Scientists at the University of Bristol have revealed that the iPhone ‘death grip’ is a deeper problem that first feared – and can’t be solved by a fix like a plastic case.

ITProPortal.com reports that the University of Bristol's Centre for Communications Research (CCR) has revealed that the network signals received by a smartphone change with position, motion and obstruction.

The site quotes a study in the journal 'IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters'. The study titled “Slot Antenna Performance and Signal Quality in a Smartphone Prototype” reveals “a 100-fold reduction in a device when it is held in a particular manner.”

Another factor affecting the signal strength of the device seems to be when the user's thumb is mimicked by a 'phantom material'. “Even when users made use of a plastic phone cover to provide a gap between the antenna and the 'phantom thumb', it didn't restore the operational sensitivity of the device,” the site reports.  

ITProPortal.com quotes Mark Beach, Professor of Radio Systems Engineering in the Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering at the University of Bristol: “Antenna position and user grip on smartphones may lead to obstruction of radio signal paths and antenna detuning." 

The site adds that research looking at the automated re-tuning of the antenna elements to maintain high efficiency when holding smartphones or similar devices to enhance connection reliability with wireless networks is ongoing within the CCR.