“Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance” reckons Apple, “depending on the placement of the antennas”; we’ll put aside the fact that their statement seemingly ignores the fact that they decided on the antenna placement, and instead turn to specialist Spencer Webb of AntennaSys. He’s been roped in for a more educated opinion on what’s causing the problem, and he’s blaming the FCC and AT&T as well as Apple’s designers: turns out, the FCC and carrier testing only requires SAR testing in terms of a human head being nearby, not with a hand actually holding the phone.
That means that Apple, the FCC and AT&T could all have been testing the iPhone 4 with the handset basically “suspended magically in air”. Using a Bluetooth headset with new phone will probably improve signal performance, but as Webb highlights the newly spread-out antenna means you’ll end up absorbing more radiation than if Apple had squeezed the antenna into one small patch on the back: “Putting this iPhone 4 in your pocket will likely couple more energy into your body (you bag of salt water, you) than did the first generation model” he suggests, “Yep, I predict it will be worse.”
Elsewhere, Fast Company are suggesting a super-cheap iPhone 4 signal fix which basically amounts to putting a little patch of sticky-tape across the two antennas. Unfortunately, as we found with the StealthArmor system, even that may not be enough to significantly change things. If you try it, let us know how you get on.