iPhone XS Antennagate Can’t Be Fixed with Software, Expert Says

The iPhone 4 #antennagate seems to be back with the iPhone Xs: an increasing number of users are reporting really bad LTE and Wi-Fi reception in low signal strength conditions compared to previous iPhones, with actual experimental data to back their claims.

And, no, it doesn’t appear anyone is “holding it wrong” — and no bumper may be able to fix the issue.

Credit: Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Writing for the blog WiWavelenght, radio expert Andrew J Shepherd says that he knew this was going to be a problem when he first reported on the lab test data found in FCC authorization filings for the XS and XS Max: “[the tests] raised potential red flags regarding the new iPhones' RF reception and transmission abilities in low signal strength conditions.”

According to Shepherd, some users have proposed that a firmware update may fix this, but he believes that the antenna design itself is at fault here.

Shepherd claims that “from an end user perspective, [software updates] can improve (or degrade) perceived performance. However, what software cannot do is update physical qualities locked in during design and manufacturing.”

MORE: iPhone XS Owners Report Weak Wi-Fi, Crappy Cell Service

In this regard, Apple may try to boost the conducted power to the antenna, but this “is not a likely solution” since the Cupertino company seems to be already pushing this to the limit.

The software fix argument was the same for the iPhone 4 — but it didn’t really fix anything, just updated the way the phone showed its signal bars. The data and voice degradation was very real then—and only a bumper case seemed to mitigate the antenna short-circuit problem caused by what people called the iPhone 4 death grip.

The only fix for the iPhone XS, it seems, is changing the hardware. No bumper will help here, Shepherd says, only changing the design to increase antenna gain. It seems likely that, if confirmed, Apple may do this in a new manufacturing revision. Or maybe the company will wait until the next hardware redesign — like it did with the iPhone 4S, which eliminated the death grip.

For now, the iPhone XS antenna problem is only being reported by a a small albeit increasingly number of disgruntled users. For the millions of new iPhones already out there, it seems unlikely but not impossible that a full recall would be issued.

If the public clamor increases — and since people are paying a small fortune for these things, it may — maybe Apple will offer an in-store or mail-in swap service, like it apparently did for some with the iPhone 4.

We are reaching out to Apple for comment and will conduct on our own tests to keep you updated on this issue.

Jesus Diaz

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story and wrote old angry man rants, among other things. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce, and currently writes for Fast Company and Tom's Guide.