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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. Thenextkiller's Avatar
      Thenextkiller -
      You guys need to chill out Steve was right. Your iPhone is not your life. They can only do so much. It's kinda obvious that there are gonna be bugs. Even for the iPhone 3GS some bugs were know but they fixed it. People just want to have the iPhone 4 now to show off. I'll buy it in a month when its guranteed bug free. The buyers made the risk of buying it early because there WILL ALWAYS BE BUGS NO MATTER WHAT.
    1. tudtran's Avatar
      tudtran -
      At least apple is looking into this issue. Love my iPhone. Just wanna see the problem to get fix.
    1. joeynice's Avatar
      joeynice -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dayvidpriddy View Post
      I was going to check out one of the microcell towers...do they connect to your network wirelessly? If it has to be hard wired forget it, I already have Ooma hardwired between my modem and router...unless it plugs directly into one of the ports I wouldn't do it (unless of course it's wireless.)
      It plugs into your modem. Call AT&T and ***** long enough and they will give it to you for "free" (they will credit your acct the $150 it costs to purchase). The only drawback I can see of it is that the minutes you use while using the MicroCell come straight off your minutes, so even if it's an AT&T to AT&T call or if the person you are calling is one of your alist friends it will still take your minutes. They do also include an unlimited free talk thing, but they charge you 20 bucks a month for that.
    1. Eagleye's Avatar
      Eagleye -
      "Since this mistake has been present since the original iPhone, this software update will also be available for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G."

      If this "problem" has been around since the original iphone, how come this is only coming to light now? Why doesnt my 3G[S] experience the same problems? This is a little bogus. Also, a "few weeks" for a simple change to thier formula? Somethin fishy is goin on....
    1. Dayvidpriddy's Avatar
      Dayvidpriddy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Eagleye View Post
      "Since this mistake has been present since the original iPhone, this software update will also be available for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G."

      If this "problem" has been around since the original iphone, how come this is only coming to light now? Why doesnt my 3G[S] experience the same problems? This is a little bogus. Also, a "few weeks" for a simple change to thier formula? Somethin fishy is goin on....:
      They charge you extra to use the damn thing? All it is is a range extender lol. F that...
    1. dr0herb's Avatar
      dr0herb -
      I think touching the antenna would have an effect on something and it could be the software malfunctioning and showing less reception than there actually is. Human skin conducts electricity.
    1. mikerlx's Avatar
      mikerlx -
      So, this software update will probably re-lock the phones hopefully it will not take 4-5 months for an unlock.
    1. Eleni's Avatar
      Eleni -
      I've noticed that sometimes when I have someone on speakerphone, my phone will display only a single bar of signal strength but I don't have any of the problems that go along with that. There's no breaking up on either end of the conversation, so it seems like it can't really only be at one bar.

      I also have a speck case, so I don't get the death grip problem when I'm holding the phone.
    1. EddieLeonard's Avatar
      EddieLeonard -
      i thought the bars on cell phone where to say how well the phone is contaminating with the cell tower and that they are nothing to do with cellphone strength in calls
    1. lothariorowe's Avatar
      lothariorowe -
      What a terrible response from apple! Look, sure some of the phones don't seem to be affected, and if yours is one of them, then count your blessings. For the ones that are affected, it's monumentally worse than apple claims. I get 5 bars in my area (Los Angeles), when not touching the phone...same signal I got with my 3GS. The signal strength here is strong! Now however, whenever any skin on my body touches that annoying black strip, my entire signal is dropped. I don't mean poor signal strength, I mean no signal at all! And I hate the term "death grip" because it implies a strong "grip," when in fact the lightest touch of skin on that black bar results in a total signal loss. Calling it basically an "optical illusion" is beyond laughable...it's absurd and quite infuriating. It's a very very real hardware problem for the phones affected.
    1. area51crypto's Avatar
      area51crypto -
      Quote Originally Posted by viettho View Post
      lol, apple is trying to blame this on AT&T. Your phone will have less bar than it should after the fix. They don't admit that this is hardware design flaw.
      Now you surely don't think Steve Jobs would do that do you?

      I bet after the update if you could see the screen with the phone turned off it would have 5 bars!

      On a second note does me holding the phone in my left hand mean my hand it reprogramming the iphone!
    1. UKROB86's Avatar
      UKROB86 -
      Wonderful, apple falsifying the bars to cover the reception problem.. Gripping the phone has been already proven on a field test to lower the reception of the phone significantly. this means the bars don't mean ****..
    1. tremerone's Avatar
      tremerone -
      I read these replies and the letter from Apple...laughed...very hard...pee'd a little.
      ...I'm still running the 3GS...I switched carriers, thus needing the unlock...I never had any issues with reception on my phone until I switched carrier and did the unlock. So I've never really been sure if it is my carrier to blame, the unlock, or a combo of the two (I'm not whining, god bless you Dev-Team, keep up the stellar work!!!). So knowing the unlock situation with the iPhone 4....I would guess the problem lay with the phone itself or the carrier! I know there is studies showing the issues with the reception for the iPhone 4, but don't just look at what's on the display (signal bars)...see if it drops your calls. I have had more dropped calls then ever before....but again..could be unlock, could be carrier. Very interesting enough...I can have NO bars...and still send a text message and place a call!
    1. djgunner's Avatar
      djgunner -
      dry this one out, you can fertilize the lawn with it.
    1. geoffe's Avatar
      geoffe -
      Signal Strength....There's an App for that!
    1. eg6motion's Avatar
      eg6motion -
      this would seem legitimate if the anantech test didn't show the DB drop. Only reason I would doubt that is perhaps that DB display was incorrect... but it doesn't seem likely. Guess we will all see where this goes
    1. geoffe's Avatar
      geoffe -

      This fixes the "Death Grip"
    1. Dayvidpriddy's Avatar
      Dayvidpriddy -
      Apple is "STUNNED" I tell you...just "STUNNED!"

      Apple `stunned' to find iPhones show too many bars - Yahoo! News
    1. LastSonOfKrypton's Avatar
      LastSonOfKrypton -
      Great. Depending on where they find exploit for the iPhone 4 jailbreak we may be stuck waiting until this software update for a release :-\
    1. Eagleye's Avatar
      Eagleye -
      Quote Originally Posted by geoffe View Post

      This fixes the "Death Grip"
      HAHAHAHAH!! Dude.. you are freakin HILLARIOUS! Ur last 2 posts made me laugh so hard!