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Thursday, July 15, 2010, 07:55 am PT (10:55 am ET)

Apple engineer warned Steve Jobs about iPhone 4 reception last year

An Apple engineer warned the company's executives last year that the design of the iPhone 4 could lead to reception problems, and a carrier partner also expressed concern about its external antenna before the June launch, according to a new report.

Citing an anonymous source, Bloomberg reported on Thursday that last year Ruben Caballero, a senior engineer and antenna expert with Apple, told management at Apple that the design of the iPhone 4 could cause reception problems. Specifically, it said that Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs was warned of the issues during the design phase of the iPhone 4.

In addition, an unnamed carrier partner allegedly expressed concern to the company before the device's launch on June 24.

Apple declined to comment for the story, and would not make Caballero available for an interview. The media outlet also attempted to e-mail Caballero directly, but the engineer did not respond. The company also declined to reveal what it will discuss at a press conference scheduled for 10 a.m. Pacific Time Friday.

The rumor casts doubt on speculation that Apple's secrecy may have caused the company to be oblivious to the issues experienced when the iPhone 4 is used without a case. A prototype device being tested by an Apple engineer that wound up being publicly disassembled was shielded by a case that made it look like a previous-generation iPhone 3GS.

"Apple's industrial design team, led by Jonathan Ive, submitted several iPhone designs before Jobs and other executives settled on the bezel antenna, said the person familiar with the company’s design," the report said. "Caballero, the antenna expert, voiced concern in early planning meetings that it might lead to dropped calls and presented a serious engineering challenge, the person said."

Specifically, Caballero allegedly voiced concern that if a user used their hand to bridge the gap between the cellular and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/GPS antennas on the exterior of the device, it could interfere with the signal. That's exactly what independent wireless experts and the nonprofit Consumer Reports have said occurs with the final product.

By covering the bottom left corner of the device, users can bridge the phone's two external antennas by using their skin as a conductive agent. Doing so can cause signal to drop by as much as 24.6dB, tests have shown, which could result in slower data speeds and dropped calls in areas with poor reception.