Verizon iPhone: Death Grip No More?

When Verizon finally announced its very own, CDMA-friendly iPhone yesterday, we wondered whether it would have the same reception problems as the GSM version of the device, which is sold by AT&T (NYSE: T) and every other operator that supports the iPhone worldwide.

Turns out we weren’t the only ones. During the product launch yesterday, Slashgear went through some rigorous phone death-gripping and found that the deive either lost either one or no bars, even when the device is held in all the same ways that make the GSM device lose its signal.

Gizmodo points out that on the Verizon iPhone, the antenna is wrapped around the device in a different way than it is on the GSM-version of the device, inferring that the different placement of the antenna notches might have something to do with it not losing reception.

PCMag points out that the robust signal in the face of even the most aggressive of death grips — the writer pointed out he only got signal deterioration by “tightly gripping the phone with both hands, covering all four antenna marks” — might be down to a very mundane thing: excellent signal in the demo room. (Verizon very likely would have made sure the signal was a strong as possible, to make sure all the devices would work well.)

“Attenuation problems really show themselves in fringe signal areas,” wrote the two reviewers. That means we may not have more of an answer until the devices hit the street.

There may be more in this antenna business for the rest of us non-Verizon iPhone users. During the event, Apple’s COO Tim Cook referred to the device needing to be re-engineered to be used on a CDMA network.

So does a CDMA network fundamentally have less reception issues than a GSM-based one? And is a redesigned antenna be something particular to the CDMA phone? Or, could the kind of re-engineering that Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) did for this device be a precursor to what it might do in future generations of the iPhone to try to eliminate the death grip problem for everyone? Quite possibly.

That seems to be what might be happening with the other main distinguishing feature between the Verizon iPhone and all other iPhones: the Personal Hotspot function. Verizon referred to this as one of the unique features of its iPhone, and indeed it’s not available on current GSM versions of the device.

But that may not be the case for much longer. Boy Genius Report says a reliable source has confirmed the next update to iOS — 4.3, which is planned for a March release — will feature Personal Hotspots.

Your carrier might disable this function, or charge you more to use it. But since Verizon has yet to announce its tariffs for the service, we don’t know if it plans to charge for Personal Hotspot usage, either.