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Cellphones Displays Iphone Wireless Networking Apple

iOS Update May Tackle iPhone 4's Antenna Problems 282

Posted by Soulskill
from the this-is-your-apple-a-day dept.
DJRumpy was one of several readers to point out rumors that Apple will soon be deploying an update to iOS 4 to combat the iPhone 4 antenna problems we discussed last week. This could be good news for users of the 1.7 million iPhone 4s purchased during the first three days of its release. (And no, Daily Mail, Steve didn't announce a recall, though there's speculation that this problem could be a boon for Android.) An anonymous reader notes an analysis of a teardown of the phone, which found that its parts collectively cost about $188, with the most expensive part — the LCD screen — costing $28.50 by itself. In other Apple news, Germany has demanded that the company "immediately make clear" what data it collects from customers, and what use it makes of that data (perhaps spurred by Google's Wi-Fi sniffing debacle).
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iOS Update May Tackle iPhone 4's Antenna Problems

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:43PM (#32719144)
    How a software update will fix an human-caused short circuit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It won't but it will change the refresh rate of the antenna signal strength meter so you won't notice the signal going down anymore.

      • by jsveiga (465473) on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:57PM (#32719450)

        It won't but it will change the refresh rate of the antenna signal strength meter so you won't notice the signal going down anymore.

        ...so when the call quality gets bad, you'll be able to blame the network, not Apple.

        ...and on the transmit side, the software will pump up more average power than what the network power control requests, so your battery life will get worse, and overall network (WCDMA) performance will be degraded for all users in the neighborhood.

        • by mrops (927562) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:39PM (#32720114)

          It will boost the transmit power so high that the user will feel a little tingle of an electric shock if the antenna is shorted by this obvious inappropriate use of this godly device.

          In related news, apple fanboys have chopped of their thumbs as it is obviously a flaw in human design.

          Religious leaders were heard blaming god for designing man in his faulty image while evolutionist think that humans will eventually evolve so that this antenna problem mitigates itself.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Firehed (942385)

            Zapping your finger is probably the easiest way to get you to stop shorting out the antenna... and you'll probably learn pretty quickly to not to do it in the first place. Definitely a hack, but a solution nonetheless.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by erroneus (253617)

          Yeah, I was going to say most of what you said so now I don't need to. I thought the conclusion was rather obvious. Apple should issue a recall, but since Apple doesn't make mistakes, a recall isn't necessary.

    • by clone53421 (1310749) on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:45PM (#32719182) Journal

      The fix is expected to address a issue in iOS 4 related to radio frequency calibration of the baseband. Readers who saw the original forum discussions say that the issue is believed to occur when switching frequencies; because the lag is allegedly not calibrated correctly, it results in the device reporting "no service" rather than switching to the frequency with the best signal to noise ratio.

      iOS 4 introduced some enhancements to how the baseband selects which frequencies to use, so it makes sense that the error may have crept into those changes. Additionally, this explains why iOS 4 has also caused similar problems for iPhone 3GS users.

      • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:03PM (#32719544)

        The information I saw stated that they change the antenna priority from 'strongest signal' to 'most reliable', whatever that means. This change was introduced in iOS4. The same issues have also been reported in iPhone 3G and 3GS, which would seem to reinforce the idea that this may be software related. Although having the antenna's outside the case may exaggerate the issue, it does not appear to be the primary factor.

        iPhone 3G: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsfgAXmK0b4 [youtube.com]

        iPhone 3GS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9ztRup6cLs [youtube.com]

        General YouTube results:

        http://www.youtube.com/results?searc...gnal+ios4&aq=f [youtube.com]

        Additionally, here is the link that I first found reporting the antenna priority change:

        http://www.electronista.com/articles...rly.next.week/ [electronista.com]

        It will be interesting to see how Apple handles this. I recall they had similar issues with frequencies on the first generation iPhone.

        If the issue was strictly related to the external antenna's, we wouldn't be seeing this issue pop up once 3G and 3GS users upgraded to iOS4.

        • by DJRumpy (1345787)

          Odd. The link on electronista is now gone. This is the relevant text from that link:

          "A software origin for the hand position bug, nicknamed the "death grip" for its tendency to kill the cellular signal if the antennas are bridged, would explain how some have replicated the problem on the iPhone 3G and the 3GS. As iOS 4 changed the antenna's priority from the strongest possible signal to the most reliable, it may have changed that behavior for all phones, not just the iPhone 4.

          Owners of the 3G MicroCell also

    • by timster (32400) on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:46PM (#32719206)

      It's all speculation at this point. But the best speculation possible is based on reports that the iPhone 4 was designed to look for towers with lower congestion, even if they might have a weaker signal. If this is the case (and I don't personally know) it's possible that this feature is simply too aggressive, or not aggressive enough about switching back to the strong tower when attenuation occurs.

      Speculation, as I said. I don't think anyone really knows for sure.

      • by jsveiga (465473) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:10PM (#32719652)

        ... the iPhone 4 was designed to look for towers with lower congestion, even if they might have a weaker signal.

        That sounds strange. Only while in idle mode (no calls in place) a GSM/UMTS phone has some autonomy to select the cell site to which it will "listen" to.

        If the iPhone follows the UMTS standards, while in a call it reports received signal information from neighboring cell sites (or towers) to the network, and the network then decides which cell site(s) the phone will use (or switch to, what is called handoff). The phone has to obey the network's decision, so the only way that the phone software could affect the cell site choices would be to send "fake" (or wrong) received signal information back to the network (which would violate the GSM/UMTS standard).

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Xest (935314)

          Would the patents Nokia is currently suing Apple over cover those parts of the GSM/UMTS standard?

          Could this be the problem? That because Apple has refused to pay the patent fee that it's having to either try and work around the patents, or because it's out on it's own having no support from the developers of the standard because it hasn't licensed them?

      • by djupedal (584558) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:18PM (#32719778)
        The phone is not in charge of decisions at that level, sorry.

        That's like each a commuter on a train deciding when the train will leave the station....

        Loads are governed by the cell network hardware. Some phones are in cars, moving thru rapidly and they may leapfrog...some are still and they may get priority. For those networks that 'breathe' (expand and contract based on load), it would be especially hazardous if the devices could negotiate which cell on their own....not going to happen :)
        • That's like each a commuter on a train deciding when the train will leave the station....

          A commuter can't make it leave early, but sticking your arm in the door will certainly make it late, since safety features won't allow the train to move with an open door. Is it possible that this metaphor also applies to the iPhone? It somehow "sticks its arm" in the handoff?

        • by Tetsujin (103070)

          Some phones are in cars

          Da-doom, da-doom. (Ksssh!)
          Da-doom, da-doom.

      • by blair1q (305137)

        It's all speculation at this point. But the best speculation possible is based on reports that

        Isn't that what they said just before they tossed six dozen Dunlops into a hopper and pumped them a mile under the ocean as a "junk shot"?

    • by PPH (736903) on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:54PM (#32719376)
      Perhaps they'll enable the built-in Tazer and zap any users who grab it the wrong way.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:04PM (#32719550) Journal
      The most interesting part of the new "A4" is its concealed chamber of iBot(tm) nanites. These tiny robots feature a robust and elegant objective C API and GrandCentral support, for efficient parallel activity, whether it be reconfiguring antennas or synthesizing V-series nerve agents in the blood vessels of those who jailbreak their devices.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ryvar (122400)

      It's *possible* that the very slight short circuit of a user's palm is playing havoc with the frequency calibration system. This would also neatly explain why people are more often reporting that the signal gradually falls off over several seconds rather than instantly.

      If that's the case, then Apple *might* be able to retool the frequency calibration code to ignore the mild short circuit.

      In all likelihood, the answer is probably to ship all future iPhone 4s with a very thin layer of clear resin (nail polis

    • by s4ltyd0g (452701)

      I suspect the placebo effect.

      Whatever it does, it will most likely eat more battery. So it's one tradeoff for another.

    • Boost output power to compensate for lower signal. Simple solution, really - if you don't care about slashing your battery life...
    • by Pojut (1027544)

      It doesn't have, Lois! It's beautiful!

    • by Stick32 (975497) on Monday June 28, 2010 @03:01PM (#32720496)
      Easy... You get the icon to always display 3-5 bars. Then everyone can go back to blaming AT&T's network for dropped calls, as usual...
    • by donny77 (891484)
      It's not a short. It's attenuation. A short would happen 100% of the time. I have personally confirmed that in some areas with really strong signal I can not get the bars to drop. Other places, with weaker signal I can.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:44PM (#32719170)

    Germany has demanded that the company "immediately make clear" what data it collects from customers,

    "All of it," replies Steve.

    and what use it makes of that data

    "Good use," replies Steve.

    • Re:Steve responds (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tisha_AH (600987) <Tisha.Hayes@gmail.com> on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:10PM (#32719660) Journal

      Yes good old Stevie was claiming the problem was with the operators and demanded a modification of the UOS (user operating system).

      Sorry dude but it will be a few years before you can implant all of that Apple hardware directly into our brains.

      When I read his rather terse reply about "well, hold the phone differently" I was surprised. And this is from the company that made its riches by making hardware and software adapt to the users needs.

      Now it's like "the hell with you, we are omnipresent and omnipotent, you will bow down and kiss my ass".

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sycraft-fu (314770)

        For some time now Apple has not cared about functionality, looks have trumped all. Started around the time of the puck mouse, and then in earnest with OS-X, when they threw out a good deal of UI research that their own HIG discovered.

        These days it is all about shiny. If something looks cooler, it is pushed for, regardless of if that is a good design idea. Another recent example would be internal power supplies in the Time Capsules. They generate too much heat and you see the units failing in large numbers a

        • Re:Steve responds (Score:4, Insightful)

          by mikael_j (106439) on Monday June 28, 2010 @03:10PM (#32720628)

          It sounds to me like you cherry-picked the puck mouse example (also, this is a product from 1998 you're talking about).

          As for OS X, all my experience with it, previous versions of Mac OS, practically every desktop Windows version since 3.x and a boatload of X11 window managers (including but not limited to: PWM, FVWM1/2, Openstep, Enlightenment, Metacity, IceWM, 4DWM, Blackbox, Fluxbox...) tells me that it's better than most if not all of the competitors in many ways (although if you have a very specialized workflow then you may benefit from another UI but as a general desktop OS it's definitely one of the better and sure beats previous incarnations of Mac OS).

          Can't speak for the Time Capsule as I have never even seen one of those IRL but it does sound like you're confusing "shiny" with "easy to handle", the average user (the kind of person who would buy a turnkey backup unit like the Time Capsule) doesn't want extra cables and power bricks, they want something dead simple.

          Finally, the iPhone 4. Yeah, this does seem like a bit of an issue but for all we know they did usability research and found that only 0.003% of all users they tested it on actually held the phone in a way that shorted out the antenna. Still, does seem like a bad bug to let out in the open (but I'm not yet convinced they won't be able to fix it in software, there were a few other glitches with the iPhone 3G that had the anti-Apple crowd screaming "DEFECTIVE HARDWARE UNPOSSIBLE TO FIX IRREPARABLY BORKEN BUY A BLACKBERRY AND ZUNE INSTAED!!1" yet they were fixed in the 3.0.1 release of the OS).

          • Re:Steve responds (Score:4, Informative)

            by Blakey Rat (99501) on Monday June 28, 2010 @03:53PM (#32721332)

            but as a general desktop OS it's definitely one of the better

            True.

            and sure beats previous incarnations of Mac OS

            False. OS X's Finder is significantly poorer than Mac Classic's Finder, and that's after a decade of development. (Imagine where the Classic version would be with another decade to perfect it...) The thing, the Classic UI wasn't just a product, it was a *philosophy* with the aforementioned HIG as its Bible... it wasn't just about Macs, it was about usability specifically, how to adapt a software product to a human being.

            (A fundamental point: humans have evolved for millions of years to be the way we are. If humans are naturally better at something, say spatial memory over rote memory, you should make use of it. Meanwhile, nearly all computer UIs still rely on rote memorization to some extent.)

            The real problem is that most people using Macs now never used Mac Classic, so they simply do not know what a truly great UI experience looks like. They're coming from Windows-- sure, OS X is (arguably) still better than Windows. But it's not *nearly* as better as it was in 1998. Not by a long shot.

            (Just like if you say a spatial file browser is great, people say "no it sucked, it was in Windows 95." It sucked because Microsoft screwed up the implementation, not because it's a bad idea.)

            And to clarify before the nitpickers come on: I'm just talking about the UI design. Yes, I know they multitasked poorly. Yes, I know they crashed due to no memory protection. But the UI was brilliant, and still has not been replicated in any other product since.

        • by Blakey Rat (99501)

          Amen, brother. Now if only the drooling Apple fans would come to that realization...

    • by blair1q (305137)

      And then he adds: "would you like a line-pass for the Apple store?"

  • Didn't Jobs say.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by recoiledsnake (879048) on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:45PM (#32719188)

    All phones have sensitive areas," Jobs wrote. "Just avoid holding it in this way."

    Now the iPhone won't have a sensitive area? Huh?

    • by alvinrod (889928)
      Funny story. When this news broke, I actually took my own phone and looked at the signal strength difference while leaving it set on the table and when I'm holding it. Sure enough, when holding it, it drops a bar, but because it never produced a noticeable degradation in voice quality or anything else. The impact may be noticeable depending on your carrier, but I've never noticed it to be a problem with Verizon in my area. If it's an issue with how the signal is displayed like Apple is claiming, it's not re
    • "I'm sure Steve Jobs will fix this immediately."

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h3Ogt2L44Q [youtube.com]


      .
    • by Tetsujin (103070)

      All phones have sensitive areas," Jobs wrote. "Just avoid holding it in this way."

      Now the iPhone won't have a sensitive area? Huh?

      Yeah, my phone has an area like that...

      Lucky for me, it sticks out the top of the phone, instead of wrapping around the side. Hooray for circa-2005 engineering! :)

  • by wolrahnaes (632574) <(sean) (at) (seanharlow.info)> on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:46PM (#32719210) Homepage Journal

    I know modern radio platforms have a lot of software flexibility, but the limited knowledge of antennas I've picked up from messing with long-range WiFi and my ham radio experiments tells me this is not something that can be patched out with an OS upgrade.

    That is unless the OS upgrade comes with a coupon for a free rubber bumper thingy...

    • by steelfood (895457)

      They could always just sum the bars from every connected tower and report that number to the end user.

      • by Tetsujin (103070)

        They could always just sum the bars from every connected tower and report that number to the end user.

        Or they could give their signal strength meter a total of ten bars - then even in poor reception areas it would probably have at least two or three bars - better than other phones!

    • by Wovel (964431)

      Weird I can think of literally hundreds of ways it could be done through software. I am not sure if any of them are relevant since we are all just guessing as to the actual cause of the problem....

  • Source (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:47PM (#32719232)

    AppleInsider article by Daniel Eran Dilger.

    Oh dear.

    • Mod parent up! (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Irrespective of the possibility of fixing the issue in software (on which subject I expect there will be no shortage of ill-informed opining here), Dilger's not what you'd call a trustworthy source.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Irrespective of the possibility of fixing the issue in software (on which subject I expect there will be no shortage of ill-informed opining here), Dilger's not what you'd call a trustworthy source.

        Because the people [gizmodo.com] who broke this "story" are such a trustworthy bunch with no scores to settle ? This whole thing is a non-story and only useful as link bait for the tech "press" while the iphone 4 is hot.

  • by kuzb (724081) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:01PM (#32719516)
    Names for the fix may vary. I call the fix "Nexus One". You might call it "Evo 4G", or any number of other names. Regardless of what you call it, I'm sure it will work equally well!
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by milkman_matt (593465)

      "Names for the fix may vary. I call the fix "Nexus One"."

      Even meant as a joke, you're right. AT&T drops my calls like I'm on the Unlimited Dropped Call plan. I've lost a call twice on a 2 mile drive just the other day. I'm convinced that AT&T could drop a call made with 2 tin cans and a string and it's infuriating and I've had enough.

      You'd think with an influx of millions of new customers due to the iPhone, and the fact that they charge and extra ($30?) charge for iPhone users, they may try to si

  • by Mazin07 (999269) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:07PM (#32719602) Homepage

    Do these people still not know how cellphones are priced? A 8GB iPhone 3GS is about $530, and prices for the iPhone 4 are expected to be $600 to $700. The $199 price quoted in TFA is only after you agree to a ~$2000 contract.

    • by Anubis350 (772791)
      The $199 price quoted in TFA is only after you agree to a ~$2000 contract

      Except that's whargarbl in the other direction, it's only 2k if you count the basic phone plan, but by this point pretty much any consumer buying an iphone is either switching from some other form of cell phone or would probably at least get a basic cell phone if they didn't end up with a smart phone of some kind. Thus, at $25/mo for the iphone data plan, the phone counting contract is $199 + (2yrs*12mo/yr*$25/mo)=$199+$600=$800.
      • by Mazin07 (999269)

        It's not fair to assume that the consumer is already being shafted and thus discount the base cost. I'm using an unlocked iPhone without data plan for about $15/month but it doesn't make sense to say that, for only $25/month more, I can get a subsidized AT&T iPhone.

      • by tepples (727027)

        it's only 2k if you count the basic phone plan, but by this point pretty much any consumer buying an iphone is either switching from some other form of cell phone or would probably at least get a basic cell phone if they didn't end up with a smart phone of some kind.

        Pretend I want to develop an app that runs on an iPhone 4. Until there's an iPod Touch 4, I have to buy an iPhone 4 to test on an iPhone 4. I am satisfied with my current phone plan at $7 per month from Virgin Mobile USA. So yes, it would cost me over a thousand dollars to switch to an iPhone.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jo_ham (604554)

          You could just use the simulator, if you didn't want to shell out for an actual iPhone 4.

          If you're not wealthy enough as an app developer to sink enough money into the hardware you are releasing on (and I'm sure there are a few who aren't, and it's not necessarily a bad thing) there are ways to test the app using a phone simulator. It's obviously not ideal, but if you are looking to make a living from your apps, then a $1000 business expense if your apps really take off is not all that huge. It's not pocket

    • No offense, but that's what's known as a "sucker price". Vegas hotels do the same thing. The only reason they charge that much is to try and price discriminate against people who don't have a choice or don't know how to get a better deal. I guarantee you that the amount AT+T is actually subsidizing is not that high (granted, volume plays a factor). For a fairer picture, try looking at European markets where the phone has to be sold non-discriminantly in the absence of a plan.
  • by blair1q (305137) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:12PM (#32719694) Journal

    This is the same thing they said about the EDGE/3G wobble in the Nexus One.

    The "update" didn't change a fucking thing.

  • Yeah, how about they fix whatever they broke in iOS 4 for us 3G users. My phone has decresed in speed by at least half since I installed iOS 4...

  • by sjonke (457707) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:47PM (#32720262) Journal
    If you do, do you experience the antenna shorting signal drop to zero issue? I'm curious, because 99% of the messages I see about this issue, on all forums, are from people talking about the problem, but who do not make any mention of actually have an iPhone 4 nor even of knowing anyone who has the problem. Now, maybe in fact everyone who has an iPhone 4 has this issue, but I am having a hell of a time trying to figure that out. And I'm trying to figure that out because I've got an iPhone 4 on order and I'd like to know if I should keep it. Android fans declaring, definitively, perhaps spurred on by the speculation of a specialist who doesn't have an iPhone 4 either, that the iPhone 4 has a fatal flaw does not tell me one way or the other. iPhone 3GS, 3G and iPhone owners saying that the iPhone 4 has a fatal flaw tells me nothing. The only people I want to hear from are genuine iPhone 4 users. So... do you have the issue?
    • by Wovel (964431)

      I know 8 or 9 people with an iPhone 4 and only one of them says they can make it happen. I have seen two other people try without success. Even wetting their hands did nothing.

    • by BitHive (578094) on Monday June 28, 2010 @03:53PM (#32721340) Homepage

      I have one. I can indeed shave a bar off the signal strength meter by nestling the lower-left corner into my palm. Practically speaking, I haven't had any dropped calls or any problems at all. In fact, I see a larger fluctuation in signal strength just walking around my house. For me, this is such a non-issue that it's kind of mind-boggling to see so many discussions about this. I guess I don't care about my iPhone 4 as much as most people seem to.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by turb (5673)

      I have one and thus far comparing it to my 3Gs, reception seems to be markedly better. I'm in a fairly rural area on the edge of AT&T service. I just don't see what the fuss is about.

    • by greyhueofdoubt (1159527) on Monday June 28, 2010 @06:32PM (#32723798) Homepage Journal

      I've been using my iphone 4 since it showed up on the 23rd. Everything about it kicks ass except for making calls.*

      I haven't been able to reproduce the issues with reception dropping to zero. I tried it with my hands, with wire, by holding all the metal surfaces at the same time, but nothing happened.

      What HAS been an issue is the proximity sensor. Long story short, the phone does a poor job of knowing when it's pressed to your ear, the screen turns on, and you end up either dialing numbers or hanging up. I had an iphone 3g and this was never an issue. For a sense of how bad the problem is: out of the 2-2.5 hours I've talked on the phone, it has hung up over 10 times. These aren't dropped calls, they are actually my phone hanging up.

      Very frustrating, but I imagine it's something that can be solved in software.

      -b

      *which, fortunately, I hardly ever need to do.

  • In other Apple news, Germany has demanded that the company "immediately make clear" what data it collects from customers, and what use it makes of that data (perhaps spurred by Google's Wi-Fi sniffing debacle).

    While updating my Ipod touch (3gs) last night I noticed in the tos that you can control which apps have access to the service. I think this is a cool idea but I didn't see anything in the new os that allows me that access. It doesn't really matter that much for me as I usually turn location services off till needed but what is Apple pulling here? I'd be very disappointed if that only works with an iphone.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Slime-dogg (120473)
      It's a prompt that you get when first starting the application itself. As it tries to access the service, it asks. Some apps already did so, but others did not. Now, they all ask, and you can selectively allow them access to location services.
      • Not quite (Score:3, Informative)

        by wfolta (603698)

        The apps ask you when they first want access to Location, which is not really new.

        The new thing is when you go to Settings -> General -> Location Services (which might fool you into thinking it only sets Yes/No), where you'll see all apps that use Location Services and you can turn them off and on by hand. A little arrow head next to the app indicates it's used your Location in the last 24 hours. An app won't be in this section without having asked to use Location Services first, but it's really nice

  • The upcoming OS update might fix it. But if the update is no help, Apple would probably still say it'll be fixed soon, so keep buying them. If the update doesn't fix the issue, this will allow them to sell as many as they can before the update is released and sales drop like a left handed call.

     

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