(UPDATE: I have a followup piece about Apple’s new press release here)
This infographic hopefully shows that:
- I’m not a graphic designer.
- Why some people who can’t see the iPhone 4 reception problem when they hold their phone might still be affected by it.
As Anandtech published today, the range of actual signal strengths the iPhone 4 represents as “five bars” is unusually broad. It’s so broad, in fact, that if you are at the top of it, the (quite severe) drop in reception caused by holding the phone with a bare hand isn’t enough to even show up on the display.
Whereas, at the bottom end of the scale, your signal can be quite weak and it will still be shown as five bars on the screen. This is the “worst case” shown above, and taking Anandtech’s figures for attenuation, holding the phone will instantly plunge reception down to a single bar.
I suspect we will be seeing an iOS fix soon that will remap these areas to be more evenly spread out. This will make the problem look rather less alarming to end users, although it won’t change the underlying physics.
I should also note that Anandtech discovered the iPhone 4 to be excellent at hanging on to calls down at low signal levels, so despite the alarming reading where the signal strength meter plunges to zero, the phone itself might keep working perfectly. This is the source for the anecdotal reports of “my phone meter said no signal but my call didn’t drop”. Of course, it’s not magic — reduce the signal much more and it does eventually drop the call, as many other users (myself included) have seen.
As I said before, the bottom line is: signal strength meters are not to be trusted.
(Edited on 2010-07-02 to correct scale on graph, as per the comment below I had mislabelled the axis like some sort of buffoon.)