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Bug Iphone Apple

iPhone's Liquid Sensors Can Be Triggered By Wintertime Use 484

Posted by timothy
from the contribute-better-translation dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Polish website Moje Jabluszko ran an experiment that proves the poor reliability of the liquid contact indicators (original, in Polish) installed by Apple in the iPhone. They performed three different tests to challenge the LCIs, which they recorded as a movie. They decided to mimic regular usage of the iPhone — meaning, you go outside where it could be cold or warm, then move inside in a building where temperature might be dramatically different, but still within covered conditions. So, they placed the iPhone in its box for one hour outside at -11 C, then moved it inside at room temperature for 24 hours. They repeated the experiment 3 times, and after the third cycle they could show that the LCI located in the audio jack plug started turning red! This is a clear proof that LCIs are not reliable and could turn red while the iPhone has been used under the defined environmental requirements defined by Apple. Here, only the condensing water could have been in contact with the sensor. In other words, even moving in and out during regular winter time will make you iPhone LCI turn red!" (In the tech specs for the iPhone, Apple rates the non-operating temperature range as -20 to 45 C.)
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iPhone's Liquid Sensors Can Be Triggered By Wintertime Use

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  • by tprox (621523) on Friday February 19, 2010 @09:51PM (#31207238)
    That's the point of the article. The sensors are working fine, but they trigger even when operating the iPhone well within the specified temperatures. In essence, using the iPhone as intended may still void your warranty.
  • by mystikkman (1487801) on Friday February 19, 2010 @09:51PM (#31207240)

    Err those are the safe temperatures for a switched off phone, not a range for which the phone must not be operated.

  • by icebike (68054) on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:02PM (#31207300)

    As anyone who wears glasses could probably tell you, if you go outside for a while, then come back inside (mimic the conditions of the 'experiment'), the glasses are highly likely to fog up with condensation. Is this not a liquid?

    Sounds to me like the sensors are working just fine.

    No they aren't working properly.

    The Apple warranty http://apple.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=10/02/20/0118230 [slashdot.org] on page 2 eliminates warranty claims if the iphone has suffered liquid spills or submersion.

    Yet the sensors trip via simple humidity changes, not unlike those the phone would experience in daily use in northern climates.

    The sensors are essentially exposed to the outside of the phone, one in the ear-phone jack, and another in the 30 pin connector.

  • by khallow (566160) on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:05PM (#31207314)
    You can get condensation without exceeding the relative humidity limit (incidentally what other computer has a humidity limit?). Just put a very cold iPod in a warm pants pocket. As long as the iPod is colder than the dew point, then you get condensation.
  • by juicegg (1683626) on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:14PM (#31207368)
    I believe the sensor is 3M Material 5559, which is a kind of humidity indicator [wikipedia.org]. Wiki says, that these are usually made from Cobalt(II) chloride, which in pure form turns from blue to red powder by absorbing water.
  • by marcansoft (727665) <hector@nOspAM.marcansoft.com> on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:45PM (#31207550) Homepage

    The iPhone might be well within the specified temperature range, but not within the specified humidity range.

    Relative humidity: 5% to 95% noncondensing

    Emphasis mine. Turns out condensation is outside the environmental specifications.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:47PM (#31207560)

    > This just means they need more separation between the electrodes of their submersion sensor. Which is a problem in a small device.

    The sensor is a chemical one. It's a patch of off-white printing that turns red when wetted.

    > To sense water reliably, while ignoring condensation

    Why? Condensation IS water. Water affects electronicsin the real world. Water is generally bad for electronics in the real world. Very very tiny electronics (like you referred to indirectly above) are affected even more. The touchscreen insides, the speakers, any electrical contacts, the miniscule contacts in the dock connector, all of it can be affected by water.

  • Re:Doubly unreliable (Score:5, Informative)

    by justinlee37 (993373) on Friday February 19, 2010 @11:07PM (#31207680)

    According to some of the other posts on here, it seems like Apple has already covered this in the warranty agreement by specifying that the phone shouldn't be used in humid air where water can condensate.

    Lame, sure, but hardly a conspiracy.

  • by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Friday February 19, 2010 @11:28PM (#31207788) Journal

    From the Nokia N900 user's guide:

    Do not store the device in high or cold temperatyre. High temperatures can shorten the life of electronic devices, damage batteries, and warp or melt certain plastics. When the device warms to its normal temperature from a cold temperature, moisture can form inside the device and damage electronic circuit boards.

    Avoid extreme temperatures. Always try to keep the battery between 59F and 77F (15C and 25C). Extreme temperatures reduce the capacity and lifetime of the battery. A device with a hot or cold battery may not work temporarily. Battery performance is particularly limited in temperatures well below freezing.

    Perhaps Finnish winters aren't as frigid as I was led to believe.

  • Re:simple solution (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19, 2010 @11:30PM (#31207802)

    I live in California. My iPhone has NEVER seen a DROP of water, the LCI is red and one of it's speakers doesn't work. Too bad for me, apple tells me to pike-off when I went in the store even though there is NO GOOD REASON for it to not be working properly.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19, 2010 @11:33PM (#31207814)

    The phone is going to be in your pocket most of the time. It's not going to instantly hit the outdoor temperature even if you do pull it out and talk for a while, as it's going to be next to your warm ear or hands. Those aren't environmental temperatures, they are device temperatures.

  • Re:Condensation? (Score:4, Informative)

    by mysidia (191772) on Friday February 19, 2010 @11:35PM (#31207822)

    The sensor trips, even if the phone is not being operated (e.g. it's powered off) when these conditions are encountered.

  • by Z34107 (925136) on Friday February 19, 2010 @11:47PM (#31207880)

    (Wow, I dragged you out to reply to my humble post? Sorry! ;) )

    Also a 'sconsinite. In rural parts the internet is often located outdoors, so during the winter months it's quite a trek to have our slashdot posts delivered.

  • by mysidia (191772) on Friday February 19, 2010 @11:57PM (#31207914)

    I'm surprised the phone manufacturers haven't gotten a law passed against that.

    I do know that some of the manufacturers have indicated they hide multiple sensors inside the phones though.

    Some of the sensors intentionally placed in positions where the consumer cannot access them (without destroying the phone)

    One sensor to allow easy initial warranty rejections. And one buried sensor to allow rejections at a later stage of inspection.

  • by konohitowa (220547) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:15AM (#31208004) Journal

    I went into an Apple store and got my original iPhone replaced 10 months after buying it because I dropped it two stories onto concrete. It still worked, but it wouldn't take a charge and the main button was constantly pressed. I admitted to the damage vector (it was a bit hard not too -- major scratches and dings on the aluminum). They tested my phone, verified that it wouldn't take a charge, wiped my current phone, swapped the SIM into a new phone, activated it, and sent me on my way.

    Those eeeevil bastards.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 20, 2010 @01:25AM (#31208278)

    The temp range is limited by the ICs inside. Those temp specs are valid for the consumer temperature range (0 C to 70 C) compensating for internal temperature variations (35 C in this case) They could move to industrial ICs/components which are rated from -40 C to 85 C however the iphone would cost 3x to 10x more. If an IC isn't rated at cold temps it can do strange things, like turn off, or (in the case of power ICs) go unstable and damage you phone (though good Power ICs have protection modes to prevent that these days - lets hope apple uses good ICs)

    I make consumer and industrial power ICs and we make great margins on the industrial products because people pay through the nose for the extra temp range..

    AC to keep myself safe at work

  • Re:Doubly unreliable (Score:2, Informative)

    by pantherace (165052) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @03:40AM (#31208684)

    Amazingly, ASUS laptops purchased in the past two years by my family has included a 1-year accidental damage warranty, (in addition to a standard 2-year (total) warranty) Their prices haven't gone up much if at all since they introduced that, and they've had quality products. (Not to mention, HP seems to contract some of their motherboard production to them. I don't think you can even buy American at all anymore in terms of computers, except maybe high end IBM, and maybe HP.)

    From their site: Covered: Surge, fire, drop, and spill.
    NOT covered (not limited to): scratches and dents, incorrect or inadequate customer installation, lost or stolen, intentional damage, recovery or transfer of data stored on the notebook, damages caused by acts of God or nature.

    It does exclude a number of them bought at retail places like best buy, and you have to register within 60 days. However, having that as a standard warranty is much better than any other I've seen. I haven't had to use it fortunately, and won't get to as it's been more than a year. Additionally, the few times I've had to talk to ASUS' support people, they seemed to have some clue. Contrast that to Leadtek, Seagate, HP (Ironically, the motherboards in the last 8 HPs I ordered at my last job were ASUS made, and no it wasn't the motherboard that was the issue), Dell, Cisco/Linksys or Maxtor that I've talked to, and it's a world of difference. (Among other companies with clue: Gyration, though that was several years ago.)

    (No, I don't have a stake in ASUS, aside from them providing what I feel are for the price probably the best notebook value. Plus, a rapid growth hasn't seemed to have hurt their quality that much. They sold more laptops than Apple last year. It is a pity that the EEE netbooks went up in price, as they went up in size. A 8-9" netbook using Ion would be about the perfect netbook, especially with at trackpoint instead of the trackpads, which take up IMO too much room.)

  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Saturday February 20, 2010 @05:40AM (#31209042)

    Pure or distilled water can't hurt an electric device any more than air could.

          Good luck finding "pure" water anywhere on PLANET EARTH. I am fed up with this internet myth. The people who go around claiming that "pure" water doesn't conduct electricity don't remember that water SELF IONIZES to H+ and OH-. Which is why "pure" water has a pH of roughly 7. Oh what does pH mean again? It's the negative log base 10 of the molar concentration of Hydrogen IONS. So in every mole of "pure" water, you will actually have 10-7 moles of hydrogen ions and 10-7 moles of hydroxide ions and GUESS WHAT? They are charged and conduct electricity!

          The fact that water is not a "good" conductor can only fool idiots into thinking that it's an INSULATOR (ie "pure water doesn't conduct electricity"). For all these idiots I invite you to use water immersion cooling methods for your computers, because after all who wants to deal with all that icky mineral oil... or better still, stand in a puddle of "pure water" on a "clean" conducting surface, and put your fingers in a 240V socket.

    Pure or distilled water can't hurt an electric device any more than air could.

          Yes keep thinking that and keep wondering why your electric devices keep frying when they shouldn't be, instead of learning some damned chemistry.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 20, 2010 @06:03AM (#31209090)

    As someone who repairs electronic devices often debugging the device using a can of freeze spray I can confidently say that sensitive electronics will happily keep running with not just condensing mist forming on the surface, but out right water droplets, providing these don't combine and start running down the device.

    Water on electronics isn't an issue till it connects across adjacent electrical traces. Even then water that is caused by condensation is very pure and has an incredibly high resistance so even if it does start running down the circuit board of the phone doesn't mean the phone is instantly dead.

    You can bet your warranty that all this will set off the LCI though.

  • Re:Doubly unreliable (Score:2, Informative)

    by maxwell demon (590494) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @11:04AM (#31210372) Journal

    And yet you buy Apple products.

    *ducks*

    Apple now produces ducks?

  • Re:Only -20C?? (Score:3, Informative)

    by zippthorne (748122) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @11:43AM (#31210644) Journal

    You should be alright as long as you play some movies on the phone before putting it in your pocket, and play movies on the phone while it's in your pocket before going inside.

    The problem is when the partial pressure of H2O exceeds the dew point. If you raise the temperature by moving into a new volume of air, then you get the ppH2O of the new volume of air, which is instantly cooled to near the temperature of the device, possibly crossing the dew point and causing condensation. If you raise the temperature of the existing air within the device through, say, its own heating, by taxing the processor, then the ppH2O will not change, and in fact will move even further from the dew point (since the max ppH2O is higher with higher temperature)

    If you're unwilling to preheat your phone every time you move from a cold environment to a warm environment, the I suggest that you simply don't have the dedication required to operate a fine piece of apple electronics. Your expectation that a $2k device intended for everyday use should be more robust to common, everyday activities is unfounded and unreasonable.

  • by apoc.famine (621563) <<apoc.famine> <at> <gmail.com>> on Saturday February 20, 2010 @03:48PM (#31212894) Homepage Journal
    I was about to mod you down, but I guess I should educate instead:

    Depending on your source, and whether or not the water is highly chlorinated, it can be pretty non-conductive. A couple of examples of this:

    The town I used to live in got its water from a reservoir. They lightly chlorinated it, and then pumped it around town. I had a few accidents involving beer/soda and electronics, but in all cases, immediately unplugging the power/battery, disassembling, rinsing well with tap water, and letting dry for a couple days, the electronics worked fine. I had a keyboard with soda inside the membrane, and 8 years later it still works.

    I taught high school science for 5 years, and we had a fairly simple conductivity tester - a lightbulb with the circuit broken. The setup had a goose-neck, with two exposed probes. You plugged it into a standard 120V outlet, and when the two probes, about 1/2" apart, were dunked in a conducting solution, the light bulb lit up. Standard tap water in that town did NOT light it up. Add 0.1g of salt to 100ml of water, and it light up just fine.

    It's true that pure water won't hurt electronics. And condensed water is likely to be damn pure. Yes, it disassociates into ions. But the concentration is so small, and the distance between the ions so large, that it's essentially non-conducting.

    It's sad you got modded up for not knowing what you're talking about.

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