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Rumored iPhone 4 Redesign Coming Soon: Antennagate Over?

Does a revised iPhone 4 confirm that a design flaw caused the device’s reception issues?

Steve Jobs iPhone

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Is a design flaw in the iPhone 4 causing reception problems? Not according to Apple, which has offered only excuses, denials, and boasts of $100-million-testing facilities–pretty much every response but an apology or admission of guilt. But comments made last week by an executive at Telcel, Mexico’s exclusive carrier of the iPhone and the country’s largest mobile provider, suggest the problem was very much a hardware issue.

According to Marco Quatorze, Telcel’s director of value added services, Apple is planning to release a revised version of the device–iPhone 4.1, if you will–at the end of September. CanalMX reports that the upgraded hardware specifically addresses Apple’s reception issues, otherwise known as “Antennagate.” If Quatorze’s information is correct, it would mean the iPhone 4 did indeed have a design flaw, and that Apple has been quietly working on a hardware fix all along.

The controversey began in June, soon after the iPhone 4’s release, when critics lambasted the device’s perceived reception flaws. Users noticed that if they held the phone in a certain way–the “death grip,” as it’s referred to–they would see a dramatic dip in signal strength.

Apple offered varied responses. First the company suggested users “avoid gripping [the iPhone] in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band.” Next, it concluded the issues were software-based. And by mid-July, Steve Jobs came out in full force against complaints at an Apple press conference entirely devoted to Antennagate. There, Jobs compared the signal dips to similar problems experienced with other carriers and devices; argued that an algorithmic error in iOS software mis-represented reception; claimed the issues affected relatively few users; and finally, offered a free bumper to every iPhone 4 owner.

Since then, the hoopla has died down, but if Apple releases a revised version of the iPhone 4–only a few months after the device first launched–will owners of the flawed-version remain satisfied? According to Quatorze, the hardware upgrade will arrive once the free bumper program ends.

None of this is likely to be addressed at tomorrow’s music event, which is rumored to include an iPod nano with a touchscreen.

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About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.

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