One of the perennial questions we get at CNET is this: "I get my TV via an over-the-air antenna. Is there a noncable, nonsatellite DVR I can buy that doesn't require a service fee?" The answers were few and far between. TiVo works great with over-the-air TV, but that unit does require a monthly/yearly/lifetime fee. You can set up a Windows Media Center PC (with a DTV tuner attachment), but that's a rather elaborate solution for most folks. DVD recorders are one possibility, but they generally don't have onscreen program guides, and they … Read more
Last Thursday, just before Apple called a press conference to address concerns with the iPhone 4's antenna, the company issued its promised 4.0.1 software update. The release didn't offer new features, and it didn't change anything about the controversial antenna, but it did alter how bars are displayed on the handset's signal meter. CNET has spent the last few days testing the update to determine what it means for you. But before we get to our findings, a bit of background is necessary.
The back story Apple first promised the update on July 2, 2010, in response to reports from users and reviewers (CNET included) that the iPhone 4 was dropping bars when people covered a gap in the phone's antenna with their hands. In a statement, Apple said it was "stunned" to learn the bar drop was caused by an incorrect display of the phone's true signal strength.
Due to this incorrect formula, users in low reception areas were mistakenly seeing an additional two bars of reception. "Users observing a drop of several bars...are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don't know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars," the company said. Apple then promised that the forthcoming update would adopt AT&T's recently recommended formula to more accurately display the signal strength, and would enlarge the first three bars to make them easier to see.
Making sense of it all After the release went out, we heard from many CNET users who were confused about how iOS 4.0.1 would change their user experience. And to be honest, we didn't know what to expect when we first got it either. So to find out how the update affects everyday usability, we took two iPhone 4s--one had the update and one did not--and compared the number of displayed bars in 10 places in San Francisco. We chose three locations with historically Average reception (two to three bars using the old standard), three places with poor reception (no coverage to two bars), one place with good reception (no more than four bars) and three locations with Excellent service (a full five bars).
In four of the ten locations tested, the unaltered iPhone 4 displayed more bars than its updated sibling. In four other places, however, we saw no difference. And most interestingly, in two of the three locations with the poorest reception, the updated iPhone displayed more bars than the handset without the update.
How we did it To conduct the tests, we held the handsets in identical positions in the chosen locations and took screenshots at the same time to record our observations. We also tried (up to three times) to place a call. To exclude any interference from attenuation or the "death grip," we made sure not not to cover the antenna gap.
Though the number of bars isn't the best measure of true reception--Apple still hasn't told us why it removed the Field test App--we used bars in this comparison because the update was specifically designed to change them. Also, the signal strength meter is the measure on which users rely most. We understand that other variables may be affecting reception, and that even two phones with the update can show a different number of bars simultaneously, but we wanted to discover if iOS 4.0.1 did what it promised. … Read more
So many harsh words have been thrown around to describe the iPhone 4's antenna problems. Crisis! Disaster! Antennagate! But let's not overstate the issue: the iPhone has a boo-boo, and as every parent knows, nothing fixes a boo-boo like a Band-Aid.
Or, in this case, an Antenn-Aid. That's the name given to a six-pack of familiar-looking adhesive strips designed to cover the tiny gap that's causing so much trouble.
In other words, yeah, they're Band-Aids for your iPhone.
Cute? Yes. Clever? Definitely. Effective? Though "intended for entertainment purposes only," there's every reason … Read more
Jeff looks a little different on this morning's episode of The 404 podcast, doesn't he? Initial reports tell us that the half-moon forming on Jeff's face is actually a smile, which probably has to do with Ilya Kovalchuk staying with the New Jersey Devils this season.
The LA Kings, New York Islanders, the NJ Devils, and a random team in Russia all grabbed for Kovalchuk when he became a free agent on July 1, but only the Devils were able to secure the hockey star for a reported 100 million bucks over the next 17 years, which … Read more
Apple called an unprecedented press conference Friday to address consumer concerns with the iPhone 4's antenna. CEO Steve Jobs spent the first part of his presentation playing down the controversy, characterizing it as being "blown way out of proportion," and denying that the iPhone 4's attenuation issues are worse than any other smartphone's.
Though Jobs maintained that only a small number of users are experiencing a problem, Apple is offering all iPhone 4 customers a free case through September 30. In CNET's testing, an Apple-supplied "bumper" case solves any call quality issues, … Read more
During Friday's iPhone 4 press conference, Apple CEO Steve Jobs offered a very brief glimpse inside immense padded rooms that make up the company's antenna testing and design labs. According to Jobs, and to statistics posted later on Apple's Web site, the labs consist of 17 antenna characterization, or "anecohoic," chambers that are used to measure overall antenna performance. Various equipment simulates cellular towers, Wi-Fi networks, Bluetooth device, and GPS satellites, and the phones are tested in a variety of positions including free space and next to human dummies and real people. The carbon foam … Read more
Apple CEO Steve Jobs likely quieted the outrage over the antenna issues surrounding the iPhone 4, but he sure didn't have fun doing it.
A clearly annoyed Jobs took the stage at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino Friday to announce that all iPhone 4 users would be receiving a free case to solve reception issues caused by the phone's exterior-antenna design. Apple's first response to the outcry was to change the way it displayed signal strength on the iPhone to give users more confidence in the accuracy of the signal, but Jobs acknowledged Friday that AT&… Read more
Updated at 12:08 p.m. with additional information.
Apple plans to give iPhone 4 users a free case in hopes of satisfying concerns about the design of its antenna and signal problems.
CEO Steve Jobs made the announcement (click here for the live blog) during a press conference at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Friday morning in response to a public-relations crisis over signal issues reported with the iPhone 4, which was unveiled in June. iPhone 4 owners will apply for the free bumper (a case that protects just the outer rim of the phone) online at Apple'… Read more
Wilson kicks of this morning's episode of The 404 Podcast with a glowing review of Chris Nolan's newest movie, "Inception." After watching an advanced IMAX screening last night, Wilson has several tips that'll make the experience even better, and don't worry folks--it's all SPOILER FREE! You have our guarantee that nothing of importance will come out of Wilson's mouth in this episode.
Wilson attests that "Inception" is certainly a cerebral film, but not one that leaves the audience feeling confused or asking a bunch of questions, like "Synecdoche." … Read more
Amid the swirling controversy surrounding iPhone 4's now infamous antenna engineering, Consumer Reports, which recently found the reception problems from Apple's latest smartphone to be a flaw disallowing it to recommend purchase, has stated that the Bumper case offered by Apple would solve those issues.
"With the Bumper fitted, we repeated the test procedure, placing a finger on the Bumper at the point at which it covers the gap below. The result was a negligible drop in signal strength--so slight that it would not have any effect, in our judgment."
Earlier tests, sans Bumper, caused Consumer … Read more