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iPhone 4 Death Grip refers to a widely experienced problem of reduced signal strength or dropped calls when holding Apple’s iPhone 4 by the bottom of the device. On the same day of its release, the issue snowballed into a trending topic and a target for online mockeries after the transcript of a brief e-mail exchange between an iPhone user and Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs was published by various tech news blogs and social bookmarking sites.
On June 24th, 2010, Apple released its fourth generation smartphone device iPhone 4 amidst high anticipation. Shortly after its release, tech news blogs and review sites began reporting on the phenomenon of reduced signal strength or dropped calls when touching the lower edge of the phone. The issue was apparently caused by the device’s new design which incorporates an uninsulated stainless steel frame that dual functions as the antenna band.
Steve Jobs’ E-mail Response
On the day of the release, an iPhone user named Aram from Arizona State University sent a brief message addressing the issue to Steve Jobs’ company e-mail address at email@example.com.
Hi Mr. Jobs,
I love my new iPhone 4 (nice work) but when I put my hand on the steel bands I lose all reception.
It appears to be a common issue. Any plans to fix this?
In an unexpected move from the CEO of Apple, Jobs personally responded to Aram’s e-mail with a terse message that read:
Just avoid holding it that way.
Within hours of the e-mail exchange, a screenshot of the e-mail transcript began circulating across the tech news blogs like Engadget and Gizmodo, as well as Apple product-related forums like Apple Insider, where Steve Jobs’ response was largely criticized as an inadequate solution to a widely experienced technical issue.
In the following days, many iPhone users began uploading video clips onto YouTube in order to demonstrate the problem. Soon, iPhone 4’s reception bug was dubbed by the news media as “the iPhone death grip.”
Discussions surrounding the issue of iPhone 4 continued to surface on social bookmarking sites like Reddit and Digg, where many users began sharing mock tutorials and self-guides on how to properly hold the iPhone 4, as well as makeshift and DIY solutions to strengthen the signal reception.
Apple Slogan Parodies
Meanwhile on Twitter, Robert Taylor (@RJamesTaylor) took a jab at Steve Jobs’ response by tweeting “Apple: Hold Different,” a parody of the company’s 1996 advertising campaign “Think Different.” Taylor’s tweet quickly gained momentum after it was picked up by American blogger Robert Scoble, leading to a flurry of parodies and satire images utilizing the same slogan on the microblogging platform.
On July 2nd, 2010, Apple announced a software patch that could ameliorate the issue when using the device, along with an explanation that the sudden loss of signal was caused by a software mistake. That same day, Gizmodo published an infographic article titled “Why Apple’s iPhone 4 Update Won’t Fix Your Reception Problem” to better illustrate the issue as described by Apple:
“Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.”
Apple Insider Forums – Some iPhone 4 launch units lose signal when held with left hand