Apple iPhone 4S Shouldn’t Have a ‘Death Grip,’ Analyst Says

October 9, 2011 4:08 pm 1 comment

Apple’s iPhone 4S is designed with a pair of antennas that should eliminate concerns about a “death grip” that could interfere with its ability to place calls or transmit data, a leading antenna analyst said Wednesday.

At the iPhone 4S launch, Apple executives devoted essentially a single sentence to the problem, noting that the iPhone 4S has two antennas outside the case, and that the phone intelligently switches back and forth between them to maximize the phone’s ability to transmit and receive data, and to not drop calls.

That convinced Spencer Webb of AntennaSys, an antenna designer and consultant, that Antennagate is history.

“Apple would very much like Antennagate dead; frankly, I think Antennagate is dead,” Webb said of the new phone.

The “death grip,” where gripping an iPhone 4 with a “full” or whole-hand grip resulted in a significant deterioration of the upload and download speeds of the cellular data connection, was verified in the ATT iPhone 4, according to Webb’s tests last year. The controversy spread to the iPhone’s rivals, and even the Verizon iPhone.


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Adding a case or “bumper” eliminated the issue, however, and when Apple announced a free bumper program, the problem seemed to go away. “I’ve been a very early adopter—I bought [the iPhone 4] a few weeks after it shipped, and I’ve had a case on it,” Webb added. “It’s been a non-issue,” he said of the poor reception.

Wireless signals sent by the phone and cell-phone towers bounce off walls, buildings, the ground, and other surfaces, and can generate either constructive or destructive interference. In areas of marginal signal quality, destructive interference can kill the signal altogether, resulting in a dropped call. Webb, who designed antennas that appeared on ATT phones, said that that carrier’s requirements depended in part on a specification called “total isotropic sensitivity,” which is dependent on the quality of the antenna.

According to Webb, the Verizon iPhone 4 went a step farther than the ATT iPhone 4. Verizon requires a second antenna on all of its phones, dedicated to receiving data, that provides “spatial diversity,” a slightly offset antenna position that can receive data if the other is obstructed. Antenna diversity is used in MIMO routers with multiple antennas, to improve throughout and range, as is frequency diversity.

The iPhone 4S goes even further, using an antenna on the top and bottom of the phone for receiving and transmitting data, Webb said. That should eliminate most antenna issues with the iPhone 4S, Webb said. “You improve the multipath problem; that’s goodness all around,” he said.

The only possible “death grip”? Holding the phone horizontally, in both hands, to text or type information into the phone could block the antennas. “But that’s the same as any other phone,” Webb said. “It’s not a perfect world.”

Webb said, however, that any implication that the dual antennas would contribute to improved throughput is “hooey”. “It’s just not true,” he said.

The iPhone 4S is a HSPA 14.4 phone, Apple executives have said.

Webb said that the only question he had was how the Federal Communications Commission would measure the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), generally considered to be the amount of RF energy a phone radiates. Although there has been no definitive link between cell-phone use, their RF radiation, and cancer, cities like San Francisco have passed laws in an attempt to mitigate the risk.

Since the iPhone 4S has two antennas, Webb said, he wondered which antenna the FCC would use for its tests. That question may be answered with an Apple phone that Engadget discovered is making its way through the FCC approval process.

Still, as far as the fundamental “Antennagate” issue, Webb said it has a “wooden stake through its heart”. And other analysts agreed. “Antennagate is officially over,” Gartner mobile analyst Michael Gartenberg tweeted during the iPhone 4S launch event.

(For more: see Battle of the iPhones: iPhone 4S vs. 4 vs. 3GS and Can Apple Survive Without a 4G iPhone?.)

For more from Mark, follow him on Twitter @MarkHachman.

For the top stories in tech, follow us on Twitter at @PCMag.

Article source: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2394178,00.asp

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_H5KTEKXB4UYOQU4DNBOID6ZKSQ BobS

    shouldn’t have a death grip

    really now……

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