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back to article iPhone 4: Perfect for everyone, except humans

Apple's new iPhone doesn't seem to like being touched much, and the beautiful (if easily discoloured) screen scratches too. Dear dear. To be fair, the scratching issue only affects the more-clumsy user, and there are only a couple of reports about discolouration in the corner of the screen, but it seems that the majority of …

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yeah, but...

having had a 3G for the last 2 years, I don't think I have ever once, held it by the sides, it usually either sits flat on one hand for single (or multiple) digit use, or on the fingers of the other hand for thumb operation.

Granted, for phone calls that's not necessarily the case, but more often than not phone calls are made/received while using my Sennheiser headset while listening to music.

Not going to deny that it could be an issue though.

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Silver badge

So they improved the antenna

By making it worse? Nice.

Could this be why Mr Jobs was having problems getting a wi-fi signal at the demo?

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the file o fax of our time

would still perform it's primary function even if it were hollowed out and then filled with gummy sweets.

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Not surprised

I never hear anyone reviewing smartphones talking about the phone.

I have been very dissapointed with nearly all the modern phones I have tried out, but not seen such a radical drop in signal strength as is described. but poor audio quality seems to be par for the course, especially microphone quality.

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Jobs Horns

It's an electroconductivity issue

I seem to remember a comment about the breaks in the case being down to seperating the different antennas that the external steel band is acting as - so is it possible that the act of holding the phone like that (with sweaty salty hands) is causing a short or somewhat between the two parts of the case causing the radio to drop out?

So the iPhone band case would insulate against this issue.

Bit of a design flaw, though, Mr Ive....

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Go

Inductive Coupling

It's called inductive coupling. In this case, the hand, just a tiny bit sweaty even though you think it's dry, inductively couples with the antenna and basically "steals" signal. The fact that this device allows this to the extent demonstrated indicates an extremely poorly designed RF antenna circuit.

The only cheap, practical fix is to create distance between the antenna and hand. Insulation is worthless. You can confirm this simply by observing any "through the glass" cell phone antenna. Glass is a nearly perfect electrical insulator at the voltages of modern communications devices, but the RF signal penetrates the glass easily. Some tinted windows will attenuated the signal, but these are generally not a large problem given the proximity of cell phone towers. The iPhone has a large problem.

Looks like the iPhone needs a clunky case in which to center it and keep hands at a distance. Or a speaker phone app maybe.

If I were a fanatical juvenile, I'd be really angry. But since I use a Palm Pre Plus with outstanding RF quaities I'm happy. And damn! Look at the cost you FJs are forking over for a K-Mart quality phone. Makes me, well... laugh. :+)

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FAIL

*snigger*

Nuff said.

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Jobs Horns

Testing in cases?

I have a suspicion that in early testing, when the device is wrapped up in those cases that make it look like a 3GS, it would have been missed.

Why would you want to make calls? I thought the only reason was to have one next to your face shouting "I HAVE A ****ING IPHONE! I'M BETTER THAN YOU BECAUSE STEVE TOLD ME SO!".

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WTF?

More info required

It seems fairly unlikely Apple would have missed that, given all the R&D obviously poured into the phone over 18 months or whatever it was. Field testers tended (from what we know) to have had cases on their iphone 4's to disguise them as 3G's so people are insinuating that maybe just maybe they did miss it. Personally I dont think so. Others are saying they do not suffer this problem at all, no matter which way they hold it. Some also say that if you hold the phone to your ear naturally, then you dont touch 'the right bits' to cause signal degradation.

Obviously a case would prevent all of this. Then again, it's not too far fetched that some people, may be simply experiencing faulty hardware, perhaps there was a design glitch?

Here's another one: I remember hearing a year or two ago that there was a major conspiracy in the mobile business, whereby cellphone makers would basically 'rig the bars' to lie to you about what signal strength your phone is giving you. Point is lets not forget there is a direct correlation between hardware and software here. Maybe they software controlling it is too sensitive? OK you might say it went to 'Searching' and that presents a bit of a problem. And I'd most certainly agree that is a big worry. But the guy in the video didn't demonstrate a real life scenario, when you're on a call. But then of course how do you hold it when youre browsing the web via cellular? Probably like that guy just did. It's strange but the evidence is by no means compelling.... Why did the guy in the video not do a test while he was actually attempting to use the cellular network. That would have been more useful. Can someone try it whilst using a case? Every attempt at demonstrating this 'problem' has lacked a proper technical method of testing IMO. I still just cant buy that Apple would have not noticed this during R&D?

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Umm...

There's another video showing a massive drop in data rates when touching the phone differently.

The bars are pretty meaningless, there is a correlation between faster data and more bars, but it's not an exact science and depends on a lot of things.

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Not all units

There's plenty of people reporting, and even some videos on youtube of units that don't have the problem? I don't claim to know whats going on I was just throwing some suggestions out there. It's pretty clear there is a major problem, I'm just confused as to why some people arent suffering from it.

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Hmm

I seem to recall something about the 4 jumping around 3G frequencies to find the least cluttered / best quality, regardless of actual signal strength - related?

I can't reproduce it on my shiny new handset, but I can see the signal jumping around with it just lying on my desk. I think O2 might actually be having 3G problems here as it dropped to all-bars edge for a while too.

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Happy

Ho Ho Ho

I can't believe it. Me and my wife were sitting watching TV when the founder of Apple just walked into the house and took all our Mr Sheen!

Typical, Jobs, coming over here and stealing our polish.

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Silver badge

Stop stealing jokes from Sickipedia

And get yer own. :-p

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This Changes Everything - Again!

Yes, a mobile phone which you can't hold to your head to make a call - really does change everything!

Not even sure there'll be an app for that.

Come on fanbois, time to tell us how holding the iPhone in a contorted fashion is a wonderful Apple idea designed to prevent arthritic fingers in old age or to prevent radiation frying from your brain.

Form over function - never would have believed it of Apple! ;)

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@Mark Feb

Jumping to conclusions, the bastion of the anti-Apple-ites, where 1=ALL.

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Well predicted, sir :)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8761240.stm

"Steve Jobs responded to a query about the problem from one owner by saying: 'Just avoid holding it in that way.'"

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Joke

That sounds familiar

[Tommy Cooper]

"Doctor, it hurts when I do this."

"Well don't do it then."

[/Tommy Cooper]

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Anonymous Coward

For what it's worth

I had a Nokia N97 (utter crap) that did exactly the same thing.

Also, it often displayed that it had a full signal then as soon as you made a call, it dropped to 1 bar, so it could be a general problem with phone signals.

Never mind though, they will probably fix this in the iPhone 5 when that is announced in six months.

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Weak signal?

If you were in a weak signal area (in doors for example), odd reflections can confuse the radio circuitry, so it things there's more signal than there is. If you actually try something, that situation can change, and cause the bars displayed to change.

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Software bug??

Just searching around and apparently Apple have stated that it's a software glitch. Check AppleInsider.com. Wish I had my own to test. Hurry up and start shipping to Aus, Apple!

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Oh dear..

The anti-Apple fanboys at The Register must be having a party right now.

Keep your eye on the job people!

There's more flimsy tech news and anti-Apple stories to report on!

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WTF?

Aww the poor apple victims

Poor vunerable appletards... stop picking on them everyone, if they want to buy crap, let them buy crap in peace.

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Yeah! Rock on, brother!

I mean Nokia and HTC are *famous* for their rock-solid build quality, amazing service and slick, bug-free software.

Oh, wait...

Damn.

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FAIL

@ Sean Skidmarco Baglady

Say what you like about Nokia and HTC smartphones, but you can't deny that they do actually work as *phones*.

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WTF?

WTF?

You've never used an HTC WinMob 'smart' phone, have you?

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ES

Same on 3G (but not as bad)

I just tested my 3G it had a 5 bar signal indication, I held it in my hand and it went to a 2 bar indication. UK O2.

But losing all the signal has to be a fail.

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WTF?

I was worried this might happen

Funnily enough that is exactly what I was thinking when Jobs was talking about using the casing as an antenna.

As I happens (and rather boringly!) I know quite a lot about antenna theory and design. Antennas rely on 'voltage gradients' in their radiating elements and touching any part of an antenna causes those voltages to be reduced and/or dissipated. This can severely impair the radiation efficiency of the antenna.

This is why antennas need to be in (or as close as possible) to free space, and are either sticking out the tops of the phone (not so much these days) or behind an insulating cover.

I had rather assumed that Apple were using hyperbole in their statements about the case actually being the aerial and that it in some way supplemented internal antennas, but if that is not the case (pun intended) then they have made a fundamental error.

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Anonymous Coward

Not boring at all

But interesting. Makes me wonder what they were thinking with this design.

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Paris Hilton

Re: "Makes me wonder what they were thinking with this design."

That it'd make a nice marketing bullet point?

(Shame it doesn't actually seem to work)

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Stop

@Pyers

Actually u know nothing about antenna theory. The human body can actually act AS AN ANTENNA. This fact could have been taken advantage of. The Iphone 4 is not the first phone which had the case as part of the antenna. Still other peoples theory's about the had shorting otherwise insulated parts of the case might hold some truth.

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Ah good...

...someone pointed it out before I did.

I'm just not sure what the point of a glass back is, if you aren't taking advantage of the superior radio-transparency, by, you know, putting antennas behind it.

I personally think that metal bits on phones are overrated, since they make the phone heavier, and seem to damage more easily than plastic. And I don't care much what my phone looks like...

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FAIL

you betcha

Touching an antenna will almost always affect its efficiency.

I am sure many readers have taken to using tin foil to somehow improve their rabbit years of years gone by.

The truth is that the more you play with antennas the more you realize that you have to do a lot of testing and even experimentation to maximize their utilization. And allowing users to put their sometimes grubby hands directly on the antenna has to be a 'no no'.

Even wearing gloves or using a case may not solve the problem completely. Any conductive material near the antenna can throw it off. And it might improve it too. There are many external devices that might improve the ability of an built-in antenna to function reliably. And some have degrade it to.

Clearly the Apple engineers designing the antenna were on vacation or perhaps drugs instead of doing their work, testing and some basic R&D.

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WTF?

@Brian 6 - @Pyers

Why is it that on the internet, people seem to think that bloody rudeness is some sort of substitute for reasonable argument?

If Pyers had stated in a pub that he knew quite a lot about antenna theory, and you, Brian 6, had said to him, "Actually, you know nothing about antenna theory", he'd have, quite justifiably, told you where to get off.

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Thumb Up

Screen protectors are not a luxury

If I buy anything with a touch screen, the very next place to visit is the internet's favourite tat market, eBay, for some screen protectors!

Even my little one's Nintendo DS has screen protectors on both screens. My PSP, my naff LG 520, especially my Missus' iPhone!

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FAIL

Screen protectors are fud designed to extract money through fear.

Capactive touch screens don't like extra layers of junk between them and the user, it reduces sensitivity. Plus, they look like cack when they inevitably start to peel and get dirt underneath.

My Hero is six months old, has always gone naked and there isn't the slightest hint of scratching on the screen.

If something hits the screen hard enough to scratch it, a <1mm layer of plastic won't do much to stop it.

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WTF?

Huh?

My Hero has had a screen protector since day 1 (as all my phones do - it helps to have a mint screen when you come to sell them on ebay 18 months later!). It hasn't had the slightest affect on the sensitivity of the screen but the protector is now sporting quite a few scratches and scuffs...

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Screen protectors are FUD

A screen protector will easily sport scratches and scuffs, it's a piece of plastic/cellophane.

The iPhone (and presumably other smart phones) have toughened glass screens and it's much harder to scratch them. I'm sure if you stick the phone next to your keys the glass will scratch, but in general the glass is very tough and it takes a lot to damage it. My iPhone 3G is nearly 2 years old now and there's not a single scratch on the screen and it's never had a screen protector on it.

The only thing that scratches on an iPhone is the plastic back, which hopefully will no longer be the case now that they've changed it to glass.

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Alien

The title is too long.

I beg to differ. My wife's scraped her 3Gs a few times, with the result of a few replacements of the nice filmy cover I got her for the phone when I bought it. I'd much rather replace a €5 screen cover than a new €200 iCrap

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FAIL

which part of; plastic film scratches, glass doesn't!

Are you failing to understand?

Saying you have had to replace the plastic just makes you the gullible fool!

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WTF?

You go too far!

Granted if you drive a sodding screwdriver into the screen there is a fair chance of if getting slightly scratched!!! Screen protectors are part of the package, if you look after the device in question carefully and don't go driving your keys into the screen, then it will have a slightly better sale value come upgrade time, not much I know, but better than nothing. Using protectors is just a way to stop general grit and dirt caught on fingers, from wrecking the screen in general daily use. If you use your iphone on a building site, then no amount of protection will save it and I quite agree, either don't bother with a protector or don't take it on site!

There are some people out here who were brought up to value the things they have paid for and do their level best to look after their stuff, not even thinking about the green/planet resources angle, even if everyeone else thinks gadgets are just throwaway things that can be replaced on a whim.

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FAIL

I have never...

I have never scratched a glass screen, I have never used screen protectors on a glass screen.

If I were to use a shoddy plastic film on my hard glass I am certain it would be scratched regularly, would I believe that it had saved the Glass? NO I am not a gullible fool.

Point is if you stick an easily scratchable surface to your phone it will get scratched! and a fool will think phew that was close. when everyone else is just fine with a stupidly hard glass screen and no scratches!

Facts: Cornings Gorilla Glass is 20 times stiffer and 30 times Harder than the usually used transparent plastic. so to put it into stupidly easy to understand (but not scientific) terms you will scratch a plastic 20 times for every glass scratch. so how much do you pay for screen protectors? And the fact is, If a scratch is hard enough (remember 20 times harder than a scratch on plastic) to scratch glass, it is going to go right through a screen protector like it wasn't even there! AND Dont forget that is 20 times harder than a plastic screen which is initself again 20 times harder than soft vinyl screen 'protectors'.

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Anonymous Coward

Scratches are bunk

I have a 4 yr old htc that has never had a screen protector and it has no scratches on the screen... it's been dropped on rocks, shared a pocket with keys and all sorts of other sharp objects and I've used all sorts of objects (including ball point pens) as a stylus.

Smartphone screens are incredibly hard to scratch - screen protectors on the other hand are piss easy to scratch

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The relevant word...

...may be "wife". Women are able to scratch things that men are not, by virtue of their diamond encrusted appendages. The inside of a car windscreen is one fairly common example.

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Such passion...

...over something as fundamentally nothingy as a screen protector. Can you people relax and take a deep breath? Some people like to use screen protectors because they find them of some value. Others don't see the value so don't.

Either way, I for one think I can cope. Buy em, don't buy em: if you're happily running an iPhone or anything vaguely like it, the price of screen protectors is nothing. even in the worst case, where they don't do a deal of good, they're hardly expensive enough to constitute FUD.

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Megaphone

Strong signal vs congestion

The iPhone has a new switching technique whereby it will select the band with the lowest congestion, not the one with the strongest signal. That might account for the drop in signal strength. It would be more interesting to see if the new iPhone drops more calls than the old one in the same area.

Furtermore, Gizmodo might have a bit of an axe to grind, so I wouldn't take their word on this (or, indeed, any other matter).

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What, you mean that....

....Apple have decided to ignore what the GSM and 3GPP specs say about how to behave when handing off between networks?

How clever of them!

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PDC
Jobs Horns

Top Tip

VizTopTip: QUEUING for an iPhone? Don't stress about the reported manufacturing issues. They're nothing compared to your psychological ones.

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Coffee/keyboard

<-icon

'nuff said

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Flame

Of course you're not supposed to touch it...

... you smelly unwashed masses!

You will worship it from afar or suitably encase it so that your grubby hands can't mar its beauty

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