Apple granted patent for iPhone 4 'antennagate' antenna design

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday granted Apple a patent for a bezel gap antenna that appears to have been used in the iPhone 4, a design which ultimately sparked the notorious "antennagate" debacle in 2010.

Antenna Patent
Source: USPTO


Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,270,914 for "Bezel gap antennas" describes antenna assemblies that can function as part of a wireless device's bezel to reduce the overall size of the product. The patent was first filed for in December, 2009, a little over six months prior to the unveiling of Apple's iPhone 4.

As seen in the invention's background, the "bezel gap" solution was an attempt to bring down device size while maintaining or improving on wireless operating performance:
To satisfy consumer demand for small form factor wireless devices, manufacturers are continually striving to implement wireless communications circuitry such as antenna components using compact structures. At the same time, it may be desirable to include conductive structures in an electronic device such as metal device housing components. Because conductive components can affect radio-frequency performance, care must be taken when incorporating antennas into an electronic device that includes conductive structures.
In order to make the iPhone 4 thin and light, Apple implemented a metal band around the device which was used for both structural rigidity as well as antennas for both Wi-Fi and cellular communication. The patent notes the conductive nature of such bezel elements can be detrimental to radio frequency performance and suggests the introduction of gaps between loop antennas.

Antenna Structure


From the patent's description:
These conductive structures tend to block radio-frequency signals. It may therefore be desirable to form some or all of the rear planar surface of device from a dielectric material such as plastic.
To be clear, the gap can be any dielectric material, including air, however Apple chose to use plastic to ensure the bezel was "aesthetically pleasing."

Going further, the antenna can be tuned to reduce the electric field concentration near the gap, thus avoiding unwanted attenuation from fingers or other body parts.

Antenna Tuning


In one embodiment, the bezel gap structure can separate two loop antennas, one located at the top of a device to handle Wi-FI, GPS and Bluetooth, and another at the bottom for "voice and data communications in one or more cellular telephone bands." This is the exact configuration of the iPhone 4's antennas.

Shortly after the iPhone 4 launched in 2010, customers began to complain of cellular signal loss seemingly associated with how they held the device. The signal loss was later attributed to attenuation with users' hands, prompting Apple to offer free iPhone bumper cases to those affected.

In February, Apple issued a statement regarding the settlement of a class-action lawsuit over what is now known as the "antennagate" controversy, saying the company paid out $15 to a "small number" of people.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 52
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,340member
    How NOT to design an antenna. My iP4 has the shittiest reception and most sensitive design of any phone. Touch it and it drops a call. Without a bumper, it's pretty bad.
  • Reply 2 of 52
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    eriamjh wrote: »
    How NOT to design an antenna. My iP4 has the shittiest reception and most sensitive design of any phone. Touch it and it drops a call. Without a bumper, it's pretty bad.
    I've never had any issues with my 4S.
  • Reply 3 of 52
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member


    LOL!


     


    Just don't copy it that way, okay?

  • Reply 4 of 52
    mcrsmcrs Posts: 172member


    Finally, it's a patent worthy of carrying Apple's name on it.  


     



     



     


  • Reply 5 of 52
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    eriamjh wrote: »
    How NOT to design an antenna. My iP4 has the shittiest reception and most sensitive design of any phone. Touch it and it drops a call. Without a bumper, it's pretty bad.

    Yes, that's what all the whiners and media whores say.

    Independent tests found otherwise.
  • Reply 6 of 52
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,992member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post



    How NOT to design an antenna. My iP4 has the shittiest reception and most sensitive design of any phone. Touch it and it drops a call. Without a bumper, it's pretty bad.


     


    My one is fine, never had a problem in over two years, the strange thing is when I touch the gap the bars go up, I'll be passing it on to my wife, when I get my iPhone 5 as America sleeps.

  • Reply 7 of 52
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member
    I, for one, have a protective case with my iPhone4, and the only times I've had bad reception was when I was indoors in a bad cell zone. Which will happen regardless of which phone I use. Other than that I've had no problems with cell reception.

    Heck, back many years ago I used to have bad cell reception with my Startac phone and no one bitched and complained like people do.

    I've had SIII owners tell me they have worse reception than iPhone users in the same spot with the same carrier. Either way, I think with the 4G/LTE chipset and the new antenna design with the iPhone 5, I'm sure that cell reception will be more up to being in a good cell zone and if not, don't blame the phone, blame the carrier.
  • Reply 8 of 52


    I was living in Australia when the iPhone 4 was released, and promptly bought one. I was frequently traveling throughout Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and even parts of Africa. I absolutely never had a problem with reception or dropped calls during all of those travels ... until I traveled back to the USA and roamed onto AT&T's network. Then I experienced exactly what had been reported about the iPhone 4.


     


    My view is that the iPhone 4's antenna design did show off attenuation issues (and worse than other manufacturer models at the time) if you were in a bad cell reception location - basically in an edge situation. For normal cell networks, there was no problem. The problem was as much the network as it was the device.


     


    When the CDMA version was released, the slight changes to the antenna design fixed the attenuation problem. And that antenna design was again used in the 4S.

  • Reply 9 of 52


    Cool, that's really a brilliant engineering.


     


    It's just they didn't test out well without a case.


     


    Remember? When an apple engineer lost it or got stolen at a bar. The one who finds it said it have a casing to make it look like an iPhone 3G/3GS?

  • Reply 10 of 52
    mazda 3smazda 3s Posts: 1,607member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post





    Yes, that's what all the whiners and media whores say.

    Independent tests found otherwise.



     


     


    From a post I made a few weeks ago:


     


     


      


     


     My wife's iPhone 4, open palm vs my wife's iPhone 4 with death grip (signal drops)


     


     


       


     


    My iPhone 4s with open palm vs my iPhone 4S with death grip (no changes in signal)

  • Reply 11 of 52
    eriamjh wrote: »
    How NOT to design an antenna. My iP4 has the shittiest reception and most sensitive design of any phone. Touch it and it drops a call. Without a bumper, it's pretty bad.

    They've sold, what, at least 60 M of these units. You think they all have cases on them? I used Bumpers at first to protect it but the Bumper wears out and I hated the bulk. Haven't had any case on it for about 1.5 years of the 2.25 years I've been using it. Dropped it plenty of times and it didn't break. Have made countless calls and didn't have to pinch the glass to keep the call from dropping.

    Don't confuse a single being attenuated with a dropped call. Also don't confuse the dB rating as represented by bars as meaning a single isn't usable. Three bars doesn't mean you get a better call over 4 bars as it doesn't represent call quality or data throughput. As AnandTech clearly showed the bars representing the dB were way off, they hadn't been adjusted for this revolutionary new external design that is still on the iPhone 3 generations later despite some saying they will all be recalled, Apple will put the antenna back inside the device, and Apple was foolish to try something new in an industry they know nothing about. None of those things happened. AT showed that the iPhone 4 could not only hold a call but also make a call in areas that all other devices had no signal because the antenna was more sensitive to a lower dB because of the clever antenna design. Why ignore this part of their article?
  • Reply 12 of 52
    mazda 3smazda 3s Posts: 1,607member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    They've sold, what, at least 60 M of these units. You think they all have cases on them? I used Bumpers at first to protect it but the Bumper wears out and I hated the bulk. Haven't had any case on it for about 1.5 years of the 2.25 years I've been using it. Dropped it plenty of times and it didn't break. Have made countless calls and didn't have to pinch the glass to keep the call from dropping.
    Don't confuse a single being attenuated with a dropped call. Also don't confuse the dB rating as represented by bars as meaning a single isn't usable. Three bars doesn't mean you get a better call over 4 bars as it doesn't represent call quality or data throughput. As AnandTech clearly showed the bars representing the dB were way off, they hadn't been adjusted for this revolutionary new external design that is still on the iPhone 3 generations later despite some saying they will all be recalled, Apple will put the antenna back inside the device, and Apple was foolish to try something new in an industry they know nothing about. None of those things happened. AT showed that the iPhone 4 could not only hold a call but also make a call in areas that all other devices had no signal because the antenna was more sensitive to a lower dB because of the clever antenna design. Why ignore this part of their article?

    In my wife's case, if she holds it in her palm for a minute or so, she eventually gets a "no signal" reading. Before it gets to that point, 3G speeds (when not connected to WiFi) slow to a crawl.

    She uses a case full time with it and that solves the problem.
  • Reply 13 of 52
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,340member
    My phone definitely had problems. Independent tests are one thing, personal experience is another. Other 4s may have been less sensitive but the issue was real, although. It necessarily an issue with every phone.

    I don't need a death grip to drop calls. Just about any touching the side caused issues. My home is also a weak area and the bars jump all over. Don't insult me to telling you my experience. I'm as pro-apple as it gets. I got their bumper and the issues were greatly reduced. Took it off and they come right back.

    After 27 months, I'm ready for my iPhone 5.
  • Reply 14 of 52
    mazda 3s wrote: »
    In my wife's case, if she holds it in her palm for a minute or so, she eventually gets a "no signal" reading. Before it gets to that point, 3G speeds (when not connected to WiFi) slow to a crawl.
    She uses a case full time with it and that solves the problem.

    So if she holds her phone in a normal way her calls will drop because that is what no signal is, not a graphical element display as zero to four bars.

    As I stated I've had the same iPhone 4 for 2.25 years without this issue. I didn't have a Bumper from the start because they weren't out yet. I got one ASAP to protect my device but after three wearing out and looking pretty gross after just a couple months I gave that up. My only issues with the iPhone 4 are my Home Button, a problem that appears to be much more widespread than any dramatized antenna problems, and that only seems to happen after a couple years of use, which I estimate to be in the millions of clicks, at least for me, on the Home Button.

    If it's a conceptual flaw with the antenna being on the outside then why are the iPhone 4S and 5 both on the outside? Why didn't they recall them all instead of continuing to sell them? Note that the iPhone 4 is still being produced and sold as Apple's entry-level device. I'd have absolutely no problem telling someone to get an iPhone 4 if they were hell bent on not spending at least $99 up front for an iPhone (although the latest model always makes the most sense).

    Are these dozens upon dozen of millions of users not being able to make any calls for over two years now? That surely doesn't sound reasonable to me.

    I returned my iPhone 4S and went back to my iPhone 4 after 3 days last year because the baseband firmware issues that were draining the battery and Siri not being accessible with just a few million users was something I didn't want to deal with. Does that sound reasonable if my iPhone 4 couldn't make or hold any calls for the past year and my data would slow to a crawl just by holding my iPhone? I certainly don't think so.

    I'm not saying your wife et al. didn't have issues with your CE — this is a part of all CE — but don't claim that the device was inherently flawed simply because some had an issue. I certainly think my iPhone 4S battery drain issues were the same for everyone. I contemplated replacing it but decided to just wait for a baseband update that finally came way too late for me to want to switch.

    We like to think that these devices are all the same but that is far from the truth. Note the recent iPhone 5 video showing 725 tiny pieces of glass inlays that have micron differences being used for the back plate.

    I can honestly say I've never been happier or used a phone for as long as I've used my iPhone 4.
  • Reply 15 of 52
    mazda 3smazda 3s Posts: 1,607member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    So if she holds her phone in a normal way her calls will drop because that is what no signal is, not a graphical element display as zero to four bars.

    As I stated I've had the same iPhone 4 for 2.25 years without this issue. I didn't have a Bumper from the start because they weren't out yet. I got one ASAP to protect my device but after three wearing out and looking pretty gross after just a couple months I gave that up. My only issues with the iPhone 4 are my Home Button, a problem that appears to be much more widespread than any dramatized antenna problems, and that only seems to happen after a couple years of use, which I estimate to be in the millions of clicks, at least for me, on the Home Button.

    If it's a conceptual flaw with the antenna being on the outside then why are the iPhone 4S and 5 both on the outside? Why didn't they recall them all instead of continuing to sell them? Note that the iPhone 4 is still being produced and sold as Apple's entry-level device. I'd have absolutely no problem telling someone to get an iPhone 4 if they were hell bent on not spending at least $99 up front for an iPhone (although the latest model always makes the most sense).

    Are these dozens upon dozen of millions of users not being able to make any calls for over two years now? That surely doesn't sound reasonable to me.

    I returned my iPhone 4S and went back to my iPhone 4 after 3 days last year because the baseband firmware issues that were draining the battery and Siri not being accessible with just a few million users was something I didn't want to deal with. Does that sound reasonable if my iPhone 4 couldn't make or hold any calls for the past year and my data would slow to a crawl just by holding my iPhone? I certainly don't think so.


     


    I had the phone for a year before giving it to her when I got my iPhone 4S. YES, I would drop calls quite frequently when holding it without a case -- that was the reason why I bought a bumper case for it in the first place. However, I would more frequently have problems when holding it in my palm when browsing the web/using apps because the way I naturally hold the phone causes the signal to drop... eventually going down to "No Signal".


     


    My wife would prefer to use her phone without a case, but once I gave her my iPhone 4, she had the same problems I did, and ended up using a bumper case as well.


     


    You know, it's OK to admit that SOME people have legitimate problems.

  • Reply 16 of 52
    mazda 3s wrote: »
    I had the phone for a year before giving it to her when I got my iPhone 4S. YES, I would drop calls quite frequently when holding it without a case -- that was the reason why I bought a bumper case for it in the first place.

    I assume you realize that a dropped call can happen between your device, the connecting tower, all the interchange between networks and carriers, the receiver's tower and the receiver's device. Having made a career in networking you can't just say it's the first thing that comes to mind because it was in the paper and claim that is the culprit. In your case, it very well could be, but it's certainly not inherent to using an externally placed antenna for the reasons noted above.

    Where is your evidence to say it's not any of the other things in the chain every time a call was dropped? I seem to recall AT&T being the most likely carrier for dropped calls well before the iPhone 4 was ever demoed but it's all the iPhone 4's fault? How that is objective or critical thinking?
    You know, it's OK to admit that SOME people have legitimate problems.

    I covered that quite thoroughly.
  • Reply 17 of 52
    mazda 3smazda 3s Posts: 1,607member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    I assume you realize that a dropped call can happen between your device, the connecting tower, all the interchange between networks and carriers, the receiver's tower and the receiver's device. Having made a career in networking you can't just say it's the first thing that comes to mind because it was in the paper and claim that is the culprit. In your case, it very well could be, but it's certainly not inherent to using an externally placed antenna for the reasons noted above.

    Where is your evidence to say it's not any of the other things in the chain every time a call was dropped? I seem to recall AT&T being the most likely carrier for dropped calls well before the iPhone 4 was ever demoed but it's all the iPhone 4's fault? How that is objective or critical thinking?

    I covered that quite thoroughly.


    Goodness gracious, I feel like I'm arguing with a wall. I said that I had problems with dropped calls without using a case. After using a case, they were a rarity.


     


    I also said that I had the MOST problems simply holding the phone in my palm one-handed when browsing the web. That has nothing to do with dropped calls, and simply with the position of my palm with relation to the antennas. Open palm, strong signal 3G works perfectly. Grip the phone like I normally would to secure the phone, and internet speeds slow to a crawl and then eventually get "No Signal". Go back to an open palm and all is well again.


     


    If I use a case, I have no problems in any situation.


     


    I don't know how else to explain it to you. 

  • Reply 18 of 52

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    I assume you realize that a dropped call can happen between your device, the connecting tower, all the interchange between networks and carriers, the receiver's tower and the receiver's device. Having made a career in networking you can't just say it's the first thing that comes to mind because it was in the paper and claim that is the culprit. In your case, it very well could be, but it's certainly not inherent to using an externally placed antenna for the reasons noted above.

    Where is your evidence to say it's not any of the other things in the chain every time a call was dropped? I seem to recall AT&T being the most likely carrier for dropped calls well before the iPhone 4 was ever demoed but it's all the iPhone 4's fault? How that is objective or critical thinking?

    I covered that quite thoroughly.


     


    Hmm. Talking as a network engineer here: The most common case for dropping a call in a decently designed network is: Handover from tower or controller to another failing for one reason or another (one reason being a quickly degrading signal). What causes a handover? A signal strength degradation below certain thresholds. So yes, signal degradation is the most common reason for a dropped call. To imply that the reason for a dropped call can often be something else than signal quality degradation, while true,  is not very likely. Especially in (W)CDMA based networks, where the availability of codes or timeslots (in GSM) is not really an issue.


     


    Of course if you are very unlucky and happen to live at an edge between two different switches, then problems with switches could be a problem, but would not explain why a certain phone model experiences more drops than another.


     


    Personally I'm using a 4 and did buy a case for added protection and grip (no slippery glass in the back), but it also did reduce my dropped call rate to virtually nil. Same with my brother-in-law. So should I claim that since I and my brother-in-law experienced problems, the problem is evident with everyone? It's the same as some people claiming: "I didn't experience any problems -> There can be no problems". I'd say it is clear, that the antenna can get detuned, which causes signal attenuation. Then it's more a matter of where you are. If the network is good enough, no problem, bad network->problem. This doesn't mean that the antennae is not sensitive.. It could be the most sensitive antenna in the market and still give a bad user experience, when a user notices that "holding it wrong" causes a call drop, which might have been dropped earlier had the design been different.

  • Reply 19 of 52

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    So if she holds her phone in a normal way her calls will drop because that is what no signal is, not a graphical element display as zero to four bars.

    As I stated I've had the same iPhone 4 for 2.25 years without this issue. I didn't have a Bumper from the start because they weren't out yet. I got one ASAP to protect my device but after three wearing out and looking pretty gross after just a couple months I gave that up. My only issues with the iPhone 4 are my Home Button, a problem that appears to be much more widespread than any dramatized antenna problems, and that only seems to happen after a couple years of use, which I estimate to be in the millions of clicks, at least for me, on the Home Button.

    If it's a conceptual flaw with the antenna being on the outside then why are the iPhone 4S and 5 both on the outside? Why didn't they recall them all instead of continuing to sell them? Note that the iPhone 4 is still being produced and sold as Apple's entry-level device. I'd have absolutely no problem telling someone to get an iPhone 4 if they were hell bent on not spending at least $99 up front for an iPhone (although the latest model always makes the most sense).

    Are these dozens upon dozen of millions of users not being able to make any calls for over two years now? That surely doesn't sound reasonable to me.

    I returned my iPhone 4S and went back to my iPhone 4 after 3 days last year because the baseband firmware issues that were draining the battery and Siri not being accessible with just a few million users was something I didn't want to deal with. Does that sound reasonable if my iPhone 4 couldn't make or hold any calls for the past year and my data would slow to a crawl just by holding my iPhone? I certainly don't think so.

    I'm not saying your wife et al. didn't have issues with your CE — this is a part of all CE — but don't claim that the device was inherently flawed simply because some had an issue. I certainly think my iPhone 4S battery drain issues were the same for everyone. I contemplated replacing it but decided to just wait for a baseband update that finally came way too late for me to want to switch.

    We like to think that these devices are all the same but that is far from the truth. Note the recent iPhone 5 video showing 725 tiny pieces of glass inlays that have micron differences being used for the back plate.

    I can honestly say I've never been happier or used a phone for as long as I've used my iPhone 4.




    I've had my 4 as long as you have and I can echo pretty much everything you said. Especially about the home button which seems to either not register a press or register multiple presses depending on the mood it's in

  • Reply 20 of 52

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jahonen View Post


     


    Personally I'm using a 4 and did buy a case for added protection and grip (no slippery glass in the back), but it also did reduce my dropped call rate to virtually nil. Same with my brother-in-law. So should I claim that since I and my brother-in-law experienced problems, the problem is evident with everyone? It's the same as some people claiming: "I didn't experience any problems -> There can be no problems". I'd say it is clear, that the antenna can get detuned, which causes signal attenuation. Then it's more a matter of where you are. If the network is good enough, no problem, bad network->problem. This doesn't mean that the antennae is not sensitive.. It could be the most sensitive antenna in the market and still give a bad user experience, when a user notices that "holding it wrong" causes a call drop, which might have been dropped earlier had the design been different.



     


    And that's all I'm saying. Can he not even entertain the possibility that not everyone's experiences are exactly the same?


     


    I'm not saying that everyone is having a problem, or that everyone is having a perfect life with iPhone 4 reception. We've just found in our case that there is a clear problem. It just infuriates me when people try to talk down to you and make you seem like you're crazy because "I don't have a problem so THERE IS NO PROBLEM" or "I'm an expert; I'm right, YOU'RE WRONG."


     


    Now whereas as my wife's iPhone 4 is hit or miss without a case, my iPhone 4S gets excellent reception without a case in any condition and rarely ever drops a call. And I can cup the device in my hand when surfing the web without 3G performance taking a nosedive.

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