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Nexus One 3G Problems – Part 2 – After the OTA Update

by on Feb.11, 2010, under Devices, News

I figured this now warrants an extra post after there’s been much discussion on the Google support forum. It is absurd that Google keeps trying to put the blame on T-Mobile. The video below clearly shows that 3G network connectivity is fine until you firmly hold your phone in your hand.

Here’s an excerpt from my recent forum post.

I’ve been saying all along that this is a RF issue. I noticed this right away when I got my phone and even posted this video on Jan 9 to show how the N1 drops 3G as soon as you hold it in your hand.

The problem occurs only when you are in an area with a weak 3G signal, anything less than -80dBm. (Higher negative numbers mean weaker signal.)

Basically, if you have -90dBM or less signal strength with the phone sitting on your desk, holding it in your hand will push it down to -100dBm or less. At that point all bets are off. Before the update it would switch to Edge around -100dBm, now it seems to hold on until about -105dBm.

The “dBm” (dB-milliwatt) is a logarithmic measurement of signal strength, and dBm values can be easily converted to and from mW values. So a decrease of roughly 3dBm yields a change of roughly HALF in the mW value.

1mW = 0dBm
-96dBm = 0.0000000002511mW

In essence, the difference between a -80dBm signal and a -100dBm signal is HUGE. Check it out yourself here.

So here is my big question: Why is the N1 getting such a weak signal in solid 3G territory, and why does the signal degrade that much more when holding the phone in your hand?

IMHO the recent update just tweaked the switching thresholds, while the actual problem may be rooted deeper in the RF guts of the Nexus One.

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  • Smcfay

    Great job on demonstrating this, i am one of the unhappy guys on the forum

  • http://twitter.com/mobinauten Oliver Lauer

    Brilliant analysis. I have the same issue here in Germany.

  • Michael

    What is the app you are using to view the signal strength?

  • http://droidstory.com droidStory

    Here's how to get into the screen that shows the network info seen in the video.

    One way is to simply dial *#*#4636#*#* in the phone app, but that gets tedious after a while.

    Instead, install AnyCut, a free app from the Android marketplace. Create a new shortcut, pick AnyCut -> select Activity -> pick Phone Info.

    Now you have instant access to this screen, which is also very handy if you want to quickly switch between WCDMA preferred and WCDMA only.

  • Michael

    Cool, thanks!

  • Dave

    This is very concerning and well demonstrated. I don't see how HTC/Google could fix this without moving/duplicating an antenna and running it through FCC again (for the US; presumably EU etc have similar processes).

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