Originally Posted by winterspan
The author is intentionally conflating two separate issues in order to downplay the problem with (a subset of?) the iPhone 4 devices.
As has been repeated a thousand times, all cellular phones --- and all RF devices --- will have their signal strength attenuated to some degree if you cover their antennae with your hands or other body parts. Consequently, many, if not most cell phones will show an increased signal strength when you set it down on a table. No one is disputing this.
In fact, this should also happen with the iPhone 4 to some degree, depending on how much you are covering the antennae portion.
On the other hand, at least some of the iPhone 4 units are experiencing a different phenomenon which is far more disruptive and can lead to a complete loss of signal. This phenomenon only occurs when the antennae is covered in a specific fashion, namely when it is held in a left-hand orientation. Based on all the reports, it almost assuredly is related to the fact that two different external antennae come together on the bottom-left corner of the device. These antennae are electrically separated by a small piece of rubber which keeps them from contacting each other. It appears that when someone holds the iPhone 4 in their left hand --- with their skin contacting both antennae --- they can act as a conductor and short the antennae together. This probably depends on local conditions, skin conductivity, etc, but appears to be widespread.
Some of the questions that immediately come up when this is discussed are:
1) How would Apple's engineers miss such a basic engineering flaw?
2) Why does this only affect certain people and not others?
Additionally, there was a rumor going around that a customer service representative told a customer that there was a manufacturing defect related to some "iPhones not receiving a coating"...
With this information, I think the most rational explanation is that the iPhone 4 was indeed designed to receive a special non-conductive, perhaps anti-corrosive, coating on the stainless-steel antennae during the manufacturing process -- and something went wrong on at least some of the assembly lines
This would easily explain the problem with how Apple's engineers wouldn't see a basic engineering problem. Similarly, coupled with the fact that signal strength is highly variable based upon local conditions/radio frequency/topography, this would also explain why many people are unable to replicate this problem. Their device may not have the manufacturing defect, or perhaps their signal strength is very high and so less affected by the antennae shorting than a device with a lower signal to begin with.
The only part of this situation that is still confusing is Apple's varied responses. I'm beginning to think that once Apple figured out how widespread this manufacturing defect could be, and in order to avoid a costly recall, they decided to downplay the issue and act like the antennae issue is normal behavior.
What do you guys think?