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Summary. Below is a report from Gregory Johnson about reception problems he had with a phone Apple sent as a replacement for his defective iPhone 4.

Broken Home Button. Early in February of 2011, I began to notice that the home button on my iPhone 4 wasn’t working properly. Sometimes I would press it, and nothing would happen. Or, I would double-click the home button, but only one click would register. So, instead of switching between apps I’d go back to the menu screen. It was working erratically.

Pushing the home button hard enough for it to register consistently began to hurt my fingers and hand, and it soon became a repetitive stress situation.Touch Screen Errors. In addition to this problem, the touch sensitivity for my list of favorite numbers was off. I’d select a number, and it would be highlighted in red, and begin dialing, but then, for some reason, the number above it would be dialed instead. If I selected the top number on the list, then the telephone application would simply freeze up and stop working.

  • Note: A few days later, using a brand new iPhone 4, I restored my defective phone’s contents and discovered the touch screen problem persisted. So, that particular problem was apparently due to something wrong with the iPhone software and not a hardware failure. Setting up the phone as a new phone (starting from scratch) was the only way to fix that problem.

Phone Replacement. So, I finally called Apple to request service, and had my phone shipped to Apple for repair the evening of February 3. I was able to go to our local UPS Store and provide them with the repair number Apple had given me. The UPS Store shipped the phone off to Apple free of charge. That same evening, I went to the ATT store to have a SIM activated for my old iPhone 3G so I could have a working phone while my iPhone 4 was in for repair. My defective phone was received by Apple in 24 hours, on February 4, and a replacement phone was shipped to me.

Defective Replacement iPhone 4. The replacement phone arrived on Monday, February 7. So, I went back to the AT&T store to get a new activated micro SIM card for the replacement iPhone 4. Had I simply used the micro SIM and moved it from my old phone to another temporary phone, it wouldn’t have been necessary to visit the AT&T store, but the only phone I had was an iPhone 3G which required a full-size SIM. When I got home, I inserted the micro SIM, and activated the phone. It was late, so I didn’t really test the phone out very much. The following day at work (on February 8), I noticed my reception and signal strength were very poor — going between one bar and no signal at all. I would normally have three solid bars of reception with very good signal quality. I wouldn’t be surprised if the repair center has an inventory of like-new (untested) repackaged iPhone 4 phones to send as replacement phones. I called Apple that evening requested another replacement phone. I explained to the Apple technician that I’d already reset the phone and configured it as a new phone, but the signal strength remained at one bar or no signal. I’d also tried re-seating the SIM card, resetting the network settings, and also tried powering the phone off and on so it could discover the closest/strongest cell tower. None of this helped. It was apparently a defective phone with an antenna that wasn’t connected properly (if at all). I was already aware of the bare metal antenna issue and had been using the case from my previous iPhone 4 which seemed to elevate the signal problems when touching the bare antenna with one’s hand.

Working Replacement iPhone 4. This time, when requesting a second replacement phone, the Apple technician gave me an option to have a new iPhone 4 shipped overnight. I suspected that this time, by requesting that a new phone be shipped overnight, with the cost of the new phone being held on my credit card, I’d be receiving a brand-new iPhone 4. It was too late in the evening (on 8 February) to get the replacement phone the next day, so it arrived today (10 February). I noticed two differences between the defective replacement iPhone 4 and the working one that I received today. The working iPhone 4 was slipped into a loose thin plastic wrapper within the foam sleeve. The non-working iPhone 4 didn’t have that thing plastic wrapper. Also, when I connected the working iPhone 4 to iTunes, it immediately asked me to register the new phone. This didn’t happen with the defective replacement iPhone 4. So, it was true, the defective replacement iPhone 4 had (apparently) already been registered by someone and then returned. The working replacement iPhone 4 had a serial number that hadn’t been registered before, and this is why the registration screen came up in iTunes upon connecting the phone. So far, this second replacement phone has been working okay and giving me the same signal strength that my first iPhone 4 had.

Conclusion. If you have an iPhone 4 that needs repair, you might be better off requesting that a new phone be sent to you overnight. This can help ensure you get a working phone. Remember that damage due to dropping or water may not be covered (resulting in a $700 charge to your credit card for the new phone). Also, you should get the Apple Care extended warranty for iPhone. The cost is $70 if you already own a phone and have had it for a while.

Video. Below is a video of Gregory Johnson discussing these issues.

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