First hand experience of antenna problem

  • Posted: 13 July 2010 02:35 PM

    So I got my iPhone 4 a few days ago and been using a GSM signal test app and I can say the antenna problem is scarily real. Touch the black bar and signal drops 30 dBm, calls drop and data cuts out, completely unusable as a phone, on WiFi its ok. My guess is this went undiscovered by Apple because all of their testing off campus was done in the stealth cases we saw on the phone that was stolen. There is a possibility the cost of the recall can be minimized with just a replacement antenna, e.g. a larger plastic gap so it isn’t possible to cross the metal with a finger or a plastic coating on the metal. Anyway now I’ve seen the problem in person I think a recall is inevitable, Apple won’t want to risk this kind of damage to their reputation, the question is how much is this going to hurt the stock price?

         
  • Posted: 13 July 2010 02:54 PM #1

    When I bridge the black bar with my finger and run Speedtest, my download speeds improve (although I do see the bars drop).

         
  • Posted: 13 July 2010 03:02 PM #2

    The antenna “issue” is repeatable, and all the hype over it is real, but it the long run it won’t matter. Apple is still selling every iPhone they can make and buyers aren’t rushing back to the stores to return them.

    A wise man once said “Don’t hold it that way.” It’s a simple fix, and that is all there is to it.

    There are a lot of consumer products that recommend the proper way to hold them. For example:

    Knives
    Handguns
    Toothbrushes
    Power tools
    Forks
    Chainsaws
    Pencils

    Most people, if you explain the proper use of a product, “get it” and adjust accordingly.

    So, how long can the hype last? Probably until next Tuesday.

         
  • Posted: 13 July 2010 03:09 PM #3

    There won’t be a recall because there is no need since it’s not a safety issue, and most don’t have the issue due to how they hold it or they use a case. Apple will likely continue to allow returns at no cost for unsatisfied users.

    However, I would be interested to know what the company line is from retail staff when asked about it. Anyone venturing to a store soon and can check that out?

         
  • Posted: 13 July 2010 03:51 PM #4

    Johnny - 13 July 2010 06:09 PM

    There won’t be a recall because there is no need since it’s not a safety issue, and most don’t have the issue due to how they hold it or they use a case. Apple will likely continue to allow returns at no cost for unsatisfied users.

    However, I would be interested to know what the company line is from retail staff when asked about it. Anyone venturing to a store soon and can check that out?

    When I picked up by phone last week I asked if anyone had been in with complaints. Only one buyer had come in worried about it so far. But only because he had read about it and saw his bars drop when he held the phone in the “death grip.” but he never dropped calls, the salesperson said, and he never had a problem with his data not working.

         
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    Posted: 13 July 2010 08:59 PM #5

    One way to reduce the number of complaints would be to do away with the “bars display” completely. In my opinion, this indicator means nothing. You have a signal or you don’t. This display only gives people something to complain about, not helped by the AT&T commercial of “more bars in more places”. Can I make a call, or can’t I. I think that it’s time to think different. No more bars.

    :apple:

         
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    Posted: 13 July 2010 09:43 PM #6

    MacCube - 13 July 2010 11:59 PM

    One way to reduce the number of complaints would be to do away with the “bars display” completely. In my opinion, this indicator means nothing. You have a signal or you don’t. This display only gives people something to complain about, not helped by the AT&T commercial of “more bars in more places”. Can I make a call, or can’t I. I think that it’s time to think different. No more bars.

    :apple:


    Agreed, the phone already tells you when you do not have service. What more do you need?

    Signature

    Adversity does not just build character, it reveals it.

         
  • Posted: 14 July 2010 02:02 AM #7

    zebrum - 13 July 2010 05:35 PM

    So I got my iPhone 4 a few days ago and been using a GSM signal test app

    What’s the name of the GSM signal test app? I want to download it from the App Store and try it out myself.

    There is a possibility the cost of the recall can be minimized

    What recall?

         
  • Posted: 14 July 2010 10:13 AM #8

    deasys - 14 July 2010 05:02 AM
    zebrum - 13 July 2010 05:35 PM

    So I got my iPhone 4 a few days ago and been using a GSM signal test app

    What’s the name of the GSM signal test app? I want to download it from the App Store and try it out myself.

    There is a possibility the cost of the recall can be minimized

    What recall?

    There are two I know of. Most people use SpeedTest, which keeps a history of your past tests. There is also an FCC created app called FCC Test, which also keeps a running history. But the big advantage of the SpeedTest app is you can choose to test 3G, Edge, or Wi-Fi. The FCC app only tests 3G. Engadget has been using a private app for their tests, and throughout their net of “reporters” spread across the country, has found that where you live and how strong your cell signal (and the time of day) really make a big difference in how dramatically this issue will affect your phone.

    Meanwhile something occurred to me last night. Conspiracy nuts are suggesting that Apple removed access to the Field Test (via an unique phone dialing sequence) from the iP4 to hide this reception problem. But the test is the responsibility of ATT?it’s their test after all, aimed at their technicians. Since the iP4 is using a faster packet delivery for 3G (I forget the correct acronym), it’s possible that there is a new unique ATT number that one can dial?the previous 3G number doesn’t work with this phone. Unfortunately that new number hasn’t leaked out into the universe yet.

    edit: added link

    [ Edited: 14 July 2010 10:20 AM by willrob ]      
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    Posted: 14 July 2010 10:55 AM #9

    willrob - 14 July 2010 01:13 PM
    deasys - 14 July 2010 05:02 AM
    zebrum - 13 July 2010 05:35 PM

    So I got my iPhone 4 a few days ago and been using a GSM signal test app

    What’s the name of the GSM signal test app? I want to download it from the App Store and try it out myself.

    There is a possibility the cost of the recall can be minimized

    What recall?

    There are two I know of. Most people use SpeedTest, which keeps a history of your past tests. There is also an FCC created app called FCC Test, which also keeps a running history. But the big advantage of the SpeedTest app is you can choose to test 3G, Edge, or Wi-Fi. The FCC app only tests 3G. Engadget has been using a private app for their tests, and throughout their net of “reporters” spread across the country, has found that where you live and how strong your cell signal (and the time of day) really make a big difference in how dramatically this issue will affect your phone.

    Meanwhile something occurred to me last night. Conspiracy nuts are suggesting that Apple removed access to the Field Test (via an unique phone dialing sequence) from the iP4 to hide this reception problem. But the test is the responsibility of ATT?it’s their test after all, aimed at their technicians. Since the iP4 is using a faster packet delivery for 3G (I forget the correct acronym), it’s possible that there is a new unique ATT number that one can dial?the previous 3G number doesn’t work with this phone. Unfortunately that new number hasn’t leaked out into the universe yet.

    edit: added link

    The private App was probably the one written by Erica Sudan as show here it provides a visual indicator of dB probably need a developer certificate to upload to your device but she might provide the source if you email her.  As far as faster packets the HSDPA uses a shorter time slot 2ms vs the old 3G Rel 99 WCDMA.  The data can be modulated with 16QAM which provides the highest data rates or using the old QPSK.  Here is a nice but technical overview of HSDPA.  Apple’s Infineon chipset supports Rel 6 with the enhance HSUPA providing much better upload speeds

    If you really want to punish yourself with all the technical details here is a decent overview of whats coming in hspa+ of course only an engineer would care. :wink:

         
  • Posted: 14 July 2010 11:26 AM #10

    I used my own app.

    Apple have coated the steel and released a hardware revision, the question is now will they do an official recall and hurt the stock price or keep it quiet and only offer it to people who return their phone.

         
  • Posted: 14 July 2010 11:34 AM #11

    Doesn’t a dollop of clear finger nail polish over the spacer accomplish the same thing? I mean really. Offer a free “coat” job and be done with this already.

         
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    Posted: 14 July 2010 01:23 PM #12

    I was told that the antenna is AC current, not DC (because it’s picking up an alternating wave) so the problem isn’t just shorting it out by making a conducting passage between the two pieces of metal but rather it’s that your finger acts as a capacitor and causes interference that way.  This would require a thicker insulator, like a case.  Can anyone verify or refute that position?  (It was a computer engineer friend who says he read it somewhere on the internet.)

    This would mean a dollop of nail polish wouldn’t be thick enough to help.  That was my first idea too.  But I’m using a case anyway to protect my phone from drops, so I don’t have any problems. (I didn’t before either, since it took me all of 5 seconds after reading “Don’t hold it that way” to learn to not hold it that way.  I went for a week and a half without a case and had no problems.)

         
  • Posted: 14 July 2010 03:27 PM #13

    zebrum - 14 July 2010 02:26 PM

    I used my own app.

    Apple have coated the steel and released a hardware revision, the question is now will they do an official recall and hurt the stock price or keep it quiet and only offer it to people who return their phone.

    There is no evidence that Apple has done anything to currently shipping phones.

         
  • Posted: 14 July 2010 03:31 PM #14

    Tiger - 14 July 2010 02:34 PM

    Doesn’t a dollop of clear finger nail polish over the spacer accomplish the same thing? I mean really. Offer a free “coat” job and be done with this already.

    No, the finger nail method does not work. And it’s not the gap (the black line) that needs to be covered. A coating would have to be over the whole antenna, since not everyone grips the phone the same way?the touching of both antennas (cell at bottom of phone, wi-fi/bluetooth on sides) causes the problem. And a thin coating does not create enough distance between the metal and the skin. Do it yourself projects would also void the warranty.

         
  • Posted: 15 July 2010 09:23 AM #15

    willrob - 14 July 2010 06:31 PM
    Tiger - 14 July 2010 02:34 PM

    Doesn’t a dollop of clear finger nail polish over the spacer accomplish the same thing? I mean really. Offer a free “coat” job and be done with this already.

    No, the finger nail method does not work. And it’s not the gap (the black line) that needs to be covered. A coating would have to be over the whole antenna, since not everyone grips the phone the same way?the touching of both antennas (cell at bottom of phone, wi-fi/bluetooth on sides) causes the problem. And a thin coating does not create enough distance between the metal and the skin. Do it yourself projects would also void the warranty.

    I had 3 iP4s (family plan), and had the reception issue as soon as I got home. I’ve used 3 3Gs and 3 3GSs here for 2 years and never had any signal problems no matter how they were held. My first call at home on the iP4 was lost, as was the 2nd, the 3rd, and on and on. All 3 iP4s had the same problem. Took a little while to discover the problem was in placing any human flesh near the antenna gap. Tried fixing that with scotch tape. A teensy bit better (I think) but calls were still dropped. Tried clear nail polish over the antennas on the left side. No go.

    And I’ve never used a case because I don’t like em and I don’t want to have to use one. Wife feels the same. And if you’ve tried to use the phone for a week while trying to continuously be aware of how you hold it, you’ll soon realize how useless that is. We can’t do it ALL the time.

    So, what to do? Only 1 thing TO do, if we want to use the phone feature of the phone while at home. We returned them and went back to our trusty 3GS phones. We miss the iP4 features but at least now we have a reliable cell phone again. I’ll get an iPhone 4B or wait for the iPhone 5 (I hope). The case fix, which I doubt will work reliably, isn’t going to fly. For us anyway.