This Week's Sponsor:


If a device isn’t secure it can’t access your apps. Device Trust for Okta. Watch the demo today!

Actually, iOS 4.1 Fixes the Death Grip

Last night a bunch of blogs reported that the latest iOS 4.1 beta didn’t fix the “Death Grip” problems with the iPhone 4 antenna. We linked to those reports because I had the chance to test the new firmware in a low-signal area and, apparently, the Death Grip was still there.

Today I woke up early and decided to go out for some field testing with my iPhone 4 running iOS 4.1 Beta 1. I took a walk in strong-signal areas (very strong-signal - Viterbo is covered pretty well by 3G and HSPA) and, surprisingly enough, I wasn’t able to reproduce the grip issue.

What happened with iOS 4.1?

As for the details: I have a French iPhone 4 16GB, I’m using a 3 SIM (DVB-H model) I cut myself and I definitely had some problems with reception and Death Grip when I was on iOS 4.0. But, please note: this phone didn’t drop a single call on 4.0 even if I was kind of touching “the spot” nor it ever froze while loading a web page. The Death Grip for me was more of a cool trick to show to my friends, rather than a real Consumer Reports-worth issue. Still, I was able to reproduce it. Not anymore.

Like I said, I know what the best reception spots for 3’s network are in my town. Here, here, here and here.

If you’re on 3, you get 5 full bars and great connection speeds. You know, I used to work from a bar in Piazza del Pebliscito, as it offered a great 3G coverage. So when I bought the iPhone I tried to reproduce the Death Grip in those areas, and it worked: if I gripped my iPhone tightly, I could make it lose 3-4 bars in 30-40 seconds. In normal or low-signal areas, the process was even faster - 15 seconds for 4 bars. But like I said - that was a trick which never caused dropped calls or frozen Safari.

When I installed iOS 4.1 Beta 1 last night, I tried the Death Grip from my place, where, unfortunately, I have a spotty coverage. 2-3 bars with the new formula, that’s it. The Death Grip was still there, but slower. This morning I went with my iPhone 4 running iOS 4.1 in those strong-signal areas I mentioned above and tried the Death Grip. It didn’t work. The phone didn’t drop a single bar - I had 5 full shiny bars. “Interesting”, I said. So I tried to grip it very tightly, almost unnaturally: my whole hand (and I have pretty big hands) was gripped around the left side of the metal band. I waited 10 seconds and the phone dropped 1 bar, then it went back to 5. I waited more and it dropped 1 again, then it stayed in that way until I stopped gripping it.

It seems like iOS 4.1 on iPhone 4 in strong-signal areas definitely fixes the iPhone-dropping-bars issue. Could this be a software issue after all, like many initially reported? I don’t know - thing is, I can’t drop bars anymore. Maybe it’s the new antenna formula. Maybe it’s 3’s network in Italy.

Last, this brief “study” wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t test the actual connection this morning. Both on “Death Grip” and “normal grip” I managed to navigate, open websites and tweet like I always do when I have good signal. Last, I decided to run some tests on the go - not very indicative but there are some curious facts about them.

This is the test I run on Death Grip: (4 bars)

This one is with my normal grip: (5 bars)

The Death Grip test has better results. I ran the tests 3 times, in the same spots, 30 minutes from each other. Very, very interesting.

To sum up, I don’t know the technical details behind this new baseband. I just know that I’ve tested the new firmware on the field, and it works way better than the old one. Bars don’t drop anymore and yet great connection is there. For me, it’s a great achievement.

Unlock More with Club MacStories

Founded in 2015, Club MacStories has delivered exclusive content every week for over six years.

In that time, members have enjoyed nearly 400 weekly and monthly newsletters packed with more of your favorite MacStories writing as well as Club-only podcasts, eBooks, discounts on apps, icons, and services. Join today, and you’ll get everything new that we publish every week, plus access to our entire archive of back issues and downloadable perks.

The Club expanded in 2021 with Club MacStories+ and Club Premier. Club MacStories+ members enjoy even more exclusive stories, a vibrant Discord community, a rotating roster of app discounts, and more. And, with Club Premier, you get everything we offer at every Club level plus an extended, ad-free version of our podcast AppStories that is delivered early each week in high-bitrate audio.

Choose the Club plan that’s right for you:

  • Club MacStories: Weekly and monthly newsletters via email and the web that are brimming with app collections, tips, automation workflows, longform writing, a Club-only podcast, periodic giveaways, and more;
  • Club MacStories+: Everything that Club MacStories offers, plus exclusive content like Federico’s Automation Academy and John’s Macintosh Desktop Experience, a powerful web app for searching and exploring over 6 years of content and creating custom RSS feeds of Club content, an active Discord community, and a rotating collection of discounts, and more;
  • Club Premier: Everything in from our other plans and AppStories+, an extended version of our flagship podcast that’s delivered early, ad-free, and in high-bitrate audio.