iPhone users having reception problems are just holding the phone wrong, according to Apple, which have released an official fingering guide for those who want to be able to make calls.
The problem is those pesky users who insist on wrapping their fingers around the phone, specifically touching the side at the bottom left corner - doing so will significantly affect reception.
Tech blog Engadget (which Cupertino is still talking to) got the skinny in an email from the company explaining that all mobile phones have the same problem:
"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."
So it's not a design problem, or a software problem, it's an opposable-thumb problem – which makes it the customer's fault.
The sinister iPhone user who didn't get their left hand strapped up properly as a child might have less of a problem as their palm (rather than fingers) will be touching the offending area. But it mainly seems to come down to hand size, with the larger span finding an iPhone harder to use (but, if rumour is to be believed, they'll have less need for an iPhone in the first place).
Hands and bodies have always affected mobile signal strength – holding a phone to your ear changes the radio pattern considerably, and the irritating habit of radio particles to act like waves makes things unnecessarily complicated. But that is where the skill and experience of the handset designer comes in, as well as testing in salt mines and suchlike to minimise the problem.
Apple might correctly point out that every phone suffers from this problem to a greater or lesser degree, but the extent to which it affects their new handset is going to be unacceptable to a lot of people, and being told they're holding it wrong isn't going to placate anyone. ®