Anything Left-Handed > Blog Posts > Newsletter articles > October 2010 > Apple iPhone 4 left-handed problem

Apple iPhone 4 left-handed problem

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iPhone 4 signal problems for lefthanders

The recent launch of the iPhone 4 promoted huge excitement because of all the technological advances in the new mobile handset. However one glaring problem soon became clear when left-handed users claimed that calls were being cut off because the signal was interrupted when the phone was held in the left hand.

iphone 4 grip that interrupts signalThe antenna in the new model is wrapped around the edge of the phone in the stainless steel casing, and can apparently become masked when held in the left hand, causing a drop in signal strength (in fact, there is a small “deadly spot” that causes the problem – see the video linked below).

The issue was brought to the attention of Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, at one of the high-profile press launches for the iPhone 4, and many journalists were amazed at his seemingly dismissive response to the problem when he commented: ”Just avoid holding it in that way.” Apple's official advice is to ”avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band” yet for some left-handers this is the most comfortable and natural hand placement when using the phone.

After the launch of the iPhone 4 the Left-Handers Club were contacted by a number of publications, including the Daily Telegraph, wanting our comments on the problem and we expressed our surprise and disappointment that Apple had not considered left-handed users during their design and testing stages of the new handset. Lauren commented: ”It seems ludicrous to suggest that 10 per cent of potential users should be told they have to adopt a less natural hand hold to use this latest technology. I would strongly suggest that Steve Jobs employs left-handers in his design and testing team in future, and urgently address this issue to ensure the phone is fit for purpose.” A bit ironic really given the often quoted fact that 4 out of the original 5 designers of the original Macintosh computer were left-handed (has anyone got a reference to back that up?).

On consideration of the problem, Apple's advice to left-handed customers was to buy a case to stop the antenna being blocked by a hand. Apple sells a rubber ”bumper” that shields the sensitive area as do many other firms. A later update of the operating software iOS 4.1 was rumoured to fix the problem but actually just changed the height of the signal strength bars!
Click here to see a good article on this topic and a video demonstrating the deadly spot

Which hand do you hold a phone in?

There has been a huge amount of comment in various forums about this and one recurring theme is that this is not actually a left-handed issue because most right-handers hold their phone in their left hand so they can write etc while talking. On the other hand (!) they say most left-handers will hold their phone in their right hand. This may be true when actually writing but we suspect that is only a very small part of phone use and most people DO use their dominant hand to hold a mobile phone (though it can also be affected by the person's dominant EAR – our survey on this a while ago showed that 70% of left-handers have a dominant left ear as well).

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Posted in October 2010, Technical

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97 comments on “Apple iPhone 4 left-handed problem
  1. Anya says:

    I normally hold my phone in my right hand to my right ear, which allows me to do other tasks requiring dexterity with my left hand. It’s also more natural and comfortable for me to tilt my head to the right, so I still cradle the handset of a land-line telephone between my right ear and shoulder. Even with a headset I use the earpiece in my right ear, so I guess I’m right-ear dominant.

  2. Sallie says:

    i am left ear dominant… i hold my mobile phone to my left ear using my left hand. if i have to write notes, i hold the phone to my left ear with my right hand. i just can’t hear clearly with my right ear.

    • christine says:

      me too! I wear a hearing aid in my right ear, so can only use my left ear for the phone. I always have conversations like “sorry I didn’t hear that” “can you repeat that please” etc etc. I have a Samsung wave and the mike is on the wrong side if the phone is on the left ear! I didn’t think to check that when I bought the phone though, so I guess it’s my fault!

  3. Anne says:

    I work as a Secretary/PA and always hold the phone in my right hand so I can take notes. I hold the mobile in my right hand as well, which feels natural, as does the fact that the headset I now have on my office phone (so I can take dictation while typing) has the earpiece on the right. On my old mobile I texted with my right hand but my new smartphone has a QWERTY touch screen keyboard so I use both hands to text. The other thing I do right-handed is use the mouse, again so I have my left hand free for writing. This is only a problem when using the ‘draw’ feature in Word and Powerpoint, as I use keyboard shortcuts a lot. I think typing develops the use of both hands and gives a bit of ambidexterity.

  4. Christie says:

    i hold my cell phone with my left hand and text with my left thumb. talking, i hold it between my left ear and shoulder mostly – while doing other things such as taking notes (with my left hand), washing dishes, hanging clothes etc.

  5. Derek says:

    You ask if anyone got a reference to 4 out of 5 designers of the original Macintosh computer were left-handed?
    Burrell Smith was the team leader.
    Take a look at a 1985 BBC2 Horizon programme, Professor Norman Geschwind Mystery of the Left Hand”

  6. Gordon says:

    The majority of left handers also have a dominant left eye.
    As I have a dominant right eye,it is more comfortable to hold the phone in my right hand,leaving my left hand free to press the keys

  7. Fran says:

    I text with my right thumb but use my left hand and ear for calls

  8. Jackie Darby says:

    I use any kind of phone in my left hand making note writing a nightmare, I also have a tendancy to catch the volume control on my mobile either making it too loud or turning sound off. I am just grateful for the hands free ability on most phones now.

  9. Caroline says:

    I am left-handed and hold the phone in my left hand, but according to a lot of research so do a lot of right-handed people. I believe some research points to that being to do with the centres activated in the left/right hemisphere of the brain that process speech.

  10. Amanda says:

    Because my desk phone is on the right, that’s how I answer the phone. Right hand to right ear. However, my old phone had a shoulder cradle on it which made it easier for me to take notes left handed. Unfortunately, the volume control only went so low, and now I’m a bit hard of hearing in my right ear. So, now I have a head set which I put on my left ear because of the hearing loss on the other side. I also try to use my left ear when using my cordless home phone or my cell. Oddly enough, I text more with my right hand than my left. But then again, I don’t have a keyboard phone either. I still have to punch buttons numerous times to get the right letter.

  11. Sally says:

    I use might right hand/ear so that I can write with my left.

    However before the advent of mobile phones I used my left ear and pinched the phone with my neck/shoulder so that i could write…and caused sore neck/back frequently.

    Smarter now…

  12. Nigel Watkinson says:

    I always hold a phone (mobile or landline) in my right hand because I use my left to dial or press the buttons while texting etc. In the days when I wrote things, it also kept my left hand free for that.

    Besides, holding a phone takes little dexterity and is something my right hand can easily do. My desk at work is arranged to make this easier. In my case, ear dominance doesn’t seem to come into it.

  13. Mike Little says:

    I always hold my mobile in my right hand to my right ear.

    It means I can write/make notes with my left hand, but I will also press menu options (“press 1 to speak to customer services”) with my left, text with my left, and select menus and functions on the phone with my left.

    In fact I keep it in my right pants or coat pocket too. So it’s always handled with my right.

    I would always have to swap hands is I did it differently.


  14. Suzanne says:

    Get an Android phone and avoid the problem. Steve Jobs comes across as a jerk every time he opens his mouth to respond to someone who criticizes his products.

  15. Robert Kilpin says:

    Please can you tell people how we can unsubscribe from receiving updates as the links in both the email and the bottom of the page just take you to the home page.

  16. Noel says:

    I hold my phone with my left hand to my left ear. I I need to take notes, I hold the phone to my left ear with my right hand.

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