I’m not an early adopter, and the problems with the iPhone 4 are part of that reason. I’m sticking with my 3G for now, at least until the revised versions are out. Les Jones points out Apple’s changing positions on the antenna problem, and wonders whether Apple is right that all phones have the problem, after trying the trick with his blackberry and receiving signalÂ degradation.
They are correct, but it depends on a lot of factors. The main problem is that in order to get more bandwidth, cell providers are moving higher and higher into the microwave range to accomplish communication between the cell phone and tower. This also benefits battery life. The problem with microwaves, however, is that the higher you go in frequency, the less they penetrate barriers. The iPhone uses GSM 1900, which operates from 1850 to 1910MHz. Your microwave oven operates at 2450 MHz, so you can see we’re not that far off from the ideal frequency for reheating leftovers. Microwaves are poor penetrators of materials, and they don’t penetrate metals at all, otherwise RADAR would have no theoretical basis. So yes, all phones are subject to signal attenuation depending on how you hold them, where you are, and how strong your signal is.
The problem with the iPhone is that they put the antenna on the outside where it can be touched, which changes the impedance of the antenna, causing more of the energy generated by the iPhone’s radio transceiver to end up in you rather than being radiated off to the local cell tower. This is why adding a bumper fixes the problem. It would seem it should be relatively easy to put a transparent, non-conductive coating on the exterior metal of the phone that would attenuate the problem. That way people’s grubby hands get kept off the antenna, and Steve can still feel good about his slick design. Antenna experts say FCC rules limit where they can locate it, because the FCC limits how much radiation can get pumped into your skull. Apparently bottom antennas are not all that uncommon. But how many vendors have them openly exposed?