Will the white iPhone 4’s have the horrible reception issues that plague the black model? - Macenstein

Will the white iPhone 4’s have the horrible reception issues that plague the black model?

In light of the completely real, verifiable, and not-fixable-via-software iPhone 4 reception problem, I got to thinking about Apple’s comments on the delay of the white iPhone 4.

“White models of Apple’s new iPhone® 4 have proven more challenging to manufacture than expected, and as a result they will not be available until the second half of July. “

When Apple said the white iPhone 4’s were trickier to manufacture than anticipated, it didn’t really make a lot of sense. Given that the only difference in manufacturing the two models SHOULD be finding black plastic and white plastic, the idea that the “challenging” aspect to manufacturing a white iPhone is a matter of color doesn’t seem all that convincing (especially for a company who is known for making multi-colored versions of their devices).

But now that we see there are inherent design problems to the iPhone 4’s antenna placement, we can’t help but wonder/hope that there’s a chance that Apple has figured out a fix and the white iPhone 4 will NOT have the antenna issue.

Unfortunately for Apple, at this point fixing the antenna in the new model will be tantamount to a confession that it not only admits the black models suffer reception issues, but that it knew of them pre-launch, and released them anyway. This would more or less force Apple to recall/replace all 4 million or so black iPhone 4’s it has sold.

Or Would it?

While the optimistic Apple fanboy in me would like to think Apple would do the right thing – suck up a (comparatively) small loss in exchange for an untarnished iPhone reputation – the realist in me can also totally imagine the Apple press release that would accompany a fixed white iPhone 4:

“CUPERTINO, Calif., July 23 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Apple is pleased to announce the availability of the highly anticipated white iPhone 4. For the new white models, Apple was able create a revolutionary new white plastic compound that allows for THREE TIMES the amount of cellular reception found in most “black” plastics”. Apple’s revolutionary antenna design remains unchanged, although we would prefer you do not open it and look around. Thank you.”

© 2010 Apple Inc. All rights reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, Mac, Mac OS, Macintosh and iPhone are trademarks of Apple. Other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Unfortunately, the way Apple’s been spinning this thing, I think the above press release is not that unlikely.

14 Responses to “Will the white iPhone 4’s have the horrible reception issues that plague the black model?”
  1. Kenneth says:

    I just want the proximity sensor issue fixed. Useless as a phone with it muting calls, pushing numbers, switching to speaker phone, and worst of all hanging up on people.

    I wonder how many people blame reception when it’s really their cheek hitting End Call.

  2. Karsten says:

    I believe a recall is in order if they want to keep their loyal fanbase happy.

  3. Darwin says:

    Silly article. Most have no reception issues and in fact get better reception than 3GS. . Proximity sensors is fixed by an os reinstall. Apple is not “known for” multi-color versions of their products. Black plastics and glass have much greater resistance to UV light and other degradation than white which is probably why white has to get special care.

  4. Joe says:

    I almost exclusively use the headphone/mic headset to make phone calls. Without touching the phone in any way, i still have reception issues. And yes, “black” plastic is very different than “white” plastic. It is not a matter of simply adding white dye to the mix. There is probably a very serious issue they are trying to work through.

  5. Mark Reese says:

    I have eleven friends who have the new iPhone 4 – and we all have dramatically better reception than the 3GS. I’m sure this issue exists for some but really, it’s not that big a deal for most. Return the phone, get a new one.

  6. Armani says:

    Darwin = More than just a fanboy.

    Went into the Apple store, and tested 3 units by covering the lower left portion of the iPhone 4. In ALL 3 units, the bars dropped all the way to no bars. Granted, I did not make any phone calls from the 3 units. But the disappearing bars (and presumabily reception) is a REAL issue. Apple and some blind fanboys (and BTW, I do consider myself an Apple fanboy, just not a blind one) can spin the issue all they want. But reality is reality.

  7. Pete 2 says:

    Do you even have an iPhone 4? I know 7 people personally who have iPhone 4’s, and we ALL have the dead zone issue. This is a real issue, and FAR greater than any similar effect any of us can produce on our old phones, including iPhone 3 and 3 G S’s. Seems to me that basically every journalist from Engadget to TUAW to Gizmodo to Macenstein is having the same problems with reception.

    Sounds to me like you’re rushing to defend Apple without the facts. To say “the majority” of people aren’t having these issues is silly. I would wager that the majority you are talking about is comprised of the non-tech savvy base that knows it wants an iPhone, rushed out to get one, and now is blaming all those rumors of crappy AT&T coverage for their dropped calls.

    ALL the iPhone 4’s are built the same, incorrect way, and they all have this issue.

  8. bilogiC says:

    Front and back are glas. It is more difficult oto get a complete non transparent layer o white paint applied to iit…

  9. Wayne says:

    If by “horrible reception issues”, you mean “better reception than the 3G and 3GS under similar conditions, no matter how its held”, then yes. Read anandtech and see that the 4 gets better reception than the 3GS, even when you “death grip” it and decrease the displayed bars.

  10. LAViking says:

    While I agree with part of your statement I think your wrong in parts.

    I did a test at the apple store using the 20 display iPhone 4’s. What I found is that 16 of the 20 demo units DID NOT suffer from the “death grip” no matter how long I held them. Those 16 iPhones stayed at 5 bars! 4 of them did drop signal to 1 bar. These 20 phones all share the same technical, geographic and environmental influences. This could easily be something software related to how the phone fails to hand off to the stronger signal tower allowing the bars to drop. That would explain why 16 of the 20 worked perfectly even thought the antenna was bridged. Or, you could argue that there was a manufacturing or component defect in those 4 phones that did drop the signal making it a hardware issue. Either way, I argue that this does not point to a design flaw in the antenna as that would indicate an unforeseen problem that I am pretty sure Apple understood very clearly when they began designing the iPhone4. Apple simply chose to engineer past this physics issue and use a combination of software and design to mitigate the physics challenge as much as possible. It was a trade off so-to-speak, but the unintended part was most likely how the protocol handshaking would happen in the real world between the multiple cell towers or how a component reliability would play into the manufacturing side. Keep in mind, most people have not had the “death grip” problem and my test supports that even in the same conditions 80% of the phones show no problem. Apple needs to address the 20% that do, but they will and they are.

    That is why they are not saying the antenna is faulty, because it is working exactly as intended with complete clarity and understanding of the physics involved.

  11. Kenneth says:

    If an OS reinstall fixes the proximity sensor then I’d like to know if the 4.0 GM build and the 4.0 build it downloads and restores with are the same, or was it a late caught bug and early units had a faulty 4.0 version. There are many reports on the Apple discussion thread that say restore doesn’t help.

    I just restored last night so I guess we’ll see if it fixes it.

  12. VR says:

    The death-grip reception issue may very well be software-fixable.

    AppleCare staff are not software engineers. AppleCare staff do not even all get the “same” information, let alone detailed information about what Apple software engineers are doing.

    All of the radio functionality in the phone is controlled by software. Every bit of it. There is a very very real likelyhood that software can fix, or largely resolve for 99% of the cases, the death-grip issue.

    The iPhone 4 tried new things in it’s radio software that may need to be tweaked.

    There is no need for doom-and-gloom.

  13. Michael Baird says:

    I believe that the answer is far simpler than what has been proposed. I have personally seen many issues with the consistent quality of adhesives particularly in China. This makes me believe that the white version is prone to blotches or other issues which can be seen with the white backgrounds but are generally not easily seen or non-existent on the black version. Also I can attest to the better reception with the 4G phone. I have terrible reception all of the time at my home most of the time. With the 3G an 3GS phones it was generally impossible to make or receive calls. Whereas with the 4G I am able to make and receive calls most of the time.

  14. Rob says:

    I believe the answer is simple…

    it’s Gray Powell’s fault…

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