iPhone 4 Silent Recall: Some Readers Confirm

Yesterday, a reader claimed that - after exchanging his iPhone 4 - he couldn't reproduce the sharp signal drop caused by the antenna problem. Since then, we've received 14 similar stories. However other people didn't see any changes in their replacement units.

Keep in mind that we only have the readers' testimonies. For now these should be considered anecdotes, not proof. We still can't tell if Apple is silently recalling the iPhone 4 - exchanging them for new units with a fixed antenna - or not. The readers' reports, however, seem to be quite adamant: they claim that their iPhones no longer have problems with voice quality degradation, call drops, slow data transmission or no internet access.

One of these reports comes from reader Jason Mohr, who says that the problem is completely gone after getting an exchange phone on July 10:

I had the problem with my iPhone 4 experiencing the "Death Grip". I took it back to the store and complained about "slow data speeds" as I knew the "death grip" wasn't a "valid" enough reason for them to exchange the phone. My first phone no matter, how great the signal was, the "Death Grip" was in full effect as I could make the phone go to "searching" with in a few seconds. This new unit (mind you has ZERO cosmetic differences) is perfect. The "Death Grip" is totally fixed an fluctuates no more than 1 bar in a bad signal area. Something is definitely different with this phone as IT WORKS!

At home we have a tower that is literally about 600 feet away from my house. The first phone I could death grip it and make it go all the way to searching within 20 seconds. This new one goes from 5 full bars to 4 bars then after a few seconds will kick back to 5 bars. That is without the bumper just raw phone in hand. I am in Arizona.

Dr Jurg Sommerauer, from Santa Paula, California, seems to have done some more rigorous testing. He confirmed that he cannot longer reproduce the problem after a replacement. He says that he tested it repeatedly before getting the new handset:

I have replaced my phone because of freezing issues yesterday and my new iPhone 4 is by far less sensitive than the previous one with respect to antenna issues. I made extensive signal tests with and without the death grip and can not see any different 3G signal (inside a metal construction hangar) in Santa Paula, CA. Please see one screen shot representing an average of upload/download speed. I did about 20 measurements within 10 minutes. The speed span was between 0.6 Mbps and 2.1 Mbps. I could not see a meaningful difference between applying the death grip and without.

Reader Matt Smithers, from Jacksonville, Florida, had this to say:

I received my first iPhone 4 on June 23, like many that preordered for delivery. I immediately tested it for the signal drop issue when cupped in the lower left corner with the same results as most: a quick drop to 1 or 2 bars. I dropped it 2 days after I activated it (July 8). Apple replaced it the next day on July 9,, and I received the same hardware as the first phone. I have not been able to duplicate the signal drop issue however, by cupping it, while sitting in the same spot as before. Overall though, the phone's reception kinda sucks. When I'm in a spot with marginal signal, the phone shows 1 or maybe 2 bars. There's not much in between. Full or 1 bar.

From Pittsburg, Nick Luczak reports this:

After receiving my iPhone 4 on release day, I had it replaced 2 weeks ago at an apple store in Pittsburgh. I was having consistent proximity sensor issues for calls over 2 minutes (weird I know, but a pattern nonetheless) and the glass was separating from the frame/antenna along the top left, nothing too noticeable but I could fit a fingernail in it, and I could hear a click when I squeezed it together. I was only able to duplicate the reception drop a few times. Anyhow my replacement "service" phone which, according to the genius, was supposed to be a refurbished phone but being that they were so new, it was really a brand new phone. It has performed much better, no signal drop at all and no proximity sensors issues. I was told They were replacing it because it was the first separation issue they had encountered. I didnt notice anything cosmetically different to the antenna finish as mentioned in the article but to be honest I didn't pay much attention because I also purchased the bumper case that same night and haven't really taken it off since.

Gizmodo reader Myles Viana doesn't have any more dropped calls:

I purchased my iPhone the day it came out and was experiencing all the dropped calls like everyone else. During the first 10 days I had it, it got dropped a few times and there was a bunch of scratches and dents. I decided I'd go to the apple store to try to get a new one by saying I dropped all my calls. They replaced it no problems. Now I got a new iPhone 4 without scratches and I did notice that I got way better reception than the 1st IPhone 4 I had. I tried holding it the ways you weren't supposed to and nothing no lose of bars or anything. Before I would drop almost every single call. Now I've dropped maybe 1 or 2 calls since I got the new one. Silent recall would make sense to me.

From San Mateo, California, reader Mitchell Carr says that voice transmission is good now:

I had to exchange my iphone 4 last week after the back glass cracked when I placed it down on a new glass-like bathroom surface. At the time it happened, my mind automatically recognised the popping sound, but I assumed that it was just my imagination. The phone was completely unscathed with the exception of the .75 inch crack starting at the top of the phone and running diagonal to one side.

I made an appointment, and was assisted that morning at the local Apple store in San Mateo, CA. The Apple Rep informed me that Apple replaces phones if the crack is a single line, indicating a material defect.

I immediately noticed a difference in hardware once I left the store and began to marvel at the replacement's lack of fingerprints. The unit felt slightly heavier, and the metal frame had a slightly matted finish compared to the replaced unit. I experienced the accidental mute issue on two calls with the first unit, but I haven't experienced that issue on the second.

As for reception issues, I didn't seem to lose too much quality with the first phone during the "death grip," but did notice that audio from my side would drop out as reported by those I spoke with. That hasn't been an issue with the second unit.

I honestly thought the difference in hardware was just a figment of my imagination, but I'm not so sure that's the case anymore. I'm especially certain of the metal finish because I thoroughly inspected my phone for any sign of my own error prior to replacement, which would invalidate my story. During that time, I visually scrutinized the edges, and am confident that something is different about my new unit. I'd be happy to meet up with one of your writers in the SF Bay area if they would like to get a hands-on and compare my new unit with theirs.

We are in the process of meeting with Mitchell and other readers to test their phones. So far, one of the readers who claimed he couldn't reproduce the problem, was mistaken: Trying in our Manhattan offices, we reproduced the problem right away. Our own replacement - obtained on Monday 12 at the Fifth Avenue store in New York - still has the same antenna problem that all iPhone 4s have.

On the internet, other people are reporting similar stories. Some say that some replacement phones have different serial numbers.

For now, however, take all these as just anecdotes. Apple may or may not be doing a silent recall, but there's no solid data at the time. We will keep investigating.

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