So I went to the Apple Genius Bar today with my iPhone 4 issues. It was a fairly unsatisfactory experience, especially compared to when I took my iPhone 3G back when dust* started appearing on the screen and they replaced it without question.

Before my Genius Bar appointment I compared the performance of my iPhone 4 with the others in the shop. There was only one iPhone on O2, so that was the only one I could really test.

From what I could tell my phone is not atypical, the one in store that I tested behaved exactly the same, huge drop off of signal and download performance when held lightly in my left hand. I took my 3G with me as well, it suffered no such problem held the same way.

Read on for the gory details of what followed.

So I had my Genius Bar appointment, the guy I spoke to plugged it in to get the diagnostics dump, which showed zero dropped calls. This isn’t a surprise because I’ve only made about 3 calls since I got the phone, I use it mainly for apps, browsing, texting etc

He told me that there wasn’t a problem with reception in the iPhone 4. I asked about the press release and the upcoming update. He told me that it would fix the problem and that the problem was only that the signal strength was reported wrongly.

I explained that it wasn’t just the signal bars that were at issue, that in my testing download speeds drop by 90% or more.

I asked if I could try a Bumper case to see if it would solve the issue. He found me one and I fitted it to the my phone.

Sure enough with the Bumper in place I could not trigger the massive drop in signal/performance. I demonstrated this all to him and that the Bumper solved the issue.

He refused to consider giving me a free Bumper and asked if I’d like to talk to the manager about it, I said yes. He was very quick to get the Bumper back off me before he went off to get the manager !

The manager was nice enough, but we spent 10 minutes going round and round same argument.

He kept pointing out that all phones suffer a drop in signal when you hold them (which is no doubt true). I kept pointing out that I wasn’t attempting to compare it to just any other phone, but to Apple’s own 3G which doesn’t suffer a 90% drop in performance in the same circumstances.

He kept saying they couldn’t consider 3rd party speed test results, he just kept banging out about there being no dropped calls (which is a bit like BT explaining to you that everything is ok if your phone still works but your ADSL speed has dropped through the floor). I kept explaining that I use the phone mainly for data and that I had demonstrated the issue just as easily with Safari as with the speed test apps.

He kept saying to wait for the update. I kept saying that the Apple press release says nothing about fixing the actual issue and just says that they are going to tweak the signal bars.

He kept saying that I couldn’t know what was in the update (which is true of course). I kept saying that if Apple were going to fix more that just the bar reporting then why didn’t they say so in the PR.

He kept saying that he didn’t see a need to give me a free Bumper as there was no antenna problem to fix. He also said that there hadn’t been a message from on high banning free Bumpers, he just didn’t feel that they needed to give any out.

He also said several times that if I wasn’t happy with the phone I could contact Apple Store Online (where I bought it) and ask for a refund.

But of course that is the one thing I don’t really want to have to do. Given the choice between going back to my old, slow, low res screen, crappy camera iPhone 3 and sticking with the excellent iPhone 4 that has serious reception issues in some circumstance, I’m going to pick the iPhone 4 every time I’m afraid.

Ironically I really quite like Bumper, had it not been for the reception issue and I had gone into the store today I probably would have bought one. I never wanted a case on my 3G, but the iPhone 4 feels in more need of protection and the Bumper isn’t really a case in the tradition meaning anyway.

And yes, I realise that I have probably gone beyond the range of rationality when it comes to the whole issue. I was surprised with the outcome today, I fully expected them to see that the Bumper resolved the issue as far as I was concerned and would have handed one over** to make me happy.

If Apple had just given me a Bumper today I would have gone away as a reasonably contented customer who had had his problem with their otherwise excellent product resolved. As it is they just sent me away pissed off and angry.

I’m sure everyone is through bored with me going on about this, so I shall try and shut up about it and wait to see what the software update brings. And no doubt next time I’m in an Apple store I’ll probably cave in an buy a Bumper :(

* I later discovered that this is perfectly normal for a 3G/3GS that spends a lot of time in your jeans pocket, they aren’t as well sealed as they first appear

** I realise that I don’t have any legal right to expect them to hand over a free Bumper and that if I’m not happy my recourse is to return the phone for a refund