I believe that the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone ever sold, and every day I am finding new things that I love about it. One of its many advantages is that it does a much better job of getting a 3G signal. Areas that used to be dead zones for me — such as certain locations in my office, 46 floors up in the air and far from cell towers — are now areas in which I can initiate and receive calls. I don't know if the improvement comes from better internal circuits, updated firmware, or the unique antenna on the outside of the phone, but the better reception is certainly real.
Unfortunately, much recent media attention has emphasized reception problems with the iPhone 4 instead of the reception improvements, including the possibility that an iPhone 4 user can get worse reception if the user places a hand over the bottom left portion of the phone, something that a right-handed person like me would rarely do when using the phone but might be more common for lefties. In my experience, this is not an issue in areas with strong 3G coverage, but if you are in an area with weak coverage — including, for example, areas where you could never get coverage with prior iPhones and are only now getting coverage with the iPhone 4 because of its improvements — then the problem is real. I have not been able to force a call to drop under these circumstances, but I have been able to slow down downloads of data, so I can see how it is possible that others might see dropped calls with a hand touching that part of the iPhone 4. A good recent post on Engadget evidenced how different people are seeing different issues, some seeing no iPhone 4 reception problems and others seeing real problems. All in all, I think that Harry McCracken summed it up best when he recently wrote:
The iPhone 4′s innovative antenna-wrapped-around-the-case improves reception. Except when you use the phone in an area with marginal reception, aren’t using a case, and bridge the gap in the lower left-hand corner with your hand. In that situation, it can be deadly.
Had Apple simply told all iPhone purchasers from the outset something similar to what McCracken wrote, perhaps we wouldn't have seen all of the media attention, especially the attention that resulted from Consumer Reports articles concluding that the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone on the market and yet also stating that because of this antenna issue, Consumer Reports doesn't want to recommend that anyone buy the iPhone 4.
Last night, Apple announced to media outlets such as Macworld and Engadget that it will hold a press conference tomorrow, Friday June 16, at 10am Pacific / 1pm Eastern to address the iPhone 4 — and presumably to address this antenna issue. I'm curious to see what Apple says, and I'm hopeful that Apple's announcements will allow people to move past this issue, because for me, the bottom line is (1) the iPhone 4 is an amazing smartphone, truly the best in class and (2) if you want to get better reception, that is a reason to BUY the iPhone 4, not a reason to avoid it, although you may have to be careful about how you hold it (or use a case) in those weak signals areas in which, before the iPhone 4, you might not have gotten a signal at all.