Next iPhone 4 Problem: The Proximity Sensor?

Ever since the iPhone 4 launched in an orgiastic explosion of fanboy love and press insanity, we’ve been hearing things about ‘the antenna problem’ – an issue in which holding the phone in a particular way may or may not cause the phone’s signal to drop, and may or not be the reason for a kitten being mistreated on the other side of the world.

Less reported, however, is an issue with the phone’s proximity sensor, which detects when you hold that beautiful glass display up to your sweaty, greasy ear so that it can shut it off, thereby preventing your ear from doing things your finger would never dream of.

But for many iPhone 4 owners, it seems to be not be working the way it should, refusing to shut the screen down when it is held against the face, causing hang-ups, random dialing and, at least once, twittering about the fact that you weren’t actually “working late” like you said you were.

Like the antenna issue, no-one is very clear on whether the issue is a hardware one or a software one. Some suggest a clean install may help, but many users claim to have the same problems exist even after a fresh restore.

What is clear, however, is that despite the iPhone 4′s unprecedented success, the launch is definitely not going as smoothly as its 3GS predecessor. As per usual, there is no word from Apple on issue – or even a cryptic email from St. Jobs.

Written by Navneet Alang

Navneet Alang is a technology-culture writer based in Toronto. You can find him on Twitter at @navalang
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Comments
  • Dave

    My friend thought he had this problem, and he called apple. They told him to reset his phone and do a restore. He was somewhat worried that he would lose information, so he called me first. Being a tech support person, I when through the gamut of questions, and realized that it was his case. He was using a case that the vendor said would work with the iPhone 4, and it wound up covering the relocated proximity sensor. Removing it from the case solved his problem and he promptly invested in another case. The sensor was relocated above the speaker that one puts their ear too. Cheap and fast to market cases, mostly leather, are causing this problem because they are using that space to hold the front of the iPhone in the case. This may not be everyones’ problem, but it may solve many issues without people blaming the phone.

  • alex

    I hate living in such a negative society. I think i’m moving to northern Canada. Where are the articles about the neat new things people are doing with the new iPhone? Or something positive, anything, there must be someone doing something neat, new, and positive with the phone that is also news worthy.

    I mean really! There is a virtual myriad of new things, features, possibilities. Yet all I see articles about one to maybe two’ish problems. Surely the antenna ‘issue’ is firmware, considering at least two independent users outside myself who updated the 3GS to iOS 4.0 are also experiencing uncharacteristic signal issues.

  • Avid2000

    Yes, I have this problem, as does everyone I know that has the iPhone 4. It’s absolutely an issue, but I am hoping it can be solved with a software update.