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Cellphones Bug Iphone

Death Grip Tested On iPhone Competitors 373

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 RabbitWho ( 1805112 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:45PM (#32983686) Homepage Journal
    "On the other hand, while the signal strength dropped for HTC Droid Incredible, Motorola Droid X and Blackberry Bold, it wasn't as severe. "

    Please forgive me if It was a typo and I seem like I'm being a smart-ass.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:48PM (#32983710)

    Why is the standard response for anything anyone is caught doing is to reply that someone else is doing (insert catch word lie: more|also|worse|longer) than we have.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by Facegarden ( 967477 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:51PM (#32983746)

    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.

    But it's "Magical!"

    eughh... I cringe every time Ives or Jobs uses that word... They are so full of themselves its sick.

  • 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...

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • *shock* (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:54PM (#32983774)

    Attenuation happens. Film at 11...

  • by JustASlashDotGuy ( 905444 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:55PM (#32983780)

    No ever said that blocking the antenna doesn't affect signal strength. The problem with the iPhone is that the simple act of holding it normally can cause it to completely lose all signal. That is a problem. No other phones have this problem, that is why it has never come up before.

    The iPhone has a serious design flaw, there is no denying this. I just hope Apple with fix this flaw before too much longer.

  • by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:55PM (#32983784)

    Because, in competition, that's all there is. A phone will do better or worse in the marketplace based on how it compares to its possible substitutes, not how good it is in any absolute sense. If the iPhone were unique in losing signal depending on grip, it would be a serious mark against it and indicate that Apple was particularly inept. Since many other phones lose signal depending on grip, it's not a competitive disadvantage, and it doesn't mark Apple as inept.

    It's sort of like proving that a problem is NP-hard. You don't know that there isn't a nice efficient exact algorithm to solve it. You do know that a whole lot of intelligent people have put in a great deal of work over decades and not found one.

  • Re:What the!? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CTU ( 1844100 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:58PM (#32983816) Journal

    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 david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:59PM (#32983828)

    What's this "completely lose all signal"? I haven't seen any source for this. What I've seen is that there is a large drop in sensitivity if you hold the phone in a certain manner. If you have any reference to a complete loss of signal, please post it. If not, please stop claiming there is such a loss.

    I can lose connection out here, because AT&T has low signal strength out here. I can't where I live. That suggests to me a significant but not total drop in sensitivity.

  • 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.
  • by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:01PM (#32983848) Journal

    I thought the iPhone4 would only lose all signal if you're already in a low signal area?

    That is, for all these other phones that lost signal strength, if they were in a low signal area, they could very well lose all the signal as well?

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

    by sethmeisterg ( 603174 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:02PM (#32983866)
    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 fan, but I really don't appreciate attempts at manipulating results like that. NO ONE is going to squeeze their phone that hard. If they do, they deserve the signal loss. Oh, and that September 30th date? I bet they're actively working on an antenna redesign and that's when they'll be rolling it out in new iPhones delivered starting on that date -- it will be very interesting to dissect an iPhone made in October to see if this theory hold water.
  • by bonch ( 38532 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:03PM (#32983870)

    Yeah, the recent advertising from Apple has been unlike Apple. In the past, they usually acted too cool to describe their products that way and would use a simple tagline to let the product speak for itself (e.g., "Introducing Mac mini" or "240 songs. A million different ways." for the iPod shuffle).

    Calling it magical is really corny, and so are the video interviews of Apple employees talking about how amazing it is. I liked the faceless, too-cool-for-the-room advertising from the time before the iPad.

  • 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.

  • Death Grip?? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MTTECHYBOY ( 799778 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:05PM (#32983890)
    I think the Death Grip is referring to the relationship between Steve and the Fan-boys..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:11PM (#32983996)

    When you have to go to such inane and absurd attempts at doing damage control for a fundamentally defective design you might has well just give up trying to defend the piece of junk iPhone.

    No wonder Android is destroying the iPhone in sales. 160,000 new phones a day/ 50 million or so a year. And that is just the rate as of a few months ago. Android has been doubling its marketshare every quarter since last year.

  • Re:Enough already! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:20PM (#32984068)
    No one is forcing you to read these and you certainly aren't required to come in and post. The point here is Steve Jobs refusal to admit it's even a defect, to the point of making statements that sound clearly false in my opinion. All other phones do not have the same problem. If they did, providing a sleeve to insulated the antenna wouldn't help. You can short you the antenna easily and drop calls. I don't know any other phone that does that, but I heard Jobs say the other day that it was an industry wide problem. I don't know if he's an idiot or he's trying to deliberately deceive people, but this is seriously a new low. Just admit the defect and go on and there will be a lot fewer stories.
  • by E IS mC(Square) ( 721736 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:23PM (#32984106) Journal
    Since this article clearly shows others phone do not drop signals like the way iphone does, it does make apple inept, no matter how you want to spin it. Steve Jobs is a megalomaniac who wont accept the fact that his device was crap, and that his company lied showing more bars then what was real. But because of fanbois like you, he thrives.
  • by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:26PM (#32984144)

    Why is the standard response for anything anyone is caught doing is to reply that someone else is doing (insert catch word lie: more|also|worse|longer) than we have.

    Imagine you've work with 10 people in one room for the last 3 years. At some point you say or do something that offends somebody else. From then on these people you work with take every little quirk you have and blow it out of proportion and endlessly crack jokes about it. Maybe one day somebody thinks you left the bathroom without washing your hands. Another day one of your neighbors is evicted and through some questionable rationale that was your evil doing, too. Every two weeks or so, a new thing comes up to heckle you about but nothing really sticks. One day, fatefully, you drop a pen. You bend over to pick it up and *Frrpbbtbt*, everybody hears you fart. Then, for the next 22 days, you sit there and listen to fart jokes and comments about how much you stink, how brown your undies are, and how everybody in the world pinches their nose when they around you.

    Let's not sit here and pretend like the first words out of your mouth wouldn't be: "Yeah, right, like none of you ever fart."

  • Re:Both hands?? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Kozz ( 7764 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:28PM (#32984172)

    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 Serious Callers Only ( 1022605 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:33PM (#32984240)

    They are really annoyed.

    Why haven't they taken the device back for a refund? I know if I purchased a phone that didn't work properly I'd just take it back. This is the best way to teach Apple a lesson about quality control, if they are selling defective phones/phones which don't work with AT&T/phones you don't like/phones you can't hold normally - they should pay for it with a huge return rate. Take your pick of the list of purported reasons, whatever it is, if it's serious enough to lead to lots of dropped calls, why bother with the phone?

    Luckily, I bought one of the magical iPhone 4s which isn't affected by any problem with dropped calls (0 over the last month), so I won't be returning mine.

  • by cheater512 ( 783349 ) <nick@nickstallman.net> on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:44PM (#32984360) Homepage

    Yeah but with AT&T, the entire US continent is a low signal area.

  • by unix1 ( 1667411 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:48PM (#32984378)

    The only reason this is being discussed is Apple pointed out the external antenna.

    Yes, but you didn't go all the way. It is being discussed because the design of the external antenna on iPhone4 is such where connecting the miniscule seam on the lower left side with a conductive material (e.g. your hand, keys, etc.) causes dramatic drop in the signal. Touch of a finger, while holding your phone in a perfectly normal way, can cause this.

    This is not to be confused with the "death grip" shown in these videos where they are attempting to cover phones' internal antennas with both hands. In fact it's purely coincidental that the "death grip" that may or may not cover the internal antennas (depending on its location) is also connecting the 2 antennas on the iPhone4 with the bottom of your palm.

    There is no single "death grip" issue shared between iPhone4 and other phones - this is just what PR Apple used to drag others into the discussion. There are 2 distinct problems:

    1. cover internal antenna(s) to "lose" signal
    2. touch iPhone in a lower left side to "lose" signal

    Some people are saying (2) is way more common and annoying and some are saying it should never have been designed that way. That's why it's being discussed.

    That's not to say that it hasn't been discussed enough already. But Apple dragging others into it prolonged it, IMO.

  • by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:50PM (#32984400)

    The problem with your analogy, is that farting is natural, unharmful, and cannot be helped.

    Lying, cheating, and treating people like shit?
    Even if you want to claim it's natural in a competitive, it sure as fuck is harmful and it sure as fuck can be stopped.

  • Re:People adapt (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dyingtolive ( 1393037 ) <`brad.arnett' `at' `notforhire.org'> on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @07:01PM (#32984496)
    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 DJRumpy ( 1345787 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @07:10PM (#32984572)

    You mean like these videos?

    Death grip on Droid X, EVO, Droid Incredible, Nexus One, Galaxy 1, G1, etc.

    * Droid X: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/yt-kFc..._with_droid_x/ [metacafe.com]

    * Samsung I9000 Galaxy S: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LROTHrTR92k [youtube.com]

    * HTC Evo Signal Attenuation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pj2YBYTbag [youtube.com]

    * Samsung Galaxy 1:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=

    * Samsung Galaxy 2:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPCQdYtPihg

    * Droid Incredible: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaDE941PzQk [youtube.com]

    * Droid Incredible (With Network Extender in Room): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpEQH...eature=related [youtube.com]

    * Nexus One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEIA_lMwqJA [youtube.com]

    * Nexus One vs. iPhone (start at 1:29): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvMoV4_C4aA [youtube.com]

    * Nexus One: http://posterous.com/getfile/files.p...n_-_iPhone.m4v [posterous.com]

    * Nexus One (after Google's update to correct): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2g5J4qPp54 [youtube.com]

    * Nexus One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deCkjeHYT-g [youtube.com]

    * Android G1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CDaxhjUs9M [youtube.com]

    * "Major signal degradation when Nexus One is picked up" (N1 Thread on On this Problem): http://www.google.com/support/forum/...9184c33e&hl=en [google.com]

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Re:Both hands?? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Zizagoo ( 1848812 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @07:29PM (#32984722)
    Except those manuals are referring to blocking the phones antenna. As opposed to the iphone 4 g-spot, which depending on body chemistry touching it can bridge the antenna stopping it from working all together. i4 suffers from blocking as well, but is mostly neutralised by having a stronger signal in the first place due to being external.
  • by Mike Buddha ( 10734 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @07:35PM (#32984788)

    Yeah, but then imagine that you really did shit your britches. Then the first words out of your mouth would be "You're wearing your underwear wrong." Then after three weeks you came out with a bogus video showing how everyone else in the office could shit their britches if they really really squeezed hard in a very unnatural fashion. Then you'd say, "See, everyone shits their britches. This is poopy-britches-gate, but I'll give everyone who asks for it a clothespin, so they don't have to smell the poop that I've been sitting in, and will continue to sit in indefinately, all the while completely denying any deviation from the norm. The clothes pins will be distributed until November, when I'll re-assess whether or not you deserve a clothes pin to spare you from my stinky stinky offal."

  • 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 smolix ( 133533 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @07:43PM (#32984856) Homepage

    Besides a) attenuation due to hand holding and b) change of the antenna characteristics due to bridging there's a third problem which really exacerbates the first two: the antenna of the iPhone 4G is highly directional. In other words, it matters a LOT which way you point the phone. Sometimes even small changes around it can make a big difference in terms of whether you get data or not.

    You can test this out (assuming you've got access to an iPhone 4G) by running a speed test application (there are plenty in the App Store) while holding / pointing the phone in different ways. I can trigger signal loss even without holding the phone. No bumper whatsoever is going to fix that problem and this is plain and simple bad antenna design. I lose a lot more data when streaming radio on the 4G than what the 3G did even though the bandwidth is (potentially) much higher.

  • by DJRumpy ( 1345787 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @07:44PM (#32984860)

    Given that many of the phones in the links above drop upwards of 30 dBm, I'd have to say your full of shit, as 30 dBm in a mediocre signal area is certainly enough to cause a phone to drop a call, regardless of carrier, make, or model. If you started with -80 dBm, which is decently strong, you could drop to -110 and drop easily. These are not typical gorilla grips either, but just people holding the phone in their hand.

    It happens on all phones, and to suddenly claim only Apple branded signal loss is 'evil' is a bit silly.

  • by Jezza ( 39441 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @09:42PM (#32985664)

    I've described it as a conjuring trick (the iPad) it's almost like the computer disappeared just leaving the content. Of course it didn't, and sure we know how it works (so the Arthur C Clarke "magic" doesn't apply). But it is deeply cool. I agree some of the effects really "sell" the experience and scrolling is high on that list.

    I find the iPad very useful, and I use it like a giant PDA (weirdly I seldom listen to music on it, or watch films - I do play games on it). I tend to bounce between the email and the calendar most of the time (and Safari of course). It has been very useful (mine was a gift - it has 3G, I'm not sure it would be so useful without that). YMMV

  • by GNUALMAFUERTE ( 697061 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .etreufamla.> 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.

  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @10:44PM (#32986078)

    God I wish I had teachers like you in school. I might have actually stayed in the harder sciences.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @10:58PM (#32986150)

    Has anyone else noticed the people frothing at the mouth in comments on Apple stories are almost all high user IDs?

    I'm just saying...

  • by tftp ( 111690 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @11:19PM (#32986268) Homepage

    The thing is, the larger surface area of the external metal antenna does mean the iPhone gets really much better reception - both voice and data.

    Not exactly. Diameter of the element affects the bandwidth of the antenna (the range of frequencies where you can tolerate the SWR of the antenna.) The "surface area" is important only in dishes.

    The iPhone 4 may or may not be more sensitive than other phones, but improvements in sensitivity usually come from many parts of the device, not just the antenna.

    For all the whining about this look for competitors to start introducing external antenna soon.

    That is very unlikely because there is no electrical benefit of having an external antenna. The case is transparent to radio waves. An ideal design places the antenna inside the case, but at some distance from other conductive surfaces (primarily the PCB.) Apple already conceded defeat and reverted to the "internal" antenna by using a plastic bumper; essentially Apple sells a kit, and the final assembly is done by the customer :-) That's certainly a first in the cell phone business!

  • by XDirtypunkX ( 1290358 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @12:11AM (#32986502)

    He's lied about being sterile to try and get out of paternity and he ripped the Woz off a few grand back by lying even before they started Apple. So he is most definitely a liar and a douche, but the question is, is he lying this time?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 22, 2010 @12:24AM (#32986542)

    Seriously, only 4 Informative? More like "Oh my God, someone knows this shit" Informative.

    This is basicaly major issue with iPhone 4. Attenuation is nothing unusual, but having external antenna right next to another metal (1mm gap) is the problem. In this case that another metal is actually another antenna (WiFi and Bluetooth?) that adds to problem.

  • by Moofie ( 22272 ) <{lee} {at} {ringofsaturn.com}> on Thursday July 22, 2010 @12:28AM (#32986562) Homepage

    No, what Jobs said is, "This is the state of the art of modern radio technology. Ya canna change the laws of physics, Captain."

    Maybe the iPhone is slightly more susceptible than other designs to this measurable signal attenuation. What's the real-world impact? Anecdotally, it seems pretty trivial.

    So what's the problem? Don't like it? Don't buy it.

  • by nathanh ( 1214 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:48AM (#32987152) Homepage

    Actually the guy doesn't know shit. You know how when you got to junior high you discovered they'd taught you simplified BS versions of science and history when you were younger? Then when you get to senior high you discover the stuff you got taught in junior high was also simplified BS? Then when you get to university you discover even senior high was teaching you simplified BS? I stopped there, but I bet if I'd kept studying I would discover I was taught simplified BS in university as well.

    Well this guy is spouting the junior high BS version of how radios work. It's wrong. He's wrong. But he's an arrogant prick, which often passes for authority on the Internet. Take this nonsense:

    " 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."

    Total rubbish. Not even close to reality. On old-school radios the dial changed the reactance of a resonant circuit which is then fed to a detector. The antenna continues to "receive" all the same RF frequencies. Modern radios don't even have dials (or more to the point, any dial that does exist is not a direct reactance control). None of this has any relevance to mobile phone radios and antennas.

    This is the problem with the iPhone 4 "antenna gate" story. A bunch of dolts start spouting off crackpot theories, with no real knowledge or understanding of how radios work, or a simplified understanding based on AM and VHF radios, and a huge echo chamber then repeats the nonsense.

    I'm quite content to say "I don't fucking know" if the iPhone 4 antenna design is good or bad. I know just enough to know that I know next to nothing at all about mobile phone radios. But given the choice between Apple's engineers, who have actual doctorates in mobile phone radio theory, and some ignorant Slashdot schmuck's BS explanation of radios... well you figure it out.

  • by Steve Max ( 1235710 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @09:37AM (#32989114) Journal

    In every phone, it's not "touch this spot and your call is gone", it's "cover the antenna and the signal goes down". Remember that water absorbs microwaves, so your hand (~60% water) will attenuate the signal. Even with the iPhone 4, if you don't touch the exact spot but cover all of the GSM/HSPA antenna, your signal will drop. In my old Nokia E62, I can get a ~15 dBm drop if I cover the whole top of the phone with my hand. Notice that most (non-touchscreen) phones have their antennas on the top because of this: you usually don't hold your phone there, so you won't attenuate the signal. Touchscreen phones are a different beast, because they're made to be used both in portrait and landscape modes; in landscape, you do touch the "top" of the phone. That means you need either a bigger antenna, or two antennas (like the Droid X). A bigger antenna on the bottom is used sometimes, because that's not where you usually hold the phone when in landscape mode. Problems with signal attenuation are very common (and more so with touch phones), but that's not the issue with the iPhone 4.

    The issue with the iPhone 4 is that you can introduce a very high level of noise by bridging two separate antennas by touching the phone in a place where you would usually touch it. External antennas very close together are the problem. The noise added is what makes you drop calls, not the signal attenuation (you get so much noise that the phone can't find the signal). No other phones have this problem. Antenna design is one area where there are thousands of very smart people trying to get even the smallest improvements. You'd think someone would have thought about putting the antenna outside the phone on the past 10 years, if it was viable. Apple tried (and with some improvements, it could even become viable some day), and now they realize why nobody did it before.

    Apple is trying to make their issue (the basic antenna design) look like the common issue (water absorbs microwaves). There's nothing you can do about signal attenuation, except keeping the antenna as far away from your hand as possible; but Apple could have designed the phone differently, and reduce the possibility to bridge the two antennas. The iPhone 4 problem is nothing like the problems other phones show, despite showing the same symptoms (lower call quality, possibility to drop calls, etc).

  • by nathanh ( 1214 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @11:46AM (#32990928) Homepage

    So, do modern radios tune differently, or are you making a false analogy here? Is the antenna length critical for phones but not conventional radios?

    It's not that critical. The antenna actually receives a fairly wide band of frequencies. Old radios use a resonant circuit to "vibrate" with the desired frequency. You adjust the resonance with a variable inductor (like you saw) or a variable capacitor (plates of metal that interleaved without touching). The antenna length isn't critical; it just has to be roughly right.

    Modern radios use a technique called heterodyning. There's a local oscillator and some tricky electronics that combines the RF and the oscillator and then extracts the desired signal. It's more accurate and stable. The antenna length again is not critical. The maths behind a modern radio is graspable by anybody who can do basic trig.

    Mobile phone radios are far more complicated. The maths is well beyond most people (some of it is still beyond me, and I have multiple university degrees, one of them in actual engineering). That's why I'm suspicious of anybody who claims to "know" the "fault" behind the iPhone 4 antenna. I'm especially suspicious of anybody who tries to explain that fault using high-school radio theory (e.g. they start talking about capacitance, inductance, or "shorting" an antenna). It's not that simple. Mobile phone radios have to cope with a lot of crap in the RF, and they do some very incredible things, so any explanation centred around a person's experience with AM or FM radio is borderline irrelevant.

    tl;dr He is making a false analogy.

At work, the authority of a person is inversely proportional to the number of pens that person is carrying.