Death Grip hysteria may end Monday with iOS 4.01

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Reception issues observed by new iPhone 4 owners, derided as the "Death Grip" by bloggers, appears to actually be a software issue that an iOS update is expected to resolve early next week.



Identifying the problem



Clear observations of mobile signal strength and how they are affected by the placement of users' hands are difficult to perform in part because there are multiple factors involved in receiving a mobile radio link, including outside interference and the conductivity or mass of different people's hands.



Additionally, cellphones in general (and in particular the iPhone) have always only presented a very rough approximation of signal strength in the signal bar display, averaged over time. It appears that iOS 4, more so than previous iPhone software, presents a less accurate signal meter, showing less signal at times than an iPhone 3GS while still being able to achieve the same or better call quality.



This has led some to jump to the conclusion that the reception problems noted by some iPhone 4 users are the sign of a hardware design flaw related to its stainless steel band antenna design. Apple's chief executive Steve Jobs stoked a whiplash of blogger frenzy when he reportedly responded that users "were holding it the wrong way," blocking the signal with their hands.



A variety of people have demonstrated identical problems with other phones, from the Android based Nexus One to the iPhone 3GS. Yesterday, my wry tweet, "Blocking iPhone 4 antenna kills reception. Blocking mic kills audio, and covering the screen makes it impossible to see Retina Display" made it to the front page of Twitter and was retweeted more than a hundred times by people following the hullabaloo.



However, the fact that problems observed in the iPhone 3GS are much more pronounced when the device is upgraded to iOS 4 indicate that there is also a software issue involved in the matter. iPhone 4 users can't downgrade to earlier versions of the core software, making it impossible to compare its relative performance.



Software fix in the works



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.



Talk to the hand



The core software problem is likely augmented by hand placement, as Jobs noted in pointing out that holding the new phone (or any mobile device) in such a way that attenuates the signal should simply be avoided.



Yesterday, antenna design expert Spencer Webb posted his early appraisal of the situation, noting that the FCC mandates that cell phone antennas need to be positioned as far away from the user's head as possible, effectively forcing antenna placement in the bottom of the phone, where it is most likely to be covered by the user's hand.



Webb also noted that neither the regulatory tests performed by the FCC during its approval process, nor the antenna efficiency tests performed by the carrier (AT&T) during its own device requirements testing take into account how a user's hand might play into the antenna design and the test results.



The bottom-mounted antenna design "evolved to meet [FCC] requirements," Webb explained. "And efficient transmission and reception while being held by a human hand are simply not design requirements!"



Webb points out that Bluetooth headsets also suffer from attenuation when the phone is positioned in such a way that the user's body absorbs too much of the signal. He assumed that the iPhone 4 design, which "moved the antenna action from the back of the phone to the sides," will likely only improve things when the phone is "suspended magically in air," but may actually make things worse when the phone is placed in the user's pocket.



At the same time, Webb says he voted with his dollars to buy the new iPhone 4 anyway, adding, "sometimes an antenna that's not great, but good enough, is good enough."
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Comments

  • plagenplagen Posts: 151member
    No bar drop after 2 full recharges!



    I've done 2 full battery recharges and the bar drop all but disappeared. It was noticeable during the first day, less so after the first recharge, and now I've been squeezing the heck out of the phone for 30 min straight and it stubbornly stays at 5 bars.



    Could it be that the whole thing is a combination of software/power management, and a conditioned battery responding much better to the changes in the antenna load? Notice, that all the negative responses appeared during the first day of use.
  • g3prog3pro Posts: 669member
    Loss of reception while dialing out?

    Avoid using the phone for phone calls.



    Dropped calls in San Francisco?

    Avoid going to San Francisco.



    Playhouse Disney (or other flash site) doesn't work in the browser?

    Avoid going to that site.



    Screen gets smudged?

    Avoid touching the screen.



    Hate getting ripped off for expensive junk?

    Stop buying Apple products.











    Seriously, if the software fix doesn't do it, there will be multitudes of ripped off users who will be pissed off.
  • macapfelmacapfel Posts: 397member
    This really is a pattern: Apple releases something new, there is a big hype, and then people get all hysteric about something not properly working. A couple of days or at most weeks later, no one really talks about it any more and it seems people just overreacted. This thing is out for just two days- if you are an early adopter, give this thing some time in the wild, and also think about how many people do NOT have problems. As long as that's the vast majority - there is no real problem.
  • ochymingochyming Posts: 474member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by g3pro View Post


    Loss of reception while dialing out?

    Avoid using the phone for phone calls.



    Dropped calls in San Francisco?

    Avoid going to San Francisco.



    Playhouse Disney (or other flash site) doesn't work in the browser?

    Avoid going to that site.



    Screen gets smudged?

    Avoid touching the screen.



    Hate getting ripped off for expensive junk?

    Stop buying Apple products.











    Seriously, if the software fix doesn't do it, there will be multitudes of ripped off users who will be pissed off.





    I thought USA is a free country, where people do what they want!

    Does this happens outside USA?
  • canadancanadan Posts: 21member
    Apple techs will be busting their nuts working on this one this weekend, lol. I'm sure they'll figure something out somehow. Just get it done before we get it (god knows when) in Canada



    Oh, I heard that sitting on your phone decreases the bars to zero, great!!
  • st3v3st3v3 Posts: 63member
    This is useful for people who get the issue with no decrease in quality/data speeds, but what about people that do? I don't think a misrepresentation of connection quality would lead to an ACTUAL decrease in connection quality.
  • irelandireland Posts: 15,353member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Software fix in the works



    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.



    Why didn't Steve say that then, instead of the holding position crap? Something sounds fishy. Were relying on very shady information here, and why was it taken down?



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    At the same time, Webb says he voted with his dollars to buy the new iPhone 4 anyway, adding, "sometimes an antenna that's not great, but good enough, is good enough.



    Yeah fucking right. If the phone doesn't work as advertised, without a case - you blew it. I want an iPhone 4 like the next guy, but color me extremely cautious.
  • irelandireland Posts: 15,353member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by st3v3 View Post


    This is useful for people who get the issue with no decrease in quality/data speeds, but what about people that do? I don't think a misrepresentation of connection quality would lead to an ACTUAL decrease in connection quality.



    Exactly what I was thinking. Calls drop when you "hold it wrong" (lol), and speed crawls to a halt too. I'd say something if it was in a weird location, but it's right where your left hand naturally falls when you're simply holding the phone while you use it with your right.
  • extremeskaterextremeskater Posts: 2,248member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    Why didn't Steve say that then, instead of the holding position crap? Something sounds fishy. Were relying on very shady information here, and why was it taken down?







    Yeah fucking right. If the phone does work as advertised, without a case - you blew it. I want an iPhone 4 like the next guy, but color me extremely cautious.



    That should be great for stock prices. I can see it now Apple new motto, "Good Enough is Good Enough"



    Awesome we have gone from cutting edge science and technology, combined with the best browsing experience ever, best screen resolution ever to "good enough".



    Apple is officially the new Microsoft.
  • alecthekingalectheking Posts: 206member
    My "old" 3GS which was updated to 4.0 completely wanked out on the update, can't connect to edge, 3G... No data whatsoever... AT&T can't fix it, was escalated to top technical support, no help. Restore, upgrades, clean restores with no backups, network resets, AT&T sending out reset commands....not one facking thing worked, all this on a phone that worked beautifully before.



    On the other hand, my iPhone 4 has been flawless, I can replicate the service issues by gripping it in my left hand, but I'm a righty so it doesn't effect me... Well, and i have maximum coverage invisible shield and a bumper, so even if I was lefty it wouldn't matter.
  • ochymingochyming Posts: 474member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    Why didn't Steve say that then, instead of the holding position crap? Something sounds fishy. Were relying on very shady information here, and why was it taken down?







    Yeah fucking right. If the phone does work as advertised, without a case - you blew it. I want an iPhone 4 like the next guy, but color me extremely cautious.



    What?

    You are supposed to buy one, none will forcefully offer you one, i think.

    Instead of Apple panicking, people are in panic?!



    Wow!
  • macnycmacnyc Posts: 342member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by g3pro View Post


    Loss of reception while dialing out?

    Avoid using the phone for phone calls.



    Dropped calls in San Francisco?

    Avoid going to San Francisco.



    Playhouse Disney (or other flash site) doesn't work in the browser?

    Avoid going to that site.



    Screen gets smudged?

    Avoid touching the screen.



    Hate getting ripped off for expensive junk?

    Stop buying Apple products.











    Seriously, if the software fix doesn't do it, there will be multitudes of ripped off users who will be pissed off.



    Hate trolls?

    Stop reading g3pro comments.
  • irelandireland Posts: 15,353member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Plagen View Post


    No bar drop after 2 full recharges!



    I've done 2 full battery recharges and the bar drop all but disappeared. It was noticeable during the first day, less so after the first recharge, and now I've been squeezing the heck out of the phone for 30 min straight and it stubbornly stays at 5 bars.



    Could it be that the whole thing is a combination of software/power management, and a conditioned battery responding much better to the changes in the antenna load? Notice, that all the negative responses appeared during the first day of use.



    I'm glad to hear it, but it doesn't reassure me too much. It happened when you go it, who says it won't come back tomorrow or next week. It all feels iffy. Very 1.0
  • ultranoteultranote Posts: 5member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    Exactly what I was thinking.



    Yes it can be a software issue if the decrease in the number of bars comes from a (wrong) value which is the same trigger used by the system to know which frequency to use or if it's good enough for service vs no service mode.
  • woofpupwoofpup Posts: 31member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by st3v3 View Post


    This is useful for people who get the issue with no decrease in quality/data speeds, but what about people that do? I don't think a misrepresentation of connection quality would lead to an ACTUAL decrease in connection quality.



    I don't think they're saying the fix is just for addressing the representation of signal strength; it's for how the baseband handles changes in signal quality (like when your hand attenuates the signal either due to blocking it or I guess making contact between the two parts of the metal band). "The fix is expected to address a issue in iOS 4 related to radio frequency calibration of the baseband."
  • mazda 3smazda 3s Posts: 1,447member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by st3v3 View Post


    This is useful for people who get the issue with no decrease in quality/data speeds, but what about people that do? I don't think a misrepresentation of connection quality would lead to an ACTUAL decrease in connection quality.



    Exactly what I came here to post. When my hand is cradling the lower left corner of my iPhone, it goes from five bars, to three bars, down to one bar. If I hold it there long enough, it goes to "No Service".



    When laying on the couch, I often have the phone in this position. Hell, I hold the phone in this position just about any time when I'm surfing the web because it's the most comfortable. And when the bars go down, I actually get dropped calls. When turning off Wi-Fi and relying on 3G data only, it will slowly go from 3G to EDGE to No Service with the respective drops in wireless performance.



    I don't see how a software update to address the graphical representation of bars is going to solve my problem, but I'm no hardware/software specialist so what do I know?



    Note: I never had this problems with my 3GS, even after updating to iOS4. My wife has a 3GS running iOS4 and she doesn't have reception issues either.
  • irelandireland Posts: 15,353member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by alectheking View Post


    On the other hand, my iPhone 4 has been flawless, I can replicate the service issues by gripping it in my left hand, but I'm a righty so it doesn't effect me... Well, and i have maximum coverage invisible shield and a bumper, so even if I was lefty it wouldn't matter.



    Flawless?
  • kotatsukotatsu Posts: 1,010member
    I'll be very interested to see what this does.



    Like many others I too have the rapid signal drop when holding the phone, quite literally going from 5 bars of 3G when sat on my desk, to 1 bar of GPRS or even no signal at all within 30 seconds of picking it up. If I pick it up with my finger tips I can keep it on 2-3 bars of 3G. No such problems with my old iPhone 3G.



    Too bad as the device is beautiful otherwise. The screen, although pretty rubbish in dark situations (as you would expect for an LCD) is stunningly sharp and detailed, and the snappiness of the device is a revelation after my near comatose 3G running iOS4. I love the new construction too, it makes the old design feel cheap and bloated.



    I do wish game devs would hurry it up with upgrades though. Real Racing is great running in native iPhone 4 resolution and the new gyroscope controls make it incredibly responsive. Playing other, non enhanced games just seems clunky now.
  • g3prog3pro Posts: 669member
    Who wants to bet that Apple's fix will be to secretly change the way that signal strength is presented to the user?



    In the end, people will probably still be blaming AT&T for poor network quality and Apple will escape from this horrendously idiotic engineering error by once again fooling its users.
  • nprtmn4evrnprtmn4evr Posts: 35member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Yesterday, my wry tweet, "Blocking iPhone 4 antenna kills reception. Blocking mic kills audio, and covering the screen makes it impossible to see Retina Display" made it to the front page of Twitter and was retweeted more than a hundred times by people following the hullabaloo.



    Bragging much?
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