Gripes about Proximity Sensor Add to iPhone 4 Woes

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Well, there's good news and bad news for Apple. First, the good: iPhone 4 users in the Apple Discussions support forum don't appear to be too riled up over the phone's antenna issues. The bad news is that they're very irate over the iPhone 4's faulty proximity sensor, a serious problem that has plagued users since the phone's June debut.

What It Is

When your iPhone moves close to your face, the proximity sensor shuts off the display, thereby preventing your cheek from inadvertently turning on the speakerphone or ending the call. But many iPhone 4 users have griped that the proximity sensor on their handsets isn't working right.

Two PCWorld editors have encountered this glitch first hand. Ginny Mies reports that she's hung up on several callers with her cheek, and also accidentally started the FaceTime video chat app; and Melissa Perenson, who has returned three faulty iPhone 4 units thus far, has endured similar woes.

During his July 16 press conference to address the iPhone 4's antenna troubles, Apple CEO Steve Jobs acknowledged the proximity sensor problem and said the company would "try" to fix it in an upcoming software update.

For business users, the sensor glitch could lead to serious consequences. Example: A cheek-bump disconnect during an important work call.

Forum On Fire

Jobs claims the recent ruckus over iPhone 4's antenna problems has been overblown by a sensationalistic news media. But has the sensor glitch been underreported?

In the iPhone 4 discussion forum, the proximity sensor thread is by far the most active, with more than 44,500 views as of Sunday evening. By comparison, the second most-viewed iPhone 4 topic (on phone orders since July 3) has roughly one-third the number of views.

The proximity sensor topic is so hot, in fact, that the current sensor thread is actually a continuation of an earlier one that had gotten too long and was causing some browsers to time out. (The old thread has since been locked, and its last post links to the new thread, Apple said.)

This weekend's forum posts indicate that many iPhone 4 users are encountering sensor-related glitches:

"3 cheek dials today. Not a happy customer," wrote user "MacSince85."

"Was having issues with sensor, but went beyond that. After answering and talking for 15 minutes - somehow the phone managed to drill down to the ringtone menu and started playing ringtones in my ear while I was on the phone," reported user "wgaller."

User "dbk9999" wrote: "My 3rd [iPhone 4] is FAR worse with the sensor issue than my first two (which I returned for different problems). In addition, while a lot of people proclaim it is because the screen comes on when it shouldn't, I've had 7 cut offs of calls and 1 activation of mute without the screen coming on."

Perhaps there's good news on the horizon, however. Apple's sensor patch may arrive shortly, according to one user.

"Just got off the phone with AppleCare. I asked if it was worth exchanging my iPhone because of the proximity sensor problem. The AC rep stated this is a well known problem and to expect a software fix within the next '1-2 weeks,'" wrote MacSince85 in a follow-up post.

The patch had better come soon, or Apple will find itself with more irate customers like "bobditch," who wrote, "I'm mad too like everyone else that has this proximity sensor issue. We paid good money for a high-end product and it's not."

Actually, the iPhone 4 is indeed a high-end product, albeit one with a few issues to work through. The faulty proximity sensor may be its biggest glitch of all.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter ) or at .

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