iPhone 4's First Users Report Reception, Color Problems

iPhone 4

The first wave of iPhone 4 officially went on sale today and they are flying off store shelves. But some of that first-day fun is being spoiled by reports from frontline customers of issues with the brand new smartphone, including display discoloration and cell reception problems.

Users are reporting diminished or lost reception when they touch the stainless steel band around the iPhone 4's middle. This band doubles as the main structural element and the phone's antenna.

As evidenced in multiple videos posted to YouTube, when the iPhone 4 is gripped in such a way that skin touches this band, the signal strength bars appearing in the upper left corner of the screen drop within seconds.

The phenomenon is similar to that of a person standing near an old-school television antenna. The water-filled human body affects the incoming signal, though in the television's case the signal tends to be improved, Wired reports.

On MacRumors, people have reported frequently dropped calls or poor cell reception on their new iPhones. But some reports suggest the latter problem may have more to do with how the signal is displayed on the phone rather than an actual reception flaw.

Reception perception

The new iPhone is configured to opt for the highest quality signal with the least interference available from a nearby cell phone tower rather than just the strongest signal, Wired reports.  The signal strength bar does not reflect the quality aspect, so even if the bar drops to one or zero a call in theory should not be dropped.

Multiple reports say Apple is aware of this perceptual bug and plans to have a fix out shortly for it, though no official announcement has been made.

Rumors are swirling of a hardware fix involving plastic overlays to prevent skin contact with the steel band, and others say the reception issue is bogus and that Apple just needs to put in place a software fix so the bars "look" higher than they actually are.

Not-so-mellow yellow

The other most prominent problem generating reports is yellow spots or lines on the iPhone 4's supposedly super high-quality "retina display" screen. The spots can appear in corners and the thin bands have shown up toward the tops and bottoms of customers' screens.

According to reports from users online, people who have called in to Apple about the saffron streaks and spots have been told to swap out their device for a new one next week.

Engadget has pointed out a post on AppleInsider that said the yellow discolorations may fade within a couple days, and are a result of a bonding agent drying. Given that Apple has been rushing to fill orders, some iPhones may be fresh off factory assembly lines and the agent has not had time to evaporate properly.

Despite these multiple reports of reception and color snafus, tech critics have heaped praise on the iPhone 4. Apple has sold hundreds of thousands already and has had to delay online orders as well as a white version of the phone.

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Adam Hadhazy
Adam Hadhazy is a contributing writer for Live Science and Space.com. He often writes about physics, psychology, animal behavior and story topics in general that explore the blurring line between today's science fiction and tomorrow's science fact. Adam has a Master of Arts degree from the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston College. When not squeezing in reruns of Star Trek, Adam likes hurling a Frisbee or dining on spicy food. You can check out more of his work at www.adamhadhazy.com.