Smartphone 'Death Grip' Earns Its Name

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Just when we were finally over the iPhone 4 "death grip" issue, now comes word that the so-called death grip might actually be helping to kill you.

The "death grip" refers to the way a lot of us hold our smartphones -- in such a way that the antenna is blocked and reception is diminished. The issue came to light when consumers who bought the Apple ( AAPL) iPhone 4 complained of sudden drops in cell phone reception. Apple eventually responded the problem by issuing free wraparound "bumpers," but not before Steve Jobs publicly demonstrated that the grip also hurts reception on the Research in Motion ( RIMM) BlackBerry Bold 9700 and the HTC Droid Eris, among other smartphones with integrated antennas.

Here's the thing: When cell phones meet obstacles that interfere with their tower communication, they make up for the interference by emitting a stronger signal -- and, consequently, more radiation.

To make this point, the Israeli startup Tawkon tested the effect of the "death grip" on radiation levels emitted by the iPhone 4, BlackBerry Bold 9700 and Google ( GOOG) Android Nexus One. Such a test benefits the company's bottom line; Tawkon sells an eponymous software application that estimates how much radiation a user's phone is emitting and triggers an alert when the radiation exceeds a defined threshold. The app targets a growing number of people concerned about the potential health effects of cell phone radiation.

In June, for example, San Francisco passed a law that requires local cell phone retailers to post information on the amount of radiation each device emits. Several scientific studies have cited evidence, but not absolute proof, suggesting a link between cell phone use and brain tumors.

According to Tawkon's company blog, the death grip affected the radiation emissions of all three phones, increasing it to a level the company deems "high."

-- Reported by Carmen Nobel in Boston.

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