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iPhone 4 users wage proximity sensor issue campaign

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By Charles Starrett

Contributing Editor
Published: Wednesday, July 14, 2010
News Categories: iPhone

The lack of response by Apple to a known iPhone 4 proximity sensor issue, in which calls can be accidentally interrupted by button presses and hang-ups, has led to a grass roots campaign to force Apple to acknowledge and resolve the problem. Reader Trent Phillips, who previously emailed with the results of controlled proximity sensor testing, has launched a letter writing campaign to both technical and mainstream media outlets covering Apple products. Phillips’ message claims that Apple “is ignoring earnest requests from customers for support and resolution of this issue,” and asks recipients to cover the proximity sensor problems with the same vigor given to the iPhone 4’s reception issues.

In addition, Phillips also pointed to an Apple discussions support thread on the subject that, at 1,689 replies, had been deemed “too long” by Apple. Apple locked that thread after 113 pages of discussion, which it said was causing browser timeouts when loading, and started a continuation thread earlier today with additional replies. Prominent in the new thread is discussion of returning the device before the 30 day limit is up, as are complaints over Apple’s silence on the issue up until this point. It is still unknown whether the issue can be fixed via a software update, or whether hardware replacements will be necessary to fix the problem for affected users.

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Comments

1

SOOO let me say I love my apple products. The iPhone 4 is beautifully designed to look at at least. However, this whole antenna issue and proximity sensor issue have pushed me over the edge. Apple now appears to be in a mexican standoff with the jailbreak designers. Jailbreak won’t be released until 4.0.1 (supposed software fix) is released, now it appears apple won’t release 4.0.1 until jailbreak is out. I did some testing of my own just for kicks: when my phone sits on my desk I get 1 mbps atleast but when i pick it up to check the web or email in the “death grip” way signal drops to 1 bar from 5. Apple says this is an optical illusion and reception and can be fixed with software. I then decided to run the same speed test and got between 0 and 1 kbps same spot and everything. This was no fluke either 10 tests on desk 10 in hand results were 100% the same. Basically proving a faulty design. Another common issue is the proximity sensor is faulty. So far any call that has lasted more than 2 minutes for me has had an issue with this ranging from accidental calling of someone while on call or muting the mic or even ending the call. This probably could be fixed with software.

So following recent events and the fact that I need to return my iPhone within the next few days I decided that the iPhone was the only reason I had to stay with AT&T. Therefore my mom and I are returning our iPhones for a better network and a phone that may not do everything the iPhone can but will at least work no matter how we hold it. Verizon here we come!

Posted by Ethan on July 14, 2010 at 11:22 AM (PDT)

2

One thing that doesn’t seem to be talked about with the death grip issue is it really seems to depend on AT&T’s coverage in your area. In suburban Southern California, I can wrap my fingers around the entire antenna on my phone, covering every bit of it, and not lose any bars. So while the people who are affected are VERY affected, there’s a danger of this issue being portrayed as being omnipresent, when it’s not.

That said, I do have the proximity sensor issue and keep muting myself with my cheek. Even if the sensor is a hardware issue (I have no idea), it seems like a settings update could move the mute button or require a slide or something to activate it.

Posted by Beau on July 14, 2010 at 11:51 AM (PDT)

3

@Beau
I walked into an Apple Store in Southern California (Century City) and held the iphone 4. Didn’t take long for the demo phone to exhibit the signal drop behavior. Went from 4 bars to 1 bar.

Posted by John on July 14, 2010 at 12:03 PM (PDT)

4

Here in the UK - the iPhone 4 on Orange, O2 & 3 networks all displayed the reception problem. Holding the phone in the left hand, in a normal position for sending a text or email, saw the signal strength drop within seconds.

That is in a city centre store, with supposedly good signal coverage from all three networks.

Posted by Bob Levens in UK on July 14, 2010 at 12:33 PM (PDT)

5

I feel like the only iPhone 4 owner who doesn’t really care about the death grip issue.  But then again, I use a case and I’m right handed.  It hasn’t affected me one bit.

However the proximity sensor issue is incredibly annoying. It makes using my phone nearly impossible unless I focus hard on pressing my ear up to the sensor while on the phone. I’ve accidentally initiated FaceTime, muted people, hung up on people, and started 3-way calls with my face. And I don’t even use my phone that much! It’s frustrating to say the least.

Posted by Bethany on July 14, 2010 at 12:56 PM (PDT)

6

I agree with Bethany.  I use a case.  Reception problem solved.  I agree that Apple should fix this, however.  The more annoying issue for me is the proximity sensor issue.  I have in all manners beeped, hung up on, facetimed and caused my iFart application to fart in my ear due to the proximity sensor issue.  It wasn’t pretty.  This is very annoying.  I believe this is overshadowed by the reception issue.  However, it is just as annoying and prevelant.

Posted by David on July 14, 2010 at 2:15 PM (PDT)

7

YES! THANK YOU FOR COVERING THIS!!!! We have been suffering alone for far too long!

Posted by Ryan on July 14, 2010 at 3:06 PM (PDT)

8

Thank you very much Ilounge for covering this really cause this is far more bigger problem than the SIGNAL ISSUE And not only that when we post about this problem on apple forum that it should get media coverage they delete our posts Please help all of us and making apple fix this problem Thank you once again ILOUNGE and yes the proximity problem is even on my 3rd IP4 its not going away with replacement phones either

Posted by Iphone 4 925 on July 14, 2010 at 3:35 PM (PDT)

9

Thank you very much Ilounge for covering this big issue.  The Iphone 4 proximity sensor issue makes it almost impossible to use the phone for one of it’s critical design functions (making a simple phone call).  Apple will not acknowledge this as an issue!

Posted by TrentP on July 14, 2010 at 4:35 PM (PDT)

10

I don’t get it. If you have a problem with the proximity sensor your iPhone 4, go to the Apple Store and exchange it for a new one. I’m sure they’ll exchange it. I had a problem with the iPhone 4 camera with blueish blotch in the center and they gave me a new iPhone.

BTW, to poster #3 about the death grip issue being able to demo it in an Apple Store? He’s lying. I have been to 3 Apple Stores in the Los Angeles area (Grove, Cerritos, Newport Beach) and I cant reproduce the death grip with any iPhone 4 located inside the store. Somebody told me it’s because they have microcell/femtocell units inside the Apple Stores.

Posted by Benjamin on July 14, 2010 at 4:59 PM (PDT)

11

I am having the same proximity issues, called Apple today and the guy told me to take it to an Apple store and they’d replace it. He also acknowledged that it was a known issue.  My wife’s phone is a 4 also, it’s actually a replacement from the 1st on we got, it was waaay buggy, kept popping up a no sim message. She dropped it the other day from about 2 feet in the garage and crack, shattered screen! So much for gorilla glass. I will be in route tomorrow to the Apple store with both phones, 2 hour drive! I’ve seen some cases where a broken glass is replaced, but who knows??

P.S. If they don’t fix it I’ve already ordered the white parts from china, they should be here soon!

Posted by James on July 14, 2010 at 6:24 PM (PDT)

12

I believe the proximity sensor issue is a problem with software. How did I come to this conclusion? Well, the sensor seems to work fine with Google’s voice search app. Load the app, hold your phone up to your face and voilà! It activates voice search.

So it seems like Google’s code is activating the sensor correctly while the Phone app’s code is causing the sensor to fail.

Posted by Marc Rosete on July 14, 2010 at 9:22 PM (PDT)

13

Again, THANK YOU for covering this. It’s a FAR worse issue than the “Death grip” and Apple’s total silence on the subject is the most troubling. On my 2nd iP4, same prox problem, not quite as bad the the first but still SUPER annoying while making calls over 5 minutes or longer.

Posted by Jimmy Faivre on July 14, 2010 at 9:44 PM (PDT)

14

@John

I wasn’t saying all of suburban SoCal has good AT&T coverage, just that where I am, it’s rock solid. (I used to get dropped going from one room of my house to another on Sprint with my Treo.) And thus, said rock solidity means I haven’t seen this issue in action.

It’s a problem that’s a killer to everyone experiencing it, but there are plenty of people who aren’t experiencing it at all.

Important to fix, absolutely, but not as universal as some have portrayed it.

Posted by Beau on July 15, 2010 at 7:59 AM (PDT)

15

I agree, the proximity sensor issue has impacted me far more often than the “hold my phone like it’s a hammer” issue. I have watched the bars fade when I attempted the “attenuation-grip”.

I read about the proximity issues before getting my phone, and on my FIRST call with the phone, I disconnected the caller three times. I have since been using peripheral vision to see if the phone lights up while on a call - meaning that the interface is active and may take some undesired action because it’s against my face.

I am also a iPhone developer and as Marc Rosete mentioned (poster #12), it is a software issue (most-likely) because the sensor’s sensitivity can be tweaked.

I was willing to live with the antenna issue because all of my phones are in cases (Otterbox or Speck). I simply wanted this phone to continue using my apps, developing others while using a much faster processor (and more memory) than my relatively-aged iPhone 3G phones.

Jeff

Posted by Jeff D. on July 15, 2010 at 1:50 PM (PDT)

16

I was just at the Apple Store on the Plaza in Kansas City and I was told that this is a known issue and that I needed to wait for the next software update and that he was not authorized to exchange the phone because of this problem. I was a little miffed and almost asked for a manager but decided to wait for the update.  I did read that you can solve the problem temporarily by pressing the home button and opening some other app like the calculator or weather after you have received a call or made one to stop face timing and muting people for the time being. Soooooo….we wait.

Posted by Keith on July 17, 2010 at 4:33 PM (PDT)

17

Keith’s experience is exactly the opposite of what I experienced going to the Apple Store in West County Mall. 

I had multiple calls to AppleCare trying to work out the source of the proximity sensor problem on my iPhone 4.  We thought it probably was software (running from a fresh, clean reinstall seemed to fix the problem—although given how intermittent it is, who can really tell.)

I finally got fed up and went to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store where I bought the phone.  They immediately offered to exchange the phone, despite the fact that they were saying the problem is software. The problem was they could not tell me if the replacement phone would be new or refurb. 

In the end, I chose to return the iPhone 4 for full refund (nearly $800 after tax because I had to pay full retail—gee THANKS ATT).

While I agree that the problem appears to be software, what no one has yet been able to explain is why the same software (iOS 4) on my iPhone 3GS causes no problem.  Ideas anyone?

Posted by Woody on July 19, 2010 at 10:17 AM (PDT)

18

Update

I read somewhere some people were having success with going into settings>general>reset>reset all settings.  I did that and now my phone works JUST FINE.  Weird huh?  I am just glad it worked.  I had to retype some passwords and reset my home screen but THE PHONE WORKS NOW!!

Posted by Keith on July 19, 2010 at 10:59 PM (PDT)

19

It’s not as simple as taking it in and getting a replacement. Many people have done this 4-5 times only to end up with 4-5 iphones that have all had this same problem.

And some have had success with resetting while others have had no luck at all.

The bottom line is that this shouldn’t be happening with a premium phone. Period. And since it’s a HUGE problem that IS happening, Apple needs to own up to it and fix it.

Posted by Brent on July 21, 2010 at 1:48 PM (PDT)

20

I had the iphone4 from launch day and was a victim of the Proximity Sensor problem (in addition to other issues). I waited until last friday and then back to my Apple store (Bluewater, UK) to chat with the Genius Bar.  After checking the phone out, and being aware of the sensor issue i was told that ‘Last nights firmware upgrade a.k.a 4.0.1 addresses the Proximity Sensor problem so just upgrade and it’ll be sorted’.

I couldnt quite see how a firmware upgrade could fix a hardware problem so used my initiative and opted for a full refund. I’m happy with my decision knowing now that the issue has still not been remedied. I have my fingers crossed for all you remaining iPhone 4 owners and hope you get the problems sorted but for me it was too much grief and too much money to invest in a phone with problems… i’m now back to using my 3GS until the iPhone 4 is sorted 100%

Will still be keeping an eye on the developments though smile

Posted by Leigh on July 21, 2010 at 2:23 PM (PDT)

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