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Death Grip Tested On iPhone Competitors 373

Posted by timothy
from the not-deathy-enough dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "Given Steve Jobs' recent claims about 'Death Grip' being a common problem among smart phones, PCMag tested out six major iPhone competitors to see how they would react to the grip. The test included Motorola Droid X, T-Mobile myTouch 3G Slide, Droid Incredible by HTC, BlackBerry Bold 9650, and the Samsung Captivate. The signal strength was measured in dBm, which typically ranges between -50 to -110 dBm (numbers closer to zero show better signal). Interestingly, the test results video showed mixed results. T-Mobile myTouch 3G and Samsung Captivate showed drastic changes, dropping down to -89 and -97 dBm respectively. On the other hand, while the signal strength dropped for HTC Droid Incredible, Motorola Droid X and Blackberry Bold, it wasn't as severe. Results of testing showed that not all phones reacted the same way to the typical death grip and required variations of it to bring about results."
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Death Grip Tested On iPhone Competitors

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  • by Jorl17 (1716772) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:48PM (#32983714)
    I think that the Banana significantly outperformed the iPhone.

    No, really, I mean it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yea. Even though the iPhone has a vibrate mode, it just doesn't have the right shape.
      • You are forgetting rule 34. It would appear (if you look for it) that the iphone 4 shape has no problem. As for how well it works for that purpose, I have no idea, and I have no plans to find out.

    • by Idbar (1034346)
      While the iPhone was only tested with bars (just four of them), the other phones seem to have better resolution data when applying of the grip of dead... even the donut seems to provide significantly more information when not holding it properly.
      • by Idbar (1034346)
        CONCLUSION: Even holding it wrong, a donut provided more feedback than the iPhone, and it didn't drop any calls. The iPhone however, remains considerably prettier than the donut, even when both may be absolutely useless when not holding them properly.
        iPhone wins. /s
        • Try a donut with rainbow sprinkles (or double rainbow sprinkles, all the way!). iPhone loses on pretty.

  • by KonoWatakushi (910213) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:48PM (#32983716)

    How many of them have bare metal antennas on the surface of the phone? No matter what weasel words Steve chooses, there is no excuse for this defect.

    So what if other phones require a "death grip" to affect signal strength? After all, all phones are subject to the laws of physics; if you block the signal, there is nothing the phone can do about it.

    • by bonch (38532) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:55PM (#32983778)

      The issue was the death grip affecting signal strength. You even used Apple's "physics" defense to state that it affects all phones. What does a bare metal antenna have to do with it if all phones are affected?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by WARM3CH (662028)
        The point is that iPhone 4 has 2 problems: one due to metal antennas (yes, there are two antennas and they should not be connected together) and another one due to the death grip. Apple basically deflected the question by talking only about death grip while the real issue was this specific design flaw that bare metal antennas could be bridged together if you hold the phone in a certain way. Anandtech showed that bridging bare metal antennas add another 10 dBm attenuation on top of what you get from death gr
        • by donny77 (891484) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:35PM (#32984260)

          Sorry but you don't even know what you are talking about. I refer you to http://www.anandtech.com/show/3821/iphone-4-redux-analyzing-apples-ios-41-signal-fix [anandtech.com]. People are assuming "bridging" or "shorting" is the problem. Anadtech shows a 10db performance difference, they do not specify the cause. The redux article above clearly states they talked to metallurgists that stated stainless steel is a poor conductor, and your hand is a poor conductor.

          Find an old radio. Touch the middle of the antenna, it effects the sound quality. Now touch the tip of the antenna. It effects quality much more drastically. THIS is what the iPhone 4 is doing.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by darkmeridian (119044)

            You must be a crazy Apple fanboy. It doesn't matter if it isn't shorting or bridging. The fact is that iPhone 4 has an additional defect that when the exterior antennae are connected by your hand, you lose 10 db on top of the death grip. Oh, did Jobs point this out? Huh? No? Oh. Liar.

        • Well there are more problems than those two. There's:

          • An apparent design flaw that makes the phone lose reception under certain circumstances
          • The fact that all cell phones can lose reception due to hand placement, which varies by design and how you hold the phone
          • The myriad of Apple haters who will jump on any possible angle to talk about how evil Apple is, how crappy Apple products are, how superior Apple's competitors are, how the only reason to buy Apple stuff is if you're a retarded hipster that drank the kool-aid.
          • The massive number of whiney-bitch Apple customers who get upset that their Apple device is capable of being scratched, does not have a battery with infinite capacity, does not grant super-powers, and does not have [insert illogical feature here].
          • The Apple faithful who would not say a single bad thing about their iPhone under any circumstances. If iPhones started exploding in people's hands, these people would say, "Well I'm actually glad it's doing that. It's saving me the trouble of having to cut my hand off later in preparation for the new Apple's new bionic iHand. I heard a rumor Apple would be releasing bionic prostheses next fall."

          As someone sitting on the sidelines, I don't know how to sort it all out. How much of this problem is caused by the apparent design flaw? No point in answering that question-- I won't trust you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Nyeerrmm (940927)

        While its absolutely true that a 'death grip' can cause signal loss on any phone, just as sticking it in a Faraday cage can, Apple is currently conflating two different problems. The first, where your hand blocks some signal is common to all phones.

        However, there is a second problem with the iPhone 4. When you touch it in the wrong place, you, a conductor, connect two different antennae that each are designed to work at a specific wavelength. When you bring the two together, and throw your body into the

      • by sexconker (1179573) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @07:05PM (#32984534)

        The issue was the death grip affecting signal strength. You even used Apple's "physics" defense to state that it affects all phones. What does a bare metal antenna have to do with it if all phones are affected?

        Hello and welcome to the world of physics.

        Shit (both matter and energy) can interfere with electromagnetic signals, like those used by your cellular telephones.

        When reception is hindered by your hand, the concrete in your building, or whatever else, we say the signal is "attenuated".

        Modern devices can handle a large range of attenuation before showing any negative effects, and they can handle even more attenuation before the fail completely.

        All cell phones experience attenuation.

        The iPhone 4 experiences attenuation, but it also experiences detuning. Detuning is what happens when you alter the electrical length of your antenna.

        You see, kids, antennas need to be "tuned" to a specific frequency. When you move the dial on a radio, you're altering the electrical length of its antenna. By changing the electrical length of the antenna, the antenna then receives signals on a different frequency.

        The electrical length of antenna is a combination of its physical length and some electrical properties of the material its made out of, such as the antennas total capacitance - its capacity to hold electrical current.

        Unlike attenuation which gradually weakens a signal, detuning instantly and dramatically cuts the reception of a signal. Consider an old radio. Tune to your favorite station. Then turn the tuning knob to the left or right. You'll find that your favorite station is gone, and you're now listening to something in Spanish!

        The iPhone 4's antennas become detuned when human skin or another conductor bridges the cellular antenna's bezel with the next bezel, another point on the case of the phone, or just the skin. This is due to a design flaw in the antennas. Apple decided to make external, conductive antennas on the body of a portable device. This, by any measure, is fucking retarded.

        I hope you have enjoyed your brief visit to the world of physics! If you would like to know more, you can go fuck yourself.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by BondGamer (724662)
      I could stick my hand in a blender and have my fingers it chopped off. There are no excuses for this defect.
  • Enough already! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ecuador (740021) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:50PM (#32983736) Homepage

    How many more stories about this crap? The holy iPhone has a small defect. Guess what, it is not the biggest problem that the "form over function" philosophy has brought to the device. Those who value form will always buy the stupid device, its ability to complete calls (if you don't hold it the wrong way) is just an extra.
    As for the "death grip". We were not talking about any death grips, that was never the issue and people don't usually hold their phone like that. The problem was with simply touching the device at the bottom corner and only the iPhone 4 has a problem (for "why" and "does it matter" see first paragraph of post).
    And can we get on now? This is getting more annoying than dupes.

  • Both hands?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by markdavis (642305) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:52PM (#32983748)

    "[HTC Incredible] By using a death grip of both hands covering the phone we saw the results go from -57 to -64 dBm"

    "[Droid X] can be difficult[...] We used two hands on this larger phone."

    "[BlackBerry Bold] was a little more resistant [...] hold of it with two hands, we saw the signal strength go from -80 to -87 dBm."

    Yeah, cause covering the entire phone with two hands is a perfectly normal way that people would ever use the phone. I bet if I shoved a smart phone up my a**, it would lose a lot of signal too...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I don't like to look at my HTC with Win-Mobile on it - so I use both hands so I don't have to look at it, or if my gaze somehow crosses that plane, it is at least a little obscured by my hand.

    • Re:Both hands?? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MooseMuffin (799896) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:00PM (#32983830)
      The iPhone4 was accused of having a flaw where touching a single spot on the phone can significantly degrade its signal and Steve Jobs successfully managed to change the discussion to two-handed death grips of other company's phones. Unbelievable.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Moridineas (213502)

        Perhaps you should watch/read the press conference that Steve Jobs gave the other week. He specially pointed out X marks the spot on the iPhone, and then pointed out how holding other phones in certain other ways affected signal as well.

        • Re:Both hands?? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @07:22PM (#32984662)
          You seem to have entirely missed the point. There are two issues:

          First, if you hold *any* phone such that your hand blocks the antenna, you lose signal strength.

          Second, if you touch a particular spot on the iPhone 4, you bridge two antenna and lose signal strength.

          The second one affects only the iPhone 4, and is what people are complaining about. A rubber case fixes the problem. The first one affects every phone (including the iPhone 4), and a case will do *nothing* to fix it. Steve Jobs pulled a bait and switch: first he admitted that the iPhone has the first problem, and then he said that this was okay because every phone has the second problem. And then to avoid legal trouble he gave you something that fixes the first problem.
      • I know. That is some David Blaine or Chris Angel magic right there.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Kozz (7764)

        Actually, I thought the stupidest comment of Jobs' entire press conference was to say that this is the age of the smartphone, and that these things simply happen (I'm paraphrasing). To say that it's inescapable is what's utterly stupid -- if a small piece of scotch tape can fix this "flaw", I'd say that there's some engineers who weren't doing their jobs correctly.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Well, mine is so big that I have to use both hands to hold it... wait, were we talking about phones?
    • by ceejayoz (567949)

      Have you seen a Droid X? They're monsters! You might actually need two hands.

  • Dropped calls (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bonch (38532) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:52PM (#32983756)

    One of the things I've wondered about is that Apple said the iPhone 4 does drop more calls than the 3GS. However, the iPhone 4 gets reception in locations the 3GS doesn't, so if iPhone 4 is dropping calls in situations where the 3GS wouldn't even have bars in the first place, it makes it look worse than it is.

  • Of course it can be degraded depending on its environment.

    What is next, the 'discovery' that batteries run down differently depending on the temperature?

  • What the!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zironic (1112127) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:53PM (#32983764)

    They're seriously comparing phones that lose signal with a standard grip to phones where hold the phone with both hands deliberately trying to cover the antenna and pretend the result is somehow meaningful?

    Wouldn't a sane signal comparison compare them using reasonably common grips? It's sorta stupid to say "When you deliberately cover both antennas with an awkward two hand grip it'll lose 10 dBm", everyone knows the antenna will lose signal if you cover it, the point is that the iPhone is so easy to cover by accident.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by CTU (1844100)

      They're seriously comparing phones that lose signal with a standard grip to phones where hold the phone with both hands deliberately trying to cover the antenna and pretend the result is somehow meaningful?

      Wouldn't a sane signal comparison compare them using reasonably common grips? It's sorta stupid to say "When you deliberately cover both antennas with an awkward two hand grip it'll lose 10 dBm", everyone knows the antenna will lose signal if you cover it, the point is that the iPhone is so easy to cover by accident.

      I'm sure they fix it in a few months with the next version of the Iphone

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        I'm sure they fix it in a few months with the next version of the Iphone

        With magical predictive powers, I predict Apple will release the iPhone 5 sometime in June 2011. I also predict that touching that spot on the iPhone 5 won't drop signal compared to the iPhone 4. Of course, I can't predict if touching a different spot drops signal. Oh yeah, the iPhone 5 will be bigger and badder than the iPhone 4, too.

        Considering they're still shipping every single unit they make, it would seem Antennagate is a tempest

    • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:02PM (#32983860) Journal

      It's not a question of where he grips it. It's a simple question of attenuation ratios.

    • Re:What the!? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:04PM (#32983888)

      They're seriously comparing phones that lose signal with a standard grip to phones where hold the phone with both hands deliberately trying to cover the antenna and pretend the result is somehow meaningful?

      Of course it is meaningful - by showing that you have to go extreme measures to get even a watered-down version of the effect on these other phones it means that Jobs was full of shit when he made that claim about other phones having similar problems.

  • So I hope all of these manufacturers do the right thing and recall their phones. If it possible to do something to a phone to get it drop in signal, then the only right answer is a recall. Originally I thought that the only right answer was a free case for everyone that bought them, but then Apple gave out free cases and I had to revise my opinion. I haven't yet figured out how to make the signal drops on phones from other manufacturers somehow Apple's fault, but if I can, then I will again revise my opinio

  • Well, duh ;) (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sethmeisterg (603174)
    Of course Jobs cherry-picked the phones that would most-illustrate a similar effect. I have an iPhone 4 and I love it -- never had any signal issues (but I use a Belkin Vue Grip case). I was a bit annoyed at the photos Apple showed, though -- if you look at the pictures, you can clearly see that they're squeezing the *SHIT* out of the phone to get the analogous effect (seriously, look at the guy's thumb who's squeezing the Blackberry -- he's pressing so hard, most of his thumb is WHITE). I'm a huge Apple
  • Can I stop explaining to people why I intend to purchase this phone despite a minor defect that won't affect me now?
  • Death Grip?? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MTTECHYBOY (799778)
    I think the Death Grip is referring to the relationship between Steve and the Fan-boys..
  • by khb (266593) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:08PM (#32983938)

    Perhaps only old fogeys recall rabbit ear TV antennas for analogue TVs ... touching can improve or degrade signal. Depends on where, what frequencies, etc.

    No matter how clever the engineering, there's no cheating the law of physics.

    I always use a bluetooth headset and seldom hold the phone during calls; and use a case. So it all seemed like a tempest in a teacup to me.

    • by mrsquid0 (1335303)

      > No matter how clever the engineering, there's no cheating the law
      > of physics.

      The laws of physics to not apply to Apple.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mjwx (966435)

      Perhaps only old fogeys recall rabbit ear TV antennas for analogue TVs ...

      So it all seemed like a tempest in a teacup to me.

      Did you read the article (I know this is slash dot). With each phone they had to use very unorthodox grips just to get half the signal degradation experienced by holding the Iphone4 normally.

      Yes I remember TV aerials, I also remember you had to tune them because unlike digital signals you had to adjust the TV to the frequency your aerial picked up, not the frequency that was tra

  • People adapt (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jmichaelg (148257)

    People adapt to their phones to optimize their signal. Just as you stand where the signal's strongest, you adjust your grip so the signal is strongest. It's just not that big a deal when you actually use the phone.

    I can now make and receive calls from locations that I couldn't before I got the phone and the call is cleaner. In exchange, I had to learn to hold my phone slightly differently than I used to. I can live with that. If you can't, don't get an iPhone.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dyingtolive (1393037)
      So the answer is that the company that pompously touts it's user-friendly atmosphere and maintains its "Just Works" slogan can get away with releasing a product that you have to train yourself to use differently that what you're comfortable with?

      Wait, I just got it: This is what they meant when they said "Think Different."
  • by zill (1690130) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:17PM (#32984032)
    You may have joined the dark side and control an entire evil empire, Mr. Jobs, but you are not a Sith Lord ... yet.
  • by yyxx (1812612) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @07:23PM (#32984664)

    If you wrap your hands tightly around most of a phone, yes, you can produce a signal loss. You can also produce a signal loss by moving into a node or creating a standing wave pattern.

    But the iPhone 4 doesn't require a "death grip", a touch of the gap separating the two antennas on the case suffices. No other phone behaves like that.

  • by CritterNYC (190163) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @07:36PM (#32984796) Homepage

    The iPhone 4 antenna design flaw results in a death *touch* which is activated simply by touching a specific place on the case. This is a far worse problem than using a specific grip to block antenna signals all around with a grip of your hand. Apple is basically trying to change the conversation to be about gripping phones in specific ways blocking some radio signals (which is an issue with every cell phone ever) and away from the design flaw which results in the iPhone 4's unique "death touch" problem.

  • by PPalmgren (1009823) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @07:53PM (#32984916)

    People, people, people. Its not about the death grip. Its not about general signal loss on all phones.

    It is about the magnitude of signal loss. According to Anand's article, the iPhone 4 loses 20 dBm from holding it naturally with the antenna gap covered. That is 30% of the signal range. No other phone can acheive this signal loss, even with the death grip. Most phones 10 dBm or less, or better, even with a death grip. The magnitude of the iPhone 4's signal loss is 100% higher, or more, than all of its competitors when held naturally. This is abysmal, and makes it very hard for the user to predict whether his call is in danger or not. The bar change helps this a bit, but it doesn't take away the fact that a vanilla iPhone 4 has a signal handicap on all of its competitors due to shitty engineering.

    • As with all dBs, this is logarithmic. A 20dBm loss is a 100x loss, 10dBm is a 10x loss. Each 10dB of attenuation is much worse than the last.

      As an example if I gave you earplugs with 10dB of attenuation, it would take a conversational voice down to a quiet level. 20dB would take it down to a whisper. 30dB would put it below the background level of most rooms.

      With dBs, you are talking orders of magnitude.

  • by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) <almafuerteNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @10:13PM (#32985870)

    Nobody has ever questioned that physical objects can block, attenuate, or otherwise distort electromagnetic radiation. That is a pretty basic fact that nobody will deny.

    So, a good phone is not one that overcomes the laws of physics preventing physical objects from interfering with its signal. No. A good phone is one that is designed in a way that allows you to grab the phone in any of the usual ways that are suitable to hold a conversation or browse the web and still get a signal. They usually achieve this through properly insulated, numerous, cleverly positioned antennas. A good phone is one that grabbed in any normal way suitable for browsing/texting/talking doesn't loose too much signal. Most cellpones pass this test ok. Check the video. The ONLY phone that lost signal while being grabbed normally was the iphone 4. All the others had to be covered almost all round the phone, with a firm, very hard grip, both hands, to make them loose some signal, and even then, they performed better than the iphone4.

    This is not Apple hating. It's just reality. All iphones have crappy signal. Apple designed the phone to look nice, and forgot about functionality. The iphone 4 is even worse, but all previous generations have on average worse reception thanother phones.

    On the other hand, I don't like smartphones. I carry a small, shitty, Nokia 1208 cellphone. It's light, small, tough, and has a huge battery life. The battery is very easily replaced, and I carry with me a spare fully loaded battery. Many people that I work with have iphones. Most of the time, when I go down to just 1-2 bars, iphones are already completely out of signal. Example, at the elevator, every iphone user drops the call immediately, but I still keep enough signal to continue talking. That's what a cellphone is supposed to be. I don't feel the urge to carry with me a camera, a digital recorder, an audio/video player, a web browser, etc. with me at all times, but if I did, I would carry a separate device that would do all of those things, while still carrying my small, simple phone that always works.

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