[Merged] Reception / Antenna / Signal Bars theories

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by keyofnight, Jul 3, 2010.


Why is Your iPhone 4 Dropping Calls?

Poll closed Jul 13, 2010.
  1. Antenna issues.

    26 vote(s)
  2. Proximity sensor.

    8 vote(s)
  3. I have butter-fingers.

    4 vote(s)
  1. keyofnight macrumors regular


    Mar 19, 2009
    Seattle, WA, USA.
    Alright—How many of you who have been having the "Death Grip" issue have also had dropped calls because of it? Of you who are dropping calls, how many of you know for _certain_ that the antenna issues are causing them?

    —You would know this for sure if you took it to an Apple store for them to run a diagnostic. The diagnostic would show a list of dropped calls, and the recorded reasons why they drop.

    According to the diagnostic, my phone has never dropped a call. It turns out that my face was hanging up the call when the proximity sensor wasn't working the way it should. It makes sense—I notice the screen flickers and my face presses buttons while on calls.

    (I can't account for the data connection rate drops, but I know for certain that my phone hasn't dropped a call once because of the death grip.)

    I'm just trying to see what the real severity of the signal issue is.
  2. JLEW700 macrumors 6502

    Aug 12, 2008
    Will apple ever fix the alleged reception issue??

    Ok so I know apple has officially said that the problem with the disappearing reception bars is a glich in the software, but if it is in fact a problem with the hardware, will apple ever fix it, or will they just leave it as is? Will the later runs of the iPhone 4 have the same issues? Would they have to redesign the phone in order to fix the problem?

    On a side note, from my own personal experience, I have observed the signal bars going away when holding the iphone 4 a certain way, but I have never experienced a drop call on the iPhone 4 and have never noticed any difference with the call clarity. So I personally think it is a software thing and that those people experiencing dropped calls are the people who also have bad proximity sensors.
  3. aneftp macrumors 601

    Jul 28, 2007
    There is no issue with the antenna. This has been restated multiple times by Apple.

    Yes there will eventually be a redesign. It's called iPhone 2011 (5th generation) version.

    Deal with it.

    As a former owner of a Nokia e71, their antenna issue was 10x worst than what has been reported in the press about apples RF issue.

    Apparently you have never had to deal with RIM phones memory drainage issues. I am not even going to get started on multiple motorola WM phones I have had in the past.

    HTC phones are not without their faults also.

    Apple's problems are just exaggerated 10 fold by the press.
  4. JulianL macrumors 65816

    Feb 2, 2010
    London, UK
    That's an interesting theory, bringing in the proximity sensor issue. No idea if it's valid of course, but it's an interesting idea.

    Regarding the possibility of a software issue, haven't Apple gone on record with this in the last couple of days? They have officially stated that the signal strength (5 bar) display is mis-calibrated so people are misinterpreting what they are seeing. I can understand that because I have allways assumed that 5 bars means close to 100% signal strength and 1 bar is under 20% but what Apple seem to be saying is that the display could show 5 bars even with poor signal strength. If I see my display drop from 5 bars to 1 bar and that is a drop from 100%-ish to 20%-ish then that's nasty but if that 5 bar reading was only really 25% in the first place and I'm getting a drop to 15 or 20% then that's nowhere near such a big deal and would tally with stories of dropping lots of bars on the display but not dropping calls. I'm making up these percentage numbers by the way, I have no idea what the real numbers are.

    I really don't think this is as bad as much of the press is making out.

    - Julian
  5. dmweinst macrumors newbie

    Jul 5, 2007
    Could Apple be (at least partially) right?

    Today I was in the Apple store in Chestnut Hill, MA and figured I would see if any of the display models had "Grip of Death" or "Finger of Death" issues.

    Nope. I squeezed and poked 4 or 5 of them and not one had any drop in signal bars.

    Puzzled, I left the store and while still in the mall, took my iPhone 4 out of the bumper and squeezed and poked it too. Still 5 bars. Made a few calls. No drops. 5 bars.

    Then I went home - I live about 2 miles from the store. When I tried the same test at home (without the bumper), I noticed the following:

    I started with 4 bars. When I gripped the phone, the bars went to 1 and I was unable to make a call. Then I switch the phone to airplane mode, waited a few minutes and then turned airplane mode off. 5 bars.

    Then I gripped the phone and made a call. The signal gradually dropped to between 1 and 2 bars but the call never dropped.

    With the bumper back on, 5 bars, no drops.

    One more thing I noticed - even though a finger of death or grip of death doesn't cause dropped calls at my house, it does affect data transmissions. Network speed tests show precipitous drops in data rates.

    Here's my admittedly unscientific hypothesis:

    1. The signal strength meter inaccuracy causes it not to display a degradation in signal strength (e.g. by gripping the phone, or bridging the black gap with your finger) at the high end. Thus when you have a very good signal, you don't see any change in the bars.

    2. When you have borderline signal strength, you could still see 5 bars. But when you cause interference, you will see the bars start to drop. Depending on the signal strength you started with, the interference might drop you to one bar but still hold on to the call. Or the call could be dropped.

    3. I understand that the iPhone 4 has a new baseband software (the software that manages the cellular radio) and the algorithms it uses to decide which frequency to use and cell to connect to are different. For example, it may now decide to connect you to a cell with a weaker signal but less noise and traffic. This could explain discrepancies in results.

    4. I think when, at home, I saw 4 bars, I was connected to a weaker cell. When I turned airplane mode off and on, that caused it to re-evaluate which cell to connect to and made a better choice. Thus the death grip had less of an affect and did not cause the call to be dropped.

    5. iOS 4 now means that millions of phones are now running background processes that are highly likely to increase traffic on AT&T's towers. (e.g. Pandora, Wunderadio, etc.). This could be causing the type of interruptions in data service people are reporting.

    6. AT&T could be tweaking the way its towers are communicating with iPhones to address both changes in iPhone baseband algorithms and increased background traffic.

    7. Since the primary function of the iPhone is to make and receive calls, is it possible that Apple has tuned the software to reduce data rates where signal strength is borderline when it detects a drop in signal strength to make sure that full bandwidth is available to make or receive calls?

    All of these factors could be contributing to the issues some people are having. However, I find it hard to conclude that there is a "design flaw" in every phone when clearly in places of higher signal strength, neither the grip of death or finger of death seem to cause calls to be dropped.

    I still believe that most of these issues result from and can and will be corrected in software (both Apple and AT&T) and don't represent a serious fundamental design flaw in the phone.

    Speaking only for myself (please no flames) I have experienced much better phone performance (fewer dropped calls, clearer sound) than on any of my previous 3 iPhones.
  6. Ronnoco macrumors 68030


    Oct 16, 2007
    United States of America
    I think too many people are trying to make the phone drop bars in any way they can (this doesn't include those with legitimate call/data drop problems in real use)...
    People should just use the phone the way they normally would and if you drop excessive calls, bring the phone back...
    The Apple techs can see every call you've made and how many actually dropped...I saw them doing this with a woman's phone when I was there for my phones issues (freezing). They had software that showed them every call she made and received and whether the call was dropped or not...about the only thing they couldn't really get specific about was if you had "called failed" problems as the call never went through...
    Anyway, if you are able to make the bars drop with the "death grip" but are not dropping calls or data connection, they are not going to replace the phone for that...they will refund your money (with no restocking fee) but they have to see your dropped calls for them to replace the phone for the reception issue...another words, if you REALLY have had excessive dropped calls and data connection, they can see that and wil replace the phone...
  7. wirelessmacuser macrumors 68000


    Dec 20, 2009
    This signal strength, dropped calls, no signal issue has made me quite curious. Thus I've spent a fair amount of time researching and educating myself in this area. My phone, as well as the other two I bought for my family all have this problem. On these three, all one must do to experience the problem is to place a finger on the gap between the antenna on the lower left. No "death grip" is needed.*

    Stepping back, away from the technicalities, the bottom line remains the same, enough people are reporting this issue, it needs to be fixed, not patched over with cleverly crafted statements and smoke & mirror tactics.*
  8. Domino8282 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 22, 2010
    Southeast USA
  9. Tom G. macrumors 68000

    Tom G.

    Jun 16, 2009
    Champaign/Urbana Illinois
    There is a fix out now.

    Put a case on it. Fixes the antenna problems and protects a glass iPhone.
  10. dmac0203 macrumors newbie

    Jul 3, 2010
    I think he is right. With any phone if you find a sensitive spot and completely cover it up it will drop the signal. When I just normally hold my hand over the black line. It only drops to three bars. I think what Apple is doing will be a fix to the problem.
  11. oplix Suspended


    Jun 29, 2008
    New York, NY
    Theory on Apple's IP4 bar...theory.

    So I have this theory that Apple did actually find that the reception issue is software related but they couldn't go ahead and admit to it after already stating there wasn't an actual issue in the first place.

    By using a non-relevant explanation such as a miscalculation of bars, they can save face and have extra time to work out the real issue without being bombarded. Since they say that the issue is just a visual bug, they can have as much time as they need. In this case it's supposedly two weeks.

    From a PR perspective it makes sense because if they actually fix the real issue, they can write it off as this "visual miscalculation" and avoid a lot of future bad press / stock drops.

    Another reason I think this is that supposedly 3GS users have noticed this issue as well after upgrading to iOS4. Also they would not need two weeks to release a tiny bug fix such as what they claim.
  12. mrFinder macrumors member

    Jun 25, 2010
    This actually does make sense. I would hope that it's true.
  13. JLEW700 macrumors 6502

    Aug 12, 2008
    Ya, Im actually not the originator of the proximity sensor theory. I remember reading someones else's post saying that they think that since the proximity sensor doesn't work properly, that when they put the phone to their ear, the screen doesn't go black so they accidentally end the call or press some other button with their ear or cheek.

    Something like this: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=959187&highlight=proximity+sensor
  14. jashsayani macrumors regular


    Feb 7, 2009
    San Jose, CA
    Well, according to me its a design flaw and I don't think that its a visual representation error due to the fact that calls drop.

    I am pretty sure they will release a software update that will show higher signal strength so users don't panic. However, dropped calls would continue to be an issue...
  15. D3lta macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2008
    Cupertino, California
    I disagree. I was also a bit skeptical of Apple's explanation of it only being a software bug, but as I was waiting for a friend in my car today, I remembered I am in a spot where I got really good signal on my 3GS (when I had it) which I had set to show actual signal strength instead of bars.

    So I covered the bottom left seam of my iPhone 4 for about a minute, and the amount of bars wouldn't drop at all; it stayed at 5 bars 3G no matter how I held the phone. At home, where I have pretty terrible signal, I would lose bars when I cover the bottom left seam.

    To me, that pretty much confirmed exactly was Anandtech's review stated, and giving me more reason to believe it isn't a hardware issue at all but just a software bug.

    Just my .02.
  16. bruinsrme macrumors 603


    Oct 26, 2008
    sitting on a flat surface 5 bars, in your hand no bars.
    How in the world does the phone know its in your hand.
    I tried it on an angled surface and standing almost at a 90, 5 bars
    I put it in my hand no bars.
    I put a case on in 5 bars in my hand or out of my hand.
    Can't see how its a software issue. not saying it isn't but I just dont see it
  17. quagmire macrumors 603


    Apr 19, 2004
    Well if the phone thinks it doesn't have service, of course it will drop the call.
  18. keyofnight thread starter macrumors regular


    Mar 19, 2009
    Seattle, WA, USA.
    I completely agree—we're on the same page. I made a similar theory in the news thread for the press release. The hackers over at modmyi.com report the story similarly, "perhaps there's another fix in this software rev that they're not talking about. After all, why should it take "a few weeks" to implement and test a change to one formula?"

    I also spoke to an intelligent tech rep who jogged my memory, "This has happened before. People had problems when their iPhone 3G would drop calls while switching from edge to 3g service. They released 2.0.–something, and the problem was fixed. I'm sure it was a baseband update." I remember that—being an early adopter of the iPhone 3G myself. For those who do not remember, here are the release notes from 2.0.2 (the version in question) and USA Today's commentary on the subject. These problems are not new: there's always some crap to talk about on the forums.

    I remember AT&T came out and said that the call drop rates on the iPhone 3g were "normal," the same way Steve is saying that signal loss is normal. The same crap happened here on the forums—only then, I had the good sense to stay the hell out of the fray!

    All we need to do is remain patient until Apple releases a software fix. If that doesn't do the trick, then we ought to speak up. The best we can do is wait—and let Apple know we're having proximity sensor issues too (so they can fix them in the same update).

    Again, this may not be a "cosmetic" software update. The cosmetic problems are possibly caused by deeper issues within the firmware—probably the baseband (modem firmware). We will see what the update does when they release the damned thing. I just think they want their launch to continue as planned, so they'll silently release an all-inclusive update to keep the complainers quiet.
  19. Satanic Goat macrumors regular

    Satanic Goat

    Aug 31, 2009
    I really don't see it being a software issue, if what they say is correct, then I currently only get around 1 or 2 bars in my home. So when i cover the lower left my signal disappears completely. Are they saying that I'll now get no bars at all at home? Where I have always had a signal. My wife has a HTC Desire on the same network as me O2, she also displays 1 or 2 bars, so are HTC also using the wrong algorithm? Doesn't make any sense at all, if the software "fix" leaves me with no signal at all at home. Then the phone will unfortunately have to go back. :(
  20. iammike1 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 25, 2007
    Columbia MD
    The way I understand it, changing the formula would not be a strait change in the number of bars across the spectrum.

    1 bar now will pretty much be 1 bar after the patch.
    2 bars will still be close I think.
    ...as you go up, the difference will be larger and larger until, for example, 4 bars before the patch might have a good chance at being 3 bars after.

    Hope I'm making sense to someone. I'm having a hard time putting this into words.
  21. wirelessmacuser macrumors 68000


    Dec 20, 2009
    While I remain open to any possibility, I believe the real problem transcends the technical explanations at this point. Due to the way Apple has responded thus far, they've only fueled the fire.*

    They've also caused more damage than they can effectively deal with at this point. Now having taken on a life of it's own, it's anyones guess as to the outcome.*
  22. sleyeu macrumors 6502

    Oct 18, 2009
    iPhone 4: "Oh lookies the bars on the top left say i have no signal, no point pursuing this call!"

    -Call terminated-

    User: "OMFGWTFBBQ!?!?!?!?1?1111?!?/!?!/?!eleven!?!?!?!one!?!?!//dash/1!"
  23. danielbrowning macrumors member

    Jun 21, 2009
    Um, Anandtech say it's a hardware issue in the review you quoted.
  24. tomccabe macrumors 6502


    Jun 9, 2008
    Do you really think the formula is x - 2? Maybe you should look up the definition of algorithm because it's likely a formula that wouldn't even fit in a twitter post.
  25. tkao2025 macrumors regular

    Jun 6, 2010
    New York
    From my personal experience....so I can only speak about my own opinions. When I updated my 3Gs to iOS4, I had strange signal fluctuations and had a few dropped calls. In my office, where I usually get great signal, I would drop down to searching for signal......this was on my 3Gs.

    I now have an Iphone 4 and have not had this problem. So from my personal experience, it could very well be a software issue........at least that's what I'm hoping.

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