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Cellphones Handhelds Iphone Wireless Networking Apple

Apple Hires Antenna Engineers. Really. 417

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you're-holding-it-wrong dept.
kangsterizer writes "Sometimes, news items are just about a good laugh. You may or may not like Apple, but the way it has been handling its antenna issue has been like a small tech soap opera — Steve Jobs, the CEO, saying 'not to hold the phone that way,' rumors of software issues, and the latest but most crunchy part, since the antenna issue has been widely discovered, on 23 June, several 'antenna engineer' positions opened up at Apple. Seems someone got fired: Antenna engineer job position 1, Antenna engineer job position 2, Antenna engineer job position 3." I just figure they did all their testing in California, where AT&T dropping calls is as common as $4 coffees.
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Apple Hires Antenna Engineers. Really.

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  • Messed up links (Score:2, Informative)

    by wolrahnaes (632574) <sean@nosPaM.seanharlow.info> on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:21AM (#32744080) Homepage Journal

    The second and third links both point to the same URL as the first.

  • by recoiledsnake (879048) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:24AM (#32744120)

    From a memo to AppleCare reps:

    Exact procedures AppleCare reps must follow when dealing with any reception complaints regarding the iPhone 4.:

    1. Keep all of the positioning statements in the BN handy – your tone when delivering this information is important.

    a. The iPhone 4’s wireless performance is the best we have ever shipped. Our testing shows that iPhone 4’s overall antenna performance is better than iPhone 3GS.

    b. Gripping almost any mobile phone in certain places will reduce its reception. This is true of the iPhone 4, the iPhone 3GS, and many other phones we have tested. It is a fact of life in the wireless world.

    c. If you are experiencing this on your iPhone 3GS, avoid covering the bottom-right side with your hand.

    d. If you are experiencing this on your iPhone 4, avoid covering the black strip in the lower-left corner of the metal band.

    e. The use of a case or Bumper that is made out of rubber or plastic may improve wireless performance by keeping your hand from directly covering these areas.

    2. Do not perform warranty service. Use the positioning above for any customer questions or concerns.

    3. Don’t forget YOU STILL NEED to probe and troubleshoot. If a customer calls about their reception while the phone is sitting on a table (not being held) it is not the metal band.

    4. ONLY escalate if the issue exists when the phone is not held AND you cannot resolve it.

    5. We ARE NOT appeasing customers with free bumpers – DON’T promise a free bumper to customers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:31AM (#32744228)

    I believe that may be central to the writer's point - $4 coffees and AT&T dropping calls both being rare in Cali, Apple's testing was insufficient. I have no idea if any of those points are accurate, however.

  • Re:Messed up links (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:41AM (#32744422)
    A new meme was born and they saw it was good.
  • by Tisha_AH (600987) <Tisha.Hayes@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @10:00AM (#32744778) Journal

    Clearly the marketing department is the end-all, be-all decision makers in a product design at Apple. As an RF engineer (I am) I would not be jumping up and down to work for Apple. Antenna designs are always a compromise between aesthetics and performance.

    I bet that the Apple phone worked just great in their corporate offices with an AT&T cell site right next door. The signal levels would be very high and you probably could have wrapped the phone in a 10 pound ham and the signal would have looked just great. I doubt that they did any real-world testing in a weak signal environment.

    Much of the weak-signal specifications for any RF device are usually determined on a test bench or in an anechoic chamber where conditions are controlled. The ugly reality of someone's sweaty, meaty hand seldom makes it into the engineers lexicon.

    The job titles for these folks should be "Fall Guy #1, Fall Guy #2 and Fall Guy #3.

  • What? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @10:09AM (#32744950)

    Someday somebody has to explain to me this phenomenon of these alleged 'dropped calls'. Thing is, I'm in Europe (traveling all about it as part of my job) and I have never (read that again: never) had a dropped call. Not in busy metropolitan area's and not in the rural sticks either.

    So what's the deal with GSM in the US? Not enough cell towers? Users walking in and out Faraday cages? What?

    Years ago (a decade or more) it used to be that your calls got broken off when entering a tunnel or somesuch. That was annoying so it got fixed.

    Maybe it's the healthy dose of competition between carriers overhere?

  • by bemymonkey (1244086) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @10:13AM (#32745044)

    The iPhone is just smoother. Just last Friday evening I got the chance to compare an iPhone 3GS to my Motorola Milestone (overclocked to 800MHz and tweaked for speed and stability) and an HTC Desire (more or less stock, as far as I could tell)... even with Launcher Pro and Sense UI on the Milestone and Desire, respectively, the iPhone just felt... nicer.

    The scrolling, pinching, app-switching animations, hell, even the lockscreens... all smoother and more responsive on the iPhone.

    Of course, that's not important to everyone (definitlely won't be swaying me any time soon), but many people will go with the iPhone on this basis alone, because they assume it signifies that everything else about the iPhone will be better as well...

  • by Gary W. Longsine (124661) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @11:54AM (#32746820) Homepage Journal
    You need to take the same advice. You don't know enough about this to speak intelligently. Contrast your passionate, but not particularly insightful analysis, with this dispassionate analysis, informed by education, experience, and oh, dear, actual testing

    Brian Klug and Anand Lal Shimpi on iPhone 4 antenna [anandtech.com]

    "With my bumper case on, I made it further into dead zones than ever before, and into marginal areas that would always drop calls without any problems at all. It's amazing really to experience the difference in sensitivity the iPhone 4 brings compared to the 3GS, and issues from holding the phone aside, reception is absolutely definitely improved. I felt like I was going places no iPhone had ever gone before. There's no doubt in my mind this iPhone gets the best cellular reception yet, even though measured signal is lower than the 3GS."

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @12:47PM (#32747698) Homepage Journal

    Not if your cart has brakes. I mean, give the poor horse a break!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @01:24PM (#32748272)

    sorry, you only get to call it industrial design when it's functional first and then aesthetically pleasing

  • Re:That's my bet (Score:4, Informative)

    by dzfoo (772245) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:46PM (#32749254)

    Did you even check the AnandTech article? The antenna still works with the user holding the device. Like many other devices, attenuation occurs when the antenna is covered, especially when in contact with the human body. This attenuation is mitigated by the fact that signal quality is improved even at the lowest signal strengths. However, it is significant enough to cause disruption if the user is in an area with a weak signal already.

    As the AnandTech tests show, part of the problem is in the way that the signal strength is reported by the "bars" meter, a weak signal around 40% of the maximum supported still shows up as "5 bars". When attenuated by touching the antenna in the right place this gives the illusion of a drop from full strength (5 bars) to none, which seems more dramatic than it really is.

    The attenuation is marked, there is no argument about that. However, even AnandTech suggests that coating the antenna with an insulative should help mitigate it even more. In other words, it seems to be a sound design, based on solid engineering, with perhaps some implementation flaws due to the rush to market.

            -dZ.

  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @03:41PM (#32749908)
    From Apple's website:

    iPhone Return Policy

    If you are not satisfied with your iPhone purchase, please visit online Order Status or call 1-800-676-2775 to request a return. The iPhone must be returned to our warehouse within 30 calendar days from shipment to avoid an $175 early termination fee. The iPhone must be returned in the original packaging, including any accessories, manuals, and documentation.

    Apple will assess a 10% restocking fee on any opened iPhone. Shipping fees are not refundable.

  • by Technician (215283) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @06:06PM (#32751290)

    (or I suppose they could just watch for a sudden drop in signal strength and try adjusting up, see if it helps, then try adjusting down if it made things worse).

    auto antenna tuners exist. There is no need to guess by trial and error. Simply measuring the antenna current and comparing the phase of the current will tell you the tuning direction needed. When the current is in phase with the voltage, the antenna load is resistive (in tune). When the current leads the voltage, the antenna is capacitive and needs less capacitance (tuned higher in frequency) and vise versa.

    Unfortunately, auto tuners for microwave frequencies are difficult to design due to the very short mechanical dimensions of the parts. Voltage tuned capacitors (diodes) are common in VHF and UHF, but not as common in microwave applications for tuning antennas due to their limited tuning range. A hand contacting a microwave antenna can tune it much further than the corrective auto tunning can correct it in most applications. Even if tuned to resonance, the new tuning to correct for the hand contact will still not have the impedance change corrected. Energy absorbed by microwave heating of the hand is energy not received or transmitted by the phone. Tuning is only part of the problem.

    Attenuation is a real problem at these frequencies. To demonstrate this, simply tape an orange near the LNB in a satellite antenna in the path of the feedhorn. Without de-tuning the feedhorn cavity, the huge loss in signal strength by absorption can be seen as a total loss of reception. Try placing your hand over the feedhorn while setting up your satellite TV dish. Active retuning of the feedhorn to resonance won't fix the total loss of the signal.

    HF for Ham radio and marine shortwave (2-30 MHZ) need larger components to tune mechanically larger antennas so those applications use mechanical relays to switch capacitors and inductors or motor driven capacitors and/or inductors.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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