iPhone 4.1 Software Update Doesn’t Fix “Death Grip”: True Fix Coming Friday?

Apple released a firmware update for iOS 4, the first one to affect the signal-challenged iPhone 4. It doesn’t fix the signal problem, but Apple may announce something that will, this week.

iPhone 4


The iPhone 4 has had a contentious birth. The so-called “death grip,” in which the signal drops either entirely or close to it when the phone is held a certain (not very odd) way, has led to widespread calls for either a recall or a free bumper case. At the very least, customers want a response from Apple more comforting than the brusque “just don’t hold the phone that way” email reply Steve Jobs sent to a dissatisfied customer after the phone’s release.

Apple has so far mostly tried to ignore the problem, pretending it either did not exist or was not a serious issue, but did release a new firmware update today. That update, version 4.1, was designed to fix a problem with the iPhone 4 in which an incorrect number of bars are displayed. Apple acted as though this was the extent of the signal issue, offering no other solution besides “don’t hold it that way” or “get a case.”

The firmware update did, according to users on the MacRumors forums and others, fix the incorrect signal display–but had no effect on the actual death grip problem. That’s not surprising, as the death grip is a hardware issue resulting from the placement of the iPhone 4’s external antennae, not something that can be fixed with a software update.

More interesting is the news today that a select few publications, including Engadget, have received invitations for a special Apple event involving the iPhone 4 this Friday. That the event is held on a Friday is a telling clue: When a company or other news-making entity wants news buried, they do it on a Friday. Many publications have limited release over the weekend, circulation is down, and with any luck (they hope), the news will be at least partly forgotten by Monday.

Apple usually holds events early in the week, to take advantage of as long a news cycle as possible. To hold an event on a Friday does not bode well. They could be recalling the iPhone 4, they could be apologizing and changing their manufacturing process, they could be offering free cases to iPhone 4 owners, or it could be something we haven’t thought of yet.

Check back here on Friday–the event will be held at 10 a.m. Pacific, and we’ll report what happens as soon as we find out.


Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in San Francisco (no link for that one–you’ll have to do the legwork yourself).

About the author

Dan Nosowitz is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Popular Science, The Awl, Gizmodo, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. He holds an undergraduate degree from McGill University and currently lives in Brooklyn, because he has a beard and glasses and that's the law.