Apple iOS update 4.01 to address iPhone 4 connection issues – Report

Sat, Jun 26, 2010


The iPhone 4 has been shrouded in controversy and drama for months. First there was the the lost iPhone  that showed up on Gizmodo back in April, which was subsequently followed by a police raid on Gizmodo writer Jason Chen’s home. Flash forward to June 15th when iPhone pre-orders began and both Apple and AT&T’s servers were unable to keep up with the volume of orders rolling in. Amidst the chaos, some users had their credit cards charged twice while others soon found out that their pre-orders had been cancelled altogether.

And now, of course, Apple is dealing with a serious problem with the potential to adversely affect its bottom line. Over the past few days, iPhone 4 owners have been complaining of shoddy network performance when they hold their new device a certain way. While Steve Jobs casually told one concerned owner via email that he was holding the device wrong, there’s no getting around the fact that these reception issues are worrisome.

That said, AppleInsider readers keeping an eye on Apple’s tech support forums reported on Friday that Apple is planning to issue an iOS 4.0.1 software update aimed at alleviating the connection issues associated with the iPhone 4’s new design, wherein the antenna system is integrated into the exterior  of the device. AI notes that the the entire thread regarding the seemingly widespread issue was eventually taken down.

The fix is expected to address a issue in iOS 4 related to radio frequency calibration of the baseband. Readers who saw the original forum discussions say that the issue is believed to occur when switching frequencies; because the lag is allegedly not calibrated correctly, it results in the device reporting “no service” rather than switching to the frequency with the best signal to noise ratio.

The article notes that iOS 4 changes the way the iPhone baseband decides which frequencies to use, which helps “explain why iOS 4 has also caused similar problems for iPhone 3GS users.”

The bug, which can hopefully be fixed with a crafty software update, has comically been dubbed the “death grip” by bloggers.

And giving even more hope that a software fix is on the way, iPhone 4 users on AT&T’s 3G MicroCell network have been unable to replicate the issue, presumably because it’s always the most powerful available signal, thus never forcing the device to switch frequencies.


5 Comments For This Post

  1. Shashi P Says:

    I am noticing dropped calls, even on my 1st Gen iPhone after the leaves came out this spring/summer here in the Northeast. Winter was definitely better. My guess is that ATT has set the Cell Tower Signal Output to the lowest setting to save dollars on power consumption. This is OK in the winter, come summer there are too many leaves on the trees interfering with signal.

    Someone needs to look into a comparison between Verizon and ATT Cell Tower Signal Output. I would not put it beyond the cheapstakes at ATT to be broadcasting cell signal at low power causing issues with phones. Dropped calls itself are an indicator of this issue.

  2. Trent Lapinski Says:

    You are incorrect. I have an iPhone 4 and an AT&T Micro-Cell and was able to replicate the death grip just 3-ft from the Micro-Cell.

    I even dropped a call last night by accidently holding the phone in my left hand. I’m left handed so old habits die hard. Planning on getting a bumper once Apple Store lines die down. What I don’t get is both Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive’s are left handed.

  3. Chanson de Roland Says:

    If the decline in reception is a hardware issue, it is unlikely that software can fix the problem. It will take a hardware fix. It seems likely that the Bumper will work. But it may be that Apple must redesign the iPhone 4 et seq, so that it impossible for a change in the position of user’s grip on the iPhone to have a significant affect on reception. Since the FCC pretty much requires that antennas be at the bottom of the device to reduce the amount radiation absorbed by the user, Apple’s engineers may not be able to change the position of the gaps but will have to use some sort of coating at the gaps in the iPhone 4′ exterior antenna, so that a user’s grip on the iPhone 4 et seq. won’t have any affect on reception. I don’t that will be different from an engineering point of view, but it could prove quite costly for Apple to do, that is, customers, who bought an iPhone 4, might want the corrected design of an iPhone 5, rather than an iPhone 4 with a Bumper.

    However, it could be that the problem is simply one of how the iPhone 4 registers the change in frequency. That, I think, would be amenable to a software fix.

    But Steve Jobs’ statement suggesting that users’ hold their iPhone 4 differently, which suggest a real problems with reception that is related to the iPhone 4’s hardware, is not easily reconciled with the statement, supra, from the iPhone’s’ support forum, which suggest that the problem is merely one of the iPhone correctly registering a change in frequency.

  4. Dan Says:

    I think this is bull. They’ve probably identified some other minor problem that isn’t going to fix the iPhone 4’s surface conductivity issues at all. I guess we’ll see, though.

  5. Stephen Says:

    There is definitely a problem with iOS4 that is separate from the external antenna of iPhone4 because I’ve had a case for my iPhone4 since I got it and a list of problems exists:
    1. During calls, there will be moments of no sound, but the call doesn’t actually get dropped, the conversation can resume after the annoying seconds of dead silence.
    2. Connection when browsing via Safari often begins with partial loading of the page and then a long pause, which did not happen in the previous OS or versions of the phone.
    3. Connecting to email servers and navigating within the new mailbox system often results in long delays and as an example, from time to time I would push the delete icon and the email system will freeze for up to 15 seconds before actually deleting the email.
    4. The proximity sensor sometimes is slow in reacting to changes in positions, example would be moving me phone to my ear to talk but having part of my face touching the speaker icon on the screen which is supposed to be inactive in that position, so the call would jump to speaker/handsfree, quite annoying.

    I am sure there are more issues not yet annoying enough to have me post, but hopefully a firmware update will resolve some of it.

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