AppleInsider wrong? No antenna software fix coming this week?

by Justin Horn on Jun 29th, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

BGR:

Well thanks to one of our Apple connects, we now know the exact procedures AppleCare reps must follow when dealing with any reception complaints regarding the iPhone 4

1. Keep all of the positioning statements in the BN handy – your tone when delivering this information is important.

a. The iPhone 4’s wireless performance is the best we have ever shipped. Our testing shows that iPhone 4’s overall antenna performance is better than iPhone 3GS.

b. Gripping almost any mobile phone in certain places will reduce its reception. This is true of the iPhone 4, the iPhone 3GS, and many other phones we have tested. It is a fact of life in the wireless world.

c. If you are experiencing this on your iPhone 3GS, avoid covering the bottom-right side with your hand.

d. If you are experiencing this on your iPhone 4, avoid covering the black strip in the lower-left corner of the metal band.

e. The use of a case or Bumper that is made out of rubber or plastic may improve wireless performance by keeping your hand from directly covering these areas.

2. Do not perform warranty service. Use the positioning above for any customer questions or concerns.

3. Don’t forget YOU STILL NEED to probe and troubleshoot. If a customer calls about their reception while the phone is sitting on a table (not being held) it is not the metal band.

4. ONLY escalate if the issue exists when the phone is not held AND you cannot resolve it.

5. We ARE NOT appeasing customers with free bumpers – DON’T promise a free bumper to customers.

As BGR mentions, it’s a bit unnerving that there is no mention of a software update.

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Antenna Issue, iPhone 4

How can a software update fix the iPhone 4 antenna problem? (Updated)

by Justin Horn on Jun 28th, 2010 @ 11:55 am

UPDATE The final answer on why some see the drop and some don’t.

Let’s review Apple’s responses to this problem since the launch. First Apple was claming the signal issue was just an incorrect display of the signal bars. I can confirm that it’s not just a display issue, my 3G data speed drops to almost nothing when my signal drops in my left hand.  I guess Apple already moved on from this excuse, because then Steve, via email, said we were all holding our phone wrong and that it happens to all mobile phones. Although this is technically true, I’ve never owned a mobile phone that I could touch in one spot with the tip of my pinky finger and disable the phone’s network connection. I guess Steve finally came around to this realization. In his latest email he said there is no is no signal problem and to “stay tuned”.

At first I doubted it was even possible, but the rumors are building that a software fix is coming…as early as today. Even though hard for me to believe, I guess there is still a chance. They were able to fix the 3G reception issues with a software patch. So what could Apple do via software to fix what seems like a hardware problem? I have 2 3 layman’s guesses, one of which I don’t know is even technically possible, but still worth tossing it out there.

Boost the Signal Power

This may be a good quick fix. When the signal starts to drop due to the hand position, boost the power to overcome the drop. This is what would happen in a weaker 3G area so it might work. Although, if this is a problem of shorting antennas then boosting the power might just boost a crappy signal and not fix the issue.

UPDATE Seems like this could possibly be a fix. Taking a look at a clip from a Nokia manual below (@tj via @MikeTRose) it warns that contacting the antenna may cause the device to operate at a higher power level than otherwise needed and can reduce battery life.

Move the Output Zone on the Antenna

Maybe they could somehow move where the main power output on the antenna comes from. So if your hand is blocking the lower left they could move the output to the lower right which is still part of the GSM antenna.  This would still satisfy the FCC requirement to keep the output signal as far away from the brain as possible. Again, if this is some kind of shorting as some people have speculated, would it matter if it was moved to the right since the short would still exist?

Change new iPhone smart tower/ channel selection

David Pogue:

The new phone is also better at choosing the best channel for connecting with the cell tower, even if’s not technically the strongest one. (Ever had four bars, but a miserable connection? Then you get it.)

This has come up in my testing. I’ve held the phone in my left, watched the signal drop to 1 or 2 bars, and then did a speed test that trumped my best speeds on the 3GS confirming this new update. If only this was always the case…a lot of the time I have 1 bar and can’t even get past the ping test in the Speedtest.net app. Looks the iPhone 4 isn’t falling back to the closest tower even when the signal degrades on the “better connection”. Could this be the fix?

Hopefully we should find out if Apple is able to pull it off later today. Do you guys have any ideas of how this could be done? Crazy ideas like mine or someone that actually knows what they are talking about? If so, leave a comment.

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Antenna Issue, iPhone 4, Software, Speculation

iOS 4.0.1 update next week? Possibly Monday?

by Justin Horn on Jun 25th, 2010 @ 7:05 pm

AppleInsider:

Readers report that Apple’s tech support forums originally confirmed that a iOS 4.0.1 software fix addressing the issue would ship early next week (as early as Monday), before the comments were subsequently taken down along with all the other related discussion about the matter.

The fix is expected to address a issue in iOS 4 related to radio frequency calibration of the baseband. Readers who saw the original forum discussions say that the issue is believed to occur when switching frequencies; because the lag is allegedly not calibrated correctly, it results in the device reporting “no service” rather than switching to the frequency with the best signal to noise ratio.

iOS 4 introduced some enhancements to how the baseband selects which frequencies to use, so it makes sense that the error may have crept into those changes. Additionally, this explains why iOS 4 has also caused similar problems for iPhone 3GS users.

Additional readers have shared other related experiences that also corroborate the idea that the issue is related to iOS 4′s software control of the baseband, including the fact that the issue seems easily reproducible when connecting to a WWAN 3G network but does not appear when connecting to a Microcell 3G. If the problem were simply hardware related issues of the antenna design, it should only affect iPhone 4 units with that new design and should occur at all times, regardless of the tower type. That is not being observed.

I hope this is true, but I’ll believe it when I see. Also, it’s a fact that when the signal is at 1 bar, it’s not just a misreading…I have tested this myself. I didn’t do a dropped call test, but using the Speedtest.net app I can tell you, naked phone with bottom left covered with my hand, resulted in the app not even being able to complete the latency test.

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Antenna Issue, iOS 4, iPhone 4

iPhone 4 left hand signal loss dependant on the quality of your 3G coverage

by Justin Horn on Jun 25th, 2010 @ 12:48 pm

UPDATE The final answer on why some see the drop and some don’t, spoiler alert: What I said below was dead on.

I know I touched on this already in my bumpers help prevent iPhone 4 signal drop post, but I thought it warranted highlighting this in it’s own post.

From my bumpers post:

I then tested in another room with less electronics. In this room I started with a strong signal of 5 bars. This time around, with or without the bumper, the signal held pretty much at 5 bars. This may explain why some people don’t seem to notice this issue. If you have really great AT&T service where you live, the in hand signal drop may not be as noticeable.

In addition to this sweet spot, last night I tweeted:

Out for a late snack, first time out of my house since getting the phone and nothing I do lowers the 5 bars. Very strange.

And then tweeted when I got home:

Back home and back to touching bottom left corner and losing signal.

John Gruber also believe the signal strength could be the cause:

My best guess at this point is that the issue pops up in areas with spotty 3G coverage. With nothing covering the antenna, the improved reception of the iPhone 4 gives you more bars, maybe even up to 5. But when you cover the antenna in these areas with poor coverage, the phone is unable to get a strong signal. I’ve seen several reports from people who can reproduce the problem, but only from certain locations.

I think the problem is “the bars”. They serve their purpose for the most part, but when trying to do a test involving signal strength we need more detail. I would argue that 5 bars in one area is not necessarily equal to 5 bars in another. Start with a “weak 5 bars” and you can see the signal loss represented by the bars dropping.  Start with a “strong 5 bars” and the signal may be getting weaker, but never below the 5 bar threshold. In this case it appears to the user that they still have the same signal strength and it goes unnoticed.

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Antenna Issue, iPhone 4, Speculation

Further investigation into the iPhone in hand signal issues

by Justin Horn on Jun 24th, 2010 @ 8:12 pm

iPhone 4 antenna diagram

I looked into how the bumper case affected the signal loss problem earlier. It helped lessen the signal loss, but still lost a couple bars. I’ve been thinking about this issue all day and decided to dig a bit deeper to see what I could find.

UPDATE For those of you that don’t have this issue, my best guess…I wrote earlier today in my bumper case post:

I then tested in another room with less electronics. In this room I started with a strong signal of 5 bars. This time around, with or without the bumper, the signal held pretty much at 5 bars. This may explain why some people don’t seem to notice this issue. If you have really great AT&T service where you live, the in hand signal drop may not be as noticeable.

Watch the video of this phenomena.

Gruber agrees with this and here is my post explaining it in more detail.

Read the rest of this awesome article

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Antenna Issue, Featured post, iPhone 4, Speculation

Bumpers help prevent iPhone 4 signal drop

by Justin Horn on Jun 24th, 2010 @ 12:13 pm

UPDATE The final answer on how the signal is affected in hand vs in case.

After some tests this morning, it looks like the bumper case helps with the antenna issue we reported on yesterday. Keep in mind that I used the main 5 bar signal indicator as a reference, not sure how to get into field test mode on the iPhone 4. Also, as the signal can change anytime, for any reason, the results were not always the same. I just kept repeating (many times) the test and this was what I got on average.

No Bumper
Hands off: 4-5 bars
In hand: 1 bar

With Bumper
Hands off: 4-5 bars
In hand: 3 bars

So the bumper did keep the signal at 3 bars compared to it plummeting to 1 bar shortly after picking up the naked iPhone.

I then tested in another room with less electronics. In this room I started with a strong signal of 5 bars. This time around, with or without the bumper, the signal held pretty much at 5 bars. This may explain why some people don’t seem to notice this issue. If you have really great AT&T service where you live, the in hand signal drop may not be as noticeable.

Check out this video of this strong signal room.

The fact that the signal still dropped down to 3 bars even with the bumper on and that I saw no drop in the “strong signal room”, leads me to believe that a software update to boost the output power (like we got in the 3.x days) may help resolve the issue. Apple said a software patch was coming, so I guess we won’t have to wait long to find out…when will iOS 4.0.1 be released?

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Antenna Issue, Featured post, iPhone 4

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