Just how good is Apple’s iPhone at capturing weak cell tower signals? Not too good if some data from Scandinavia is to be believed. And, yes, you’re holding wrong. Obviously, signal strength and data download speeds with a weak signal have a long list of variables to consider. Sweden’s telecom authority, PTS found enough variables to do the obvious comparisons, but also highlighted a winner among smartphones trying to capture weak cell tower signals. It wasn’t the iPhone.
About 99-percent of the world’s smartphones are Android-based or iPhones. Windows smartphones are mostly negligible in worldwide marketshare, yet the Microsoft Lumia 640, as underpowered and anemic as it may be, performed best when the network signal was weak.
Apple’s newest iPhone, the iPhone SE– newest until the end of today– was Apple’s best performer and finished ahead of iPhone 6 and 6s and 6s Plus, but behind Samsung’s Galaxy models, the Huawei Pg, and Nexus 5X.
That just makes you want to throw away your iPhone and run out and get a Windows Phone, right?
Not so fast.
Remember all those variables I mentioned? There are many, and each one can affect performance. The frequency bands tested may not be the same that your cell phone carrier uses, so there’s that. The study also tested different hands, left or right, and even that changed the results. HTC’s not-too-desirable Desire 626 won the right-hand test, while the DORO PhoneEasy 530x came in on top for lefties.
There must be something to being a lefty in 2016 that impacts electronics, because the iPhone 6S Plus ranked dead last in left-hand tests.
See? You’re holding it wrong.
Six years ago, back when Apple introduced the iPhone 4, Antennagate was born. Alert users noticed that their iPhone’s would lose signal strength depending on how the device was held. Not much has changed since then– antennas are better but signal strength measurements have been changed to not scare users as much as they did back in 2010.
Check this email exchange on the so-called iPhone Death Grip ordeal:
Customer: I love my new iPhone 4 (nice work) but when I put my hand on the steel bands I lose all reception. It appears to be a common issue. Any plans to fix this?
Steve Jobs: Just avoid holding it in that way.
Antennagate became a thing and Apple pointed out– accurately– that every smartphone of note had exactly the same kind of reception problem, though the whole kerfuffle wasn’t exactly related to weak cell tower strength as much as it was who was holding the phone, how the phone was held, what buildings or other objects where nearby to impede a signal, and other factors, such as sweaty palms.
Such studies on cell phone reception are interesting but one shouldn’t make a jumping-off-the-platform decision too quickly. Those variables may tell a different story. If your cell tower signals are not weak, you likely don’t have a problem. But the study didn’t test tall users vs. shorter users, or men vs. women, or sweaty palms vs. dry palms, or time of day, or plastic cases vs. aluminum cases, and those factors and others can change the overall results.
That sound you don’t hear right now is the sound of iPhone users running out to buy a Microsoft Lumia 640.