Verizon iPhone suffers death grip dropped calls

The Verizon iPhone 4 suffers from 'death grip' syndrome and may drop calls as a result, just like previous models, according to lab tests conducted by influential American outfit Consumer Reports.

While the handset 'performs superbly in most other respects' Consumer Reports said it is unable to endorse the product because of reception problems uncovered by its engineers in laboratory tests.

The problem can occur "when you hold either version of the phone in a specific but quite natural way in which a gap in the phone's external casing is covered," according to the report, which adds that using a case or, we assume, a well-placed rubber band can alleviate the problem.

Consumer Reports' engineers ran its regular battery of tests on the handset as well as some "special tests" devised after the original iPhone for the US AT&T network met with complaints about signal reception.

It also compared the handset to five other Verizon smartphones: Samsung's Fascinate, Motorola's Droid 2 Global, HTC's Droid Incredible, LG's Ally and Motorola's Droid X.

Test engineers established a continuous signal connection between the phones and a base-station emulator and then fingered each device around its edge to see what happened. "The only phones in which the finger contact caused any meaningful decline in performance was the iPhone 4," the engineers reported.

Placing a finger across the gap in the antenna on the lower left side of the iPhone "caused performance to decline", according to the reports. "Bridging this gap is easy to do inadvertently, especially when the phone is in your palm, which might readily and continuously cover the gap during a call".

A similar phenomenon was observed with the AT&T iPhone in Consumer Reports' tests, following a suggestion from Apple supremo Steve jobs that users were holding the phone incorrectly.

Consumer Reports notes that the Verizon iPhone 4 is very similar to the original AT&T iPhone 4. As such, it "shares with its sibling the possibility of compromised performance in low-signal conditions when used without a bumper or case".

The organisation therefore declines to add the phone to its list of recommended smartphones. It also notes that Apple no longer offers a free case to those buying an iPhone 4 but will possibly hand one out if pestered.