iPhone 'Death grip' cripples iPhone 4. Could a patch help?

iPhone death grip – not the Vulcan kind, the Apple kind – has frustrated some iPhone 4 owners. The company is rumored to be releasing a software update that would correct the dreaded and controversial design flaw. But it clearly hasn't slowed demand, as Apple tallies 1.7 million iPhone 4 sales.

iPhone 'death grip' shouldn't be a problem here. This model is holding the phone 'correctly.' Nonetheless, some Apple consumers have complained that the quality of reception is directly related to how the iPhone 4 is held. Today, one blog is reporting that Apple could be preparing a patch for the iPhone 4 death grip – and that the update could come as soon as next week.

Since the launch of the iPhone 4 last week, Apple has been deluged with complaints about poor reception, which many consumers say is directly related to the way the iPhone 4 is held. In the blogosphere, the bug even has its own name: The iPhone 4 death grip. But fret not, Apple fans. Help is on the way. According to the tech blog Apple Insider, Apple is preparing a death grip antidote – and it's coming in the form of a software update for the iOS 4 system.

Previously, of course, most folks – including your humble Horizons bloggers – assumed that the reception issue was directly related to the wraparound antenna unique to the iPhone 4. Apple Insider, however, is reporting that the iPhone 4 death grip may have its origins in the latest iteration of the iPhone operating system. The blog's source is a series of messages – all of which have since been removed – posted to a popular Apple discussion forum:

The fix is expected to address a issue in iOS 4 related to radio frequency calibration of the baseband. Readers who saw the original forum discussions say that the issue is believed to occur when switching frequencies; because the lag is allegedly not calibrated correctly, it results in the device reporting "no service" rather than switching to the frequency with the best signal to noise ratio. iOS 4 introduced some enhancements to how the baseband selects which frequencies to use, so it makes sense that the error may have crept into those changes. Additionally, this explains why iOS 4 has also caused similar problems for iPhone 3GS users.

That's a lot to parse, and chances are if you don't have a firm understanding of smartphone antenna systems, you may be a bit in the dark. CliffsNotes: The iPhone 4 death grip might be nothing more than an easily-remedied software problem, which means it can be fixed without you buying a different handset. Apple Insider says a software update for iOS4 could be coming as soon as next week, although so far, Apple has remained mum.

Meanwhile, over at Computerworld, Mitch Wagner says the whole iPhone 4 Death Grip thing has been overblown since the start. Wagner points out – a little like Steve Jobs and Apple did last week – that all phones are sensitive devices, and need to be held correctly.

Furthermore, he says, "this problem doesn't seem to affect many people. We won't know for sure until the first customer satisfaction surveys come in from third-parties, and until we see long-term sales figures from Apple. But based on early reviews, it appears the iPhone 4's call quality doesn't seem to be worse than previous models – it actually seems to be better."

Got an iPhone 4? Experiencing the crush of death grip? Or is your iPhone 4 performing beautifully? Drop us a line.

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