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iPhone 4 buyers report screen, antenna issues

Though demand for Apple's iPhone 4 is higher than ever,  some early owners are reporting problems with the screen, including occasional yellow screen discoloration and a "constellation" of white spots. Meanwhile, others are experiencing reduced call reception when holding the phone a certain way.
Image: iPhone 4 with yellow screen discoloration
Some iPhone 4s are plagued by yellow screen discoloration, as seen here in a photo sent by a new owner to
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Though lines for the iPhone 4 at Apple Stores around the world are as long as ever, with some stores already selling out, a group of early owners are reporting problems with the phone's screen and antenna.

When powered up, some phones experience yellow screen discoloration or a constellation of white spots. Meanwhile, others are experiencing reduced call reception when holding the phone a certain way.

Then there's the thing with the volume control. "Although it isn't going to change your life, it looks like a few iPhone 4s are coming off the assembly line with reversed volume buttons," Friday morning. One reader reported that the button with the "—" icon increased volume, while the button with the '+' icon reduced it.

The gadget blog Gizmodo has received more than 50 reports from new owners, many including photographs of the screen issues, most frequently a distinct yellow bar across one side of the screen, or in some cases yellow blotches.

This yellow discoloration is thought to be related to an adhesive used in affixing components underneath the screen. There is some hope that the off-color will fade as the bonding material cures. One MacRumors forum member wrote that his "major yellow spots" had faded by the second day. "Keep an eye on it over the next day or so if you have the issue," he suggested. 

The other screen issue seen in photos is a constellation of bright white spots, appearing in different patterns that persist regardless of the picture on the screen.

While these problems do exist, it is not clear how widespread the issue is. Owners of the iPhone 4 are reporting that Apple customer service representatives are acknowledging screen discoloration as a known issue, and in some cases attributing it to "residue from the manufacturing process."

Some Apple Care reps have offered replacement iPhone 4s — either on the spot or in a week — to owners who complained. Now, however, Gizmodo reports that in other cases, service reps are telling new iPhone 4 owners to wait to see if the screen issues fade over time.

Despite buyers discussions with customer service reps, Apple has not yet made a formal statement regarding the blotchy-screen troubles.

At the same time, many new users are citing issues of poor reception, but this appears to be related to the iPhone 4's design, rather than any manufacturing flaw. According to videos demonstrating the problem, holding the phone a certain way apparently interferes with the antenna.

The issue, which initially surfaced on MacRumors, is that when a hand or finger is placed over a small gap in the iPhone 4's metal band, a gap identified by Apple as a key to the new external antenna construction, the phone noticeably loses reception bars, and at times drops calls or suffers data speed declines.

Due to the placement of the gap, on the lower lefthand side of the phone's band, this alleged problem would be more likely to affect people who hold their phones in their left hands as they talk. Gizmodo has rounded up over 20 user-submitted videos of this phenomenon, all confirming the same issue.

Fortunately, as quickly as reports of the flaw have come in, so have suggestions on how to fix it. Sticking Apple's $29 rubber "bumper" around the phone covers the antenna contact, and therefore apparently prevents the problem, as demonstrated in a video on Gizmodo.

We just received a pitch via email for a $30 protective film called Wrapsol, which covers the front, back and sides of the phone, and "may also help with reception issues." Others have gone more low-tech, suggesting that a piece of Scotch tape would do the trick as well.

Most likely, the solution that will gain the most popularity will be simpler — learning how to hold the phone without touching the antenna gap.

Late Thursday, Apple did respond to the antenna problem, saying just that. "Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas," said the written statement.

"This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases."