Friday, June 25, 2010

Deaf by design

I've never been a fan of Apple products. I have always felt that Apple was a brand aimed at fashionistas concerned more with style and the coolness associated with owning a particular product than with practicality. So for example phones were made with non user-replaceable batteries in order to make them very slim.

Now it appears Apple's engineers have made another slip-up in the name of style. Users of the new iPhone 4 are reporting that they lose the signal whenever they hold the phone. Apparently a section of the stainless steel band that runs around the phone is used as the antenna, and the part that radiates is on the lower left hand side - nicely surrounded by the fleshy palm of your hand if you hold the phone in your left hand.

It seems to be that Apple could do with a radio ham on its design team. Even the newest Foundation licensee - in fact even a CBer - could have told them that antennas are supposed to point upwards.


M0XDF said...

not quite correct, there are 2 antennas, one for 3G and the other for WiFi and B/T. I think what is happening is that the short caused by your hand (or a key) feeds RF from the 3G into the WiFi and the resulting RFI affects the 3G Rx. It might be that you are de-tuning the ant as well.

Not all iPhone4s do this and definitely using a cover stops it.
I haven't got mine to test this yet.

And yes, I'm a long term Apple fanatic!

I'm not bigoted against other products, PCs have a place and I use them since that's what my industry uses. But I prefer Apple generally.
In the case of the iPhone, this will be my first and I'm a bit wary.

M0JEK said...

I am glad M0XDF has corrected the details, though for an expensive item, it is a design fault.

I am also an Apple fan, and have been for many years, but I have never had an iPhone, though I am temped as there are some nice apps for it. I'd rather spend the money on more RF test equipment

I find Apple hardware in the form of computers very good, and well engineered, and just work. My shack computer is a 5 year old G4 powerbook and it still works very well.

Just my pennies worth.

73 de André

Steve GW7AAV said...

Never been a big fan of @pples since eating one got us kicked out of the garden of Eden ;0)

Paul M0PCZ said...

Well I have to say that I am in a quandry now - My 5/8 cb antenna for 10m is vertical and my amateur long wire antenna is horizontal...what should I do ?

David, K2DBK said...

I'd suspect detuning is the primary issue, with your body shorting the two (I thought there were three, but I don't have one to look at) antennas which of course results in an antenna that's too long. If it was just a question of feeding back wifi presumably it wouldn't be an issue with wifi turned off. (Nobody has reported seeing it work with wifi turned off, though that doesn't mean it's not happening.) I think that covering the antenna (which would happen to other phones with internal antennas) would certainly reduce the signal somewhat, but if you change the antenna length that will certainly cause a problem.

MrJoshua said...

I got an iPhone 4 yesterday and I've been tinkering with it today to try and replicate this issue but was unable to, so not sure how widespread this problem is. Probably just the clammy hand brigade getting their 5 minutes of fame.

It seems that other phones also have similar issues of poor cellular performance when held a certain way, but since these phones are not as popular in the (popular) press, this has gone largely un-noticed.

The antenna is at the bottom because of FCC directives which attempt to minimise RF absorption by the skull/brain (they think having the antenna by your chin is better).

After having a Google Android phone for 7 months, it sure is nice to have another iPhone... The difference is plainly obvious :)


Josh - M0JMO

Theodore said...

I'm with you Julian. Apple is for the mass of people who think that they are trendsetters while in reality they are the grist for the mill of hype over skill.
Apple users are in two camps, the first is the larger group, consisting of herd animals who will line up for a day to buy an underperforming, overpriced, proprietory, locked product.
This is in the name of conformity with the general consumer class mentality. The type who must buy a new phone every six months to remain in fashion.

The second group are the old aging hippies who try to recapture their youth by association with a product from an age when innovation emanated from suburban garages.
You see them frequently in Python workshops with bald heads and whispy ponytails.

Of course Apple inc, are doing what any other company with such a docile and malleable group of consumers would do - milk them dry.

The brass ring for companies today is to sell products which ensure a continuing income stream.
So we have low priced printers with high priced cartridges, cheap game systems with expensive games and various products in which you need to buy an app for each function.

There is nothing really new about these products, since PDA based phones with touch screens have been about for a long time, and tablet PCs are as old as Methuselah,
but marketing will make what is old new again if done cleverly.
In the meantime I will enjoy my new win7 PC and wish the Apple fans good luck.

M0XDF said...

Theodore, we will have to agree to disagree.
I am neither a herd animal or an ageing hippie.
At 56 I'm ageing, but I've been in IT for 40 years and consider I know a bit about computers. I never was a hippie, being too busy learning a trade and working in the 70's, but I am going bald.
I used one of the first Macs in the UK in 1984 (or was it early 85) and evaluated it for BAe who were seriously considering them at the time. I left to work for an Apple reseller, that also sold IBM. And haven't looked back.

I'm now a software engineer for a global company of 76000+ employees and yes, they use Apple, as workstations for DTP and middleware for some systems that were originally NeXT, but mostly every employee has a Windows PC.

I'm under no illusions as to the cost of Apple products, but until you've used one considerably, you may not appreciate the benefits they bring.
I use both Unix systems and Windows at work, being my 'stock in trade'. I have an XP laptop, and an Asus eeePC running Linux, but I'd rather use my Macs when I can.

M0XDF said...

Oh and Josh - I'm envious, looking to get mine on Monday!

MrJoshua said...

@M0XDF - The screen is fantastic... Crisp beyond my expectations and has great viewing angles (I suppose that's thanks to IPS). It feels like a very well made piece of kit in your hand, oh, and the camera is the best I've ever used on a phone :)

@Theodore - I'm an "IT Professional" (have been in the industry for 16 years), I'm not ageing, or a hippy and although I am partial to shiny things I don't class myself as a fanboy of any particular brand... I just try to get the best things I can afford (after significant research to ascertain suitability based on my requirements and previous experience) and that happens to mean I prefer an iPhone over the competition and Mac OSX as my OS of choice at home.

I've had many different PDAs/Smartphones over the years, including a very recent Google Android device, so I'd like to think I know what I want/like.

So what if the iPhone is locked down? It works really well, the user interface is beautifully simple and the quality of applications, on the whole, beats the pants off those available on other mobile platforms. Either way, if I wanted to "open it up" it's a few minutes work to Jailbreak it.

Anyway, different strokes for different folks, but you really should try to get some time with one before bashing it.

Theodore said...

Apple products are certainly very well made but their users do tend to have a theological edge to their adulation.
This is probably due to the "underdog" effect creating a tribal culture.
Having spent some time supporting users in an Apple house, as well as having many clients using them, I know full well the dangers of criticism.
It sometimes seems like being in a lobster trap where, if one lobster tries to crawl out, the others will drag it back down, even severing its legs in some cases.

Ultimately, the many buyers of these units speak well of their quality and functionality.
Every buyer applies their personal criteria to the purchase, which is why I will not buy one, simply due to my criteria not matching the product.
And as you say "different strokes for different folks".

Alex Hill said...

Doesn't really say too much about the product development cycle and user testing that was carried out.

Still you've got to laugh and you can be sure that there'll be millions getting them and telling us how good the apps are....phonecalls? just forget it, its about the apps nowadays.

Gav Stirling (GM0WDD) said...

Well after the inevitable "blue screen of death" in XP I switched to an iMac 3 years ago. I certainly haven't look back.

My aging parents (too old to be hippies) now run a 24" iMac and love it.

I switched because I wanted something that worked, was functional and was well made. Apple products do that very well. They just work.

I am neither a trendsetter or hippie and used to call apple users "sandal wearing hippies". Today I am wearing my sandals ;-)

MrJoshua said...

Here is a really sensible review of the problem:

Unknown said...

So basically the iPhone 4 signal strength meter uses the same algorithm as the one in a Chinese 2m handheld.