back to article Apple seeks antenna engineers after 'Death Grip' debacle

Apple may be subtly telegraphing a tacit admission that the iPhone 4's "Death Grip" reception problems may not merely be due to users holding their brand-new smartphones incorrectly: the company has recently posted job openings for antenna engineers. The company is now advertising three jobs under the heading "Antenna Engineer …

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Happy

Thick skin?

Maybe that was the problem with the *old* antenna engineer --- perhaps his own built-in insulating layer meant that when he used the phone he didn't cause the capacitative problems that are plaguing lesser mortals.

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FAIL

Thick skin

"Also required, it might be assumed: a thick skin."

Won't this cause further reception problems?

Flippy.

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FAIL

Never be the first to buy a new model!

Perhaps they fired their last antenna engineers.

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Paris Hilton

If you can't work as a team then you're all fired.

Reminds me of that scene from IT Crowd.

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FAIL

Crap testing

If the iPhone 4 Gizmodo "found" in the bar is typical, all the testers were using cases to disguise the phone as a normal 3GS.

If no real world testing was done without a case then it becomes obvious how this problem was missed.

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FAIL

Hands On Hands Off

http://jobs.apple.com/index.ajs?BID=1&method=mExternal.showJob&RID=55852&CurrentPage=1

"Hands-on is a must".

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Black Helicopters

First there is a problem, then there is no problem, then there is...

So we know for a fact that there is absolutely no problem with the Iphone 4. And that it's unfair to focus on the Iphone 4 because *all* phones have this problem anyway.

So given that there's nothing to see here and we should all move along... what's the odds that the Iphone 4i or 4s or 4-whatever will be out by the end of the year, with a much lower-key launch and the marketing focus being on improved apps and more memory?

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Antenna Design...

...is about the closest that science and engineering come to the black arts.

One of the problems is that they use a wave model instead of a particle model for the photons involved.

But no matter what models are used, if they were calculating for free space, the introduction of a human hand is just gonna throw the resonance way off.

I expect to see some kind of stick-on antenna correction available at every street corner soon.

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Abracadabra

I've been involved in cellular antenna testing in the past and I'm quite convinced antenna design is a black art.

But any high school physics student could have told Steve that when you touch an antenna you become part of the antenna system, a highly unpredictable and unstable part or the system.

It was a dumb design which was probably done so as to shave off another fraction of a millimeter of thickness. But that's the apple way, form over function. It's better to look good than to work good :)

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@Antenna Design

Actually the wave model is far more usefull. If you want to simulate a design just calculate the field for every point in space and time. It takes some time, but will get you accurate results. You can even simulate a hand, but seriously why bother, it's DRM crap so...

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Boffin

Black arts

For black arts, just substitute any area that isn't fully comprehend by a large number of people. At the moment, the black arts in electronics are antenna design, EMC and power supply design (although I have a very good "handbook of black magic" book about high speed digital design.)

In the past, the black arts have included healing people and making new substances by chemical reactions. In the past people could have been burnt at the stake for this, perhaps that is what happened to the previous employees of Apple?

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@Disco-Legend

I'm sorry, Photons ?!

...the education system is worse than I thought.

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Boffin

@Paul 172

I take it that you are aware of Photons of Light?

I take it that you are aware of Light is part of the Electromagnetic Spectrum?

I take it that you are aware that Radio is another part of the Electromagnetic Spectrum?

I take it that you are aware that ANY Part of the Electromagnetic Spectrum works the same as any other?

I'm taking it that YOUR Education is worse than you thought!

A photon is just a handy name for a packet of energy transmitted via electromagnetic waves, it is technically a minimum Quanta of energy, the base unit of energy in the electromagnetic spectrum.

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@Paul172

Yes photons.

Radio waves are electromagnetic waves just like visible light (and microwaves, infrared, ultraviolet, x-rays and gamma rays). So photons is the right way to describe the wavicle.

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Tell that to Nokia then

The back lid on the E series is a part of the antenna (at least for WiFi). There is no way in hell to hold the phone without touching. This however, does not prevent it from working and demonstrating excellent reception regardless of how you hold it - for both my E65 (old phone) and E71 (current).

So quite clearly it is possible to do antenna design which works even if you hold the phone antenna with your hand though probably it does not work with "real" shiny metal, only with fake one.

As noted elsewhere on this thread it is a failure of testing. The disguise case on top of the phone prevented the engineers from noticing this. It is one of those cases where Apple's secrecy and leak-resistance (which I actually admire) has bitten them very badly.

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Boffin

Not necessarily!

The Back Plate could be a ground plane which if you touched would only help. a ground plane helps to boost an antenna by making it more directional, giving greater range in a direction (it doesn't matter which direction you are surrounded by masts!)

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Headmaster

@AC 11:15

You are of course right, but if you're going to be picky and sarcastic, then you should get it all right yourself: QuantUM is the singular, not quantA. Moreover, it is not possible to have a "minimum quantum", as a "quantum" is _defined_ as a minimum unit. Besides, why the capital Q? And don't get me started on "base units"...

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WTF?

@Ian

We're talking about electromagnetic waves in this context, not particles. An antenna resonates to a frequency as defined by the wavelength. It does not detect particles, photons are particles.

It's pretty solid radio science and doesn't need to go dipping into quantum physics, a lot of which, as you know, has fundamental problems.

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@Paul

Shush! don't draw attention to yourself, it won't distract from the fact you made a stupid comment, if you don't understand something three minutes of googling won't make you any smarter. Delete your posts and change your name, it's the only way to avoid the shame.

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Pint

Using The Wave...

...model. Is only possible today because of the cheap computational power available to RF boffins these days.

The Yin-Yang model of the photon was devised by me as a means of "Visualizing" the relationship between a single photon and an array of matter to solve an antenna problem.

To my knowledge, no computer models have yet been written.

Some photons are 420 NM across, others are as wide as the Universe.

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Stop

@Ian Stephenson re. @Paul172

I'm sure the corrrect term is 'particave'.

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Maybe Apple needs some radio hams on their team.

Maybe Apple need to hire some amateur radio enthusiasts to do a better job on their next phone.

Seems a bit silly to have the antenna or ground plane in a place where you can touch it as this would lengthen or shorten the antenna and plane depending on the way the electric flows through your body, and also how electrically charged you are at the time with static electric.

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WTF?

So much for Apple Apps

Funny how in most job adverts on apple website you need to be proficient with Excel, Word, basically the whole M$ suite

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Linux

Apple iPhone

That's what you get when you let a toy company make cellular phones for adults.

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Gates Halo

@Wrenchy

Is that you, Bill Gates?

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Boffin

too much secrecty?

There might be whole teams of people at apple who would immediately spot the problem with the antenna being exposed in that way.

I am guessing that the actual design of the iPhone 4 was a closely kept secret and what the engineers were given was a crude prototype to avoid pictures/details of the final design being leaked.

My understanding is that a think layer of non conductive material will fix the problem. Apple should add a clear protective coating to new units and just mail everyone a clear adhesive sticker to everyone all current customers.

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FAIL

titular nonsense

I hate Apple's methods as much as the next man, but why would the engineers be given a crude prototype of something that they themselves had designed and built, but know nothing of it's construction?

Or are you confusing Engineers with Technicians and/or Testers?

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Boffin

In reality.....

Apple phone engineers, like all other phone engineers attach a pigtail to the phone and attach the pigtail to a unit that simulates a phone "cell", the unit can simulate multiple phones and typically plugs into a PC (perhaps a Mac in this case, but probably not as I've not seen the software available for Mac, unless there's web interfaces now), it can simulate all the different bands and 3G (with appropriate signal strength) that way the engineer is in complete control (blank IMEI phones can be used, what happens during a cell switch etc.)

It could be seen as a flaw, but actual [early] testing and engineer work is rarely done using a real cell.

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Silver badge

I can understand the engineers beeing not motivated

After all you are supposed to build a product which is already doomed by management decisions like DRM. For most engineers it doesn't matter if the cellular phone connection works or not as they cannot run their own software, they don't have a shell on it. For them it's _far_ from beeing as good as it could be.

Apple has lost it's appeal for engineers back when they ditched the PPC plattform and it has only gotten downhill from there.

@So much for Apple Apps: The Excel part is there to filter out engineers who still care about what they do. If you see an engineer use Excel for something which has more cells than fit on the screen, he's mostly dead inside or cringing innerly with pain.

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JMB

Antenna Engineer

Has anyone proved whether or not they had any antenna engineers previously?

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Dead Vulture

Will someone

Go and try and dig around in Cupertino's backyard? Or they just keep the skeletons in a closet?

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Silver badge

Re: Antenna Engineer

I'm sure Foxconn could have done it at a reasonable price.

"It looks like our problems on the iPhone 3 are caused by the internal antenna"

"It's not that big a deal, get that guy from Foxconn on the phone and tell him to make an antenna which goes round the outside..."

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Go

Suspended Fanimation

All you have to do is attached the device to a headgear of sorts that suspends the unit right in front of the user's face. After all, that will solve two problems: the antenna's inductive coupling and allow the user to gaze at the device all the time thereby preventing withdrawal pains.

Ok, if it vibrates suspend it in front of their zipper or whatever.

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Paris Hilton

what a w@nker

Jobs handheld = poor hand job

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Unhappy

The dangers in relying on a brand rather than the physics

Although handset antenna design is very much black magic, there are some well known things to test when you’re designing a handset. One of which is that the antenna doesn’t work in the way the data sheet claims. As soon as you hold it, or put it next to your head the performance changes. That’s because parts of the body act as a ground plane, effectively detuning the antenna.

As a result an antenna that works well on a bench may barely work when next to your ear. That’s a phenomenon that has been exploited in the past to tune antennae so that they work better when you’re looking at it in your hand, rather than when it’s held next to the ear. The cynical reason for that is you’ll see a better signal strength when you’re looking at the display and consumer research has shown that if the signal looks good, users blame the network, not the phone.

That means a smartphone has a compromise: is it more important that you get good reception when showing an app to a friend, or when you’re trying to make a call.? If you always use a Bluetooth or wired headset then handheld is easy to optimise. Otherwise life gets very difficult.

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FAIL

PhD preferred

So - they didn't want someone with real-life experience? Antenna design is a black art - but it's an Art backed by a good understanding of science and mathematics tempered by basic mechanical engineering.

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@Version 1.0

"but it's an Art backed by a good understanding of science and mathematics tempered by mechanical engineering".

You've actually left out THE most important subject in an antenna design: electrical engineering.

The basis of antenna design is electromagnetic field theory which they don't teach in science, mathematics or mechanical engineering. I will admit a good understanding of maths is a pre-requisite, but then if you have the pre-requisite electrical engineering degree, then you have the maths understanding requirement.

In fact, the amount of mech. eng in antenna design is minimal. Not exactly load bearing structures, or much in the way of forces involved, no moving parts either. Definitely no thermodynamics, so unless you're building an 80 foot radio mast, they won't be needing mech engineers for the design of an antenna in a consumer electronic product.

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Alien

The solution is simple......

Don't buy one! Plenty others on the market which - Quote- "Just Work".

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Jobs Halo

This don't look good

for the existing Antenna enginerrs! But I did say that iPhone 5 will have a better signal and be marketed as such!

Maybe it will have smart shoe boxed size box with the antenna built in?? Or possibly an acrylic "apple" with the stalk as an antenna???

Don't forget it will soon be illegal to criticise Apple products so get ready for the delete button!

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@AC, Photons

Photons are NOT transmitted by electromagetic waves. It looks as if YOUR education is far worse than YOU thought.

If you're gonna take an arrogant position, at least try to make sure you're right. I expect you still probably believe that electrons orbit around atoms like planets in the solar system orbit around the sun.

The wave-particle duality of electromagnetic waves is well understood to anyone studied physics at A level, and is widely documented on the internet.

It's all tied in with Quantum mechcanics. Basically the concept says, that the light is both particles and waves at the same time. The two different interpretions are valid and indeed, necessary to fully explain the behaviour of electromagnetic waves.

Depending on what you're doing, sometimes it's more appropriate to consider light as waves, other times, particles are more appropriate. If you set up an experiment to detect light as waves, then that is what you will find waves. If you set up an experiment to detect light as particles, then that is what you will find.

In the case of antenna design, I've never come across the particle theory being appropriate, but I'll admit, I didn't study much antenna design in my degree course.

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TkH11

Hear, hear !

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Happy

You had me until ...

"...and is widely documented on the internet."

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It Was On Television...

...so it MUST be true. ....Homer Sompson

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Headmaster

Re: Duality interpretation

You had _me_ until "Photons are NOT transmitted by electromagetic waves.", yet "The wave-particle duality of electromagnetic waves is well understood to anyone studied physics at A level..."

So, electromagnetic waves do not travel as photons (quasi-particle quatum of electromagnetic energy), yet it is well understood that electromagnetic waves are both a wave and made up of quasi-particle quanta of electromagnetic energy?

I think you commented before the clarification of the photon as a packet of energy statement by the OP and attempted to deliniate photon as widely recognized quantum of light and general particulate physics applying to EM waves.

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Silver badge

Uhhh...?

"I expect you still probably believe that electrons orbit around atoms like planets in the solar system orbit around the sun."

Uhhh... that's what I was taught at school [for normal elements; it's a different story for radioactives], which wasn't so long ago... What do electrons do then? Sit around drinking pina colada until some bof with a really big microscope turns up?

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A big company has a job opening

And it's news? Seriously, Reg and all the Apple-haters do more than anyone else to fuel the very same Apple-hysteria that they so often claim to despise.

Anyway, got one of them iPhones, am left-handed, haven't encountered the death grip issues. Everyone I speak to says I sound clearer than I did on my old iPhone. Just felt the need to say so because the press seems to be treating this as an omnipresent issue. It isn't the best phone in the world, it's one of a few contenders for the position, I just like it the best, and am enjoying mine. Please feel free to click thumbs way down if this offends you.

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Jobs Horns

But what happened to...

The previous employee of Apple in Mainland China?

If I was applying for the job, I'd probably want to know...

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Happy

Re: What happened to predecesor?

Its OK - we have nets now.

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Anonymous Coward

red herring

Seems to me the advert for antenna designers is likely a clever way to throw off the realization that the problem really stems form the iVe-styling.

iVe-style favors the extremes of blandness and it's hard to make the product look sufficiently and uniformly bland if you design in some kind of bumper.

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Jobs Horns

What a bunch of moaners

I don't know, you should be honoured that Apple ALLOW you to hold some of their hardware. All you need is a bit of plastic surgery and it will work no problem. Now stop complaining and wait a few weeks and we will sell you the fix so that you can phone us with the complaints.

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