Friday, July 23, 2010

Death grip isn’t quite fatal on the iPhone’s competitors

During the iPhone 4 press conference last week Steve Jobs pointed out that signal loss when a mobile phone is held in a user’s hand isn’t just something that happens to the iPhone 4. In fact it’s something that happens to any antenna when you touch it, but phone manufacturers take this into account and design around it. In addition to pointing out this fact about antenna design, Jobs called out other manufacturer’s phones saying they had variations of the iPhone 4’s problem. These phones included the BlackBerry Bold 9700, HTC Droid Eris, and Samsung Omnia II. Apple’s antenna explanation page explains antenna signal loss resulting from certain grips on those phones as well as the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and Nokia N97 mini.
(By they way, has an article that explains the whole iPhone 4 antenna issue, if you are interested in learning more about reception and attenuation. This would be a good time to read that if things aren’t quite clear.)
PC Mag took it upon themselves to test out a few of Apple’s claims, similar to what many of Nokia and Blackberry fans have been doing since the press conference. The result was this video:

They tested with the dBm value of the signal strength which is a much better way to look at reception than the number of coverage bars (which is filtered by a formula on the phone, as we all saw with the iPhone 4.0.1 release). Keep in mind that these are negative numbers, with reception improving as the number approaches zero. They tested the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G Slide (significant drop), Droid Incredible (minor drop), Droid X (significant), Blackberry Bold 9650 (minor), and Samsung Captivate (significant). It’s worth noting that none of these required a single finger to drop the signal significantly (or if they did it wasn’t mentioned), and some were tested with two hands to almost completely encasing the phone.
The takeaway? The so-called “death grip” does affect other phones, but the amount varies from one device to the next. And to see a significant change in reception some times completely impractical grips are necessary. No cases were tested, but that would be the next logical step.

In between the phones they tested out the grip on different foods and, inexplicably, a pink paper rabbit. This might have been a statement on how tired everyone is getting of this whole antenna issue. Or maybe they were just trying to lighten the mood.

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