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Apple To Issue a 'Fix' For iPhone 4 Reception Perception 534

Posted by kdawson
from the iphone-walks-into-a-bar dept.
Lisandro and several other readers let us know that Apple has just released a statement addressing the signal issues a lot of users are having with their iPhone 4. They claim to have discovered the cause for the drop in bars, which is "both simple and surprising" — a wrong formula used to calculate how many bars are displayed for a given signal strength. "Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. ... we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place. ... We will issue a free software update within a few weeks that incorporates the corrected formula. Since this mistake has been present since the original iPhone, this software update will also be available for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G." Wired notes that there is still a signal drop when the iPhone 4 is gripped in particular ways.
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Apple To Issue a 'Fix' For iPhone 4 Reception Perception

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  • for wlan at least (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dropadrop (1057046) on Friday July 02, 2010 @10:28AM (#32772962)
    If my 3GS wireless bar is anything to go by I find this fairly easy to believe. It shows anything between full to almost empty reception (not affecting speed) in my home. I've never quite figured out what was causing it.
  • by at10u8 (179705) on Friday July 02, 2010 @10:33AM (#32773058)
    Did I just wake up in the future, because I can't stop myself from thinking of C.M. Kornbluth's The Marching Morons [wikipedia.org].

    Fix it in software? It's supposed to correspond to antenna physics
  • by janoc (699997) on Friday July 02, 2010 @10:45AM (#32773264)
    Software patch cannot fix signal attenuation from a hand. Why does this look like only an attempt to make the complaints and bad press go away by making the problem harder to notice? If you have no bars displayed, you wouldn't notice that you are losing signal from holding the phone, because you would be under the impression that the coverage is poor. And in an area with a strong signal you do not see the issue anyway, because the signal level is strong enough to saturate the meter even if your hand is over the antenna.

    It looks more like a clever way to disguise the problem and push the blame on the carrier by hiding behind poor coverage, nothing more.

    It reminds me of Sony (I think it was them) who "fixed" one of their overheating laptop series by having users download a "patch" that would turn off the power management in Windows and make the fans go non-stop. It certainly stopped the overheating, but at the price of shortened fan life and a very noisy machine ...

  • by antibryce (124264) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:14AM (#32773658)

    no, he's totally correct. I've been noticing this over the past year, Android fanboys are far more annoying and "emotionally attached to their overrated device" than any iphone user I've meet. It's only getting worse with the Droid and Evo. My rational reasons for choosing the iphone over the Evo are roundly ignored and I'm labelled a mindless apple fanboy.

    I don't slap Google stickers on my car and blindly claim my device is superior to all others.

    no, you just publicly proclaim yourself to be better than all others. my iphone isn't superior, it's just a better fit for my uses. if android is a better fit for you that's great.

  • by easterberry (1826250) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:17AM (#32773700)
    so the solution to the phone not working properly is to pay them for more hardware to fix a problem that is their fault?

    No, they should be providing cases free of charge because their phone doesn't work properly and it is their responsibility to fix it.
  • by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:26AM (#32773848) Journal

    ALL AT&T cell phones I've used show this problem.

    Not just AT&T phones, every cell phone I've ever used on any network has had similar problems. In fact, I distinctly remember that the user manual which came with one of my Nokia CDMA phones had very specific instructions on where the user should place his/her fingers while holding the phone in order to avoid degrading antenna performance. I think that one worked on Sprint (yeah, yeah, I know: "Sprint?!"...).

    While Apple certainly dropped the PR ball on this one, the so-called "problem" is really a non-issue.

  • by Professor_UNIX (867045) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:26AM (#32773864)

    How exactly do YOU hold your phone? I just naturally picked up my Droid and held it up to my ear and I pick it up with my left hand with my thumb extended along the length of the left-hand side of the phone and two or three fingers wrapped around the back holding the right hand side of the phone. It certainly seems natural to me, and I'm right-handed. The way I naturally hold my phone causes the fat-pad of my hand to cross that imaginary antenna slot if I had an iPhone 4. I imagine the vast majority of people would hold their phones the same way if they're right-handed (in their left-hand since we use our dominate hand to dial and manipulate the UI).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:40AM (#32774112)

    Do you get to cancel the 2 year contract too?

  • by e4g4 (533831) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:41AM (#32774128)
    I can actually believe that the signal indicator has been incorrectly reporting the signal strength. My boss and I have a running joke whenever AT&T drops a call between us - "I guess I need to find better reception, I've only got five bars". I have found that the likelihood of a dropped call has no relationship with the reported signal strength on my phone. Whether this will fix the iPhone 4's hardware design issue remains to be seen (yeah, probably not), but I am certainly looking forward to an improvement in the accuracy of the reported signal strength on my 3G.
  • by sribe (304414) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:03PM (#32774528)

    Fits with my experience actually. I live slightly outside AT&T's coverage area. My 1st-gen iPhone often displays 3 or 4 bars sitting on my desk, but drops to 1 or 2 when I pick it up and make a call.

  • Re:Formula change (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Xiozhiq (724986) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:18PM (#32774802)

    Well, There are some issues with the calculation of bars. I could pretend I knew what I was talking about, or that I'd RTFAs, but instead I'll just post this link to a FANTASTIC review of iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3g[s] vs. Nexus One reception under various holding-conditions. ALL phones suffer signal loss when you hold them. The iPhone 4 is just a SLIGHTLY more egregious offender than other phones. That being said, though, it is much better at having a high quality of service even with lower signal strength. Something something something dBm something signal to noise something something.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/3794/the-iphone-4-review/2 [anandtech.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:46PM (#32775402)

    Your Droid example is astounding. You're comparing a 15dB loss when the back is off and the phone is held in an unnatural grip, with the iPhone losing up to 40dB when you hold it like a normal human being.

    Can you get out from under the RDF for a minute and realise you're being completely disingenuous?

  • Re:Formula change (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Montezumaa (1674080) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:50PM (#32775490)

    I can tell you that this suggestion is horseshit. How do I know? I live in an area that has horrible(read: no coverage) AT&T service coverage and my phone is perpetually stuck at either one bar(sometimes) and no bars. Prior to updating the phone to iOS 4.0, I could put the phone into engineering mode and the db level was correct, in regards to db level to bars displayed.

    I am not sure what Apple is aiming for, but the public cannot be dumb enough to believe this. While software can have a great effect on hardware, it cannot do anything about mechanical flaws. At least not at this magnitude.

    It is like Apple is saying, "Our product is great, damn it! Now, shut the fuck up and enjoy it!" Sorry, Mr. Jobs, but I am just not going to buy the bullshit you are trying to peddle.

  • Re:Formula change (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mysidia (191772) on Friday July 02, 2010 @01:36PM (#32776320)

    This is an oversimplification, and might be the very error they made.

    You are assuming the quality of the signal processed is a simple number.. I assume you are thinking RMS amplitude of the received signal. But a X unit drop in amplitude from Y amplitude, is not the same drop in signal usefulness as a X unit drop in amplitude at Z amplitude, if Y not equal to Z.

    The computation you should be looking at is Signal to noise ratio. [wikipedia.org]

    There are two numbers sensors should measure, to be able to determine usable signal quality... the strength of the signal, and the amount of noise (including the receiver's noise threshold and internal noise).

    Power of a signal and readability are not the same thing.

  • Re:Formula change (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2010 @01:47PM (#32776552)

    If it was a mechanical flaw, then every phone would suffer from this, which is obviously not true. It affects some phones very noticeably, some phones lose a bar or two as one would expect, and some notice nothing at all. If you live in an area with no/horrible coverage, I doubt very seriously you actually own an iPhone. It's more likely your just a droid troll hoping to create more hysteria. Since you basically agreed with the story (that iOS4 borked the signal bar display), I'm not sure what you're aiming for.

    FYI, for those who may be trying, test mode doesn't work on iPhone 4. The necessary files dont' exist on the phone.

  • Re:Formula change (Score:3, Interesting)

    by toadlife (301863) on Friday July 02, 2010 @01:51PM (#32776622) Journal

    Prior to updating the phone to iOS 4.0, I could put the phone into engineering mode and the db level was correct, in regards to db level to bars displayed.

    +1

    I would bet that the particular code in iOS4 that translates db level into bars was probably originally written for the first iPhone OS and hasn't changed one iota since.

    I wonder if the people handling the class action against Apple can subpoena their source code and catch them in this obvious lie.
     

  • Re:Formula change (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tomz16 (992375) on Friday July 02, 2010 @03:58PM (#32778674)

    Anand shows that the iphone 4 is SUBSTANTIALLY worse than the 3GS in terms of signal attenuation in four different situations (in one case, by as much as 18db !) This is contrary to Apple's claims that the revolutionary antenna design gives the iphone4 superior RF performance to previous generations.

    You are correct that the iphone4 is better than the HTC nexus one in a SINGLE test by 0.5db. It is, however, worse in all remaining tests by 2.5 to 9.1db.

    As for signal strength indicators, it has been my casual observation that GSM carriers typically over-estimate the idle "bars" they report. A GSM phone with 1-2 bars is rarely usable for an actual conversation, especially if you are in motion. In contrast, pretty much every CDMA phone I have had could place and receive acceptable calls with 0 bars showing while idle.

    Additional thoughts :
    - I think it's comical that apple will now make the first 3 bars "taller" to make them "easier to see"
    - I believe the fact that they are still selling the 3GS, and specifically re-state that they are willing to take any undamaged phone back within 30 days for a full refund absolves them of all responsibility for this bruhaha... if you keep or purchase an iphone4 at this point, despite the well-publicized reception problems, you have no right to complain, IMHO.

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