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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. Happy Noodle Boy's Avatar
      Happy Noodle Boy -
      I figured as much part of the issue was software base. Between the anadtech review, personal experience, and other reports online, it's obvious that the bars were being misrepresented.

      And like I had said before, it'll be weeks before any "fix" actually hits so I can't emphasize enough: if this issue is bothering you that much please return your phone. It's the best way to tell apple you're dissatisfied with the service. Sticking with it even when you're not happy with it is just a form of technological abused wife syndrome. "but Steve said things will get better, he didn't mean to drop my bars"
    1. JasonM163's Avatar
      JasonM163 -
      the whole iphone4 reception issue is sketchy. I have the problem when covering the band that i lose all signal. Sometimes ill have full bars and itll just be laying on a table then will go to one bar then back up to full. The signal bars on this phone are weird.

      Do you guys think if we keep our phone past 30 days and the problem doesnt get fixed we will be able to return it?
    1. silent1643's Avatar
      silent1643 -
      i dont get it - so they are saying the formula is wrong - does this mean the older iphones are using the wrong formula as well and no one noticed? or did the 4.0 software have a completely different formula ?
    1. Happy Noodle Boy's Avatar
      Happy Noodle Boy -
      Quote Originally Posted by eg6motion View Post
      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
      In Apple's defense (not that they deserve it), the field-test.app Anadtech got running on the iPhone 4 was designed for the 3GS. It's been removed from the iPhone 4 firmware and the only reason they got it in was by restoring from a 3GS backup.

      Who's to say that the 4 displays/reports data in a slightly different way that would make the field-test app provide erroneous information?

      The tests seem solid enough, but there's always that "what if..." since we aren't provided official tools to find out for ourselves.
    1. JasonM163's Avatar
      JasonM163 -
      "We are also making bars 1, 2 and 3 a bit taller so they will be easier to see," Apple said.

      Lmao there going to make the 1,2 and 3 bars taller so we can see when we are getting ****** signal even better now =) cheers apple good idea
    1. ClerkDante's Avatar
      ClerkDante -
      My god, some people just LOVE a consipracy, no matter what the situation.

      Anyone else notice a significant connection between those screaming for lawsuits, etc and those who've got Windoze listed as their operating system?

      Me thinks there's a bit of self-loathing going on.

      "Man, I just knew if I caved and bought an Apple product, I'd be screwed".

      Most of this is little more then self-fullfilling prophecies.
    1. TheWiredHavocMC2.0's Avatar
      TheWiredHavocMC2.0 -
      I convinced there analogy of this issue is complete ********. this is hardware related. after all the tests customers ran i dont see how it could be hardware. One minute you have 5 bars, you then stay in the same location, grip your phone differently and now you have 2 bars????

      phuck you steve. stop being a pussy and just admit you guys ****** up big time simply because you wanted to push out iPhone4 before its original launch date.

      Its time to fire steve AGAIN and get someone in there that can take responsibility for its phuck ups and stop playing Microsoft for a change.
    1. sziklassy's Avatar
      sziklassy -
      Quote Originally Posted by JasonM163 View Post
      Do you guys think if we keep our phone past 30 days and the problem doesnt get fixed we will be able to return it?
      Past the 30 days Apple is required to do nothing. My gut tells me that once there is a confirmed issue here though, Apple will make it right. I don't think they will just tell you to screw off with your broken phone...
    1. l0k0's Avatar
      l0k0 -
      Basically apple just said. We "think" we can fix ur phone, but we highly doubt it. So we are going to feed u a line of BS to make u keep ur phone past 30days. Which is why its gonna take a few weeks to "try" and fix the problem. Even though we are a multi billion dollar company, we acnt afford to pay the programmers to work fast enough. Now after your 30days is up and our "supposed" fix is out. You will no longer be able to return your Iphone 4 (even if the fix doesnt work). But we still get your money, haha.

      You guys that are worried about the issue. You better go ahead and return your phone NOW. Because once again, we have a feeling that the outcome of this is not going to be good at all.
    1. redhouse101's Avatar
      redhouse101 -
      they'll fix the antenna and then plug the hole for unlocking!
    1. silent1643's Avatar
      silent1643 -
      Quote Originally Posted by sziklassy View Post
      Past the 30 days Apple is required to do nothing. My gut tells me that once there is a confirmed issue here though, Apple will make it right. I don't think they will just tell you to screw off with your broken phone...
      keep in mind this fix will not fix the reception issue - the bars will still drop dramatically when held a certain way... if your thinking about returning it, then i would do it before the 30 days is up
      just my .02
    1. radioboy's Avatar
      radioboy -
      I was able to make my signal drop from 5 bars to zero while in North Carolina. At the same time, I don't believe for one second that I was getting 5 bars of 3G signal when I'd go a mile up the road and switch to edge.

      Now that I'm in Philadelphia, I can't drop my signal at all.
    1. bzpilot's Avatar
      bzpilot -
      Just give me the number of towers I'm attached to and the decibel reading from the closest/highest reading one! That formula should take about 10 minutes to write and compile.

      Then how about giving us an actual page (test mode) display of what is actually happening with all the towers in range. ...I'm pretty sure they don't want us to see what is actually happening when this phone is gripped!

      I have NO doubt there formula was wrong to begin with. Showing more bars = more reception = more sales; why not put something out that showed more bars than it should. Bars are useless!!! Everyone has their own formula.
    1. yentrog31's Avatar
      yentrog31 -
      I thought there was NO issue?..so now Apple is coming out for a fix to a non-issue?
    1. Dayvidpriddy's Avatar
      Dayvidpriddy -
      Quote Originally Posted by l0k0 View Post
      Basically apple just said. We "think" we can fix ur phone, but we highly doubt it. So we are going to feed u a line of BS to make u keep ur phone past 30days. Which is why its gonna take a few weeks to "try" and fix the problem. Even though we are a multi billion dollar company, we acnt afford to pay the programmers to work fast enough. Now after your 30days is up and our "supposed" fix is out. You will no longer be able to return your Iphone 4 (even if the fix doesnt work). But we still get your money, haha.

      You guys that are worried about the issue. You better go ahead and return your phone NOW. Because once again, we have a feeling that the outcome of this is not going to be good at all.
      I don't agree, the phone has a warranty for the life of the original contract (according to an AT&T rep I spoke with yesterday.) If the phone becomes or is defective during that time period it has to be replaced. Contracts work both ways, not just the companies way! You have rights too my friend. The issue has been known from day 1, it's no surprise to anyone if things come up after 30 days. Apple is claiming a "fix" after 30 days so people are going to wait, if it doesn't fix it all falls back on their laps.
    1. Captain_Candyass's Avatar
      Captain_Candyass -
      Quote Originally Posted by yahoowizard View Post
      Hm. If this doesn't work, I'm not sure how much trust Apple will get after it. Then again, the guy in the famous iPhone gripping video got the bars to disappear to "No Service", so I'm not sure how making the bars bigger will do anything. I think the only thing to result from this is that it's going to show more bars when there's less service, or less bars when there's actually a lot, so gripping will start to increase the service of the phone =D.

      EDIT: Actually, then again, they're fully acknowledging that the bars do drop if you grip it, even normally. They just try to make it appear normal by saying every phone does it, but gripping my iPhone 2G with both hands has no effect whatsoever. Wish I had more phones to test though.
      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.
    1. Dayvidpriddy's Avatar
      Dayvidpriddy -
      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.
      I agree as well, never had this issue with any previous iPhone model. Steve Jobs is full of it!
    1. maxgsteinberg's Avatar
      maxgsteinberg -
      This is what I don't understand, in the letter it says that the update will be for the iPhone 3g and 3gs and that the problem has been presnt since the original iPhone. Now idk when the first iPhone came out maybe like 2000 or w.e but that means that a huge company like apple has had this "mistake" for the past 10 years and have JUST NOW realized it? How the HELL does something like that happen. There's no way that this is possible. So every iPhone that has full bars really ony has 3? Idk it sounds like they're using this "mistake" as a cover up so they can release a real update to fix the problem.

      Off topic but has any one seen the new futurama episode with the "eyephone" it's pretty hilarious. It has mother (Jobs) stealing your info and sending it to advertising companies. They immitate apple perfect. Watch it!
    1. Happy Noodle Boy's Avatar
      Happy Noodle Boy -
      Quote Originally Posted by silent1643 View Post
      keep in mind this fix will not fix the reception issue - the bars will still drop dramatically when held a certain way... if your thinking about returning it, then i would do it before the 30 days is up
      just my .02
      Actually, it'll be the opposite. The new formula will give you a more realistic number of bars based on coverage. So it'll really show you if you're in a spotty coverage area so when you do hold the death grip, the drop will be less since you won't be at 5 bars to begin with.

      As for whoever mentioned the warranty. The iPhone has ONE year of coverage as far as defects and such. You can purchase AppleCare for if to add another year, which would then cover the entirety of the contract.

      The cool thing about AppleCare is that you can buy it anytime within the first year. So you can literally wait till it's the 364th day, add AppleCare and you'll be good to go for another year.
    1. Dayvidpriddy's Avatar
      Dayvidpriddy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Happy Noodle Boy View Post
      Actually, it'll be the opposite. The new formula will give you a more realistic number of bars based on coverage. So it'll really show you if you're in a spotty coverage area so when you do hold the death grip, the drop will be less since you won't be at 5 bars to begin with.

      As for whoever mentioned the warranty. The iPhone has ONE year of coverage as far as defects and such. You can purchase AppleCare for if to add another year, which would then cover the entirety of the contract.

      The cool thing about AppleCare is that you can buy it anytime within the first year. So you can literally wait till it's the 364th day, add AppleCare and you'll be good to go for another year.
      OK well at least it's a year then, no reason to run off to return your phones. They have to cover it.