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back to article Apple denies iPhone 4 antenna glitch, blames inaccurate signal bars

Apple has denied that its recently released iPhone 4 has any problems with the antenna, as reported by many disgruntled customers of the company’s latest device. Instead the Jobisan outfit has coughed to a glitch with the way the bars are displayed on the phone. Apple said it would spin out a software fix in the next few weeks …

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Stop

Yeah, but...

If you read Anand's review over here: www.anandtech.com/show/3794/the-iphone-4-review

you see the signal bar formula was clearly skewed, but if you read further you see that they tested the absolute variation in signal strength due to hand contact, and it was worse on this than the competition. (As also pointed here: www.arstechnica.com/apple/news/2010/07/apple-says-iphone-4-algorithm-is-to-blame-not-signal.ars )

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Re: Yeah, but butt...

>> "but if you read further you see that they tested the absolute variation in signal strength due to hand contact, and it was worse on this than the competition."

Yes, but AnandTech also said that at lower signal strength (like those experienced after the attenuation provided by bridging the antennae) it performed better than others. That at -113 dBm (one bar) it still was able to maintain calls and data transmissions of acceptable quality, while previous generations would inevitably drop the call.

Here's the relevant passage:

"From my day of testing, I've determined that the iPhone 4 performs much better than the 3GS in situations where signal is very low, at -113 dBm (1 bar). Previously, dropping this low all but guaranteed that calls would drop, fail to be placed, and data would no longer be transacted at all. I can honestly say that I've never held onto so many calls and data simultaneously on 1 bar at -113 dBm as I have with the iPhone 4, so it's readily apparent that the new baseband hardware is much more sensitive compared to what was in the 3GS. The difference is that reception is massively better on the iPhone 4 in actual use."

-dZ.

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Anonymous Coward

They give the consumer what they want to see.

I think they make the signal strength look better than it simply because everyone likes to see full bars on their phone, so that's what they give you. They are now using that as a "fall guy" for this antenna crap.

Also while I'm on the subject of Apple...

Flash on the iPad...Are you not allowed ot have it because Jobs really thinks it's unsuitable for a platform designed around looking at websites or is it REALLY because Jobs wants to sell loads of games on the app store and doesn't want people to be able to play any of the vast library of free flash games on the internet?

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WTF?

So the obvious question is then...

...why does this amazing "software problem" disappear when the phone is held "the wrong way"?

And why does holding it "the wrong way" cause data download rates to plummet?

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Coat

@"why does this amazing "software problem" disappear"

This software update hides the problem, so the problem of having to fix the phone disappears, when they try to hide its got a problem. :(

Its a bit like lifting the carpet to hide dirt under it. It works for a while ... until a team of top lawyers trip over it and throw a class action at Apple. ;)

... Coat icon, without iPhone 4 in the pocket ;)

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Anonymous Coward

and...

And why does the actual reception being even worse than reported mean there's no problem? Do they think we're retarded?

Ok, silly question.

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the clever bit...

...is that all of a sudden the iPhone is going to start reporting fewer bars. Apple will be able to tell users 'nothing to do with us, take it up with the network and demand better coverage'.

And their excuse is bollocks. My 3G registers 3 bars in my living room, it might fall to 2 bars when I pick it up to make a call. The iPhone 4 registers 2 bars and shows 'No network' when I deign to hold it using anything other than Apple's official finger tripod.

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MrT
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Battery saving...

As signal strength drops, any phone jacks up the transmit power to compensate and try to maintain the service. Is the iPhone saving its battery by shutting down the cell reception early because it's being fooled by its own signal strength meter? Just a thought...

If this was true, then currently the software is placing long battery life over user experience. Then, after the patch is applied, does the battery life drop and the handset run a little hotter as it ups the effort of staying in touch with the network. That's the only read non-FUD way a software patch (really more a firmware patch) could have any effect on proceedings.

Of course this does nothing for the real drop in service experienced by users, but if the phone tried harder to punch the signal through the fleshy bits surrounding it then maybe this is a real fix rather than an obvious attempt to avoid a kicking in the courts? Who knows...

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cop-out or not?

So if i get this correctly...

- There's an interference problem due to an alleged error in design

- We're told a first time we're holding the phone wrong for holding it like a... well phone

- Problem persists

- Antenna engineer positions are posted on Apple's career page

- Tentative first tests suggest there really IS an interference problem (physics! it's the physics, people!)

- We're told that it's not a reception problem OR a phone holding problem it's a BAR problem (i.e. an "insignificant, little" software problem

- An update will (presumably) be rolled out to "fix" the bar problem

(tentative) Conclusion:

Sounds here like someone's pedaling real hard to save face and unfortunately for them, it all smells a tad fishy (especially the part where actual reception problems are swept under a cosmetic interface carpet) -- Can't wait for an independent study to clear it up.

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Variance

Perhaps, but I've just tried this in a number of phones and the worse example I can find is a Sony Ericsson w800i (TechMode activated by *585*0000#) which shows a 20dB loss from "no grip" to "grip" - identical to the iPhone4's loss and without the same media hoo-haa. In fact this was generally a brilliant phone.

Equally, have tried it on an iPhone 3G (FW 3.1.3) which shows a 13dB loss using the Field Test menu, much "worse" than the 3GS apparently is.

I think it's fair to say that attenuation can vary by as much as 20dB in *any* phone, depending on conditions, user etc.

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Pffffff... what bollocks

See title.

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Too many bars

is probably what the apple guy thought as well, after he lost the much discussed prototype in the last one

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hmmm

So what they are saying is that for ages the iphones have been inflating the actual signal the phone is getting!

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FAIL

All fixed then

So it's not crappy antennae then but crap reception, bet that makes the fanbois feel much better!

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Exactly!

It's AT&T's fault!

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Crap reception

Crap reception unless you hold it in a special way or put an expensive rubber band around it. Pull the other one, Jobs.

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Now i'm no mathematician...

... but i can't get my head round

incorrect formula + antenna thumbery = correct answer

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FAIL

Except..

Except.. that it doesn't explain why the phones actually lose service altogether. Perhaps a more "suprising and simple" explanation is that the idiots designed two bare metal antennas where they could be easily bridged and therefore cause problems.

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Re: Except...

>> "Except.. that it doesn't explain why the phones actually lose service altogether."

Because, for the majority, they don't. A lot of those "evidence" videos in YouTube show how it goes from 5 to 1 bars when clutched in the special way. Nobody is not disputing that the signal strength is affected, but that the meter makes it seem more dramatic than it really is.

A lot of reviews, including AnandTech, have confirmed that even at lower strength, the iPhone performs better than previous generations. This explains why, even with such a marked attenuation, it still is an improvement.

-dZ.

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@DZ-Jay

... and of course nothing silly about direct contact of conductive surfaces with an antenna ... no siree ... no design fault here ... nothing to see ... move along ... and DON'T look at any videos involving any download speeds splummeting in the 'death grip', because the website is also Apple owned (well if it isn't. it will be shortly!) and shouldn't have been displaying the higher speed before the death grip!!!

This is papering over the cracks, which seemingly for people like you who are only interested in bars makes it all work now? Genius for Apple and its flock but still an epic fail!

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Boffin

not the full story though

Anandtech seems to have missed one important factor on signal strength vs. SNR. Low signal strength means the handset will have to ramp up its transmission power to compensate for the signal strength. So yes, you can make calls at -113, but that also means your battery's going down real hard, real fast.

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Jobs Horns

Too many bars?

Hmm, wouldn't have been the result of the previous 'fix' for when people complained that the wireless reception was crap? "No, it's OK, look you're getting 5 bars".

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Jobs Horns

Hmmmmmm

Sounds like a crock of shit to me.

Damn side easier to mask a problem with software than implement a hardware recall.

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FAIL

Ahh!

So you make the signal strength look piss poor everywhere so it isn't so noticable when you hold it so the strength drops.

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Bronze badge

this

This is what I was thinking. Say before you have 5 bars on a 10 point scale. If you go from 9 to 2 you drop from 5 bars to 1 or 2.

Up the scale to a 25 point scale? dropping from 9 to 2 shifts 1 bar down and the issue disappears.

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Bar bragging

this is not a mistake. does anyone believe that they rewrite the code for something so simple every time they update the iPhone????

they deliberately lie about the signal strength to give the impression that the phone has better reception than competitors.

serves them right that this bit them on the ass.

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Anonymous Coward

Very good, Okama.. but I remain unconvinced.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/3794/the-iphone-4-review/2 - Anand tries to see past the bars and put some numbers to signal strength. His conclusions are rather different.

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How?

How are AnandTech's conclusion's different? As far as I can tell, they are the same:

- The "bars" meter is flawed.

- 5 bars encompasses up 40% of signal loss (read: not accurate as "maximum strength" metric).

- Attenuation does occur, like with any other phone, when held in a special way.

- Even when attenuation does occur, and it may be more marked than other phones, signal quality is better than with other phones, and so the net effect is mitigated.

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Boffin

"We" discovered this

anandtech discovered this I think Apple will find. Has already been linked to on here but is well worth the read.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/3794/the-iphone-4-review/2

Hands up who thinks no-one will believe this as a fix though and that Apple are just releasing a patch to give a new false-positive signal display?

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Grenade

Try not to be a retard

Apple would not put out such a strong statement when it might have to stand behind it in court and have the test data subpoenaed.

The fix is to eliminate the false positives (ie inducing you to think you can make a reliable call when you can't).

From your Anand link:

"There's no doubt in my mind this iPhone gets the best cellular reception yet, even though measured signal is lower than the 3GS."

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@Eponymous Howard

Hey. I'm not saying I don't agree with Apple, I'm saying quite a few loons will claim it's bollox - see this forum for details ;-)

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Fair point....

...my bad.

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And in an effort to save processing power

The new signal strength icon will simply show three bars at all times.

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A fix for sure...

So to summarise:

- The IPhone lies to you about the signal strength.

- There is a problem with the antenna causing a loss of signal strength when the phone is held incorrectly.

- Our software fix won't fix the antenna but will lower your expectations but don't worry because the bars are bigger.

Very reassuring.

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Anonymous Coward

that's how I read it

Going by the article at anandtech,

the way its setup at the moment is that a drop from 5 to 4 bars is a huge drop in received signal. Hence if you start high you don't notice the signal drop on the display.

An anology would be a car fuel gauge where the tank is full when the needle is at the "12 oclock" position, its half full at 2 o'clock and empty at 6.

So yes, Apples fix will not change that there is a signal drop due to interacting with the antenna design. But the display wil reflect more accurately what was happening.

The most interesting elements of the analysis for me were

1. that Apple removed the hidden application that reported the actual signal strength parameters in the latest version of the OS.

2. signal noise ratio is a better way of measuring your signal

3. the wifi signal is improved by the bridging

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TBx

Apple does NOT denie iphone antenna glitch

Apple's comment is in keeping with peoples experences of a drop in signal strength, Apple seem to to says that holding the iphone the "wrong" way leads to a 2 bar drop in signal srength,

But at the same time saying there is nothing wrong with the hardware, it is just a software fault, (a software fault unrelated to the problem)

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Boffin

Or specifically

They're saying that a signal drop of 10-20dB (which can be considered "normal") can be unfairly represented as a 2-bar drop in signal, which is not a true assessment of the situation.

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Grenade

BS

So they're fixing a hardware fault with a software fix?

Yeah, right.

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Anonymous Coward

sure they can

Remembering their Magic Tricks department comes before engineering, they must have worked it out by now.

At least as far as their target market is concerned, they have proven time and time again, it is not hard for them to get away with it.

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WTF?

Anyone else smell burning underpants?

So holding the phone in a certain manner changes the way the software calculates the signal strength?

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WTF?

FUDge

Jobs - "I want this antenna problem fixed right now or you're fired. Issue a software update"

Scotty - "I cannae change the laws of physics wi' software cap'n"

Jobs: - "well issue a software update anyway and make something up"

Scotty - "aye"

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Jobs Horns

oh, that's alright then.

what utter, utter bollocks. I cannot believe people are gonna buy this, but then again if you're gonna queue outside a wank boutique waiting for Jobs' newest ejaculation then you'l buy anything I guess.

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"wank boutique"

[applauds]

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Jobs Horns

That's Fucking Bollocks!

I am in an EXTREMELY strong signal area. A full 5 bars because we can see the cellsite from our window. It is quite close. I can still get the phone to COMPLETELY drop out when holding the phone in a normal manner. Are they telling me that my eyes are now wrong and the cellsite is actually about 10 times further away?

Utter shite.

Thankfully it isnt my phone.....My 3GS works just dandy.....

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Jobs Halo

thats right

your eyes are faulty. It's not Apples fault.

What you need to do is buy a new set of iEyes. Then everything you look at will be shiny and work far better than you could ever know.

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Rob
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Joke

In short.... yes....

.... it's plainly obvious your eyes require a software update, have a word with your manufacturer.

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FAIL

Easy answer...

Don't buy a brand new, over priced fashion accessory if you want a working, stable tool.

Don't get me wrong, the phones should not be doing this, and Apple should admit it, but you did buy a fashion accessory, not a phone...

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Anonymous Coward

@buy a new set of iEyes

Yes, or an iMast. Although I guess that's what the Apple product is anyway.

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Paris Hilton

Want your phone to work?

If you want your desktop to work and help you get work done (corporate) you buy a PC and put Windows on it.

If you want your desktop to be shiny and want your grandma to be able to use it, you get a Mac and put OSX on it.

If you want your phone to work and help you get work done (corporate) while providing texting, messaging and email, you buy a Blackberry.

If you want your phone to be shiny and amusing to the coeds at the bar, you buy an iPhone. Don't worry, they know how to hold it to make it work just right.

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