IMHO: iPhone 4 reception is a software bug, not design flaw

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by Peabody, Jun 26, 2010.

  1. Peabody macrumors regular

    Jun 28, 2007
    Portland, OR
    OK, like many others here I can systematically re-create the iPhone 4 dropped call "death grip" issue. Woo - free bumper, $170 gift card and pony for me right? Eh, no.

    "...but, it's a design flaw in the external antenna in the iPhone 4, right?"

    No! It's a flaw in iOS 4.0 (yes, read carefully, "point" (.) - "oh" (0) ).

    "You're full of it, are you an engineer? Didn't think so!", "YouTube or it didn't happen!"...

    Nope, I'm not an engineer, nor do I have the ability to show the interweb my very unscientific, yet I believe, well founded theories. I bet a nickel that this is a software issue in iOS4, not a flaw with the iPhone 4 hardware. Why? Because I live in an area where I'm about equal distance (as the crow flies) between 3 AT&T towers and have lived here since long before we even knew that the iPhone existed as a twinkle in Steve's eye. For a visual reference, draw a simple triangle and then place a dot in the middle. That's how I'm situated for this story - roughly 2 miles from each tower. How handy, huh? Possibly, read on if you'd like.

    Since the day I moved into my house I've had multiple AT&T phones, from Motorola to Apple, and even some Blackberry hardware in between. Once a "long, long time ago" Apple released the iPhone 3G on July 11, 2008. Amazingly enough there was outrage by those early adopters about dropping calls and unreliable 3G service! On August 18, 2008 (38 days later) Apple release iOS 2.0.2 which pretty well cured this issue. I was one of the ones affected by dropped calls, no signal, etc. during those days (well, most of them - I didn't get my 3G until August 2nd). Before I had the iPhone 3G I was perfectly content and happy with the performance of my original iPhone since June 29, 2007. EDGE may have been slow, but dang it was reliable!

    Why did you waste everyone's time by starting ANOTHER thread like this at Macrumors?

    I've been reading as much as possible, more so this evening after being able to reproduce the "issue". One thing I haven't seen mentioned is the similarity to the "3G 2.0" radio "hardware defect". The trouble between July - August 2008 ultimately lied in iOS 2.0 (again, read carefully: point" (.) - "oh" (0) ) and it's ability to properly hand off calls between 3G and EDGE (remember that?!?), not an inherent "fatal flaw" in the 3G design, be it radio or antenna as suspected. What I experienced tonight is exactly what I would experience back in 2008 - depending on where I stood in my house, or what direction I faced I could drop calls. Why? Because I'm "tower hopping" for lack of better description. It's the nature of the landscape between AT&T tower placement & my home.

    "WTH does this have to do with the iPhone 4 "death grip"?"

    From the same exact location where my 3G "tower hopping" issues first appeared in August 2008, I can again replicate them in June of 2010 with different hardware. The key piece here is where Apple has stated iOS 4.0 uses a new algorithm in determining it's opinion of what tower is best for call quality instead of using the iOS 1,2,3.x version. Yes, I can make the phone drop calls with the magic "bridging the antennas" trick like anyone else, but if I avoid that spot the iPhone 4 is clearly superior when not bridging the lower left corner, to that of the 3G from 2008 that now again started dropping calls with iOS 4.0.

    The 3G always had issues in my home. Yes 2.0.2 made things better, but never perfect. 3.x helped and 3.1.3 was by far the best experience (I still had to avoid parts of the house, namely where my home office is), but when I installed 4.0 on the 3G (last Monday) it was 2008 all over again. The only difference between the 3G and 4 hardware is that there's no "magic spot" to to touch and drop a call on my 3G - it decides when it wants to drop calls all by itself. Personally, it's easier for me to be able to predict when a call will drop instead of finding out after it's too late.

    "OK fine, whatever you say - why software, not hardware?"

    Between a combination of a bunch of speed tests measuring download / upload speeds, intentionally trying to drop calls, being able to successfully complete 30+ minute calls and remembering the past iOS .0 issues it hit me. Depending on which direction I face (Which tower has least resistance between the phone and my body? Which tower does iOS 4.0 think has the best quality?) I could replicate signal degradation on the 3G and iPhone 4 side by side - except for one thing: fully dropped signal resulting in dropped calls. This is the first iOS release for the iPhone 4 hardware, much like iOS 2.0 was the first software release for iPhone 3G. Odds are the programming for how iOS 4.0 interprets various signals from the 3G antenna in combination with the "new algorithm" to determine which signal is "best" is causing calls to get dropped artificially. The radio has the power and ability to do this - Apple just needs to find the bugs in iOS 4.0 to get it to play fair based on what the hardware does be it correct / incorrect / green / blue and/or within FCC regulations.

    My guess is we will see the 4.0.1 update to address this issue next week (as has been hinted about), possibly on Monday if we're lucky! 6 days is one heck of a lot better than 38 the last time around we had the issue. Of course it shouldn't have happened at all, but demanding a replacement handset and/or "pain and suffering" compensation for an avoidable issue is just regrettable. On the other hand I won't argue if they do provide some sort of benefit as I will likely accept it - after all I was one of those who got the original "$100 Apple Store Gift Cards" for being a launch day customer. It comes with the territory, always has and will continue to do so. Such as life - so many choices to make!

    Personally, I love the new hardware and believe the "iFail 4" is a result of now millions of people wanting what few did so just a few years ago, as well as the influence of social media in those same two years.

    Best of luck to all!
  2. Walter Bell macrumors regular

    Mar 25, 2010
    You wasted all that time typing up that long post to address an issue that has been beaten over and over again? Did you really need to make a whole new thread about this issue? I am sure you have roughly 1000 other threads to choose from.

  3. Peabody thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 28, 2007
    Portland, OR
    I sure did. That's why MacRumors is here...for discussion. I didn't force anyone to read the whole thing, and I was clear in my title it was an opinion. Believe it or not somebody could find it useful. Or maybe not...either way is fine by me.
  4. jasonforisrael macrumors regular

    Jan 8, 2008
    dude this is very simple. this is elementary cell phone stuff that they have known since cellphones were made.

    when you touch the antenna of a cellphone with conductive human flesh, it grounds the antenna. any cellphone. the antenna of the iphone happens to be external, one of the first phones to have an external antenna in a long time.

    perhaps a software bug is exacerbating the issue, but there is clearly a hardware problem.
  5. raremage macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2005
    Orlando, Florida
    I care. I appreciate a well thought out and considered response. I disagree that it can be fixed 100% via software, but his (or her) posting was lucid and well reasoned - unlike yours.
  6. Minimoose 360 macrumors 65816

    Minimoose 360

    Jul 7, 2008
    Sup Newbie?

    Anyway, nice post OP. I agree with you and think the whole thing is blown out of proportion by everyone.
  7. br0adband macrumors 6502a


    Aug 29, 2006
    "Some things are true whether you believe them or not."

    Defective by design...
  8. Peabody thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 28, 2007
    Portland, OR
    We shall see. Here's a bit of history in case you needed a refresher!
  9. Lancing macrumors member

    Jul 16, 2009
    I think your right. They didn't calibrate the hand detection software correctly. Clearly when the phone senses a hand touching it and grounding out the antenna then it should be increasing in signal strength!
  10. supremeMilo macrumors member

    Jun 9, 2010
    Touching the antenna is not the problem, connecting the antenna to the bottom metal is.
  11. -aggie- macrumors P6


    Jun 19, 2009
    Where bunnies are welcome.
    I care. Also, he had something new to say about the issue.
  12. CrAkD macrumors 68040


    Feb 15, 2010
    Boston, MA
  13. sjinsjca macrumors 68020


    Oct 30, 2008
    I suspect OP has a point.

    Intriguing bit: none of the professional reviewers who enjoyed an iPhone 4 for a while before the launch, and whose commentary was embargoed until Wednesday, noticed the issue. In fact, most every review extolled the iPhone 4's superior reception vs. previous iPhones.

    So either we're witnessing an episode of mass hysteria, or a tweak was made just before mass shipments, and broke something. Odds are that such a tweak is in software. Carrier settings, internal logic, RF management, you name it.

    Or, perhaps the issue is limited to certain lots of production. Who knows. You can bet Apple is hopping on this and will have an answer soon. But I think all this accounts for Steve Jobs' terse email comment that there is no issue-- no physical issue, perhaps.

    We'll know in days, it seems.
  14. Peabody thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 28, 2007
    Portland, OR
    Thanks to the supporters - much appreciated!

    OP is crashing out for the night, I'll be back in the AM to keep the hardware haters in line. :) iOS 4.0 issues aside I'm absolutely thrilled with the iPhone 4 hardware!

    If this mess truly turns out to be hardware let Jonathan Ive be dismissed by Steve Jobs for such a big oversight. If not, let all the folks obsessively returning "defective" hardware and demanding a replacement before others even have an opportunity to purchase it the first time enjoy what karma is due.

    ...have fun sorting it out - I know you will!
  15. alana22 macrumors regular

    Apr 12, 2007
    I refuse to believe that in all the testing Apple did, this problem went undetected.

    Yet I also refuse to believe Apple released the phone knowing this problem existed.

    Either way, something really strange is going on!
  16. br0adband macrumors 6502a


    Aug 29, 2006
    The belief is that because of Apple's maniacal obsession for product secrecy that all the real-world testing they did over the development and engineering phases was done with the iPhone 4 prototypes inside some kind of case to mask what the device actually is and in the end that's coming back to bite them in the... well, Apple I suppose. :) Because they were pretty much always inside some casing or skin, and actual skin-on-metal contact was thereby precluded, it's completely believable and understandable that such problems because of skin contact were totally missed.

    Look at the "missing footage" from WWDC where Steve Jobs just couldn't get the damned thing going (and I'm not 100% committed that he was actually using the Wi-Fi in that instance either). If they used the "Wi-Fi isn't working" excuse at that point NOBODY would ever dare dream it was an issue with the 3G service and the skin-on-metal contact.

    I'm honestly surprised people are not getting that. It's the MAGIC working: misdirection... blame Wi-Fi for the 3G problem.

    Don't people understand this? Really?

    Considering the "lost" prototype from that bar in SoCal was inside a fake 3GS casing to hide its true identity, I lend 100% faith to this. Even the one or two leaked photos of the iPad inside Apple's own build labs showed the iPhone 4 and it was inside a case at that point too.

    I mean really... I thought these people were supposed to be "geniuses" or something, puhleez... :D

    Defective by design...
  17. Daveoc64 macrumors 601

    Jan 16, 2008
    Bristol, UK
    While I appreciate the lengths you've gone to with your post, you've lost me at this point.

    AT&T is just one of the networks with the iPhone 4 (and their network is really two networks - GSM and UMTS).

    Those two networks use several different frequencies and technologies between them.

    Throw in the 5 other countries that have the iPhone 4 (and there have been reports of issues from those countries) that use even more different network configurations and it becomes clear that the issue can't be happening as you explain.

    People are having this problem on different networks, 2G and 3G as well as when the phone is using different frequency bands.

    I'm not ruling out a software fix, but I don't think it's as simple as you suggest.
  18. Studio Dweller macrumors member

    Jun 2, 2004
    Very well written post OP. I too feel this fixable and will be. In the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy my phone.
  19. Goaliegeek macrumors 6502a


    Apr 13, 2009
    Interesting. Well thought out explanation. Good job. I myself don't have an iPhone 4 yet so can't add to the "I get it ,I don't party", but I did try to do it at the Apple Store with a demo unit and nothing happened. Hopefully a software update fixes this and people stop freaking out until they find a new issue to bash Apple about.
  20. br0adband macrumors 6502a


    Aug 29, 2006
    They have:

    - the glass isn't nearly as tough as Apple implies
    - some folks are having overheating issues
    - Wi-Fi is now cropping up with issues

    and on and on...
  21. Built macrumors 68020

    Oct 3, 2007
    Los Angeles
    I agree. I appreciate the OP's logical and well-reasoned post.

    Thanks, OP, for taking the time to post.
  22. Hellishness macrumors 65816


    Jan 27, 2010
    Bay Area, CA
    Ban this guy.
  23. Abyssgh0st macrumors 68000


    Jan 12, 2009
    Yeah, you've got a point. A lot of early reviews didn't mention the signal issues, so presumably it has to be software right? Or all reviewers are right handed. :rolleyes:
  24. PhxBlue macrumors regular


    May 24, 2008
    The Valley, AZ
    Us early adopters are always the beta testers. It'll all get ironed out soon enough.
  25. Daveoc64 macrumors 601

    Jan 16, 2008
    Bristol, UK
    As my reply to that poster in another thread states, several reviewers including Walt Mossberg noticed reduced signal strength compared to the 3GS in the same locations.

    He even specifically mentions holding it in his hands.

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