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NYT: iPhone 4 antenna problems a result of 'weakness' in software

post #1 of 167
Thread Starter 
Reception problems with the iPhone 4 are a result of "longstanding" problems also found in previous-generation iPhones, but the issue could potentially be fixed by a software fix, The New York Times reported Thursday evening.

Citing a person with "direct knowledge" of the design of the iPhone 4, author Miguel Helft wrote that the problems experienced by users are a result of a "longstanding weakness" found in the "basic communications software" found in all iPhones. The reception problems, that source said, were not a result of a single hardware flaw.

"Instead, the problems emerged in the complex interaction between specialized communications software and the antenna, said the person, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter," the report said.

It continued: "The person said the problems were longstanding but had been exposed by the design of the iPhone 4. All cellphones can be affected by the way a hand grips the phone, but well-designed communications software compensates for a variety of external factors and prevents calls from dropping, the person said."

The Times also said that the error could "presumably be fixed with a software update," and that it "appears" unrelated to the software issue patched earlier Thursday, through the release of iOS 4.0.1.

Helft was also informed by the anonymous source that Apple would not announce a recall at its press conference scheduled for Friday, at 10 a.m. Pacific Time. That reiterated an earlier report from The Wall Street Journal, which also reported a full-fledged recall is not in the cards.

The source who spoke with the Times also indicated that Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs did not learn of the software problem until after the iPhone 4 shipped. That is in contrast to a report from earlier Thursday by Bloomberg, which alleged that Jobs was personally informed of the issue last year by Ruben Caballero, a senior engineer and antenna expert with Apple. Apple also officially denied that rumor to the Journal.
post #2 of 167
We are waiting. I will see as soon as I download the new iOS 4.0.1.

If no change, I will wait to hear what Apple will say on Friday, then decide whether to return this phone or not.

I still have my trust in Apple.
post #3 of 167
Sounds very plausible, though I think that the underlying root cause of the issue is attenuation due to detuning of the antennae by physical contact with a conducting surface (e.g. finger, metal, et al). Of course, the underlying software can determine this and adjust power and reception accordingly. Should be interesting to see what they say tomorrow.
post #4 of 167
If Apple believes that it can be fixed via a software update then fix it. Stop leaking BS to the WSJ and the NYT.
post #5 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by str1f3 View Post

If Apple believes that it can be fixed via a software update then fix it. Stop leaking BS to the WSJ and the NYT.

Oh hush... You keep reading said "BS".
post #6 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by OC4Theo View Post

We are waiting. I will see as soon as I download the new iOS 4.0.1.

If no change, I will wait to hear what Apple will say on Friday, then decide whether to return this phone or not.

I still have my trust in Apple.

Read the article. iOS 4.0.1 is a separate update.
post #7 of 167
hey

Does anybody really care what the NYT thinks or
a some Democratic Senator?

No really guys and gals, I'd like to know if Americans give a rat's ass (have the same distrust as Aussies)
about The Media and Politicians?
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post #8 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by str1f3 View Post

If Apple believes that it can be fixed via a software update then fix it. Stop leaking BS to the WSJ and the NYT.

Let's assume the above is true - Give them time to come up with a software fix - Perhaps they should extend the warranty as well.

I often wonder if part of the problem is the speed at which the phone switches from 3g to edge is too slow - this would result in dropped calls and lost data
post #9 of 167
So...they are basically saying that for all this time Apple has had substandard software running one of the most complained about problems with the phone. I'm not vindicating AT&T...but it sure must have been nice to stand back and let them take all the blame...

It's funny how this is supposed to give me faith my iPhone is not a dud...but it does the opposite...because for 4 generations of iPhones...they are apparently just now getting around to admitting they have a long-running phone/antennae issue...even if it is software.

I look forward to my iPhone 8 when they finally get around to fixing it.
post #10 of 167
The person was anonymous, so whatever, meaningless story

Sorry

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post #11 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magic8Ball View Post

Let's assume the above is true - Give them time to come up with a software fix - Perhaps they should extend the warranty as well.

I often wonder if part of the problem is the speed at which the phone switches from 3g to edge is too slow - this would result in dropped calls and lost data

I think that would have to due with the substandard software mentioned. But you are right, it is AWFUL at switching between 3G and EDGE...probably at switching from one tower to another as well. I have never had another phone that would continue looking for 3G when it had been EDGE only for miles...and needed a reboot to connect to the network correctly.
post #12 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by OzExige View Post

hey

Does anybody really care what the NYT thinks or
a some Democratic Senator?

No really guys and gals, I'd like to know if Americans give a rat's ass (have the same distrust as Aussies)
about The Media and Politicians?

And, AI is what? Your friend?
post #13 of 167
After thinking about it for another 2 minutes...I am kind of worried even more. I sincerely hope they don't make a ton of concessions to try and patch this up via software, further degrading other performance to get this "fixed" without doing a recall.

I'm still having a hard time understanding how the issue that is most talked about could be software. I think they definitely need to improve the software, but the consensus seems to overwhelmingly be that this is a design issue.

I just hope that behind all the PR spin the people at Apple aren't in actual denial about what is going on here...I guess tomorrow will tell.
post #14 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

The person was anonymous, so whatever, meaningless story

Sorry

No need to feel sorry.

Just know that, if not for Anonymous, we'd never have things like Watergate.
post #15 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by buckdutter View Post

So...they are basically saying that for all this time Apple has had substandard software running one of the most complained about problems with the phone. I'm not vindicating AT&T...but it sure must have been nice to stand back and let them take all the blame...

It's funny how this is supposed to give me faith my iPhone is not a dud...but it does the opposite...because for 4 generations of iPhones...they are apparently just now getting around to admitting they have a long-running phone/antennae issue...even if it is software.

I look forward to my iPhone 8 when they finally get around to fixing it.

Betcha every phone manufacturer finds this - albeit not so publicly. Let's see what happens tomorrow
post #16 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

No need to feel sorry.

Just know that, if not for Anonymous, we'd never have things like Watergate.

The sorry was because my first post got deleted by mod, I guess because I forgot the <sarcasm> tag

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post #17 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by buckdutter View Post

I think that would have to due with the substandard software mentioned. But you are right, it is AWFUL at switching between 3G and EDGE...probably at switching from one tower to another as well. I have never had another phone that would continue looking for 3G when it had been EDGE only for miles...and needed a reboot to connect to the network correctly.

I am an antenna engineer and the NYT reporter is not. Software will not and I repeat, will not compensate for loss of incoming signal strength. Any basic antenna engineer knows that touching an antenna produces attenuation that reduces the strength of the incoming RF signal. I cannot believe a company like Apple could have been so careless or just dumb to think it could get away with a design like this. The idea to prefer styling over good design practices has been violated again for the sake of money.
post #18 of 167
I think the issue is whether software can compensate for the effect making skin contact with the antenna while maintaining 100% or better reception (both data and voice) as well as on par or better battery consumption. If it can compensate but only by halving your data bandwidth or by using more battery power then they aren't fixing the problem - they're just shifting the symptom.

As far as I've read, and in my personal experience, a bumper doesn't degrade the signal. If this is the case, then the antenna being exposed on the outside of the device isn't necessary for functionality. Any tradeoffs made in exchange for having an external antenna are made solely in the name of style. Style is all well and good, until it stops just working.
post #19 of 167
This is plausible, but I reserve judgment until after the Apple press conference tomorrow.
post #20 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by maczones View Post

I am an antenna engineer and the NYT reporter is not.

The world is suddenly full of antenna engineers with one post.

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post #21 of 167
Everybody and their mom could be an anonymous source.

Anonymous also cost Dan Rather his job and reputation.
post #22 of 167
Considering all the anonymity, and the lack of any actual explanation, the NYT could well be making this non-story up... In the excitement about tomorrow's press-conference, no one is going to remember this for even 24 hours...
post #23 of 167
Seriously, a movie should be made about this.

Seriously, this is a great case study in human behavior.

Seriously, the obsession, the passion, compulsion, addiction, fanaticism for Apple products is getting out of control and it's a global outbreak folks.

Seriously, the media needs to deal with this responsibly.

Time will tell.
post #24 of 167
Point is people have invested rage and emotion in this issue. Nothing Apple says or does will placate them. Whatever Apple's solution is it won't be accepted by the heavy breathing, spittle spraying, primordially enraged crowd. Their response to any proposed Apple fix will make the Mel Gibson tapes sound calm and rational.

Tell me I'm wrong. I'm right aren't I.
post #25 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magic8Ball View Post

Let's assume the above is true - Give them time to come up with a software fix - Perhaps they should extend the warranty as well.

I often wonder if part of the problem is the speed at which the phone switches from 3g to edge is too slow - this would result in dropped calls and lost data

99% of the solution is admitting there's a problem. If the NYT article is true then a solution may be at hand soon. If anyone can fix this, it's Apple Software Engineers plus other world class engineering consultants they will probably hire for a crash marathon solution update in the next month or so.

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post #26 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by buckdutter View Post

So...they are basically saying that for all this time Apple has had substandard software running one of the most complained about problems with the phone. I'm not vindicating AT&T...but it sure must have been nice to stand back and let them take all the blame...

It's funny how this is supposed to give me faith my iPhone is not a dud...but it does the opposite...because for 4 generations of iPhones...they are apparently just now getting around to admitting they have a long-running phone/antennae issue...even if it is software.

I look forward to my iPhone 8 when they finally get around to fixing it.

Apparently you didn't read the article. They said the iPhone 4 exposed the problem (meaning they just found the issue). Don't you think that if it was a software problem (hence fixable), that they would have addressed it when they found it? It makes no sense that they would have fixed it years after it was exposed when they could have slipped a fix in at any time.

NYT isn't claiming they've known about it for years, they claimed the problem they just found affected all previous generation phones.
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post #27 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

The person was anonymous, so whatever, meaningless story

Sorry

That was not anonymous - it was deep throat!
But seriously, where did this insane idea of a recall come from. Apple will exchange faulty units but I don't see lines of people clutching their iPhones with both hands screaming 'look look, the bars are dropping' in order to get a replacement. For most people this will turn out to be nothing. If your phone is broken get it replaced.

Oh and no doubt tomorrow will see some other related news such as the white iPhone and dare I suggest... Verizon (I don't believe that but it would be the perfect move to make this whole thing go away), along with a lot of stats showing us how the iPhone 4 is the best and greatest and most successful smartphone ever. I'm getting mine as soon as I'm due an upgrade.
post #28 of 167
It's a hardware problem, it's a software problem...recall, no recall....they're just throwing everything at the wall, aren't they?
post #29 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

No need to feel sorry.

Just know that, if not for Anonymous, we'd never have things like Watergate.

OMG!
really and truly?

Anonymous is from the Washington Post?

Apologies for being Off Topic and Off Planet - I'm over The Antenna
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post #30 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post

Point is people have invested rage and emotion in this issue. Nothing Apple says or does will placate them. Whatever Apple's solution is it won't be accepted by the heavy breathing, spittle spraying, primordially enraged crowd. Their response to any proposed Apple fix will make the Mel Gibson tapes sound calm and rational.

Tell me I'm wrong. I'm right aren't I.

And they refuse to return their iPhones for a full refund.

People, if you have an iPhone 4, hold on to it. It'll be worth a lot more in the future.

Trust me. We are living in interesting times.
post #31 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by maczones View Post

I am an antenna engineer and the NYT reporter is not. Software will not and I repeat, will not compensate for loss of incoming signal strength. Any basic antenna engineer knows that touching an antenna produces attenuation that reduces the strength of the incoming RF signal. I cannot believe a company like Apple could have been so careless or just dumb to think it could get away with a design like this. The idea to prefer styling over good design practices has been violated again for the sake of money.

Sure, but how many dBm should touching the antenna, or shorting it with a longer antenna attenuate? I'm not an RF engineer, but I thought it was more on the order of 5-6dB, maybe 12dB in a really bad case.

The fact that they get 20-24dBm suggests that there is more to it than that.
post #32 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

The world is suddenly full of antenna engineers with one post.

I build antennas used in the space business. No margin of error is allow in this type of business. After 40 years doing this type of work I can say I know what I am talking about without any reservations. Basic antenna design principles have been the letter of the law since Marconi and it will not change with software magic to day or in the future.
post #33 of 167
Nope, not happening. Physics isn't currently up to be changed at will. At least not in my lifetime. (I'm 31)
post #34 of 167
I'd wager... NOT!
"Why iPhone"... Hmmm?
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post #35 of 167
there is yet another reason for the poor reception and dropped calls.

Apple's credibility in this matter is so low now that one has to take anything they say with more than a grain of salt. Even if one does believe this latest excuse for the poor performance, it does not change the inherent design flaw of the antenna system.

Will a software patch in conjunction with a case or bumper be enough to satisfy many people? That remains to be seen, but Apple's reputation is damaged...and so is Steve's.

More independent testing will be required to determine if the resulting performance of the iPhone is "good enough", even if less than it should be with a properly designed antenna.

What I would like to know is whether the engineer who warned Steve is still in Apple's employ.
post #36 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by OC4Theo View Post

<snip>I still have my trust in Apple.

"Verify, then trust."

Old Russian proverb as told by Ronald Reagan.
post #37 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post

Sure, but how many dBm should touching the antenna, or shorting it with a longer antenna attenuate? I'm not an RF engineer, but I thought it was more on the order of 5-6dB, maybe 12dB in a really bad case.

The fact that they get 20-24dBm suggests that there is more to it than that.

Ok... a -3dB loss = 1/2 power loss... -6dB = 3/4 power loss.... Do you get the picture why the hand can cause this dramatic loss? Next time, grab a TV antenna (if you still have one) and hold on to both and see how the TV signal varies. This problem is not sophisticated, it's the people that refuse to concede to common sense.
post #38 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by maczones View Post

I build antennas used in the space business. No margin of error is allow in this type of business. After 40 years doing this type of work I can say I know what I am talking about without any reservations. Basic antenna design principles have been the letter of the law since Marconi and it will not change with software magic to day or in the future.

Good to have you join the discussion.

Perhaps you can explain just how it was that anyone at Apple possibly though that having direct physical contact with the antenna (whether or not there was a "bridging" problem) was a good idea.
post #39 of 167
The media continues to publish "secret information only available to them from some mole deep in the Apple establishment."

Does this remind anyone of all the negative blogs on the internet by a few people who have turned the internet into the bathroom wall of America.

On top of this, the NYT is (as a Socialist propaganda source) no better than the National Enquirer.
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post #40 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by buckdutter View Post

I'm still having a hard time understanding how the issue that is most talked about could be software.

It may not be a software issue, per se, but a hardware issue can be compensated for by software. And it wouldn't necessarily mean compromising other aspects of it's functions. Ideally, there would be no hardware issues, but those who claim hardware issues can never be solved with software fixes are wrong. If the software can control the radio circuitry to allow it to compensate for detuning due to contact with the antenna, then that's a legit fix.
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