Saturday, July 17, 2010

Antennagate: The Miniseries

So much has been said about the iPhone 4 antenna debacle that I don't feel a need to add to the soap opera drama.  Instead, I want to use this space to INFORM everyone because a lot of what you have heard about this problem may or may not be true.  So let's cut through the noise.

Right now, the one Internet source I trust about this issue is AnandTech.   This website seems to have no agenda to vilify Apple or AT&T nor give them a pass on every problem.  AnandTech also seems to know a lot about antenna problems on mobile phones.

So, after AnandTech's lengthy testing of the iPhone 4 with iOS 4.0, 4.0.1 and 4.1 beta, here are the results:
  • Reception in average conditions is sometimes significantly better on the iPhone 4 than on the 3GS
I have personally found this to be true.  Actually in extreme conditions, like driving in Oregon from Gresham to Cannon Beach, the iPhone 4 was always consistently ahead of the 3GS.  When the 3GS operated on EDGE, the iPhone 4 was still on 3G.  When the 3GS had no service the iPhone 4 was operating on EDGE.  There was also a BlackBerry Bold on T-Mobile in the car and when that phone lost service my iPhone 4 still had 3G.
  • Signal strength is sometimes the same as or worse than the iPhone 3GS
This is true for ALL of the iPhone 4s.  Apple has gone through great lengths to demonstrate attenuation on its website. What we don't know is how much of the signal loss is due to detuning - the galvanic contact of the antenna with your capacitive hand.  So, why design an antenna that COULD be worse than its predecessor?  Because...
  • The iPhone 4 is better at holding onto calls and data at very low signal levels
So, that's the trade-off.  Overall signal of iPhone 4 is better and it is better at holding calls and data at very low signal levels.  But, on networks with poor coverage signal attenuation will lead to dropped calls.  I'm fairly sure Apple knew about this but felt the trade-off was acceptable.  If Apple admitted to this from the beginning I don't think the furor would have lasted this long.  AnandTech feels that the trade-off was unnecessarily risky.

In response to Antennagate, Apple is giving away free bumpers until September 30.  If you bought a bumper, you will get a refund.  If you don't want a bumper you can choose a different case available from Apple.  You will be able to sign up for this on the Apple website late next week.

I have two 3rd party cases, so I guess I'll just have to take another 3rd party case.  I think the bumper is a waste of time if you have a real case.  If you're worried about bulk, the Griffin Reveal is a great option.  That's the case I'm using now.  It is very thin and it has a clear backing.

Apple has also released iOS 4.0.1.  While it doesn't fix the signal attenuation problem, it more accurately shows your signal strength and you shouldn't be able to make your bars go from five to one.

Apple also announced that a fix is coming for the proximity sensor issue in the next iOS update.

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