5 ways to solve your iPhone 4 reception problems

Are you among the seemingly bazillions of new iPhone 4 owners who sound like a Verizon commercial: "Can you hear me now?" Ah, no, they can't hear you, buddy, and that's the problem. Apple's so-called iPhone 4 "Death Grip" -- where holding the phone in the left hand dampens the cellular signal -- may rank among the top marketing fiascos of the 2010s. This is not how Apple wanted to launch its fourth iPhone.

Strangely, and certainly not how Apple marketing executives planned, iPhone 4 is living up to marketing tagline: "This changes everything. Again." The original iPhone took away capabilities, like sending MMS messages, and held back others -- 2G data and calling when other handsets, and AT&T's network, supported 3G. The iPhone 4 takes back something more fundamental: The capability to make clear phone calls (OK not for all users in all circumstances but plenty enough to make Death Grip one of the hottest topics on the InterWebs this week).

Frustrated iPhone 4 owners should know that they have options. They don't need to wait around for Apple to loosen the iPhone 4 Death Grip. They can solve the calling problems. I've got five guaranteed solutions, but you probably won't like them. In order of effectiveness:

1. Return the phone and get one from a different manufacturer. In most US states, purchasers can return phones and cancel new cellular contracts within 14 days -- 30 days in states like California. It's the "buyer's remorse" period, and for some people who can't make clear calls there surely is some kind of remorse. Apple's newest handset may be the most hyped phone on the planet, but it is by no means the only choice. Yes, you can use another smartphone and find happiness. If your primary use of a phone is the, well, telephony capability, this option may best be for you.

By the way, Nokia deserves counter-marketing kudos for yesterday's post: "How do you hold your Nokia?" Simply stated: "The key function on any Nokia device is its ability to make phone calls." There it is.

2. Stop making phone calls. OK, so this might seem like an extreme option, but, hey, aren't all those phone calls annoying? This is the solution I'm adopting. I've dramatically reduced the number of phone calls and must say it's quite liberating to be free of them. You text, tweet and Facebook anyway. Why not make these your primary iPhone communications functions, if they aren't already? The old marketing line for Ma Bell phone books (the "Yellow Pages") applies here: "Let your fingers do the walking." The iPhone has a touchscreen for a reason. Use it.

But, please, don't text and drive.

3. Move to a location with strong carrier signal. Based on reports attributed to antenna experts and to Betanews readers, Death Grip only really is a problem in areas where there is a weak carrier signal. I've seen this behavior, too. AT&T reception is notoriously bad in my neighborhood. But when I take iPhone 4 to places with good reception and hold it in the Death Grip, calling is good. There's no perceptible signal degradation.

If you must make phone calls, change your location. The US housing market is in the doldrums. If your real estate isn't under water -- meaning worth less than the mortgage you owe -- this would be a good time to buy a new house, townhouse or condominium. There are so many foreclosures and short sales to choose from, it's a buyer's market. Make iPhone 4 the priority for that move. Repeatedly test for the Death Grip, but don't let the sellers know the real reason for moving. Surely they'll think that anyone willing to wait all night in a line to buy a cell phone is a sucker. Don't let your iPhone 4 enthusiasm drive up the seller's counter offer.

4. Sell your iPhone 4 on eBay. Hey, why should Apple be the only profiter of your calling misery? The iPhone 4 eBay auctions are insane. I took a peak early this afternoon and my eyes buggered. There are "buy it now" prices of $1,000 and auctions with bids starting above $800. While writing this post, I watched one auction count down 7 minutes to zero, where in the final seconds the winning bid was $1,300 for the 32GB black model, unopened. This option ranks lower in effectiveness because of the baggage left behind, such as carrier contractual commitments. It is perhaps best choice for people already locked into a carrier contract, say, because of a family plan.

5. Live in denial. It's surprising how effectively some people can just ignore problems like they don't exist. For years I have observed this behavior in overzealous product or brand fans. No matter what the situation, they ignore it. "Hey, Johnny, don't you know Toyota recalled a bazillion cars for accelerator pedal defects?" You know his answer: "Toyota is the best company on the planet. There is no problem with my car."

I've seen this kind of denial behavior among some Mac enthusiasts, too. About Death Grip, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is on record asserting: "Just avoid holding it in that way." Apple's more official response is more like: "you're holding the phone the wrong way" (that's a gratuitous paraphrase). Apple claims the problem really isn't iPhone 4 but you. Hey, if you believe that or take all Jobsian speak as holy writ, you can live in denial; hold the phone differently and blame garbled and dropped calls on the other person's handset and carrier. Denial will fix your problem, because you'll never admit to having one.

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