Ask Geek Tech: Is iPhone 4 'Death Grip' Recall-Worthy?

Does the iPhone 4 so-called "death grip" warrant a recall? Read on to see what the GeekTech bloggers think

The new Apple iPhone 4 (Photo credit: Apple)

The new Apple iPhone 4 (Photo credit: Apple)

The iPhone 4 "death grip" story continues to have legs. Consumer Reports says that it can't recommend the iPhone 4--despite the fact that it tops Consumer Reports' rankings--because of the so-called "death grip," and some in PR circles see a recall as "inevitable". Needless to say, we at GeekTech have our own views on this issue.

This installment's question: "The iPhone 4 "death grip" has gotten significant amounts of press lately, with some saying that a recall is 'inevitable.' Do you think Apple should recall the iPhone 4? Why or why not?" Read on for our responses, and then chime in with your own.

Chris Brandrick

I have tried--and failed--to replicate the reported problem on a number of iPhone 4s. However, it's clear that this is a real problem that a sizeable number of people are experiencing. This issue isn't going away, and a software update will not fix this clearly hardware-based problem. Apple simply can't continue to ignore it.

David Saetang

I wouldn't say a recall is "inevitable" but I wouldn't be surprised if it happened. While you can "fix" the problem by using a Bumper, I'm not sure how well that will radiate with consumer rights and protections agencies. It reminds me of when the public schools in my neighborhood had to get rid of uniforms because it was deemed "not right" to force people to buy the uniforms.

It was already hard enough to get Jobs to admit to this problem in the first place, so the chances of getting an actual recall out of him is slim to nill in my book. But to actually answer the question, I do think that the iPhone 4 should be recalled if these problems persist (because apparently Apple says it's a software issue, but we'll find out in due time).

I mean, everyone knows about the ongoing joke about the iPhone not being able to be used as a phone because of the carrier, but when the problem lies in the actual product itself and furthers the problem... well, then something definitely needs to be done about it.

Nick Mediati

I don't know about a recall, but I can't think of a good reason from an end-user perspective why Apple can't give owners free iPhone Bumpers. At the least it'll be a show of goodwill, which would go a long way toward quieting complaints.

Chris Head

Assuming the fix can only be addressed with some amount of re-engineering, yes, but not until after the fix is complete, tested, and press is out saying the new model is working-as-intended. Pre-purchasers will find free phones in their mailbox. Retail buyers will fill out an online form to have a new, fixed phone shipped, and be asked to return the faulty phone by mail, RMA-style. The bad iPhones will be quietly buried in the Arizona desert for future civilizations to puzzle over.

The beef is made worse by the fact that Apple is currently swimming in liquid cash and could conceivably make a recall happen. If they don't, or just continue to offer "free" bumpers for iPhone 4s, it's going to look like they cheaped out on the fix for a known design flaw. It will be one of several serious design and manufacturing flaws going back at least through the past five years, several of which have been seen by customers as inadequately addressed by Apple corporate.

And in light of the recent Foxconn blow-back, this would be a great opportunity for Apple to swap some of that loose cash for goodwill and good press.

Mike Keller

I have an iPhone 4. Generally speaking, reception and call quality far exceeds that of my old 3G. In my own tests, administering the "death grip" (which I will note is a fairly unnatural way to hold the phone, in my opinion) without a case does in fact make bars drop, though it doesn't actually seem to make it less likely to be able to make or sustain a call. Consistent with reports, bars aren't dropped while using a case (I have a Bumper).

A speedy software update would be great, giving away (or at least reducing the price of) bumper cases would be even better. Administering a massive recall would only give into the media hype behind this and as an extremely satisfied iPhone 4 user, it just really doesn't seem necessary.

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal

I don't think a recall is necessary, or even all that feasible. But yes, Apple's whole "if you purchase a $30 case everything will be fixed" seems like a pretty crappy way to force people to drop even more money. They should absolutely give out some free Bumper cases.

What about you?

What's your take? Have you experienced signal problems with the iPhone 4 when you hold it a certain way? Do you think Apple should recall it? Or is the whole thing blown out of proportion? Sound off and post a comment below!

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