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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 @01:45PM (#32719178)

    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 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.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:50PM (#32719318)

    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.

  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Monday June 28, 2010 @01:57PM (#32719458)

    I call name collision. Please refer to the iPhone/iPad operating system as something other than IOS because Cisco used it first.

    We are all glad that you noticed so quickly. However, the name of the iPhone and iPad operating system _is_ iOS and Apple is paying Cisco license fees for the use of the name. So since Cisco agrees with Apple's use of the name, I think that settles the matter. And all of this was known weeks ago :-(

  • by sznupi (719324) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:03PM (#32719532) Homepage

    Now you're exaggerating. It will be just an easy to access (user friendliness, remember!) tutorial showing the only proper way to hold a mobile phone.

  • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:03PM (#32719534)

    Maybe you should actually inform yourself then?

    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 Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:08PM (#32719616)

    Except that iOS 4 has caused similar issues with the 3GS models.

    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 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).

  • by blair1q (305137) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:15PM (#32719728) Journal

    As do all handsets

    This is not true. Handsets used to have thest things called "antennae" that stuck out of the body of the unit.

    They actually got better reception when held because the human body holding the handset made the other half of a dipole.

    In new designs with the "antenna" buried in the phone, the human body just couples ground to itself and becomes a thicker shield.

  • 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 :)
  • by Kenja (541830) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:29PM (#32719948)
    Funny, cause my Motorola Droid has a plastic case and my skin never comes in contact with the antena.
  • by malakai (136531) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:30PM (#32719952) Journal

    I second this. This is really annoying. IOS has been Cisco's moniker of choice for their operating system since 1987, when they bought it from Bill Yeager. This is such typical Apple hubris, and only helps cement the dividing line between IT/Developers and Apple. Good luck getting any of us to help your users without a smirk or comment on their fannypack.....

  • by Dracker (1323355) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:46PM (#32720236)
    Apple licensed the name from Cisco. There's no legal problem.
  • by Idbar (1034346) on Monday June 28, 2010 @02:54PM (#32720364)
    Well, my 3G has never been a good cellphone. They may as well disable the phone antenna, and get rid of both, customers complaining and Nokia suing. That's win-win!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2010 @03:08PM (#32720600)

    And you don't see people complaining about it on other platforms. The only people bringing this point up are the iphone owners who are trying to justify this obvious design defect.

    http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/android/thread?tid=34ae2c179184c33e&hl=en
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deCkjeHYT-g

  • by mini me (132455) on Monday June 28, 2010 @03:08PM (#32720608)

    Hence the "Stay tuned" comment from a recent Jobs email.

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> on Monday June 28, 2010 @03:10PM (#32720626) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by Slime-dogg (120473) on Monday June 28, 2010 @03:25PM (#32720864) Journal
    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.
  • 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 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.

  • by turb (5673) on Monday June 28, 2010 @03:56PM (#32721388) Homepage

    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 silicone_chemist (975884) on Monday June 28, 2010 @03:58PM (#32721440)
    I have an iPhone 4 and do NOT experience any signal drop when holding it. I've held it in my hand covering every single joint between the three antennas and no change. I am unable to duplicate the issue.
  • by alodien (252865) on Monday June 28, 2010 @04:07PM (#32721604)

    I do, and I have the issue. When I am out in good signal areas, I have no issues at all. But it is now horrible when I hold at at my home where my average signal was good, but not great with my iPhone 3G.

    I now talk with it on speakerphone or have to hold it very carefully on the top of the phone or else I will drop the call (at home). I can reproduce this every time I use the phone. If I am just browsing on wifi holding the phone in the palm of my hand with the "death grip", then about 50% of the time I show no bars, and the other half it says "No Service". My wife, using my old iPhone 3G right next to me will show to change at all (holding steady between 2-3 bars).

  • Not quite (Score:3, Informative)

    by wfolta (603698) on Monday June 28, 2010 @04:17PM (#32721776)

    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 to be able to track and revoke Location permissions after the initial ask.

  • by blurryrunner (524305) on Monday June 28, 2010 @04:20PM (#32721812) Homepage
    There are 4 iPhone 4s in our office. We all experience the issue. 3 came at the same time and was ordered through AT&T and the other came straight from apple.

    I did see a theory about it being related to what is running the tower. This seems to fit for me since at work none of us have the problem, but at our homes we have the issue. It could also be that we have a tower 100 yards away in plain view...

    br/
  • by jo_ham (604554) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (999mahoj)> on Monday June 28, 2010 @04:36PM (#32722098)

    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 change, but it's not outside the realm of possibility.

  • by Manfesto (865869) on Monday June 28, 2010 @04:36PM (#32722110)
    a) Yes, I have an iPhone 4.
    b) Yes, I can recreate the signal drop issue (although I can't get it to drop to zero).
    c) No, I don't consider it to be a fatal flaw.

    To expand:
    a) I bought one on launch day after reserving it back on June 15th. Not much else to say there.

    b) By palming the phone in my left hand, I can get the signal bars to drop from five bars to three bars. I've also performed speed tests to compare 3G speeds when held differently. Here are those results (using the Speedtest.net app):

    Held in Right Hand: 4.14Mbps down, 1.38Mbps up, 396ms ping
    Held in Left Hand: 3.16Mbps down, 0.49Mbps up, 1208ms ping

    So yes, palming the phone in the left hand has a measurable impact on signal quality.

    c) I didn't bother doing this test until I'd actually heard this was an issue, because I simply didn't notice it. The first thing I did with my iPhone when I had it out of the box and was still in the Apple Store was put it in a bumper case.

    When I'd heard there was an issue, I asked my girlfriend if she'd had any issues, but she also didn't notice it. Her phone isn't in a case, but she holds her phone in her right hand.

    /*It must also vary from person to person, as she can only get my phone to drop down to four bars instead of three. I think it's because my palms tend to sweat.*/

    Once it was isolated to the bottom left corner on the MacRumors forum, I took my phone out of the case, palmed it, thought "huh, interesting", ran speed tests, then put my case back on and went on about my business.

    So yeah, the issue is a non-issue if you are right handed, or if you are going to put your iPhone 4 in a case.

    Now, I realize that that isn't going to be good enough for most people here on slashdot. Apple is putting form over function, it's unreasonable to expect people to hold their phone differently, etc, etc, etc. Fair points all around.

    But I honestly am not bothered by it. I was planning on buying a case anyway, and even if I weren't, the vast majority of calls I make or take are done with the included headset (meaning I'm not touching the phone at all). Plus, the phone is still a noticeable step up in speed, battery life, screen quality, and reception (even despite the "fatally flawed" antenna) over the iPhone 3G it replaced.

    YMMV and all, but I think this issue is being blown out of proportion. It's a flaw, but it's not a dealbreaker. It's at worst a minor annoyance on what is, to me, still the best smartphone on the market for what I want/need in a phone (sorry Android, you've come a long way since the G1, and I dig the Evo's giant screen, but iOS4 is still better polished and the App Store still has more quality apps). All of that last paragraph is IMHO, of course, and is worth only the requisite $0.02. Not a cent more or less.
  • by jtosburn (63943) on Monday June 28, 2010 @04:45PM (#32722234)

    I can make my iphone4 do this at will. It's especially annoying since my primary use is for web and email use, and being right-handed, I hold it with my left in just the fashion that causes this problem.

    I haven't been able to test the other iphone4's in the office yet, so I can't definitively state that it effects them all, or if it's only mine. But my phone absolutely does this.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday June 28, 2010 @04:57PM (#32722412) Homepage

    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 sexconker (1179573) on Monday June 28, 2010 @05:02PM (#32722500)
    It is a short. By bridging the bezels you alter the electrical length, and thus the resonant frequency, of the antenna. It happens 100% of the time you bridge the bezels. Whether or not you lose reception a little bit or all the way depends on the many other factors that affect your reception normally.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28, 2010 @06:04PM (#32723420)

    A short refers to any unintended low resistance connection between points that are supposed to be at different potential. Assuming anything beyond that is foolish.

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