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Apple may have iOS 4 update to fix reception issue

An update to iOS 4 may come as early as Monday as Apple scrambles to fix the reception problem plaguing many iPhone 4 users, according to AppleInsider.

iPhone 4 users who have run into reception issues by holding their devices "the wrong way" could see a more feasible solution from Apple very soon.

Holding the iPhone a certain way can affect its reception.
Holding the iPhone a certain way can affect its reception. James Martin/CNET

An iOS 4.0.1 software fix is in the works and may arrive as early as Monday, according to AppleInsider. Users of Apple's tech support forums reported seeing comments from Apple reps confirming that an iOS 4.0.1 update fix would ship early this week, though those comments and related discussions have since been removed.

Around the time the iPhone 4 was first released last week, users started flooding the Internet with complaints that holding the phone a certain way weakened or even cut off its reception, causing calls to drop. People quickly discovered that gripping the iPhone in their left hands interfered with the antenna band that runs around the unit, thereby strangling the signal.

Late Thursday, Apple acknowledged the issue but explained it as a fact of life for every wireless phone. The company suggested that iPhone 4 users either buy a case or hold the phone a different way, which of course further upset customers who had already paid $199 or $299 for one of the new models. Apple reported on Monday that it sold 1.7 million iPhone 4 units in the first three days.

Though users may have been caught by surprise, some experts had already foreseen the antenna issue. Two weeks before the iPhone 4's debut, Gert Frolund Pedersen, an antenna expert and professor at Aalborg University in Denmark, warned about the placement of the antenna on the iPhone 4.

In an interview with a Danish IT publication (and roughly translated by Google Translate), Pederson said the antenna's design provides a special challenge because a portion of it will be affected by the user's hand. He explained that human tissue has an inhibitory effect on the antenna, rendering it less efficient, and suggested that a better design would employ two antennae, one of which could take over for the other.

Some debate has also centered on whether the signal loss is due more to hardware or software design. Users of the iPhone 3G ran into reception issues when that phone hit the market two years ago. And iPhone 3GS owners also reported signal loss after upgrading to iOS 4. As a result, the opinion seems to be that the trouble lies in both the hardware and software. If that's the case, then an iOS 4.0.1 bug fix may not eliminate the problem but could certainly alleviate it.