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Phones

iPhone 'death grip' down under

People told us they believed the iPhone "death grip" was an issue with the AT&T network in the US and not something we'd see here. We tested this theory out for ourselves.

Before the iPhone's midnight launch a few weeks back, we asked the folks lined up around Optus and Telstra what they thought of the iPhone "death grip" issue. The answers we got were strikingly consistent: that this is a problem with the AT&T network in the US and not something we need to worry about in Australia.

The iPhone death grip in Sydney's CBD. (Credit: CBSi)

By this time we had already finished our preliminary testing of the iPhone's network reception and we had seen first hand the death grip in action, but given the controversy around this issue we decided to take another look.

To do this we travelled to several different locations around Sydney. These locations were chosen at random, but we made sure we tested in places where we saw a variety of signal strengths on the phone for Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and 3. The object of these tests were not to highlight which carriers work better in different places around Sydney, but to see how the iPhone handled a mixture of signal strengths before and after applying the death grip (DG).

The iPhone 4 we used is a review unit from Apple updated to the latest version of the iOS firmware 4.0.1.

Test 1: Sydney, CBD

Telco Before DG During DG
Telstra 5 bars 3 bars
Vodafone 5 bars 1 bar
Optus 4 bars 1 bar
Three 4 bars 1 bar

Test 2: Sydney, North Shore

Telco Before DG During DG
Telstra 3 bars 1 bar
Vodafone 3 bars No service
Optus 3 bars No service
Three 2 bars No service

Test 3: Sydney, North West

Telco Before DG During DG
Telstra 5 bars 5 bars
Vodafone 5 bars 2 bar
Optus 5 bars 1 bar
Three 3 bars 1 bar

As you can see, in all cases except one, the death grip had a significant effect on the signal as displayed by the phone itself, but in two of the test sites out of the three it was impossible to fully kill the signal altogether.

While holding the phone in the death grip we also ran a few internet speed tests. In the majority of these speed tests we saw a huge dip in browsing performance. The mobile-specific test at Ozspeedtest.com usually takes a smartphone about two to three seconds to complete. With the iPhone held in the death grip the test took between 110 and 150 seconds, with the data transfer all but choked by the antenna issue.

This is what we've seen in our tests, but we'd love to hear about your experiences too. Drop us a line in the comments below and tell us about your experience with iPhone 4 reception.