The $0.001 DIY iPhone 4 Antenna Fix

iphone4 fix

There's a huge media fuss about a potential failing of the iPhone 4's clever antenna design, with folks concerned it spells radio-drop-out call doom for the phone. We remain to be convinced. But here's a $0.001 DIY fix anyway.

There are three important caveats to this post, as the jury is still out on the real-life effects concerned (seriously, despite the many opinions):

  • This "problem" has yet to be proven. As yet it's just what appears to be an issue. The iPhone 4 needs to demonstrate significantly more dropped calls, missed calls or reduced data transmission per user-hour than the average cell phone (used under similar conditions on the same network) for it to be a real-life problem, and not an effect that's incorrectly emphasized by the iPhone 4's radio status bars, and enhanced by people's worries.
  • Are the apparent radio reception changes caused by holding it being seen by every user?
  • Is every iPhone 4 affected?

If you're a user who feels they're suffering from difficulties connecting to the nearest cell phone mast with your iPhone 4, then one theory--which has been given a degree of credence by official communications from Apple, including Steve Jobs himself--is that it's because your hand is covering the GSM and Wi-fi antenna joint when you hold it. Your slightly electrically conducting skin is bridging the slim insulating wedge of plastic that splits the phone's frame at this point.

So here's the fix.

 

  1. Get about an inch of scotch tape off the reel (that's Sellotape if you're in the U.K.).
  2. Cut it carefully so that you make a rectangle something over a half-inch long and just tall enough to exceed the iPhone 4's height (about 0.4 inches should do it).
  3. Align the piece of tape so that it's covering a section of the lower left metal side of the iPhone 4, some below the thin black plastic line and some above.
  4. Stick it around the phone's metal edge, making sure that all of the back of the edge's metal strip is covered--you may even be able to leave the front uncovered, as it's the back where your hand will rest. The main thing is to ensure that it's unlikely that your palm will touch the metal on both sides of the black plastic line.

 

Result: Your iPhone 4's twin antennas are now insulated against skin short-circuiting in the "problem corner". You don't even have to use scotch tape--make a statement and do it in bright red electrician's tape, if you feel better for it. It's also exactly what Apple's "bumper" case, and probably every other iPhone 4 case too, will do--so you don't need to worry with the fix if you're an iPhone case fan.

If this really does prove to be a performance-inhibiting flaw (and probably even if it isn't) we'd be surprised if companies like GelaSkins, who already make stick-on anti-scratch protective backs for a huge range of cellphones, don't make ones for the iPhone 4 with a discrete little tab that stretches over the gap to do exactly this job.

To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

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21 Comments

  • Steve Pollak

    I have been able to PROVE that this is an actual issue. Actually, there are two issues. The antenna and the proximity detector which is also proven defective by me. Without the tape, I called my office phone and was speaking prior to crossing the "strip" with my thumb (not my palm, just my thumb still holding the phone with two fingers. After crossing the "strip" the call either dropped, my voice got muted or could not be heard at all. This was consistent everytime I tried it. With the tape on and using the same grip, the call did NOT fade. The proximity detector however failed twice during this testing! Come on Apple.....Man UP... and admit that there is an issue! This is not an issue with bar "display calculations" or with any of the other 7 iPhones 3g and 3GS in my company.

  • Skai Rusis

    I also get the drop in bars when I plug in the USB cable. Probably because of interference with the bottom antenna. Tape didn't help. >:-(

  • Bill Culp

    As far as yet to be proven. Thats kind of ridiculous. Just because it doesnt affect all phones does not mean its unproven. Do 500 thousand people need to make youtube videos for you to "believe"?

  • Bill Culp

    You know this "fix" doesnt work right? I just wasnt sure if this was a gag. If you cover it with tape or adhesive plastic and touch the gap with your finger signal still goes all away.

  • nicholas iverson

    And I thought duct tape was suppose to fix everything...Well done Scotch, you proved useful beyond my terrible gift wrapping skills, or lack there of.

  • Alex Hoggett

    This is a weird thing - there's a lot of hysteria out there about this and it's not really being reported correctly.

    The very first time I heard about this on the 23rd, I tried it as per the video and I noticed the behavior. It didn't actually affect my calls or data tho.

    Since then I can't replicate it at all at the office, and I tried at home and got inconsistent results - one time it even gained bars.

    SInce users are reporting different types of ways of replicating it (So far I've seen "left" handed only causes it, the "death grip" where all 3 bars must be covered etc.) I think this is actually a non-issue. I think that At&t service just actually sucks in alot of areas and bars go up and down alot, and maybe there is some attenuation going on, but I don't think the antenna is a serious problem. I've seen videos where people are replicating this with 3G and 3GS too - and reports it was iOS4 related yesterday as well.

    So I think part of this might be some attentuation goes on sometimes, and AT&T's bars go up and down anyway (which they do - including dropped calls people !) , and people becoming hysterical over the internet and blaming and guessing it's the iPhone antenna's sole fault, which I don't think is the whole story here.

    Just my 2 cents - BTW it's an amazing phone.

  • IBRAHIIM BENSON

    Had Android it sucks has more problems than new iPhone apps suck also!!!! its an open market... wow big deal so why arent people making better apps for android??????

  • steve

    Hey Kit,

    Would be super nice if you showed an actual picture of your .00000001 fix instead of being a condescending fanboy with a 4-step process on how to use tape.

  • scicareers

    No, the problem does not affect all iPhone 4s. I've been trying all morning to reproduce the problem. I spent some time doing this yesterday, too, in three different locations. So far I've been unable to affect the number of bars.

    Jim

  • silentmercy

    Yet to be proven? It is a fact. I had a conversation yesterday that had 4 signal failures with my iphone4. After that choppy conversation I started googling and noticed similar reports. When I "naturally" hold the phone with my left hand the lower left corner of the phone & black plastic separator nestles in the palm of my hand. It's just how I hold the phone. The weight of the phone is supported by the palm of my hand bridging the two antenna's.

    I tried your tape method. Does not fix. If I just touch the bottom left black stripe(taped over) with one finger no signal loss. When I grip the phone and my palm hits the tape and my fingers on the opposite side of the phone, even being careful not to touch the right side separator.... FAIL.

    I suspect there will be a manufacturing correction(coating applied), or maybe they did not properly coat or treat the first shipment of bezels? Either way I am confident it will be corrected, but what about those of us with the first shipments? Send it back? Tape up our $600 phones? Wait for Apple to come to us? Buy a $30 bumper? Buy a $30 invisishield to cover our state of the art scratch resistant Gorilla glass?

    We all know 6 months from now new iphone4 buyers will not have this issue. I for one love my phone, but am considering sending it back and using my 3GS until the issues are resolved. Look at M$ and the Xbox 360 red ring of death. Engineering on the run and constant production changes. Dont hear about the 360 dying anymore do you? Nope early adopters happily accept the unknowing role as the guinea pig.

  • Jack Gaffney

    let me understand this...I pay 200.00 plus a ridiculous amount each month for the PRIVLEDGE to use I-PHONE 4 and i then have to use scotch tape for it to work??
    I was and still am disgusted at the I-PHONE 3G since it doesn't work properly and on my 3rd replacement. FYI - I live in NYC like most other I-Phone people having problems.
    I would love to build a class action suit against APlle for their crappy product and AT&T for not developing a network to accomodate the mirad of suckers like me that bought into it.
    Anyone with me...lets bring the pitchforks and torches to BOTH Apple and AT&T!!

  • Brian Nash

    I have tried to reproduce this a zillion ways and my new iPhone absolutely does not exhibit this behavior, anywhere around the Seattle area that I've been in the last 24 hrs.

    Is there any data to indicate a geographic correlation? I'm wondering if network quality is the issue, rather than handset hardware.

  • Chris Reich

    I am now sleeping in front of the local Wal*Mart to be the first to get a roll of cello I-Tape as soon as the store opens at 5:00 a.m.

    Chris Reich
    BizPhyZ.com