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?
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 …
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.
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.
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!".
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....
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. :+)
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.
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?
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! ;)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
...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...
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.
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!
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.
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...
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.
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.
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'.
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
...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.
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).
I got an iphone 3GS and sent it back for exactly this reason (having visited an apple store and swopped it just in case it was just mine that was duf), losing two or 3 bars when you pick the device up, same when I tested a mates 3G. Vodas answer was a sure signal, which is no answer as you then have a non mobile mobile, and can't max out your broadband.
A quick google search will confirm many similar cases, vodafone know about it and will admit it in the end, apple turn a deaf ear but are 'looking at it'.
Losing 2 bars when you only have 2 or 3 means its useless, phone rings, pick up, hello, hmm no signal.
Was hoping the new design fixed this issue. I guess they never do real world testing or only do it in full signal areas.
Not just iphones either!
You couldn't be more wrong.
The Register's beloved commenttards are most emphatically not anti-apple. They are anti everything. El Reg, and those who read her are equal opportunity cynics.
Speaking of cynicism...who do you work for, and are they connected to Apple? I would expect if you weren’t new here you would know all of the above by now…
Just done some testing myself on this. I'm currently sat in a poor Orange signal area with 3 bars.
Hold the phone across the left and right of the screen and all is OK, but extend my little finger down to the bottom section of the phone (around the connector area) so my hand is touching all 3 areas around the phone and the signal disappears... Holding just the left or right with the bottom area is fine
Anybody else able to verify?
so the first issue of signal problems when holding it its new i must say i ant gonna bother with a iphone im not given my money to jobs end of iphone is just a play flash toy oh look at me i have a iphone with a bitten logo on it. and yet when thease problems are discovered apple fanboys egnore it because they dont like to hear the truth.
Easier said than done if you're not left handed.
Steve would no doubt say "it's not that big a deal" in one of his pithy e-mails before advising the sender that they re-train themselves to be right-handed.
Whereupon the sender could write back and advise that he re-trains his engineers so they know how to mount antennas in the phone chassis instead of making shiny screens, or if that's too complicated then hire some engineers from Nokia or HTC instead of getting his own to read and fail to understand their patents.
I think it's obvious that iPhone users with iron in their blood will cause signal problems as they wrap their little Faraday-cage digits about the case-tenna. Copper, however, doesn't introduce quite the same affect, and as such I offer this proves that SJ is actually Vulcan or Romulan. Or something else.
"Zed, we have a bug..."
OMG! Apple products are the best!!!!!
Steve Jobs owns it so must be good, however pleased to repirt that the iPhone 5 will have a much improved range! :)
Love from Apple fanboi #309587 (i.e the ignorant public)
The video was made by Nokia, Commandant Jobs will be creating a fair rule in the USA and promptly be renamed the U.S.S.A (Union of Soviet States of America)
Oh just thought of another joke! Whats worse than finding an antenna in an apple? Finding half an antenna in a Apple! :)
I think that what has happened is that they discovered this design flaw after it was too late to change production tooling. As a workaround, they offer this nifty bump case as an accessory in order to mask the problem.
That being said, it amazes me that engineers could be so idiotic as to not know basic antenna and conductivity principals.
Can't believe this hasn't been mentioned yet, but 3G cells kick out a lower radius when they are under load (aka cell breathing) to theoretically allow other less congested sites to pick up the slack.
Since 3G sites don't come cheap, there aren't always enough around to double up and provide this backup coverage/capacity and so signals can drop to zero. 2G doesn't do this so variations in signal there are more often atmospheric or vegetation related.
It sounds like the iPhone4 may have some antennae issues (but not having held one myself I couldn't confirm) but this does explain a lot of people's complaints about other handsets; any network seeing heavy data use (especially likely on iPhone launch day) will have some seriously variable 3G signal levels for anyone not close enough to the mast - cell breathing can reduce coverage by at least 30% radius ...
If you buy Apple kit for the functionality rather than the style, then you are so missing the point. And if you complain about the cost, you should be asking yourself whether you really deserve to be an Apple user.
If your screen touches are causing signal strength issues, then you most likely haven't got the right sort of fingers and are unlikely to be invited to the better parties when word gets out.
Your screen will discolour if you use generic wipes. This is a security feature not an issue. Get some proper Apple wipes, the version 4 ones of course, colour co-ordinated, with the Apple logo ($49/£49 for ten). Remember you can't flush them down the toilet or throw them in the bin after use.
And don't forget, should you use your iPhone to arrange an extra-marital assignation, you are breaching your EULA. Because Apple cares.
Of course you could just save yourself a fortune and get a £20 PAYG phone.
My old SE w910 would lose signal if I touched the top with my finger.
Having worked as a lab assistant for a company designing and manufacturing military antenna (during my Gap year -- woo hoo!), I can confirm the fairly hit'n'miss process of tuning an antenna using various capacitors and resistors. You could get most of the way there using science, the last bit was really a black art!
Antennas do weird stuff. Some people are more capacitive (and resistive) than others. YMMV.
To the Antenna guy who knows more than the other Antenna guy. If my body acts as an antenna with the new iphone is that not little bit worrying? We have enough electromagnetic signals anyway, not sure if I want to receive calls with my body acting as the antenna (not expert with antennas but sounds bad).
Has anyone listened to speakers or other electronic devices when a phone is about to receive a call or receiving data? It doesn't sound very healthy.
I've looked at it. My old 3GS is fine, lit has lots of life left. And this new phone has more issues than I want to deal with and I'm tired of ponying out for new cases for the Glass Primadonna.
I was going to get a new one but I'm going to wait for my AT&T contract to expire, and my next phone will probably be a Blackberry since they seem dedicated to providing solid, licensed OSX/iTunes synch. "unlike what Palm was doing' OR maybe by then the Android market will have standard Mac synch support.
I Love my Macbook Pro, my 160 gig ipod is my constant companion. But another fussy, fragile trendy phone that takes surgery to replace a simple battery....... I found myself thinking of standing in like like a fool and stressing over it. No, not going to happen. No. This isn't what I want Steve, not at all.
A colleague has a new iPhone 4. He brought it in today pleased as punch. I held it in my hand and it went from 4/5 bars of signal to "No Service" in a few seconds.
Epic Fail, Apple.
Software fix? I'm not sure, looks like a hardware problem when your hand bridges the antennas.
Funny, my 3GS does this too (I just tried it!) as did my last 3 Nokias (since they removed the external antenna!)
I sometimes daydream of the days when phones had a plug for an external antenna in the car so I could actually have an unbroken conversation (using a hands free kit, of course!)
My boss saw me reading this and forwarded me the following:
There's a good brief history of mobile antenna design in there. Basically, FCC safety requirements mean antenna positioning is in the least effective position — away from your brain, at the bottom, where any humanoid user's hand will be.
Hands-free, MyFi router? Surely what everyone wants anyway (short of a telescopically extensible antenna)?
"the killer application for a mobile phone remains the ability to make phone calls, and it seems possible that in all the excitement Apple has forgotten that."
Please. Apple threw THAT design requirement out of the window with the first version of the iPhone.
"iPhone bad at being a phone shocker, more at 11"?
I experience probably a 50% or higher failure rate in calling most of my colleagues who have 3GS model or earlier, even if they have full signal and are sat on a desk unmolested. They're just not good phones. Fantastic dicking around gadgets, games, apps, and whatnot, and good for data when the data works (equal parts o2 overload and handset fail there), but if you actually place any value on making and receiving calls, get yourself an old Nokia (by which I mean pre-smartphone era, or some of their new 'budget' handsets). You'll get a week's worth of standby and it'll work for months without needing a reboot.
After that, if you need or desire (aha) smartphone functionality, an HTC Desire, provided you don't mind being tethered to a charger most of your time.
If phone calls are of no significance to you, then by all means get yourself an iPhone, but don't pretend that this is a new phenomenon. Even WinMo devices are better (and I hated my WinMo by the time I ditched it early for my Desire).
After reading this, I tested my iPhone 3G. It does the same. Then I tested the HTC Legend I use for work. It does the same. Picked up my iPhone 4 from TNT - yup, it does it. Tried an old Sony Ericsson W880i, yup, signal drop. All of this was on Vodafone UK.
The signal drop on the 4 doesn't seem to be affected by just touching specific bits of the metal casing. It only happens when your hand is wrapped around it.
Saying that, none of them have lost signal totally - they just drop to 1 bar at worst. I'd say this is possibly exacerbated in the US by the AT&T network, with its poor reputation.
I'll admit that it's a bit easier to hold the 4 in a way that makes it lose signal, although even when it goes down to 1 bar, it doesn't seem to affect net access or call quality.
"A deliberate plan by Apple seems a stretch to us, but it's hard to see how such a widespread problem got missed during development."
Probably didn't get missed. I've heard several seperate anecdotes where Jobs has decided EXACTLY how he wants some product to look (including where some major components fit in), sound, etc., and will not compromise a bit for engineering realities. I've heard of at least two Mac designs were a problem came up during development (it needed a quiet, temperature controlled fan, or 1/4" more space for cramming in all the parts, or whatever), an engineer tells Jobs this and he is just "Hell no, make it work". So result? Engineers do lots of extra work and do get it to work, but result is a mac that ran boiling hot straight from the factory, or is almost impossible to work on due to the parts being shoehorned in, or whatever. (Before fanbois flame, most models weren't like this, but a few definitely have been). I would guess an engineer knew the band antenna was crap, but by then Jobs insisted on a metal band antenna.
Just tried a blokes iphone 4 in a poor reception area with no problem. No matter how I tried could not get it to drop bars. Sweaty hands, dry hands, touching all three segments, two segments, cupping it etc... This is not a simple design flaw that effects all phones. Going to make it very hard to fix.
A friend of mine just bought an iPhone 4 and I can confirm, to the hilarity of our group of friends, that his has this problem. :-D
After a certain amount of ribbing he came up with a cheap and elegant solution, and has set up a website selling it for anyone in the UK that wants to "fix" their iPhone 4. 8-)
Basically he's not making any profit on it, he's just covering the cost of materials and postage but he just showed me it and it actually works!
He's basically designed a made-to-fit sticker to cover the metal up to insulate it from your hand, and is making it out of signwriter/vehicle-graphic-quality vinyl, so it won't leave nasty sticky gunk on your shiny new iPhone4 the way normal tape would.
The link is http://www.ipatch4.com if links are allowed, or you can search for ipatch4 on google if this gets edited.
Well, he shut us all up, and so I thought I'd share. :-)
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