been able to duplicate the signal drop issue however, by cupping it, while sitting in the same spot as before. Overall though, the phone's reception kinda sucks. When I'm in a spot with marginal signal, the phone shows 1 or maybe 2 bars. There's not much in between. Full or 1 bar.


From Pittsburgh, Nick Luczak reports this:

After receiving my iPhone 4 on release day, I had it replaced 2 weeks ago at an apple store in Pittsburgh. I was having consistent proximity sensor issues for calls over 2 minutes (weird I know, but a pattern nonetheless) and the glass was separating from the frame/antenna along the top left, nothing too noticeable but I could fit a fingernail in it, and I could hear a click when I squeezed it together. I was only able to duplicate the reception drop a few times. Anyhow my replacement "service" phone which, according to the genius, was supposed to be a refurbished phone but being that they were so new, it was really a brand new phone. It has performed much better, no signal drop at all and no proximity sensors issues. I was told They were replacing it because it was the first separation issue they had encountered. I didnt notice anything cosmetically different to the antenna finish as mentioned in the article but to be honest I didn't pay much attention because I also purchased the bumper case that same night and haven't really taken it off since.


Gizmodo reader Myles Viana doesn't have any more dropped calls:

I purchased my iPhone the day it came out and was experiencing all the dropped calls like everyone else. During the first 10 days I had it, it got dropped a few times and there was a bunch of scratches and dents. I decided I'd go to the apple store to try to get a new one by saying I dropped all my calls. They replaced it no problems. Now I got a new iPhone 4 without scratches and I did notice that I got way better reception than the 1st IPhone 4 I had. I tried holding it the ways you weren't supposed to and nothing no lose of bars or anything. Before I would drop almost every single call. Now I've dropped maybe 1 or 2 calls since I got the new one. Silent recall would make sense to me.


From San Mateo, California, reader Mitchell Carr says that voice transmission is good now:

I had to exchange my iphone 4 last week after the back glass cracked when I placed it down on a new glass-like bathroom surface. At the time it happened, my mind automatically recognized the popping sound, but I assumed that it was just my imagination. The phone was completely unscathed with the exception of the .75 inch crack starting at the top of the phone and running diagonal to one side.

I made an appointment, and was assisted that morning at the local Apple store in San Mateo, CA. The Apple Rep informed me that Apple replaces phones if the crack is a single line, indicating a material defect.

I immediately noticed a difference in hardware once I left the store and began to marvel at the replacement's lack of fingerprints. The unit felt slightly heavier, and the metal frame had a slightly matted finish compared to the replaced unit. I experienced the accidental mute issue on two calls with the first unit, but I haven't experienced that issue on the second.

As for reception issues, I didn't seem to lose too much quality with the first phone during the "death grip," but did notice that audio from my side would drop out as reported by those I spoke with. That hasn't been an issue with the second unit.

I honestly thought the difference in hardware was just a figment of my imagination, but I'm not so sure that's the case anymore. I'm especially certain of the metal finish because I thoroughly inspected my phone for any sign of my own error prior to replacement, which would invalidate my story. During that time, I visually scrutinized the edges, and am confident that something is different about my new unit. I'd be happy to meet up with one of your writers in the SF Bay area if they would like to get a hands-on and compare my new unit with theirs.


We are in the process of meeting with Mitchell and other readers to test their phones. So far, one of the readers who claimed he couldn't reproduce the problem, was mistaken: Trying in our Manhattan offices, we reproduced the problem right away. Our own replacement—obtained on Monday 12 at the Fifth Avenue store in New York—still has the same antenna problem that all iPhone 4s have.

In the internet, other people are reporting similar stories. Some say that some replacement phones have different serial numbers.


Update 1: From reader Garrett Carroll:

I too, bought the iPhone 4 on release day and had terrible reception and dropping calls constantly. Just received my replacement iPhone 4 on July 12th, due to a home button issue. I have had the phone for 3 days now, no dropped calls or loss of reception at all! Something is going on for sure.


Update 2: Reader Ryan Mancuso didn't see any changes whatsoever:

I'm going to have to call BS on this theory. I went to a local Pittsburgh Apple Store today and exchanged my 32GB iPhone 4 for another one. it looks no different than the last one and still exhibits the reception issue when the two lower antennas are shorted together.


Update 3: Reader Jeremy Froias has two iPhone 4 bought at different times. He says one has the antenna problem, the other doesn't:

Got my wife an iPhone 4 16GB on June 29th (AT&T Retail "launch" day) and I can easily reproduce reception issues with a finger on the black band. Got myself an iPhone 4 16GB directly from AT&T on July 12th (shipped July 10th after being on back order for 10 days). I CANNOT reproduce the reception issue at all on this phone. Tested in the exact same place with the new phone and it does not happen. Tonight I will do a side-by-side video of it happening on one and not the other and will notify you when its online.


Update 4: Reader Sahid Bacha claims he sees changes in his replacement iPhone 4:

Yup. Got mine replaced yesterday. All my reception and proximity sensor problems are gone. I now can see the proximity sensor through the glass. And the steel does look more matte. I complained about the reception but said the proximity was what bothered me the most. No more questions asked. He said "let me go get your new phone." Also, my battery would previously last 4 hours max use time and now I have 29% left and I have 4:45 use time.


Update 5: Reader Chris Hall also says that one of his two iPhone 4s doesn't have the problem:

I can confirm that my iPhone 4 no longer exhibits the "Death Grip". I have a launch day iPhone 4 and one purchased on July 7. Side by side with launch day iPhone 4, the recently purchased one has no drop in signal while the older one drops about 4 bars. In fact ,the signal bars increased on the newer iPhone 4 when I was gripping it.


Update 6: Reader Sean Kern claims his replacement iPhone 4 has another physical difference:

I actually noticed a physical difference in my replacement. On my old phone, when I ran my fingernail down the side of the phone, my fingernail would get stuck at the black separator between the two antennas. Now, when I run my fingernail down the side of my new phone it slides right over, as if there was a clear coating over it or something. My new phone has no grip of death and seems to work great! Just a thought!


Update 7: An anonymous reader writes from Texas. Note that some people see physical changes and others, like this person, don't see them.

I had my phone replaced at the Apple Store in Stonebriar Mall in Frisco, Texas on Saturday, July 10th. I can confirm that the new phone does not drop more than one visible bar when being held in the death grip. I had noticed a difference but was not sure until reading other experiences. I received my original iPhone 4 via pre-order on June 23rd. The new phone came out of the back of the Apple Store in a plain, black plastic case. I do not see any difference in the finish on the metal or in the front glass. I still can't see the proximity sensor without shining light on it. With full bars showing I can death grip it and it will drop at the most 1 bar, but I can still talk and receive data uninterrupted. Fixed? I am not sure.


Update 9: Reader claims that, of all his three iPhone 4s, two exhibit the antenna problem:

Hello. I ordered three iphone 4 on 6/18. Of all three that arrived, one iPhone did not have the reception problem no matter how hard I tried to reproduced the death grip. The other two weren't so lucky though, because they did have the reception problem.


Update 10: Reader Hiva Esmaeili says the problem is still there:

I bought my 16GB on launch day model # MC318LL and suffered from the signal attenuation issue.

I had it replaced with a 32GB model 3 days ago model # MC319LL serial # 860289MPA4T and I still have the signal attenuation issue to the exact same degree. The phone is no different in any way (look/feel etc.). I've tested it in the exact same locations via both the signal displayed and a speed test. When I cup the phone in an area with strong reception the speed test will go from reading > 1500kbps to 0.


Update 11: Kati Beller says that her problems are gone after exchanging the iPhone:

After dropping 3 out of 3 calls on Saturday (7/10), I made an iPhone appointment to either return the phone in lieu of carrier change (EVO) or get a new iPhone 4. After giving me a spiel about tower work in the area for the rest of the summer, the genius did some diagnostics. To my surprise, he found that my modem was on the fritz on my three week old phone. He told me that replacing the phone with a replacement phone would void the 30 day return policy, so he returned my old phone and gave me a brand new phone making it seem like I repurchased. I haven't had data or call issues since.


Update 12: From reader Ben Woodworth:

I received my first iPhone 4 on June 23 like most pre-order-for-delivery people did. My phone suffered from the "death grip" signal loss, but it also had the issue of giving me the "No SIM installed" error on almost every phone call I made... consequently dropping almost every call after about 3 minutes. I would have to turn off the phone and turn it back on to get the phone to recognize the SIM card again. For that reason, I went to the Apple Store this past Saturday (July 10) and got my phone replaced. They didn't even go through all that "well did you get it wet or drop it?" bullshit. They just plugged my phone into their diagnostic thing and saw how many dropped calls I had experienced and gave me a new phone. Since I've gotten my new phone, I've had great service and haven't dropped a single call. I can't replicate the "death grip" issue. Everything seems to be working perfectly.


Update 13: Reader Mike Palmer had another positive experience:

So I just had an interesting experience at the Apple store tonite. I dropped my phone, tonite, and cracked the screen. Stopped by the Apple store to see what my options were (was pretty sure I was SOL and would need to buy a new phone which would prob take forever to get). Talked to an Apple employee and he said they could replace the screen for $199. Another employee overhead the conversation and asked if it was an iPhone 4. I said yes and he said "We cannot replace the screens on these phones but will swap for a new one. And we will do it FREE of charge". I asked why they would do such a thing and he responded that "they wanted to make sure I was happy with my Apple purchase". New phone does not have reception issues and, like others, has a satin feel to the antenna.


Update 14: Reader Peter Wilson has another interesting tale:

I got my first iPhone 4 on release day and had very noticeable yellow blobs on the screen so I took it back to the Apple store and was told to wait at least another week to see if they faded. While I was there I noticed a guy next to me getting his phone replaced and they took the replacement from a retail box.

I waited until today as I didn't have the opportunity before. When I took the phone back and told the rep the issue he didn't even check the phone, but instead immediately offered a replacement. The other odd thing I noticed is the replacement came from a black plastic box instead of a retail pack. I asked the guy if it was brand new and not a refurb and he confirmed it was. He also said and I quote "You will Not have any issues with this one" I said what do you mean and he just said "trust me you will have no issues with this one".

Now on my previous Iphone4 I could create the death grip issue quite easily. This time I tried as hard as possible and I could only get the phone to drop 1 bar. Another thing I have noticed is the steel band seems to look rougher than the previous phones. Apart from that there seems no difference between this and the last iPhone.


Update 15: Gareth Clark, from the UK, says his third iPhone replacement doesn't suffer the problem:

This is my 3rd iPhone 4 - my first one which I picked up the day after release could not pick up wireless networks but did not have the death grip problem. The replacement for that one was literally unusable in central London: as soon as you touched it the signal degraded to nothing. My 3rd iPhone 4 is fine – no issues whatsoever.


Update 16: Reader David Michael, from Washington DC, says there's definitely a difference in performance but no cosmetic changes:

I just that I'd let you know that I had similar problems to the other users on this post, and that by exchanging my iPhone, they are now gone.

I called apple care about a few issues with the proximity sensor turning the phone on mid call and then hanging up. I also had tons of mysteriously dropped calls. I could replicate the "Death Grip" by bridging the antennas and I'd lose reception. They had me swap it out on Tuesday the 13th. Now there seems to be no effect from grabbing it without a case. It is cosmetically identical.


For now, however, take all these are just anecdotes. Apple may or may not be doing a silent recall, but there's no solid data at the time. Just readers testimonies. We will keep investigating.

Until then:

• If you have had a similar experience and your antenna problem is now gone on the same places where you use to have it, please tell us along with your iPhone 4 serial number here. (Your serial number will no be used in any way, it's just to see if there are any identifiable patterns).


• Sign the petition to ask Apple for a free bumper—which will solve the signal issue—here.