How To Hold A Cellphone

By | June 11, 2005

After losing my trusty Nokia 7650 the other day, I had to buy a replacement, and I couldn’t find that one. so I went cheap — the Nokia 3120, which is still a remarkable gadget at about $120. But, devouring the manual (PDF), I read this:

Normal operating position
Use the phone only in its normal operating position. Your phone has a built-in antenna. As with any other radio transmitting device, do not touch the antenna unnecessarily when the phone is switched on. Contact with the antenna affects call quality and may cause the phone to operate at a higher power level than otherwise needed. Not touching the antenna area during a phone call optimises the antenna performance and the talktime of your phone.

I must confess I’ve never seen that before. The illustration makes it clearer:


Maybe I missed something here, but to me this is new ‘information’. I say ‘information’ because it’s not clear to me what exactly is the problem here, and whether there are health issues involved. Perhaps, most importantly, I’ve looked around to see whether people hold the phone, or ones similar to it, correctly. Most don’t (sorry, I don’t have a camera to back that up because it was in the 7650, but look around yourself.) I’ve tried holding the phone in the way illustrated and it’s very, very unnatural and impossible not to look a little silly unless you’re a five-year old. Is there something more sinister at work here? Does the higher power level have health implications? If so, I think Nokia should make that clear. I’m going to ask them.

4 thoughts on “How To Hold A Cellphone

  1. wicak

    dude, 3. things:
    1. if you do hold the phone in the position that is not recommended, your fingers decrease the capability of the antenna (reducing the antenna “gain”) so the phone and the cell tower will have to compensate by increasing the transmitting and receiving power on both sides. If you are at a location where the reception is already poor, then you increase the probability of having one of those ‘shouting matches’ between yourself and your phone. Then people (and quite possibly yourself) will think that your phone is defective (or you, yourself). Bad publicity for the phone maker, and the service provider.
    2. By increasing the transmission power of the phone, you increase the radiation that the antenna is radiating. Now, if you do that for 72 hours straight, that will cause a sizeable lump (possibly on your brain and fingers, according to the folks who tested cell phones on rats). So there is some health hazard to that.
    3. I used to have large phones, starting with the Nokia 9110, Nokia 6130, the HP 928 Jornada, then the T68, and now the K700i. Swithcing from the large phones to the small phones, I am at a loss for what to do with my rather large hands, or more precisely, my fingers. With the large phones, my fingers pretty much can do the half circumference of the phone. With the smaller phones, T68, K700 etc, my fingers are holding the phone as if you would hold up a card, by your thumb and forefinger. No palm to rest on. Soooo, i usually end up in a position like the picture with the cross. Especially on long phone calls. I have a BT handsfree (and a cabled one) but sometimes you are in just too much of a rush to put it on just for that conversation.


  2. Jeremy

    Wicak, thanks for the info (other readers: He’s in the business, so knows his stuff!). I’ve just had a look around Hong Kong and everyone with that size and type of cellphone (small, inbuilt antenna) has at least their forefinger on the antenna when making a call. Not one exception.

  3. k1rk

    Come on. What part of “Contact with the antenna affects call quality and may cause the phone to operate at a higher power level than otherwise needed. Not touching the antenna area during a phone call optimises the antenna performance and the talktime of your phone.” don’t you understand? Where does it mention this affecting your health?

    Relax. And ,if you’re the worrying type, (which apparently you are) just use your favorite ear piece and keep the phone in your pocket. Back pocket to keep the evil magnetic radiation away from your gonads.

  4. Jeremy

    Thanks, K1rk, for your comment. I guess I didn’t make myself clear enough in the original post: I can quite understand the ‘antenna in the handset, putting your finger on it might weaken the signal’ bit. But my point is whether the problem is simply as stated by Nokia — if you do put your finger on it then the quality of the call will be affected — or whether it is also a health issue. If it is a health issue as well, then this should also be mentioned as one of the reasons people should not put their fingers in the antenna. Given everyone I see using the phone without a handsfree has a finger or two on the antenna, I’m guessing most people don’t read the manual and don’t care. Perhaps they’re not the ‘worrying type’ either.


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