Posts Tagged ‘Reception’

iPhone 4 Reception Issues, Some Perspectives…

So we’re doing what we can do: we’ve collected reports from every member of the Engadget staff who’s using the phone, as well as reached out to a variety of tech industry colleagues for their experiences. As you’ll see, it seems like most of our peers seem to be doing perfectly fine with their iPhone 4s, but the people who are having problems are having maddening issues in an inconsistent way. We’d say it all comes down to the network…

A great read. At the end of the day “lab tests” of varying degrees of accuracy, and technical proficiency are only going to tell us one side of the story. Just as web videos with geeks squeezing iPhone 4s and proclaiming that the world has ended will only give us another very skewed view on reality.

For my part I’ve never had an iPhone that is so damn solid at maintaing calls, and data connections.

Posted: July 14th, 2010
Categories: Apple, iphone
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iFixit : Apple Silently Fixing Antenna Issue?

Reports started surfacing today that Apple may have quietly revised the iPhone 4 to add a nonconductive coating to the metal band on the sides of the phone. This would fix the sudden signal drop from electrically bridging the antennas by touching the band in the bottom-left corner with your hand.

We got an independent report of a similarly updated phone from a member of our community, so we decided to investigate. We exchanged one of our units (that had been experiencing unrelated problems with its Bluetooth connection) to see Apple has changed the manufacturing process since their initial production run.

The serial number on the unit tells you the manufacture date; our original phone was manufactured in mid-June (week 25). The replacement unit we got was made in early-July (week 27), apparently too soon for a manufacturing change.

The serial number also identifies which factory it was made in. (We don’t have a mapping of numbers to physical factories, but we can tell if two phones came from the same plant.) Apple has always done this, and we’ve occasionally had fun comparing Macs to see if they were birthed in the same place. A fun aside: I once had a Mac made in Apple’s Elk Grove, California factory. This information may be useful if Apple is rolling the production change out to their factories one at a time.

The iPhone 4 serial number is easy to decode! It’s in this format:

aabccdddeef
aa = Factory and Machine ID
b = Year
cc = Production Week
ddd = Unique Identifier
ee = Colour
f = size

Our serial numbers:
85025xxxA4S (16GB unit we took apart)
86025xxxA4T (32GB test unit)
86027xxxA4T (32GB replacement)

Apple has so many iPhones out in the field that it’s very hard to get a feel for what’s going on. They may have just switched to their new process at one of their factories, or they may be rolling it out slowly, or this may be an internet myth. The only way to find out is to check a number of units that have just shipped from the factory.

Or perhaps this is just a symptom of manufacturing tolerances / mistakes made with a rushed roll out and overstretched manufacturing lines? My iPhone 4 serial number is the same as iFixits’ week 25 models, and I do not have this issue.

We need your help! If you got an iPhone in the last few days, check the serial number. If the production week is bigger than 27, try checking the impedance of the metal frame with a multimeter. If you hold the leads about an inch apart, the resistance should be less than one ohm. If it’s substantially higher, you may have a unit with the new coating.

My original iPhone 4 exhibits a resistance significantly higher than one ohm.

Posted: July 14th, 2010
Categories: Apple, iphone
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Analysts : iPhone Problem Won’t Hurt Apple..

“To date, we have not seen any overwhelming evidence of iPhone 4 units being returned,” Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes wrote.

Is this perhaps because the issue is not as widespread as some would have us believe?

Or because loyal Apple users are still holding on for a fix?

As loyal as hardcore Apple Mac users are, I don’t see the new breed of iPhone / iPod and iPad customers being that averse to returning a device if it doesn’t work for them…

And Kaufman Bros. analysts said they hadn’t seen any change in supply-chain plans either. Of course, any hit to sales because of the Consumer Reports verdict would not have been felt yet.

“Ultimately we believe this PR black eye takes away some near-term upside” for the iPhone, “but it does not change the long-term trajectory” of the device, wrote PiperJaffray’s Gene Munster.

An actual recall at this point is unlikely, analysts said. Despite recall concerns that apparently are driving Apple’s stock down on Tuesday, the probability of Apple taking that step for a problem that doesn’t affect all consumers and doesn’t pose a danger is “very low,” wrote Citi analyst Richard Gardner.

Mr. Munster agrees, calling a recall “highly unlikely.”

I tend to agree with them.

Posted: July 14th, 2010
Categories: Analysis, Apple, iphone
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On Apple Deleting iPhone 4 Reception Issue Threads

The internet is abuzz with news that Apple has deleted discussion threads involving the Consumer Reports tests concerning iPhone 4 antenna issues.

The internet buzz concerning the thread removals is important for one reason, however — it shows how sensitive customers are to the antenna issue. Never mind that Consumer Reports said they couldn’t recommend iPhone 4 in one sentence then named it the best smartphone on the planet in another. Never mind we still don’t know how many people have the problem. Never mind that other phones have the same problem albeit to lesser degrees. Never mind that Apple’s historic misrepresentation of signal strength might be exacerbating the issue, as could AT&T’s network. Never mind anything else.

Indeed.

The antenna issue has become a matter of public perception now and that’s a huge problem for Apple. The mainstream media has their teeth in it now. They smell blood. The open letter and its contents clearly weren’t enough this time. As brilliant as they are in marketing, handling customer-facing problems is their kryptonite. MobileMe’s initial launch might have been the goofy red kind of kryptonite. They finally acted, they finally fixed it. This might be the green kind of kryptonite. The kind that hurts.

Word.

Posted: July 13th, 2010
Categories: Apple, iphone
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Bob Egan on Consumer Reports iPhone Testing…

Consumer reports “RF” engineers should know better than to think they can run an engineering grade test for an issue like this in a shielded room. And certainly not one with people in it.

To even reasonably run a scientific test, the iPhone should have been sitting on a non-metallic pedestal inside an anechoic chamber. The base station simulator should have been also sitting outside the chamber and had a calibrated antenna plumbed to it from inside the chamber.

I have not seen CR’s claim directly that the finger effect reduces the iPhones sensitivity by 20db as reported elsewhere, but unless CR connected to a functional point inside the iPhone that number is fantasy. Even the way they seem to have tested the change – by varying the base station simulator levels – seems to assume the iPhone receiver and/or transmitter operate in a linear fashion (the same way) across all signal strengths – bad assumption.

Bottom line. From what I can see in the reports, Consumer Reports replicated the same uncontrolled, unscientific experiments that many of the blogging sites have done.

That is certainly my impression of their testing too. AnandTech’s investigation was far more thorough, and concluded that whilst this is an issue, it’s really not a major one, and in fact the iPhone 4 performs better all around than most other mobile phones, including previous iPhone models.

Unfortunately a lot of people put a lot of store in what Consumer Reports have to say.

I’m not saying that Apple has no h/w problem and they surely have a s/w issue. But I’m still wondering that if the software signal algorithm was not AFU’d in the first place how many, if anyone would talking about this “problem”

I also don’t know what part of this problem is Apple’s and what part is related to the AT&T network.

I imported several iPhone 4s into Thailand. None of the units I imported have exhibited this problem on our (supposedly) crappy 3G networks here, during rainy season! Anecdotally I have been able to relax in my condo and take and make calls in a way I never could before with any previous iPhone model.

I was also in the UK this weekend just gone, both in and out of airplanes, and at a race track and had zero issues using my iPhone 4…

And we don’t know how the observed effect is, or is not, similar to other devices.

We also don’t know if placing a finger on the antenna bridge is detuning the antenna or detuning the receiver itself.

And neither does Consumer Reports.

Oh. Mr Job’s, right now, silence is not golden. I’m quite sure Apple has these answers by now… If not, send me a few more iPhones ( i bought 3). I’ll find a chamber and get you some answers in a day.

Ps. Blogged from my Iphone4 in a rest area on my way home from work, cause I just couldn’t help myself..

Apple could still make this all go away with a few free Bumpers for existing customers. But perhaps they don’t see why they should. Unfortunately that stubbornness will hurt them in the end, regardless of whether it is right or wrong.

Posted: July 13th, 2010
Categories: Analysis, Apple, iphone
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Consumer Reports “Cannot Recommend” iPhone 4

When your finger or hand touches a spot on the phone’s lower left side—an easy thing, especially for lefties—the signal can significantly degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if you’re in an area with a weak signal. Due to this problem, we can’t recommend the iPhone 4.

The signal problem is the reason that we did not cite the iPhone 4 as a “recommended” model, even though its score in our other tests placed it atop the latest Ratings of smart phones that were released today.

Apple need to react to this, swallow their pride, and hand out Bumpers…

The iPhone scored high, in part because it sports the sharpest display and best video camera we’ve seen on any phone, and even outshines its high-scoring predecessors with improved battery life and such new features as a front-facing camera for video chats and a built-in gyroscope that turns the phone into a super-responsive game controller. But Apple needs to come up with a permanent—and free—fix for the antenna problem before we can recommend the iPhone 4.

If the public perception, rightly or wrongly, is that the iPhone 4 is no good at making calls then Apple have a problem. Not to mention that this kind of report is like free money to class action lawsuit lawyers and their shills.

Posted: July 12th, 2010
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Clearest Illustration of iPhone 4 Issue Yet…

This is quite damning.
Thankfully I cannot get my iPhone 4 to replicate this.
But Apple do seem to have widely varying tolerances on their manufacture of these devices.
Posted: July 3rd, 2010
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Letter from Apple Regarding iPhone 4

To start with, gripping almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by 1 or more bars. This is true of iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, as well as many Droid, Nokia and RIM phones. But some users have reported that iPhone 4 can drop 4 or 5 bars when tightly held in a way which covers the black strip in the lower left corner of the metal band. This is a far bigger drop than normal, and as a result some have accused the iPhone 4 of having a faulty antenna design.

At the same time, we continue to read articles and receive hundreds of emails from users saying that iPhone 4 reception is better than the iPhone 3GS. They are delighted. This matches our own experience and testing.

My findings, and the findings of people I respect all back up Apple’s assertions. But this still does not address the issue of the small number of iPhone 4s that do actually drop their 3G signals completely then touched on their Stainless Steel frame.

What can explain all of this?

I am actually on Apple’s side here. I think Apple are reacting to genuine confusion caused by the signal bar meter on all mobile phones. Signal bars on cell phones are all completely inaccurate and vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. They do not in any way give a true indication of the signal you are getting, or your ability to use the network to make a call – which may be overloaded.

But this letter is a little Pythonesque from here on in…

We have discovered the cause of this dramatic drop in bars, and it is both simple and surprising.

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.

My bet is that this won’t play well with Apple haters, and headline grabbers!

Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, 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.

To fix this, we are adopting AT&T’s recently recommended formula for calculating how many bars to display for a given signal strength. The real signal strength remains the same, but the iPhone’s bars will report it far more accurately, providing users a much better indication of the reception they will get in a given area.

Sigh. People are going to rip this Press Release to pieces…

We are also making bars 1, 2 and 3 a bit taller so they will be easier to see.

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.

I can see the editorials in my mind’s eye right now.

“Apple can’t fix the iPhone 4 so they re-calibrate their entire eco-system!”

We have gone back to our labs and retested everything, and the results are the same— the iPhone 4’s wireless performance is the best we have ever shipped. For the vast majority of users who have not been troubled by this issue, this software update will only make your bars more accurate. For those who have had concerns, we apologize for any anxiety we may have caused.

As a reminder, if you are not fully satisfied, you can return your undamaged iPhone to any Apple Retail Store or the online Apple Store within 30 days of purchase for a full refund.

Exactly. You don’t need to sue. You don’t need to make videos.

Just take your iPhone 4 back, and go buy an Android. And the best of luck with that…

We hope you love the iPhone 4 as much as we do.

And I was right about the chances of a recall too, just for the record.

Posted: July 2nd, 2010
Categories: Apple, News, iphone
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Replacement iPhone 4 Does Not Have Signal Issue

A call from a friend of mine in the US who has had an iPhone 4 with signal issues, has reenforced my opinion that this is a manufacturing tolerance issue.

My friend could get signal strength on his new iPhone 4 to drop out when doing the “iPhone 4 Death Grip”, but now, using a replacement iPhone 4 in the same geographical location, with the same provider, the issue is gone completely.

I know 20 people personally with iPhone 4s now. 1 of them has had this issue.

Interesting interview with Ive on the iPhone 4, and there’s that word tolerance again…

“So it’s assembled first, the band, and then the final machining and grinding are performed, so the tolerances are extraordinary…. Whatever people’s feelings are about the actual design of the product is of course subjective. But objectively I can say that the manufacturing tolerances are phenomenal.”

The goals have been well-met, and on the subject of phenomenal tolerances, when you see the phone be sure to check out the insanely thin reveal around the hatch for the Micro SIM card on the side; I’ve never seen that kind of tolerance on something I could actually afford to buy. Upon seeing it my first thought was I will never pop that open, because I’m convinced it will never close again. “I assure you, it will,” Ive laughs.

I wonder if any of this will come back to bite Apple. Not because their design is anything other than phenomenal. But perhaps because their factories are not quite achieving the standards that these tolerances require.

Posted: July 1st, 2010
Categories: Apple, News, Opinion, iphone
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AnandTech : iPhone 4 Thoroughly Reviewed…

Excellent, in depth review from AnandTech.

What caught my attention was the analysis on the iPhone 4 “Reception Issues”…

Holding the iPhone 4 without a case, in your left hand, crossing the black strip can result in a worst case drop of 24 dBm in signal. [...] The fact of the matter is that either the most sensitive region of the antenna should have an insulative coating, or everyone should use a case. For a company that uses style heavily as a selling point, the latter isn’t an option. And the former would require an unprecedented admission of fault on Apple’s part.

Overall though, as I have found also, the iPhone 4 is a great improvement over previous iPhone models when it comes to day to day data and voice signal integrity…

iPhone 4 performs much better than the 3GS in situations where signal is very low, at -113 dBm (1 bar). Previously, dropping this low all but guaranteed that calls would drop, fail to be placed, and data would no longer be transacted at all. I can honestly say that I’ve never held onto so many calls and data simultaneously on 1 bar at -113 dBm as I have with the iPhone 4, so it’s readily apparent that the new baseband hardware is much more sensitive compared to what was in the 3GS. The difference is that reception is massively better on the iPhone 4 in actual use.

The benchmarking is interesting also…

Given Apple’s unwillingness to talk about the architecture here I think the safest bet is that we’re looking at an 800MHz ARM Cortex A8 core in the iPhone 4 and a 1GHz core in the iPad.

Certainly fits with my benchmarking estimates so far.

At times the 3GS is actually slightly faster than the iPhone 4 in some benchmarks. My theory here would be similar to AnandTech’s, although they express it slightly differently..

Surprisingly enough there’s no difference between the 3GS and the 4 here, perhaps my test is less CPU bound than I thought.

That is in reference to a web page loading and renderring time.

My belief is that we are going to find with four times the pixels to push on the iPhone 4, over the 3GS. And with no GPU upgrade over its sibling, we are in-fact going to become more and more GPU bound on the iPhone 4.

Posted: July 1st, 2010
Categories: Apple, iphone
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