Ok, this is something I've been thinking about the past few days since I acquired my iPhone 4 (I didn't buy it myself; it was a gift to me but it's mine nonetheless, I own an iPhone 4). My experience(s) have been somewhat summarized at length in the post you can find in the link in my sig, if you care to read it, and an update was added in another post (linked from that one) where someone "demanded" that I stand directly under a cell site and do the same testing, which I did and ended up with effectively the same results. I won't rehash all that in this post, this one is all new and something I'd like people to consider. This is going to be a VERY long post, so I hope you'll bear with me as I explain my thoughts and how I believe things are working out. If not, you're free to move along - honestly I'd even go so far as to ask that if you don't own an iPhone 4 move along and don't even bother. If you do own an iPhone 4 I welcome discussion whether you are having problems - any problems at all - or not. It's the people that don't own the phone(s) that will cause the most trouble with their posts, of that I'm quite certain, if they choose to post. Having said there, here's what I'm thinking: If you've ever seen the movie "Contact" with Jodie Foster, etc, based on the Carl Sagan novel of the same name, you'll probably remember them making several scenes that focus around a scientific principle/theory known as "Occam's razor" and it's basically put in this way: "The simplest explanation is tends to be the correct one." (or words to that effect as it is expressed in many different forms including the real actual untouched version which says: "Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity" If you haven't seen the movie, and to make a long story short here's how it works out (movie has been around for a long time so don't flame me as spoiling it if you haven't seen it): Girl likes astronomy, makes it her life's focus. She's an outsider, traveling her own path, stepping on the toes of "the establishment" by focusing on listening for the existence of life beyond our planet. Everyone thinks she's a nutcase but they tolerate her, up to a point after which she and a few people loyal to her break away from that establishment. Her research continues until a fateful day when she - she herself - detects a signal coming from another part of our galaxy, and with the help of those loyal to her announce it to the world. She gets in trouble for it, of course, but buried deep inside the signal itself lay coded plans for building "a machine" that nobody on earth can even fathom the function of. Speculation suggests it's some kind of transport and it's decided that it'll be built. It is, but some religious nutcase with a vest-bomb destroys it. Luckily, because governments always get good deals and can build two for twice the price (a line from the movie, actually), and another machine is already fully built and ready to go, and they want her to be the traveler and of course she agrees. Big hoopla, big lightning storms, etc, the machine works, and it opens a wormhole from the inside of the machine directly to where the signal originated: some planet in the Vega star system/cluster/etc. She's there for what to her is about 18 hours, has a conversation of sorts with some type of intelligent life form, and then is returned to earth to the exact spot, pretty much the same instant, that she left - at least from the perspective of those on earth. She's touted as a loon, insane, that perhaps the machine's function wrecked her brain to the point where all this was made up from scratch, her fantasy, and she tricked the entire world into believing it all. All she's got to offer to them is her word, and nothing more. When she's brought before Congress to testify, she has no proof - only her word - and still nothing more. Absolutely nothing consequential or concrete except her own experience which unfortunately is dismissed as the crazed rantings of someone perpetrating a fraud. Which leads me to this theory, sorry. Occam's razor states that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, and with respect to the bumper - the only one of it's kind as no one else is manufacturing such a "case" for the iPhone 4, at least not yet as of this post - and the iPhone 4 with what is now the well known defects, issues, problems, etc (whatever you wish to call them), I'd like to offer my thinking, some of which is culled from an earlier post I made and re-presented here with as the guts of the working theory. Here's what I believe as of right now: - That the issue(s) people are noticing are indicative of a design flaw - That Apple discovered it way too late into the prototyping phase (pre-fabrication of the actual product, but prototypes were still in testing) - That because of such a late discovery they couldn't really do much about it and needed a solution to prevent the primary cause of the signal degradation noted: skin-on-metal contact - That the working theory is that they did almost all their testing with iPhone 4 prototypes inside cases to mask them and protect it from prying eyes which precluded them from skin-on-metal contact during all that testing - That at some point the device would have had to be removed from the fake case/mask/etc and actually held in someone's hand (field trials, perhaps, who knows) - That at that time the discovery was made that signal reception and degradation was occurring in degrees that couldn't be accounted for simply because "we're pretty far from a cell site." - That someone with some common sense put two and two together and realized that considering they're dealing with microwave energy transmission, skin-on-metal contact is wicking away that energy in quantities the phone can't adapt to quickly enough (the software issue) to recover/maintain given levels of service - That a solution was desperately required since the phone was practically done by that point and they couldn't just scrap the entire process and design - The solution presented itself in the form of the bumper that was quick to create, quick to manufacture (make a mold, pour in some rubber, done), cheap as hell, deadly efficient by design, and practically - note: practically solves the skin-on-metal potential 100% Now, consider this before you go any further: cellular telephones operate on many different frequencies in their assigned band plans as set by the FCC (here in the US) and whatever regulatory agencies around the world that are responsible for such frequency allocations in their respective countries. The one thing they all share in common is that those frequencies all sit within what's considered to be the microwave range, yes, just like the ones in your microwave oven with one big difference: They're thousands if not millions of times less powerful and so are nowhere near as "damaging" to organic tissue as the output from any given cellular phone on the market today, even the iPhone 4. The key here is organic tissue, which includes the skin of our bodies (and our bodies as a whole). Microwave energy does lots of interesting things for many interesting reasons, but when it comes into contact with organic tissue, it really gets interesting. Note I am saying direct physical contact meaning by touching an antenna aka a resonator since an antenna, when fed a specific level of energy at a specific frequency actually vibrates at that frequency which is how radio waves are radiated - radio, radiated, it all works together, get it? There's one basic rule of microwave radio transmission, first and foremost (at least in my education which is still ongoing but I've been working with radio communications equipment for 30+ years now, pretty much daily) and that rule is: You don't touch microwave antennas, for any reason, ever. And by "touch" I do mean precisely that, touching the antenna with organic material, and even more precisely with human hands, palms, fingers, fingertips, etc. You never touch a microwave antenna with your body or any part of it. Why? Well, to make it really simple: because organic tissue loves microwave energy, basically. Organic tissue absorbs microwave energy like a fat man sopping up gravy with a biscuit (disclaimer: I'm 6'6" tall and I weigh 380 lbs, but I carry it well, so I can attest to that statement) or a dry sponge sucking up water, or maybe even a Bounty paper towel doing the same thing like their TV commercials advertise. Organic tissue loves microwave energy, and will wick it away, pull it directly, whenever and wherever possible, even if it's just within close proximity - and guess what? The level of the absorption rises if you make direct skin-to-antenna contact, ofttimes geometrically. I'm not trying to scare people into thinking "OMG my cell phone is a microwave oven next to my brain and it's frying me up like fried chicken!!!" No, it's not, because the levels of energy being transmitted by any cellular phone on the market today are so low that they simply don't have the effect that sticking your head inside an actual microwave oven and turning it on would. Proximity, transmission power, absorption rates, etc, it all plays into it. You're safe, using the iPhone 4 or any other cell phone, at least in terms of the levels of radiation (meaning the microwave energy radiating off the antenna(s) in cell phones) overall. Wanna know the simple explanation? Organic tissue doesn't pass microwave energy with any appreciable level of efficiency - it absorbs it, a vast percentage of it. It doesn't just pass through our bodies/hands/fingers 100% untouched (no pun intended), a significant portion of the energy is absorbed by the organic material and at that point that energy is "lost" forever. And Apple is quick to announce, as most cell phone makers do, that holding a cell phone can alter the signal reception as well as signal transmission. Why? Because your hand wrapped around the phone - in any position you choose - is going to wick microwave energy away and that's called attenuation. There's also an issue of antenna detuning but I'm not talking about that aspect right now, that's later. Attenuation is simply the loss of some signal energy, whether it's being received by the phone or it's being transmitted, because of either a) blockage by some object outright or b) absorption of energy by some object. You're either blocking a percentage of it and almost nothing is getting through, or you're absorbing a percentage of it. It works out the same either way as signal is lost, hence performance suffers, hence you either lose data or the connection is severed. It's perfectly normal for a cell phone to respond to attenuation when held by the signal strength display - commonly referred to as "bars" - on pretty much every cell phone that exists today. Why? Because today's cell phones are all digital - they're sending very low power data streams to the cell sites/towers that cover a great percentage of the planet's populated surface - not as much as AT&T and Verizon claim, however. Cell phones that operate with such incredibly low power transmissions are by design going to have to respond to the signal attenuation caused by holding the phone in the hand, by holding the phone in the hand while inside a car, while holding the phone in the hand while in car inside a parking garage, and so on and so on. The phone's work in conjunction with the cell sites/towers and adjust themselves accordingly either by increasing output power or hopping frequencies as required - this is perfectly normal operation, and the iPhone 4 and all other cell phones do this, 24/7 when they're in operation, even when you're not on a call. NOTE: I'm talking about the phones, not the cell sites/towers which stay pretty much constant for power output, they have no reason to alter much of anything since they are stationary. Cell phones adjust themselves to the conditions by altering power and frequency to maintain what their internal programming deems to be the best and most reliable signal - that doesn't mean the strongest because that is actually a problem too but it's not something I'm going to get into this time out. The iPhone 4 is not unique - it works like every other cell phone that exists today does. Holding it in the hand causes signal attenuation, that's a fact and cannot be disputed because it's a cell phone and every cell phone (not just every iPhone 4) does this, be it a phone made by Nokia, Motorola, LG, Sony/Ericsson, Samsung, HTC, I don't care. Apple was quick to "cover their ass" after Steve Jobs made that fateful comment to samcraig (a member here at MacRumors) and told him "Just avoid holding it in that way" as an actual solution. Apple quickly followed up with the standard disclaimer that I've basically just covered: that all cell phones will exhibit some signal loss/degradation/attenuation when held in the hand, it's a fact of life, deal with it. Ok, fine, we got it. But not many other phones that I've ever owned suffer such signal attenuation to the degree that my iPhone 4 has, from 5 bars to 1, within a few hundred feet of a cell site/tower with absolutely nothing blocking/obstructing the signal path from my iPhone 4 to the antenna on the site/tower except my hand. And it gets worse, but for that you'll need to look at the post(s) linked in my sig, I'm not going to repeat my first-hand or should I say first-fingertip experience of killing my iPhone 4's 3G connection with a fingertip. So, if Apple is rumored to be releasing some unofficial "fix," what's the big deal, you ask? Well, it's that bumper thing. Ever since I first saw it demonstrated/shown at WWDC during the iPhone 4 introduction - and knowing that the iPhone 4 has a metal band that's actually part of the chassis - it's really bothered me for many reasons I didn't have anything to base the gut feeling on till I actually got my iPhone 4 in my hand, and when I then noticed just how bad the degradation is, as well as my Dim Mak-certified fingertip-of-death touch on the lower left side, well... it all become clear. Occam's razor says the simplest explanation tends to be the right one, so here's my explanation: "The iPhone 4 is a device that works as a cellular phone working on frequencies in the microwave range, both in reception mode and transmission mode (which is simultaneous given the nature of cellular communications). Because the chassis is part of the makeup of the iPhone 4, and because two significant portions of the chassis are designed to act as resonators, aka antennas, the close proximity of a human hand - in the situation where some type of bumper or casing is applied to the iPhone 4 itself - as well as direct skin-on-metal contact is going to occur - in the situation where no such bumper or casing is applied or in place - detrimental effects are going to be taking place because of the properties of microwave energy reception and transmission." Want it even more simplistic? Sure thing... "The iPhone 4's antenna design is fundamentally flawed because of the potential for skin-on-metal contact which would dramatically attenuate signal reception and transmission to levels that cannot be adequately resolved by altering the power transmission or even the channel/frequency assignments." The Occam's razor/br0adband's firsthand experience of owning an iPhone 4 suffering from said issues version? "The bumper is Apple's solution to preventing skin-on-metal contact in the hopes that it'll fix the fundamental design flaw of making the antennas part of the chassis of the iPhone 4." Think about it. - You've got a phone, with a metallic band that's designed as the antenna. - You've got the basic principles of microwave energy transmission that say organic tissue + direct contact with a microwave resonator = very bad thing for organic tissue and even worse for the device considering the already low power nature (meaning the skin's going to wick away so much energy the phone isn't going to be able to accommodate it and handle the necessary output to overcome that loss). - You've got to come up with a solution that addresses the skin-on-metal contact potential and come up with it quick because this problem appeared way too late in the production phase to change things now - You've got some smart people working for you and their solution is bumper that serves first and foremost to solve the inherent design flaw: it prevents skin on metal contact, completely - Problem solved Not quite. Because people with bumpers are still having the issues, which is accounted for by saying (again) that the iPhone 4 is not unique in it's signal attenuation issues when held in the hand, but it is unique in the degrees to which the signal is being attenuated and sometimes losing the signal and service completely. If Occam's razor is applied to the issues the iPhone 4 is having and will continue to have because of the metal band being the antenna, the simplest explanation and solution is the bumper. At least that's what Apple was shooting for... unfortunately, as many iPhone 4 owners with bumpers are discovering, even that isn't helping. Told ya it was a long post. While my firsthand experience is somewhat extreme (killing mine with a fingertip takes less than a minute, even standing under a cell site), the majority of people that ARE reporting problems are all doing so with claims that are very similar to mine. If I were the only person on earth with an iPhone 4 and I was the only person that had these issues, and posted about it, then someone would be more than welcome to say "Your phone - your specific iPhone 4 - is probably defective and you should have it replaced." and I would fully agree with that solution. But I'm not the only one, not by thousands. This is a real issue, and it's affecting real people, not just me myself and I. I know a lot of people will dismiss this whole post and rant about it, that's fine, I can't control stupidity and ignorance, nobody can except each individual for their own stupidity and ignorance. I think about Occam's razor, apply that to the iPhone 4 and what the metal band as antenna is causing - not for every single owner, I agree, but not every single owner is going to complain: thousands upon thousands of iPhone 4's have been returned or reported with Apple Support and not on Internet forums, and what's worse is that people returning iPhone 4's for replacements are now finding the replacements suffering from the same issues. Clue me this: if I had a knock at my door, and it was Steve Jobs, and he said "Let me see your iPhone 4" and I handed it to him, then we walked the 25 feet to the balcony of my apartment building and I showed him how I'd held it in my testing, and he did exactly the same thing, and he put his official Apple certified fingertip on that seam and the phone lost signal and service inside of 60 seconds, what do you think he would say? Seriously. ps I've done my best to make sure this is accurate based on my decades of working with radio communications equipment - if I made some typos, grammatical errors, I apologize, but I'm done with it as I'm posting it now. I won't make edits... if I have anything to add I'll do it in the thread with additional posts. And if you read this whole damned thing, even if you disagree with every single point I've attempted to and hopefully have made, I salute you.