Samsung Galaxy phones tested have 'death grip' issue, but Internet stays strong

Jul 22, 2010 By Victor Godinez

Following up on a tip, I did a signal attenuation test on both the Samsung Vibrant (T-Mobile) and Captivate (AT&T).

These are two of Samsung's vaunted Galaxy S smartphones running Android, and are very much top-of-the-line handsets.

As you recall, Steve Jobs made a big deal out of the fact that signal loss is a common problem on many smartphones when the devices are held in a certain way.

Until now, I'd never noticed that problem in any device other than the iPhone 4.

But the Vibrant and Captivate both clearly have "death grip" problems, as well.

Both phones, when held in a tight fist near the bottom of the handset, apparently lost their 3G signal almost immediately.

I say apparently because, while the bars did drop from 5 out of 5 (Captivate) and 3 out of 4 (Vibrant) down to 0 or 1 bar when gripped, those changes did not appear to affect actual signal strength.

I ran the speedtest.net app on both phones while they gripped.

In the Vibrant's case, the phone showed no 3G bars at all, while the Captivate had 1 bar.

Result?

While at 1 or 2 bars, the Captivate on AT&T fluctuated between download speeds of 2 megabits per second and 676 kilobits per second. One test dropped as low as 12 kilobits per second, but at that point I had the phone wrapped so tightly in my hands that I couldn't even see the screen.

At 0 bars, the Vibrant on never missed a beat. The slowest download speed was 1.4 megabits per second, up to a max 3.2 megs per second. Again, as I was running these tests, my hands were wrapped so thoroughly around the phone that I could barely see the device.

Web browsing also seemed largely unaffected. The Captivate couldn't load CNN.com when I had every non-screen part of the phone covered with my hands, but did fine in a normal death grip.

The Vibrant, again, connected to CNN.com and ESPN.com just fine regardless of how I held it.

So I guess the bottom line out of these tests is that, yes, these new Samsung phones do appear to suffer moderate to severe signal loss (or at least bar loss) when gripped tightly, especially around the bottom.

But even severe or total bar loss (which requires you to hold the phone in a way that renders the screen all but invisible), doesn't mean your actual connection is degraded. See video of the experiment:

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Compare that, for example, to this issue with the iPhone 4:

So I guess I would say that Steve Jobs is probably right when he says that many (if not most) phones can have antenna issues when you cover the phone with your meaty hands.

But I think it's also clear that the has more severe issues than most devices.

Explore further: Tomorrow's tablets? Look, no hands

2.5 /5 (6 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Apple 'stunned' to find iPhones show too many bars

Jul 02, 2010

(AP) -- Apple Inc. said Friday that it was "stunned" to find that its iPhones have for years been using a "totally wrong" formula to determine how many bars of signal strength they are getting.

Apple to speak on iPhone 4 amid antenna troubles

Jul 15, 2010

(AP) -- Apple Inc. will hold a press conference on Friday to discuss the latest iPhone model amid complaints about its antenna and Consumer Reports magazine's refusal to endorse it until the problems get fixed.

Apple rivals hit back at Jobs' antenna claims

Jul 20, 2010

Smartphone makers Blackberry, Samsung and HTC on Tuesday rejected claims by Apple chief Steve Jobs that other smartphones have antenna problems similar to those reported with the latest iPhone model.

Recommended for you

Tomorrow's tablets? Look, no hands

12 hours ago

Engineers in a suburban Chicago office complex have designed a new microphone that they say will be key to the future of smartphone and tablet technology because it gives consumers the ability to operate hand-held devices ...

Apple computer sells for record $905K in NY

Oct 23, 2014

One of the first Apple computers ever built has sold in New York for $905,000, leading Bonhams auction house to declare it the world's most expensive computer relic.

Review: Better cameras, less glare in iPad Air 2

Oct 22, 2014

If I've seen you taking photos with a tablet computer, I've probably made fun of you (though maybe not to your face, depending on how big you are). I'm old school: I much prefer looking through the viewfinder ...

Samsung phones cleared for US government use

Oct 21, 2014

Samsung Electronics Co. said Tuesday some of its Galaxy mobile devices were approved by the National Security Agency for use with classified U.S. government networks and data, a boost to the company's efforts to expand in ...

User comments : 0