Friday, June 25, 2010

The Whole Truth about iPhone 4 Problems

It's no secret a device like the iPhone 4 is passionate device where even the tiniest detail can quickly get blown out of proportion by lovers and haters alikes. So, to put things into perspective, here's my take on the so-called problems that have been buzzing around about the iPhone 4.

Antenna Strength Problems

It's likely the most talked about "problem" of the iPhone 4: handling the new iPhone 4 with your left hand makes it lose signal. (It's already being called - non-lefties iPhone Edition.)

Well, the new iPhone 4 has indeed a significant change antenna-wise. While previous models relied on internal antennas, the new iPhone 4 uses the outside metal structure as antennas.

First of all, let me remind you that most people report that they indeed experience better reception with this antenna arrangement!

Second, ever since the first cell phone (and most -all?- radio devices) signal strength depends on its surroundings, your body, your hand, and the way you touch it or objects are positioned around it. That's just plain physics 1-0-1.

In some cases, this might even be a good thing, like the famous use your head to expand your remote control range - but unfortunately most of the time it isn't.

In the iPhone 4 scenario, the main issue seems to be related to when you touch a particular area of the phone.

Well, keep in mind lots of people have been unable to recreate this "problem", while others have done it but not in a consistent way. There are a lot of external factors involved, and it will likely vary from person to person, from day to day, from hour to hour. Unless you can repeat the exact same circumstances: skin moisture, air humidity, signal strenght, surroundings, there won't be much you can do about it.

In most cases you won't notice any problem - in a worst case scenario, you might consider buying a case that prevent touching the metal parts, like the one Apple showcased.

But to keep it absolutely clear: this isn't new a new issue, nor a iPhone 4 specific one!

Here's a video that shows the exact same phenomena in the iPhone 3G:

And in case you're wondering this is an iPhone issue, here's a quick video I just made with an HTC Desire showcasing the same hand-antenna interference (and I'm not even touching it):

You can clearly see the cell signal strength and WiFi being affected - so, just imagine how much more it will be affected when you have it jammed between your head and you hand during an actual call.
(Again, I remind you this is nothing new, and happens since... forever. More noticable now, after manufacturers ditched the external "pull-up" antennas.)

Here's what Steve Jobs has to say about it:
Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases.

As for why manufacturers place the internal antennas in the "worst possible place" for cell reception (right here you'll place you hand over) it seem you have to thanks regulations that make them do it that way.

Yellow splotches in iPhone 4 Screen

As for the yellow banding, spots and splotches across some of the retina display in the iPhone 4, it seems to be solved as well: it has to do with the screen bonding process (in the new iPhone, the display, touchscreen and glass are bonded together in a single piece). As Apple is rushing iPhones out of the production lines, some haven't had the time to completely finish the bonding process, which might take a couple of days more.

Some user have alreay reported the yellow spots and bands to disappear or become less noticeable, and should experience a completely spotless retina display soon.

These are the "secrets" about the iPhone 4 problems. Hope I have clarified some of the issues for you.
(In case you were putting your iPhone 4 order on hold because of this... I think it's best if you get back in line before they run out! :)


  1. I definitely won't be touching an iPhone 4. Apple's reply to the antenna problem (which is much worse than you're letting on here) is just an insult to their customers. They screwed up plain and simple and they refuse to admit it is a fundamentally flawed design. There is a reason no other consumer device ever places a bare metal antenna in skin contact with the user, because it doesn't work. Nothing short of a recall will be an adequate response. Not only did Apple loose an iPhone customer here, they have lost an overall customer period for treating us like morons.

  2. Well... I advise you to check out some videos like the ones show here.

    I'm waiting for my iPhone 4 (should get it tomorrow), but some of my friends have been unable to replicate this problem, even when trying hard - while at the same time showing this attenuation issue is nothing new.

    Even the folks at ArsTechnica had to watch a how-to-cause-this-'problem' video in order to reproduce it, as they were unable to do it without help.

    So... to each their own conclusions, I guess.

  3. Quite simply what occurs here is the phone is designed to monitor it's own standing wave ratio.
    If the phone were to continue to output at full RF power when its swr were made abnormally high (by say a sweaty hand) - that hand effectively changes the "size" of the aerial(making it the wrong wavelength).
    If the phone did not attenuate RF output in this model under those conditions - the RF output semiconductor/s would overheat and then fail.
    So it could be said apple/Foxconn may have designed this differently - but I don't think it's realistic to expect any phone that uses the case as an antenna to not be affected by the load a sweaty palm adds to touching the antenna section of the case.
    Apple SHOULD have labeled this area- and will likely loose sales because they never admit to problems until a "critical mass" of customers complain.
    To be fair though -Apple are not treating their customers with any respect
    Either they must stop acting like apple products are superior or actually make them superior


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Amazon Store