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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 samurphy21 (193736) on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:35PM (#31207116) Homepage

    We do a lot of service on macbooks at work, and there's been times when we've taking a unit in for service that "won't turn on" and the user "has no idea why", only to find out they're drippy inside, and none of the liquid sensors are tripped.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by biryokumaru (822262) *
      They really have liquid sensors in them? That seems so... Orwellian. Does that not bother anyone else?
      • by bsDaemon (87307) on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:43PM (#31207176)
        I don't think Orwell has anything to do with putting a sensor strip that turns color if you dunk the computer in water, clearly in violation of the warranty. So, while it may be kind of a dick move, its not some secret authoritarian plot of doom.
        • by farble1670 (803356) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:56AM (#31207910)

          i don't see why a manufacturer should give me a new laptop / phone / etc if i drop it in water. they cover defects not misuse. if they did cover things like that, the price goes up for everyone. i take care of my stuff and i'd rather not overpay up front so dummies can get a new laptop by dropping it in the tub.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sp332 (781207)
        It's basically self-defense for the laptop. What's Orwellian about it?
        • by mysidia (191772) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:28AM (#31207786)

          It's not what it does that's at issue, it's what it will be used for.

          It's basically a litmus test. If it's red, your warranty service will be refused, even if what the sensor indicates is an error.

          You may have received the laptop with the sensor already triggered.

          Some condition (other than you dunking or getting the PC weight), such as the one described in the article might have triggered it.

          Anyways, if you have a problem, your warranty service gets refused as if you dunked it, even though you did not.

          The CSR will just assume you're lying, since the "sensor" proves you dunked it. That's what's sort of Orwellian [mechanism above human].

      • by LtGordon (1421725) on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:45PM (#31207206)

        They really have liquid sensors in them? That seems so... Orwellian. Does that not bother anyone else?

        I can't quite figure out if this is flamebait, or if I'm just the only person who can't make a connection between liquid sensors in a consumer electronic device and a dystopian police state. If a liquid sensor bothers you so much, I hate to be the one to tell you, but ... don't turn your iPhone around ... there's even a camera!

        So, no, to answer your question: it doesn't seem to bother me a bit.

        • Well, the camera would bother me if Apple used it to record me voiding the warranty, and watched a playback of everything it had recorded when I took the iPhone in for service. That would not be cool.

          But these LCIs, that's what they do on a very basic level. For some reason, I'm not comfortable with that. Maybe I'm just not indoctrinated into this new privacy-free culture enough.

          • That's not what they do at all. I don't really see how this violates your privacy.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by AnotherShep (599837)
            I don't really think that's a "privacy-free" culture you're describing. Also, I have no desire to exist in your "warranty-free" culture.
      • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @01:20AM (#31208028)

        They really have liquid sensors in them? That seems so... Orwellian. Does that not bother anyone else?

        Liquid sensors on a mobile device are Orwellian.. +2 Interesting. And Apple fans are the ones considered to be in the Reality Distortion Field?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by stdarg (456557)

          The purpose of the sensors is to keep tabs to see whether you behaved well with the phone. It's a secret device (to most people) that can only be used against you to Apple's advantage. It demonstrates a lack of trust and good faith on the part of Apple.

          Nobody's saying Apple is about to start torturing people... but why is this *not at all* Orwellian, which you're implying?

  • Scam (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:37PM (#31207124)

    LCI are just a way for companies to worm out of actually delivering on warranties.

    • Re:Scam (Score:5, Insightful)

      by commodoresloat (172735) * on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:53PM (#31207256)

      Yeah mod that up. The liquid sensors don't protect the devices in any way, other than to let you know you got the thing wet at some point. Many warranties are basically written to rule out the common things that would break a phone. It's especially annoying when you're paying a monthly fee for the warranty that adds up to the price of the phone or more in a year anyway, the least they could do is replace the thing when you break it even if you did drop it in your gin and tonic. If they make you agree that's not covered, fine, but then their sensors better be rock solid reliable. False positives are unacceptable.

    • So what does this study mean for those that have been stung by the warranty "violation" of the liquid sensors? Mine were set off due to standard Australian humidity, lost me a lot of money.
      • My concern as well, 70% humidity here in central florida is not uncommon and walking from that into a cold room can cause enough problems.

  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:45PM (#31207198)
    The operating temperatures of 0 to 35C are completely held within the non-operating range of -4 to 45C. Sounds like a trick way of saying the phone isn't actually meant to work.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mystikkman (1487801)

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

  • Taking something made of metal indoors and outdoors with a big temperature gradient is just *begging* for humidity to condense on it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Uhm.. yes, and the OTHER part of the 'defined operating conditions' is the humidity range, which is typically for electronics listed as 5%-95% _NON_CONDENSING_

      So as much as it sucks, guess what, the sensor is accurately recording that the phone's been outside of operational specs.

  • by Tsu-na-mi (88576) on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:45PM (#31207204) Homepage

    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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tprox (621523)
      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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by marcansoft (727665)

        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.

        • Then why are they selling in in a country where the environmental specifications can't be reasonably met for half of the year?

          What if the spec said, "proper operation only guaranteed in hard vacuum", in small print?

        • by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@pitabre ... g ['s.o' in gap]> on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:18AM (#31208248) Homepage

          So... where exactly do you get any place where you NEVER have noncondensing humidity? I mean hell, I live in Colorado and it's dry as a bone here most of the time, and my glasses still fog up. Putting a clause in a warranty that essentially says "You're not covered if you actually use this device as advertised and intended" is immoral, and I believe illegal in many places.

      • by dangitman (862676)

        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.

        That assumes that tripping the the sensors voids the warranty. That's not necessarily the case.

    • by Jhon (241832)

      The problem is it's tripping a sensor within the documented parameters... Which -- as anyone who wears glasses could probably tell you (providing they used those classes to RTFA), void the warranty.

    • by icebike (68054) on Friday February 19, 2010 @11:02PM (#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 plover (150551) * on Friday February 19, 2010 @11:23PM (#31207408) Homepage Journal

        Non-condensing. It's right here: http://www.apple.com/iphone/specs.html [apple.com]

        Environmental requirements

                * Operating temperature: 32 to 95 F (0 to 35 C)
                * Nonoperating temperature: -4 to 113 F (-20 to 45 C)
                * Relative humidity: 5% to 95% noncondensing
                * Maximum operating altitude: 10,000 feet (3000 m)

        You have to obey them all, all the time. The sensor is simply just another component that might fail if you exceed these parameters. And it sounds like pretty convincing proof that you were in condensation conditions if the sensor fails by turning red.

        • by rcw-home (122017)

          You have to obey them all, all the time.

          You left out one other environmental requirement [cornell.edu] that must be obeyed.

        • Where can you find noncondensing conditions exactly?

          I live in the tropics, I go for a motorbike ride with my phone in my pocket for a couple of hours - 33 degrees and stupidly high levels of humidity. Stop all nice and stinky at my usual coffee place with the air-conditioner running inside at 18C - instant condensation. Not just on metal items - even your skin can become clammy for a brief time.

          That said - we buy our phones outright in this part of the world. The manufacturer warranties normally run anywher

        • by epp_b (944299) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @01:40AM (#31208096)

          Environmental requirements * Operating temperature: 32 to 95 F (0 to 35 C)

          So, does Apple just automatically void Canadian warranties or do they actually expect no one here to use an iPhone outside from October through March?

  • by commodoresloat (172735) * on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:47PM (#31207214)

    Move to California.

    • Move to California.

      Yeah, but maybe you should wait until June. El Niño his doing his thing here this winter.

  • Only -20C?? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by onosson (1107107) on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:47PM (#31207218) Homepage
    Wow - why do they even sell them here in Canada, then? Am I not supposed to take it outside below -20C? That's almost every night for half the winter! In fact, though, I've had my iPod Touch (1st Gen) for about 3 years, and I take and *use* it outdoors in -30 to -20 temperatures all the time - no problem. It's actually survived a dunking in the bathtub, too.
    • Re:Only -20C?? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by biryokumaru (822262) * <biryokumaru@gmail.com> on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:51PM (#31207242)
      Likewise, in much of the US the specification of 35 C is much too low for use during a large portion of the summer.
      • True enough - when I get in my car in the summer (southwestern US) and it easily is above115F outside, it's probably a lovely 130F+ inside. A phone with an operating range that low is kinda pointless.

        Seriously though - shouldn't whatever board certifies these devices at least require them to be certified for a reasonable temperature range?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by zippthorne (748122)

      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 temperatu

  • While it's true that some portion of your customers are going to lie when they say there has been no water intrusion, including, at extra cost a device aimed at proving that your customer is lying on every device is unfair. Let alone close to the external extremedies of the device.

    Here's a prediction: First they will deny the problem, and try to cast doubt on the testing methodolgy, then they will acknowledge the problem but claim that it only occurs in a very limited set of circumstances and offer restitut

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Entropius (188861)

      It's Apple, it just works, except for all the times when it doesn't.

      Ubuntu just works too, except for all the times when it doesn't. But those times, you can actually google the problem and fix it yourself. Apple, you're boned.

    • by dmomo (256005) on Friday February 19, 2010 @11:45PM (#31207548) Homepage

      >> While it's true that some portion of your customers are going to lie when they say there has been no water intrusion, including, at extra cost a device aimed at proving that your customer is lying on every device is unfair. Let alone close to the external extremedies of the device.

      Well said. Good contribution to the thread.

      >> Here's a prediction: First they will deny the problem, and try to cast doubt on the testing methodolgy, then they will acknowledge the problem but claim that it only occurs in a very limited set of circumstances and offer restitution but only for those who complain loudest.

      Decent editorial insight. The kind of thing that sparks great conversation.

      >> Then they'll make a minor change that doesn't actually fix the problem and claim it is fixed (oh and raise prices to cover this change). They'll stall at every step. This seems to be right out of the Apple customer service manual, and they're not the only ones (but they are some of the worst). No different to scratchable iPod minis, or cracked laptop cases.

      Still decent, but you're starting to get worked up!

      >> Fucking horseshit.

      Yep. You're working yourself up, son!

      >> But it's Apple, it just works, right? Come on fanbois, mod me into oblivion. I don't give a shit.
      And then you just slide down hill. If you were to be modded down, I don't think it'd have been because of your opinions / insights above. It's the fact that you seem to be asking for it right here. Maybe you're proud of your dissent and want to think the comments are controversial? Sorry, no. They grabbed my attention and got me thinking. But now I've forgotten everything you've said because of your silly little outburst.

  • by Entropius (188861) on Friday February 19, 2010 @11:25PM (#31207418)

    The question is whether the LCI's can be triggered by exposure to condensation, moisture, etc., which won't actually harm the device. Clearly those LCI's are more sensitive than the device they're attached to to water damage. If the manufacturer refuses to honor a warranty because of a LCI positive reading, but the damage to the device wasn't in fact caused by water, then you ought to be able to sue them for breach of contract.

    I had a cell phone battery fail (because of a defect), but the manufacturer wouldn't replace it because the LCI was tripped on the phone. The failure mode wasn't one that would have been caused by water damage.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 eve

  • Is this unique to the iphone or will some/most/all cell phones have their LCI tripped if treated in this way?

  • yea, hardly reliable (Score:4, Interesting)

    by X0563511 (793323) on Friday February 19, 2010 @11:26PM (#31207432) Homepage Journal

    So, Apple's LCI can trip unexpectedly...

    A few years back, I dropped my Motorola RAZR V3 into a hot tub. It was submerged about 3-5 seconds before I got it back out.

    The phone was dead, as expected - but the LCI did not "go off."

  • The purpose of the sensor is not to detect water. The purpose of the sensor is to give Apple and the insurance company a technical strawman to point to as to why you're not gonna get the warranty replacement you've morally and legally got coming.

    "We're not honoring the warranty because the machine says you've been bad," sounds sbetter than "We don't wanna honor your warranty 'cause that would cost us money to live up to our obligations."

    It's the same function polygraphs, e-meters and other "lie detectors" s

    • by konohitowa (220547) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @01:15AM (#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.

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

    To sense water reliably, while ignoring condensation, you need contacts some distance apart and some distance from a surface. The distances needs to be bigger than a water droplet. The size of water droplets is limited by surface tension. About 0.3 inch is probably big enough. In a tiny device, getting an air space that big is tough.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > 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 tou

    • by cdrguru (88047)

      There are no electrical connections on a liquid sensor - it is just a pad that changes color when it is exposed to water - or even high humidity. The purposes of this is to detect that a phone has been exposed to water, which will really screw it up. Thus, phones that have color-changed liquid sensors are not eligible for warranty replacement.

    • by jklovanc (1603149)
      There are no contacts involved in this process. Look at this this [efunda.com]. It is basically a compound that changes colour when exposed to enough water. No electricity involved.
  • In other words, even moving in and out during regular winter time will make you iPhone LCI turn red!

    Yes, Apple is doing something that lots of companies do! But you'll never hear reports about those other companies doing it, because they aren't Apple!!

  • 1)Apple sells this phone in northerly climates (Canada for one)

    2)Apple specs that it can be (when turned off) in environments down to -20 Celsius

    3)I don't think anyone will argue with me that the nominal purpose of a cell phone, is as a communication device that a person CAN CARRY AROUND WITH THEM.

    Combining these 3 facts, I think a reasonable person would conclude that they can take the phone in and out of the house with them when it is warmer than -20 C outside.

    Thus, It seems reasonable that the warranty s

  • Uninformed at best (Score:2, Insightful)

    by linuxhansl (764171)
    This is nonsense. Warm air carries more moisture than cold air. When taking a cold device into a warm room, the air will enter the device, cool down and water will start to condensate inside the device. Water from condensation is just as bad as water from a spill.

    The liquid sensor is right to go off, as it should since many electronic gadgets/laptops were destroyed this way.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hidden (135234)

      But that condensation occurs under normal use, so the device should be designed with it in mind.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) *

      The liquid sensor is right to go off, as it should since many electronic gadgets/laptops were destroyed this way.

      Either Apple needs to properly gasket the thing / seal the affected components, or be very up front that their products cannot be used in these very common weather conditions.

      To expect a phone to fail because it's used in the winter is beyond any reasonable expectations.

  • Really what is the problem?

    Your typical keyboard is quite waterproof. I've spilled coffee on mine several times. Into the dishwasher it goes. I let it dry for about a week and then it's just fine. (Yes I have a backup keyboard). I have done this several times now and the keyboard still works fine.

  • I hate to say it, because it's also a scam, but this won't matter if you buy an ADP plan that includes spills/immersion (SquareTrade sells them for all kinds of phones).

    It doesn't matter who you buy it from though, if they know all you have to do to force them to fix it is to pay a $50 deductible, they are less likely to claim mishandling.

    It's not fair, but they know if you don't have that insurance, you have no choice but to buy a new phone.

  • by bakons (1641619) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @05:42AM (#31208878)
    As a technician at a rival company to ATT in the US, I can tell you that the LDI or LCI is usually just that, an indicator. We see one of those tripped and then dig deeper into the device to see if there is further evidence that the device has been exposed to abnormal conditions, like a toilet. Some of the non-full service stores may not look so deep, but all of ours will take a device completely out of it's housing before making the determination. We're really not out to screw the customer, unless he's a douche.

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982

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