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  • Apple: No Death Grip, Bars Displayed Wrong


    Apple is finally acknowledging the Death Grip, but saying it's - in effect - an optical illusion: a bug in how the software displays signal-strength bars on the screen. In a "Letter From Apple" posted on their website this morning, the manufacturer claims that the iPhone 4 "mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should" and that people who see drops of 4 or more bars must just be in a weak signal area. Though Apple says a software fix will be forthcoming in "a few weeks," it will only incorporate a formula recommended by AT&T for calculating bars while "[t]he real signal strength remains the same."

    After a week during which Apple steadfastly denied the very existence of the so-called Death Grip, today's "Letter" is the first admission from the company that "iPhone 4 can drop 4 or 5 bars when tightly held in a way which covers the black strip in the lower left corner of the metal band." The letter goes on to say that "[a]t the same time, we continue to read articles and receive hundreds of emails from users saying that iPhone 4 reception is better than the iPhone 3GS" (as if this is somehow in contradiction to the prior statement), and asks rhetorically "What can explain all of this?" The answer, Apple says, is software, claiming that they were "stunned" to find that the formula that calculates bars is "totally wrong," that it causes the iPhone 4 to "display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars," and concludes that people who report reception problems "most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don't know it… their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place."

    This response stinks in a number of ways. In the first place, the so-called "formula" is no more than a mapping of signal strength readings to bars. Anandtech noticed in their testing earlier this week that the fifth bar has an absurdly broad range, from -91 dBm up to -51 dBm, so that you can lose as much as 40 dBm and still show five bars. So that may be the "formula" they are talking about changing, but what about people (including this writer) who have noticed real loss of sound quality and dropped calls due to the Death Grip? What about Anandtech's testing showing an average 20 dBm drop in signal? Apple is silent on these points.

    Perhaps they are hoping the complaints go away when people see more bars (and bigger ones - the first three will apparently be taller) on their screen. Or perhaps there's another fix in this software rev that they're not talking about. After all, why should it take "a few weeks" to implement and test a change to one formula? There seems to be a lot we're not being told here, but we'll most likely have to wait for the update to find out what.

    Thanks to everyone who sent this in.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Apple: No Death Grip, Bars Displayed Wrong started by Paul Daniel Ash View original post
    Comments 229 Comments
    1. stasis's Avatar
      stasis -
      Quote Originally Posted by iPhone3G[S] View Post
      I am pretty sure its just a super uber apple fan boy thing.. they see the videos/pictures of how apple holds it and they have to do the same.
      What the hell are you talking about? Show me how else you are supposed to hold the thing with one hand and enter keys with your thumb???????? I guess right arm amputees just can't use an iphone4.
    1. Dizzy714's Avatar
      Dizzy714 -
      Haha, BULLSH-T. Apple f-cked up and they know it, now they're stickin' it to their customers. So they're saying that the iPhone 3GS and 3G displayed the wrong number of bars as well? Because if that's true then my 3GS wouldn't be displaying 5 bars here. And this is not a software issue, all I have to do is put my thumb on the black strip and I immediately cannot load a webpage.

      EDIT: Or make a call.
    1. bcon1208's Avatar
      bcon1208 -
      What a load of freakin' CRAP!!!

      When I saw this, I ran a test. I had a full signal, and I shut my wifi off. I grasped the side of my phone and held it until all of my bars dropped away. Now, since this is simply a "visual problem" I should be able to load a web page, right? So I did, with no signal showing, and wifi deactivated, I tried a goodle search for the word "monkey" and after about 2 mins of constant "loading" I got the lovely message, "Safari cannot open the page because it is not connected to the Internet."

      ....well...not so visual after all! Without doing ANYTHING ELSE, I released my death grip on the left side and held the phone flat in my right hand. IMMEDIATELY after I tapped the ok button while laying the phone flat the web page loaded! So no..there's no technical problem..just visual...Apple you guys are freakin' retarded and I hope your business goes completely under. Maybe Microsoft will pick up where you left off and make a real phone that actually WORKS!!!
    1. stasis's Avatar
      stasis -
      Quote Originally Posted by Happy Noodle Boy View Post
      I'm a realist. The phone has an issue. A very real issue. I have two options about it:
      1. Return the phone, go back to the 3G
      2. Work around it

      The fist I can't do as I've already mailed it to my parents. They actually got it today, woop. The second one there's a couple of ways to go about it. As I already held the phone, I get a about 3 bars drop, however my calls aren't affected or dropped, so while the issue is present it doesn't really affect me. So I don't even have to work around it to begin with come to think of it.

      Others have resorted to tape to avoid bridging the antennas, covers, sim card voodoo trickery.

      But the reality of it is, the iPhone 4 is a hell of a lot more than just a device to make calls. The Retina Display is beautiful, unlike anything else I've ever owned. It's fast. Really, really fast. I can multi-task and load things almost instantly. It has completely changed how I use an iOS device by taking out all the waiting. I want to do/search/play something? I just do. On my 3G I used to open the app then leave the phone loading. This is the past.

      Yes, the antenna has a glaringly obvious oversight both on the software and hardware side of things. The software "fix" is going to show people a more real coverage so when they "hold" the phone, they'll see less of a drop.

      But believe me, I'm probably the least Apple Fan Boy on this forum. To put it into perspective: I hate Macs in general and I liked Windows Vista. I even advocated for it and tried telling people it wans't as bad as the internet claimed!

      Good for you, you are in one of the few AT&T areas that gets good signal and you can drop 2-3 bars without dropping a call, most people can not! You're right it is a hell of a lot more than just a device to make calls, which compounds this issue a lot more since that is how you would hold it using all of those other features. I am planning on returning it before the 30 days is up if Apple does not have any better solution. But you shouldn't just be happy with a faulty product when it has a major flaw.

      We shouldn't have to buy a case to make the phone work. Of course it is as great as you say in other ways which is exactly why people get so upset about this, because they do love it, they want their iphone, but this major issue is unacceptable to most people!

      A PHONE SHOULD WORK NO MATTER HOW YOU HOLD IT, PERIOD.

      So explain to me this... Apple claims the iPhone4 has the best reception as any other iPhone. So then why, when I have a 3GS and a 4 right by each other on a couch, the iphone4 ALWAYS has 1-3 bars less then the 3GS. Oh is it because of this signal to bar ratio thing is off? Oh nevermind Apple claims it is showing more bars then it should be and it effects all iphones... So after this update is the iPhone4 going to be at negative bars while my 3GS has a couple?
    1. AAAARRRRRRGGGGG's Avatar
      AAAARRRRRRGGGGG -
      i don't understand why people without the issue are yelling at people with the issue and vice versa. just because person A doesn't have any reception problems doesn't make it any less real for person B who has the issue. and on the flip side of that, person A isn't living in fantasyland pretending everything's fine when it's not. some of us are having terrible reception issues and some of us are fully functional. there's no need to get snippy at each other and start making claims that someone else's experience somehow isn't valid.

      i'd be really interested to see exactly how many people have this problem vs. the number of iphones sold so far. i'd also be interested to see if the reception issues are more prevalent in certain geographical areas. it's really whacky to me that some phones do it and some don't, even side by side. that makes me wonder how it can be an intrinsic design flaw when some of them work just fine. it's really puzzling and i don't think either us or apple have a full grasp on the entire extent of the issue and how it's caused. i'm guessing there are WAY more variables at play than the ones we've been looking at.
    1. stasis's Avatar
      stasis -
      Exactly, I never got that either. Why would someone stick up for one of the richest companies over another regular person. We are all on the same side, obviously we are Apple fans or we wouldn't have bought it, furthermore we wouldn't be so disappointed in it. The only thing I can come up with is they are either Apple employees or super fanboys who must stick up for their beloved corporation over the many, many (to quote BP) small people having this major issue... If your phone doesn't drop calls that is great, but don't think everyone else is crazy because you are lucky enough to be in a strong enough signal that can compensate for the loss.
    1. ClerkDante's Avatar
      ClerkDante -
      Quote Originally Posted by stasis View Post
      If your phone doesn't drop calls that is great, but don't think everyone else is crazy because you are lucky enough to be in a strong enough signal that can compensate for the loss.
      It's not a matter of thinking they are crazy because their phone is having problems, they're crazy because they're treating a cell phone glitch like someone had anally raped their mother while pouring sugar in their gas tank.

      It's not the reaction I've a problem with, it's the epic OVER-reaction that's occurring that is bothering some. It's a week old cell phone with a relatively minor glitch at the moment. I've a 4 year old Xbox 360 that is STILL having problems that have been present from launch. Despite all the "Apple is screwing us" and "Steve Jobs is the evil emperor" screaming, Apple has a better track record than most in correcting problems within, and out of, warranty.

      If you like the product, keep it and know that odds are good a fix is coming pretty quickly, if you don't, return the thing and go jump on the Droid bandwaggon.

      Either way, it's still just a cell phone.
    1. unison999's Avatar
      unison999 -
      Optical illusion??? Apple delusional??
      Why would some people say they do not have this problem and some does if all programming on all iPhone4 is the same?
      Jobs taking some medicinal marajuana after his surgery or something? Can't be he is not happy enough, picking fights with lots of people. Wonder what kind of prescription medicine he is taking to be this psycho.
    1. stasis's Avatar
      stasis -
      Quote Originally Posted by ClerkDante View Post
      It's not a matter of thinking they are crazy because their phone is having problems, they're crazy because they're treating a cell phone glitch like someone had anally raped their mother while pouring sugar in their gas tank.

      It's not the reaction I've a problem with, it's the epic OVER-reaction that's occurring that is bothering some. It's a week old cell phone with a relatively minor glitch at the moment. I've a 4 year old Xbox 360 that is STILL having problems that have been present from launch. Despite all the "Apple is screwing us" and "Steve Jobs is the evil emperor" screaming, Apple has a better track record than most in correcting problems within, and out of, warranty.

      If you like the product, keep it and know that odds are good a fix is coming pretty quickly, if you don't, return the thing and go jump on the Droid bandwaggon.

      Either way, it's still just a cell phone.
      I don't see where people are so crazy, they are just voicing their opinion online, who doesn't do that...? If someone raped my mother I wouldn't be just complaining online, someone would be getting their ***** kicked, your example is retarded. Oh no Apple cant take some criticism and bashing online for a completely legitimate reason? How sensitive are they? People are worried about this because they have 30 days to make a decision, and Apple is making it even harder. If they would just come out and say yes we know there is a problem and we will take care of it eventually, a lot more people would be content. More and more people are feeling that they are being screwed over by Apple. Do you wait and hope that Apple fixes it eventually, even though they have yet to make any indication of that? Do you return it before the 30 days is up or wait and see if their magic patch will fix it? If this problem was not such a critical one people would not be as concerned, nobody can deny it exists, it is plainly obvious that it is not at all isolated to a small amount of phones or people.

      Furthermore if your Xbox is not working correctly that is your own fault. I had a problem with mine, it was replaced with a completely new design of the motherboard. Microsoft did step up after a big uproar from people (just like what is happening here), extended the warranties, and fixed their major issue for everyone. Nobody is asking for anything more then that from Apple, we want our iPhone, we just want it fixed, I would be perfectly content if it worked the same as my 3GS. I would not return it or be nearly as concerned if Apple acknowledged the issue for real and assured they would make it right.
    1. ziggie216's Avatar
      ziggie216 -
      Nice BS.. this doesnt fix anything when speedtest tells me something different
    1. Turnamental's Avatar
      Turnamental -
      ^ No doubt. But I can hold my phone until it goes to "no service". Then try and make a call and fails. Obv the meter is right Apple! The meter is dead on for me. I get same bars as my GF gets in same areas on her 3Gs. But lose WAY more when I hold the damn thing.
    1. mj0528's Avatar
      mj0528 -
      apparently this is pretty common

      PSA: Other Phones Exhibit Signal Issues When Covering Antenna - Ramblings and Tidbits

      who knew? not me
    1. InDashMP3's Avatar
      InDashMP3 -
      I can't wait for Anandtech to do another test AFTER the software "fix" is released.

      On a side note, I typically call my wife when I'm leaving work in DC each afternoon. Without fail (or with fail, depending on how you look at it!), I lose my connection with my 3GS on the 14th street bridge. ALL THE TIME!.. I have a bluetooth hands free kit in my car, and my phone is usually sitting in the passanger seat. Today was my first trip home on the bridge with the iPhone 4 in the passenger seat, while I was talking over the bluetooth connection. Guess what? I didn't lose her. This is a first!! SO.....I don't know what that means... Improved reception.....unless you're holding it????
    1. kuhndsn's Avatar
      kuhndsn -
      Quote Originally Posted by stasis View Post
      Good for you, you are in one of the few AT&T areas that gets good signal and you can drop 2-3 bars without dropping a call, most people can not! You're right it is a hell of a lot more than just a device to make calls, which compounds this issue a lot more since that is how you would hold it using all of those other features. I am planning on returning it before the 30 days is up if Apple does not have any better solution. But you shouldn't just be happy with a faulty product when it has a major flaw.

      We shouldn't have to buy a case to make the phone work. Of course it is as great as you say in other ways which is exactly why people get so upset about this, because they do love it, they want their iphone, but this major issue is unacceptable to most people!

      A PHONE SHOULD WORK NO MATTER HOW YOU HOLD IT, PERIOD.

      So explain to me this... Apple claims the iPhone4 has the best reception as any other iPhone. So then why, when I have a 3GS and a 4 right by each other on a couch, the iphone4 ALWAYS has 1-3 bars less then the 3GS. Oh is it because of this signal to bar ratio thing is off? Oh nevermind Apple claims it is showing more bars then it should be and it effects all iphones... So after this update is the iPhone4 going to be at negative bars while my 3GS has a couple?
      Well,,, Then just return it get a refund and get the Droid... I am sure there is a forum for that phone as well... geezzzz people stop yelling at other people...This is getting childish...

      How about this... We should look in the mirror when complaining. Why you ask? Simple, no one forced anyone to buy the phone. If you do not like it. THEN RETURN IT AND MOVE ON... No need to yell or belittle anyone on this site or another for that matter. It does absolutely nothing.

      Oh and one last thing there seems to be a lot of theorist out there... i even seen one that stated they seen pictures of the iPhone in Roswell... REALLY?!?!

      Oh and if was soooo bad why cant any of the stores keep any in stock?!? People as still trying to get one... Perhaps so they too can have something to complain about?!?!
    1. yentrog31's Avatar
      yentrog31 -
      http://assets.nydailynews.com/img/20...steve_jobs.jpg

      WTF...where the hell did my signal go?
    1. nicksti's Avatar
      nicksti -
      I guess it was okay when everyone sang the praises of the iphone. Now that the complaints are outweighing the praises they are being told to shut up, return the phone, and buy another phone.

      Wonderful attitude.
    1. stasis's Avatar
      stasis -
      Quote Originally Posted by kuhndsn View Post
      Well,,, Then just return it get a refund and get the Droid... I am sure there is a forum for that phone as well... geezzzz people stop yelling at other people...This is getting childish...

      How about this... We should look in the mirror when complaining. Why you ask? Simple, no one forced anyone to buy the phone. If you do not like it. THEN RETURN IT AND MOVE ON... No need to yell or belittle anyone on this site or another for that matter. It does absolutely nothing.

      Oh and one last thing there seems to be a lot of theorist out there... i even seen one that stated they seen pictures of the iPhone in Roswell... REALLY?!?!

      Oh and if was soooo bad why cant any of the stores keep any in stock?!? People as still trying to get one... Perhaps so they too can have something to complain about?!?!
      What are you talking about, what a pile of crap post. First of all I didn't know about this issue before buying the phone, and a lot of people buying it now do not either. Furthermore they very well may be pissed and return it once they use it and experience it for themselves. I am not belittling anyone, why do you feel the need to come here, where it is obviously the topic we are talking about and defend Apple? If you are happy with it, good for you, you are one of the few, go away and talk on your phone... You are one of very few that do not agree with me, open your eyes. I WILL return the phone before the 30 days if nothing new comes from Apple. I WANT THIS PHONE, that is why I purchased it, I don't want a droid, but this problem is unacceptable, and should be to anyone who buys a phone, iphone or not! The iPhone is amazing, its the best phone there is, built better and sexier then any other, which is exactly why people are upset. They dont want to be forced to return their phone, they would like to keep using it, but as it is now that is not possible. We are not here to bash Apple, we just want this awesome phone to work like it should, THAT IS NOT ASKING TOO MUCH. I can't believe you can not care at all about such a critical flaw, how can you be happy buying a brand new, leading edge phone with such an obvious, crucial problem?

      Quote Originally Posted by nicksti View Post
      I guess it was okay when everyone sang the praises of the iphone. Now that the complaints are outweighing the praises they are being told to shut up, return the phone, and buy another phone.

      Wonderful attitude.
      Yep, I dont get it, it's not like this is unjust criticism, even all of the major news outlets have this story. It is really odd that people can blindly defend Apple on this one, are they brainwashed or something? Nobody should be satisfied and not want a fix for this, even if it works fine for you because you are in a very strong signal area, do you not plan to ever move? Never travel anywhere that might not be such a optimal spot? Nobody should stand for this...

      And just saying return the phone is not acceptable. I have hundreds of dollars invested in software which will only work on the iPhone. I guess I am supposed to just take that loss as well and buy everything I need again for another platform. The only other option is to buy an old iPhone. So how is it at all fair to me that I must return this phone and buy an old model, same phone that I just sold to get the iPhone4 so that I can make calls...?
    1. kuhndsn's Avatar
      kuhndsn -
      Quote Originally Posted by stasis View Post
      What are you talking about, what a pile of crap post. First of all I didn't know about this issue before buying the phone, and a lot of people buying it now do not either. Furthermore they very well may be pissed and return it once they use it and experience it for themselves. I am not belittling anyone, why do you feel the need to come here, where it is obviously the topic we are talking about and defend Apple? If you are happy with it, good for you, you are one of the few, go away and talk on your phone... You are one of very few that do not agree with me, open your eyes. I WILL return the phone before the 30 days if nothing new comes from Apple. I WANT THIS PHONE, that is why I purchased it, I don't want a droid, but this problem is unacceptable, and should be to anyone who buys a phone, iphone or not! The iPhone is amazing, its the best phone there is, built better and sexier then any other, which is exactly why people are upset. They dont want to be forced to return their phone, they would like to keep using it, but as it is now that is not possible. We are not here to bash Apple, we just want this awesome phone to work like it should, THAT IS NOT ASKING TOO MUCH. I can't believe you can not care at all about such a critical flaw, how can you be happy buying a brand new, leading edge phone with such an obvious, crucial problem?

      I was referring to people bashing other customers... I am not defending APPLE or any manufacture for that matter. Bottom line is there are a lot of people cussing other people out over this. Just like those that get angry at the dev team for not coming out with a jailbreak stat...

      --Am I happy with my purchase?!? Yes I am and yes I purchased it after the problem was published. What I am not happy with is the ATT service nor am I happy with APPLE's response. However, expressing my anger at other users does not help the matter. I never said I don't care about a flaw... please re read my post and refrain from putting words in my post that were not there. If I offended you I apologize but this tyrant between iPhone customers is degenerate.

      Lastly, I hope that your phone gets fixed along with everyone elses for that matter. In the mean time we have three options... return, hold out and wait, or cover the antenna.


      Have a great evening.

      DK
    1. Dolo85's Avatar
      Dolo85 -
      Please correct me if your situation is different but ya the bars go down but I have yet to drop a call or have my internet speed slow down when I apply the "death grip." So really what everyone is crying about is much to do about NOTHING!
    1. bruinsrme's Avatar
      bruinsrme -
      Quote Originally Posted by Captain_Candyass View Post
      I agree. I have a iPhone 3G and an iPhone 4 with a brand new AT&T Tower just 100 feet or so from my office building. I tested both and found that the iPhone 4 drops off dramatically when gripped normally while my iPhone 3G has no ill effects with both hands covering the entire Phone. Apples excuse is bogus IMHO.
      Razor............ 5 bars steady
      blackjack........ 5 bars steady
      Shine............ 5 bars steady
      3G iphone........ 5 bars steady
      3Gs iphone #1.... 5 bars steady
      3Gs iphone #2.... 5 bars steady
      iphone 4......... 5 bars, no wait 4, I mean 2, sheet where did the bars go, set the phone back done, oh there they are