back to article Nokia latest to feel wrath of Jobs

Apple has added another mobile phone manufacturer to its online Dropped Bar Hall of Shame: Nokia. During his "There is no Antennagate" press conference last Friday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs conspicuously singled out three popular cell phones in support of his argument that all mobile phones suffer from similar, if not identical, …

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FAIL

RTFM

From page 17 of the manual for my Nokia E71 Symbian phone:

'Avoid touching the antenna area unnecessarily while the antenna is transmitting or receiving. Contact with antennas affects the communication quality and may cause a higher power level during operation and may reduce the battery life'

It even has a picture of which bits of the phone should not be touched (basically half the back of the phone).

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Boffin

RTFM is always the last step

Couldn't agree more, though placing your hand on an area concealed by plastic can hardly have the same level of attenuating effect that results from directly bridging opposite ends of an antenna. The simplistic magnitude of Apple's problem is only dwarfed by their devout denial that such a problem exists. Perhaps SJ is a scientologist?

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Boffin

Subjective

In the last ten years I've had a Nokia somethingorother, a Samsung Upstage, an iPhone 3GS and a Motorola MicroTAC... the MicroTAC was the only one that didn't suffer from signal loss if handled the wrong way (becuase it had the same radio transmitter as cold-war era nuclear submarine). I have to wonder if differing levels of electrical resistance in the user is a significant factor... boffins?

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Boffin

I'm no boffin but......

My mates both have iPhone 4's one suffers and one doesnt.

i.e. The guy with the "faulty" iphone can cause total signal loss from full bars by using the grip of death on his phone but not on the other phone

The one phone appears to be succeptible (i.e all 3 of us can make the bars dissapear) and the other doesnt seem to be affected at all (i.e. it retains the signal bars no matter what we do to it)

Both on the same network, both in the same location - Go figure

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Pirate

Resistance or more likely capacitance

Yes, different people have different electrical properties, these are known to change with metabolic responses as well, some complete idiots (the US "justice" system) even think you can detect lies by measuring these variations.

Fat and sweaty people will exhibit very different high frequency electrical characteristics to thin and dry people. This is not just about resistance but about capacitance at the frequencies concerned. Driving any conductor (such as an antenna) at high frequency is more depenedent on the power required to charge (then invert the charge and so forth) the capacitance it exhibits than the resistance of the user. User capacitance is something the great Jobs should understand as Apple have such a thing for capacitive touch screens...

As for differing characteristics I recall that at my school we had a competition for who could make the nastiest electric shock machine, we ended up with a three stage inverter that used 12 NiCd D cells and sounded like the death star preparing to fire as it charged the second stage HV accumulators. It could produce (current limited) a few 100kV (and very big sparks) when fired at "Pain Level 6" on the control knob.

Strangely there was never any shortage of people asking to be test subjects, the thing they never understood was that even if 50 of them stood in a circle holding hands they would get the same shock as we current limited the machines and they would kick out as many volts as necessary. The trick to making them painful is a sharp spiky waveform with lots of nasty harmonics.

One of our builders though seemed to have about half the resistance of "normal" people, the rest of us measured up at about 200k Ohms finger to finger whilst he measured 100k Ohms.

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Misdirection

If apple really believe what they say, then they should get an unbiased third party to do the testing, since I can't trust apple's results (any more than I would nokia's).

It seems like apple is trying to pretend that the only problem is signal obstruction by the hand, which many phones with internal antenna suffer from.

But this ignores the other problem, which is unique to the iphone: shorting of the antennas outside the phone. This has been demonstrated to be a significant problem in and of itself without any actual obstruction.

I'm not sure if apple's denials are a sign of being too cheap to fix the problem, or a sign of embarrassment that they aren't perfect. Either way though it'll be interesting to see whether they "fix" the problem in new models.

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Troll

Apple's problem is

Putting the antenna on the side. Most phones put the antenna on the top. Why Apple did what they did is another reason their "Think Different" motto failed here.

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Headmaster

Antenna location

Actually, most modern (candybar) phones put their GSM/Wifi/BT antennae on the bottom as the top is reserved for GPS which has to deal with very weak signals and would probably be saturated if it was too close to a transmitting antenna.

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WTF?

Low battery and other issues

I do notice that the battery level in this video is at it's lowest. But that means that the phone will actually use less power when transmitting data or voice calls. In this video, it shows 3.5G. But on Nokia phones that actually means that the phone is transmitting data over a 3G network, in that case the signal might be subject to a phonomon called "cell breathing". That is, more users pr the cell site, the coverage goes down.

According to information, AT&T in the U.S users 850/1900Mhz for 3G coverage and GSM. It also matters what frequencies are used, as 850Mhz goes a longer in terms of coverage when then 1900Mhz is used. This also effects the mobile phone power, as 850Mhz uses 2W but 1900Mhz only 1W.

I own a Nokia N78 and other Nokia phones and I have never seen this problem that they appears to have just made there. How they made it is unclear. But it is clear that the phone was running on low battery and with data connection running, given the 3.5 marking close to the signal bar.

If Apple wants to be believable, they will repeat that test will a full battery.

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Flame

I have tried to replicate this on my E71 and could not

I had to wrap both of my hands around the phone to get it to attenuate on 2G. Have not tried that on 3G though.

I think you "hit the nail on the head" here by noting that the phone is in 3.5G mode. 2G and probably basic 3G should work fine on a well designed antenna. That is not the case for the various types of HSPA. My impression is that the signal quality there can be affected by the phase of the moon, price of bananas on the Signapore futures market and the mood of the antenna designer's wife. So if the nokia is displaying HSPA level I would expect it to drop when held. That however will not cause it to drop a call - it will drop down to basic 3G.

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Thumb Down

Agreed ...

Agree ... I have an E72 and practically sandwiched the phone between my hands covering everything bar the top line so I could see if the signal dropped and over about 2 minutes nothing changed at whgich point i got tired and stopped! But yes, at times when I have had it teathered, I have seen it often, while not being touched, go up and down.

Apple is still in denial and only idiots would agree that the issue with their antenna (touching an unshielded and conductive surface) is a totally different issue from putting lumps of flesh between the antenna and its signal! I recall during the conference somebody asked about the fact that they had 'gorilla gripped' the other phones to make the bars drop, but the iphone could have signal attenuation from a simple 1-finger poke in the right place! It was of course dismissed and the party line that all phones ... blah ... blah ... blah ....

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Anonymous Coward

No Service

Have Apple managed to get any other phones to go to “No Service” or Drop calls or Freeze data transfers?

An iPhone4, in a case, will be just as susceptible as other phones to shielding by “Ugly giant bags of mostly water”.

The iPhone’s Achilles heal is that the user can make electrical contact with the antenna – shorting it rather than just screening it.

Come on Nokia lets see your analysis of the iPhone4.

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Headmaster

Achilles heel

That is all

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Silver badge

Short suppy

last para

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Jobs Horns

Fake?

Personally, I have to wonder if the dropped bar videos from Apple are false in some way. Remember, they spent $100 million on "labs" to test phones. They could easily create a video that shows dropped bars, when it may never had happened in reality.

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Big Brother

This is Apple!

If a good deal of phones suffered from similarly bad attentuation problems with vaguely reasonable areas been touched, APPLE _would_ have posted 500 videos of this. A few phones pretty clearly shows they've something to hide.

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Bad Apple!

Phone in the video drops to last battery bar, then it drops transmission power to save power, and so drops the antenna bars. That is called cheating, Apple!

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Rotten Apple

The operator also seems to hang up just before moving their hand and the signal returning - not something the guy with the iPhone4 video had to do, he just picked it up and put it down, picked it up and put it down.

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Jobs Horns

Surely a nagative campaign

is an incredibly desperate measure. Apple constantly come across as a litigious, vicious little company. I can see why. As soon as someone strays a yard from the fruity-ray they get upset that they have been sold something fallible and create a class action suit. (I am thinking of numerous battery, video, logic board, cooling, power supply etc... issues - not even iPhones)

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Jobs Halo

Reality distortion field

Proves its robustness in yet more field trials

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it's all relative

Well, having played around designing mobile phone networks for depressingly close to 20 years then the scenario seems to be to me:-

- ALL terminals will suffer some degree of signal level change depending on if / how they are held. It has been normal to assume that 3dB ( i.e. half the signal) is lost warming up the user a little bit since GSM networks were first being planned. In practical terms I'd say 5 -6 dB level variation would be typical of the many terminals I've used. ( OK I've normally been testing the base station not the terminal, but the two are obviously related)

- A terminal where the user can easily and reproducably vary the signal level by 20dB has a major design flaw.

- If you take ANY terminal and use it in an area with borderline coverage you can make it fall over by holding it 'wrong'.

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Silver badge
Jobs Horns

Bars don't matter - connections do!

Bar indicators are not the defining factor rather the ability to communicate. They are 'comfort light'.

The extremely high frequencies used by hand-phones behave in strange ways especially when antennae design is secondary to 'form' or design. The ideal is a tuned element protruding from the case, tuned specifically for a narrow band of frequencies.

Most smartphones are a balance of compromises rather than optimum of each need.

Apple, whether you love them or hate them, has several problems or compromises: battery life extended by changing transmitter control parameters; an antenna design that was faulted before the unit was released; failure to anodise or lacquer/coat the antenna metal.

Other manufacturers may have variable bar readings BUT the real test is whether a user can maintain communications. Obviously, most others except Apple achieved a working compromise, whereas Apples 'form' choices in Version 4 were not optimum.

The big question is: "How did version 4 make it through testing?"

Finally, a video issued by Apple cannot be trusted, just as much as a video by any other 'phone manufacturer would lack credibility if it featured an Apple product.

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Silver badge
FAIL

This one is going to run and run.

It appears more and more likely that you know who have been economical with the proverbial:

"The number of customers affected by iPhone 4's antenna issues is likely to be far higher than Apple reported, according to industry insiders." - A Rival Publication. (Sorry Reg!)

"Saying that everybody who had a problem would have phoned AppleCare is not a true representation of the issue" - Tim Deluca-Smith, vice president of marketing for WDS Global.

http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/359677/apple-under-reported-scale-of-iphone-4-antennagate.

That plus the fact that A**** are still wilfully conflating signal attenuation (which indeed all phones suffer from in varying degress) and signal *shorting* as a consequence of their use and design of the external antenna will ensure that they will continue to dig that hole for some time to come.

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Black Helicopters

One could also add that......

.....given that Axxxx have publicly insisted that there are NO special problems with the iCantPhone that a fair number of those customers (however many or few they might be) who HAVE experienced problems cannot be bothered/do not see the point in ringing the "we cant/wont help you line" because they do not believe they will get any help. In addition it is not unlikely that some at any rate are checking out other potential sources of the problem in an attempt to determine whether the source is the service provider or the phone.

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Jobs Horns

Not convinced

If you're down to the last bar on newer Symbian Nokias the phone goes into power save mode, which is better than running for half the time on full power and missing calls I would have thought.

And as the owner of an iMac having suffered numerous Airport (wi-fi driver) updates with varying (often low) degrees of success, I still don't believe Apple knows what an antenna is even if one fell on Steve Jobs' head.

The problem is not dropping bars, although that can happen with other phones, it's dropping calls and connecting two antennas together by holding the phone normally.

If Jobs carries on like this he'll be stuck with his external antenna that no other manufacturer uses because no one else will licence him their patents.

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Re: Not convinced

>> "The problem is not dropping bars, although that can happen with other phones, it's dropping calls and connecting two antennas together by holding the phone normally."

True, very true. But as AnandTech and others have pointed out, the iPhone 4 is able to *maintain* or at least support reasonable call quality even at very low power levels.

So, the problem, as you suggest, is the dropping of the calls. However, it is not necessarily bridging the two antennae together, unless this causes the signal to drop to a point where communication cannot be maintained--which in most cases the iPhone 4 seems to *not* do.

In such light, a phone which goes into power-saving mode when signal strength goes very low and cuts communication would not be better than a phone which can maintain communications at such power levels (and lower)--even if inducing the signal attenuation is easier.

-dZ.

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Silver badge

"goes into power-saving mode when signal strength goes very low and cuts communication"

Power save mode gets turned on when the battery's low, not when the signal's low, however it doesn't mean that Nokia phones cuts communication when in power save mode, it means that the display is dimmed, the backlight turns off faster, the CPU runs slower, etc... to conserve battery time. If you'd like to try it out, go into the power menu, choose activate power saving, and make a call.

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Comment guidelines, para 3, sub para 4, clause A, appendix D

Signal bars on a mobile aren't an indication of transmit power though so the battery low arguments are a little spurious to my mind.

Damnit, I feel dirty now.....

Paris, might as well feel properly dirty...

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Jobs Halo

HTC is the same

I can drop at least 12dB on a HTC hero using a death grip. But As others have said it's probably the Bridging of the antenna that's the big issue.

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Thumb Up

me too

I get the same effect, drops from full to 1 bar and back again each time I do it.

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Thumb Down

degree of signal attenuation that Jobs claims

Given the context this is right up there on the credability scale with:

'it has to be true, I read it in the Sun.'

'It clearly shows on wikipedia that....'

and

'some bloke down the pub told me....'

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Anonymous Coward

double fail

Shoddy engineering being dealt with via puerile corporate behaviour.

Any company can make a cock-up. but this is some of the worst denial, distraction technique to avoid dealing with the mistake that I've seen.

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Who even cares...

... nobody.

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FAIL

Oh dear...

Although Nokia's Symbian based phones do come in for their fair share of criticism, I've never read complaints about signal loss. Every Nokia phone I've ever owned all say in their manuals to be aware that the antenna (as well as GPS and Bluetooth) can be adversely affected by incorrect handling. Even as a true Apple fan, I think this has turned into a PR disaster and typifies their denial of problems-to-problems approach.

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Flame

Come on RIM/NOKIA/HTC/MOTOROLA

Why the hell are you lot not hammering Apple on this???? Whjere's the microsites dedicated to proving Jobs is a liar and that this is all just another example of Apple's very successful marketing bullshit?

Or have i just answered my own question?

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Third party to carry out these tests

Regarding the previous comments that to make the tests unbiased, a 3rd party should carry out these tests, I must concur... Maybe Reg could do this?

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Re: Third party to carry out these tests

Sure. How about the myriad bloggers and YouTubers out there posting comments and videos with the same results?

Surely these are as legitimate now as others were when the media used them as undeniable "proof" of an iPhone 4 problem?

-dZ.

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Pint

Independent testing

Consumer Reports is independent and trusted AND they couldn't endorse Version 4.

Cell phones are Type Approved which means an engineer, often employed by a manufacturer if cost justified, tests the device against a standard specification and then certifies the device is in compliance and then they are bashed out with batch testing just to check on things.

Any RF changes require a go around of the Type Approval.

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Anonymous Coward

I actually had a Nokia N97

And used it on a daily basis for a good while. Until I got pissed off with it.

It always showed full bars until you hit the call button or it connected to the internet to collect email, as soon as the phone tried to do anything "over the air" it dropped bars like they were going out of fashion. Often changing from showing full bars to just one when a call was made.

Anyway that's not the reason I got rid, it was because of the many little software glitches such as.......After unlocking the phone it pops up a helpful message indicating that if I wanted to unlock the phone then I should press the side switch to unlock. But that's not all, the message would stay on the screen for a good few seconds and prevent me from accessing the main interface of the phone!

It was a pain in the ass to use, full of glitches and it wasn't really feature full out of the box to say the least.

I can see why Apple have chosen it as a (good) bad example.

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So did I

And I loved it... until it finally glitched into uselessness. And again, fatally, two days after it came back from repair. The N97 mini shares many of the software glitches of the original and, yes, is an easy target for Jobs.

My £100 Nokia 5230 on the other hand, has just undergone the rigorous testing of, erm, me trying to find a way to hold it that degrades the signal. I had to wrap both hands completely around it and then I lost... two bars. Not a likely scenario in any case and certainly not enough to drop a call or even, in all likelihood, affect call quality.

The fact remains that, even if it's only a certain early batch of un-lacquered iPhone 4s, the problem Apple have can be achieved with one finger in one easily touchable external spot. I'm sure that, if this problem is rectified/worked around, the iPhone antenna compares well with other smartphones for signal attenuation. The issue is that this problem does exist and is a seperate issue from other phones having crap software (N97) or a significant loss of signal when held in certain, unlikely ways.

Sorry, Steve, I've seen "The Wizard Of Oz" and you can come out from behind the curtain, now.

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Fish in a barrel

I own a Nokia N97. It is a pathetic excuse for a phone. It is woeful in every regard.

This is like picking out the weediest kid in the playground for a fight to prove how tough you are.

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Not every phone

"you think they customised a nokia in order to make the video happen that way, or you think it happens with real nokias?"

No but they could take the vid in a lower signal area, generate interference. It has already been pointed out tha tthe battery was very low on the N97.

I have an N900 and I could not find a single way to make it loos signal even when wrapping it in both hands so only that bit of the screen was visible. Same with my N95. Same with almost every other phone in the office.

It has been pointed out there is one grip to make an N900 drop a call: Hold with one finger over the power button, sqeeze and hold...

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Grenade

missing the point

the point is this.

if you grip the phone, in such a way, will the bars drop, or stay the same.

if they drop, death grip, if they don't, immune to death grip.

Now, watch the video again, YESSSSSSSS, the phone drops bars.....ok, so now we know what we're talking about. It's a reproducible drop in signal bars as a result of holding the device a particular way.

THAT IS ALL.

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Jah
Thumb Down

Apple, get a life!

My iPad is the last Apple product I'll be buying. Apple, get a life!

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irrelevant

People who like the design will believe the issue doesn't matter, won't affect them or is created by the AT&T notwork

they'll buy it anyway

People who hate Apple will chose to believe the phone will drop calls every time a looza/wanker user comes within 100 ft of the thing

and we all know Apple have snuck in a silent recall and a revised design

this really is getting boring now

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Jobs Halo

I replicated this on my Nokia N97 mini

Just tried the same 'death grip' on my Nokia N97 mini as shown in the video with similar results.

5 bar 3.5G signal (central London) lost at least 2 bars and came back when I held it gingerly by the middle.

Can't speak for other phones, but as a long time Nokia user have always rated Nokia highly for call/voice quality. It seems in the age of smartphones the tightly packed electronics/antennae are more difficult to get right.

Steve J may well be telling the truth here

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Jobs Horns

Let's see

an independent/disinterested 3rd-party testing various similar phones. So far it's all just PR

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Not having actually watched the thing,

when the director yells "Attenuate!" they bring in the huge sheets of lead just out of shot to kill the signal. Or they fly the plane a few thousand feet higher. Or they turn up the power on the "Faraday Cage". There's lots of ways.

Of more interest is whether you can do it at home with your own phone.

I just got my Siemens A55 GSM dumbphone to drop a bar, but I had to almost stick it up my bum to do it This rarely happens, ymmv.

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Coat

@Robt Carnegie

I applaud your dedication to science.

Remind me to never buy a used cell phone from you.

And, I'm not even going to ask if the A55 has a vibrate mode.

I'll get me coat, it's all in fun...

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