Developers Debate iOS 4.1 Proximity Sensor Fix

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When iOS 4.1 is released by Apple next week, it will have a number of new bells and whistles enhancing the iPhone and iPod Touch experience. Whether or not the highly-anticipated update will finally fix the proximity sensor issue plaguing iPhone 4 users, though, is still uncertain.

When Steve Jobs presented iOS 4.1 he focused on the new features being introduced. Applying the iOS update will add the new iTunes Ping feature, the ability to rent TV shows via iTunes, HD video uploads via W-Fi, HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, and the Xbox Live-like Game Center for social gaming. Jobs also mentioned in passing that iOS 4.1 will fix nagging issues with Bluetooth, 3G performance, and the notorious proximity sensor issue.

Cries of "hallelujah" (or maybe "finally", or "it's about time") arose from iPhone 4 users haunted by putting calls on speakerphone, or hanging up on customers or co-workers with their cheek thanks to the flaky proximity sensor failing to disable the touchscreen display while engaged in a call. Some developers, however, suggest it may be premature to celebrate just yet.

One developer who has had an opportunity to work with and test the beta releases and the Gold Master (GM)--the official release--of iOS 4.1 has identified that the proximity sensor still has issues. Ryan Thomas Bell has even taken the time to compile and post YouTube videos demonstrating the continuing problem with the proximity sensor.

Bell, who goes by the alias "mistabell" on the Apple Forums, posted "I hate to be the naysayer (i love you apple!) but I don't think the GM that went out today with the announcement fixes the problem all the way. At least not for everyone under every condition. (I played with it for about an hour today.) My last posts got deleted because I mentioned a pre-release, so I won't post the technical reasoning. I'm going to move my discussion over to the private developer forums. Good luck, guys."

Another post on the Apple Forums from dbk9999 says "it isn't just about the sensor activating at a certain distance, but it changes according to how you use it. It has to be software making these "decisions". So it could be possible that software could fix it. It could be that a hardware problem is too much for the software to compensate for."

This may be a case like the iPhone 4 antenna "death grip" issue that is possible to mitigate or minimize, but not entirely fix via software. Perhaps the rumors that Apple is developing a re-engineered iPhone 4 with a hardware fix for the antenna problem will also include a hardware engineering solution to fully resolve the proximity sensor issue.

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