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July 02, 2011

HTC Sensation’s Death Grip Isssue

When I reviewed the HTC Sensation earlier this week, I did not mention the issue on WiFi signal because I did not thoroughly test it with my review unit. Since the time of the iPhone 4’s death grip issue, we already knew that holding a phone is certain ways will reduce its signal strength. So we’re doing an in-depth test this time.

We did a quick test of that here last year which included the Xperia X10, Galaxy S and HTC Desire.

We’re trying the same test again with the HTC Sensation but this time, we’re looking at the WiFi signal when the handset is clasp at the right top side of the unit.

So we tested the unit we have along with another control unit (LG Optimus 2X) on two WiFi signals at home. Here’s the normal signal when there’s minimal touch point with the Sensation.

The WiFi signal strength is -50dB on the Sapido router and -43dB on the TP-Link router. With the Optimus 2X, it’s -53dB and -46dB, respectively.

After clasping the top end of the HTC Sensation, we got these results:

The WiFi signal strength dropped to -72dB and -86 dB, respectively. At the same time, the signal on the Optimus 2X also went down to -62 and -77dB for the two WiFi routers respectively.

So it looks like the signal drop on the Sensation is like -10dB more than our control unit. Here’s the clincher though. The WiFi signal indicator on the HTC Sensation would drop to 1 bar or zero bar during the grip test (coming from 4 or 5 bars).

This is where the issue started — that the signal indicator gives an impression that there is very weak or no WiFi signal at all.

So I tested that theory even further.

I ran Speedtest.net Android App on the Sensation with and without the grip. Here’s the result of the SpeedTest while gripping the device to zero WiFi signal.

The SpeedTest gave me almost identical results — ~200ms latency, ~950kbps download and 275kbps upload speeds over WiFi (both with the death grip and without it). You can see the screenshot above with the results and showing the WiFi signal bar at zero.

I went and dissected this even further so I ran a WiFi Analyzer showing live signal strength on a per second basis.

At -59dBm, the indicated WiFi speed over LAN is 39Mbps. Our assumption is that once we do the grip of death, the signal strength and the WiFi speed will also drop (close to zero or nil).

When I did the grip of death on the device, the signal strength again dropped to -82dBm. However, the indicated WiFi speed is still at 39Mbps. You will see in the screenshot that the graph fluctuated during the test.

If you are able to follow up to this point, I guess you will agree with me on the following conclusions:

  • Gripping the HTC Sensation around the top end of the handset will make the WiFi signal indicator drop to 1 bar or zero bar.
  • The drop to 1 bar or zero bar resulted to around 50% drop in WiFi signal strength. It does not wipe out the signal to zero or nil.
  • Even if the WiFi signal dropped to 1 or zero bar, it did not affect the latency of the network connection nor the upload and download speed from the device.

I think, by this time, it is safe to say that the death grip is a non-issue.

You can also replicate this test with any of your Android smartphones. Just download WiFi Analyzer, Network Signal Info and SpeedTest.net app in the Android Market.

HTC Sensation set to launch on June 15
HTC Sensation launched, priced!
Galaxy S2 vs. LG Optimus 2X vs. HTC Sensation

25 Responses to “HTC Sensation’s Death Grip Isssue”

  1. someone says:

    maybe this “death grip” will only be an issue if your signal is poor from the start.

  2. razorous
    Twitter: razorous
    says:

    Will this change my mind from gettin a SGS2? Mmmm… They’re both officially available in the Ph. Still can’t decide.. :,(

    Baka naman wala lang talaga akong pera lol! :D

  3. demetrio cochon says:

    i think less signal means less ang perimeter range(wifi) ng device mo. so maybe those with strong signal can discover routers kahit mas malayo. best real life test siguro dito is sa mga Malls since malalayo ang router sa device, and napansin ko sa gsmarena you don’t have to “grip” but simply put your hand on the area beneath the camera which is more of a problem since you tend to place the device in your hands when watching videos(youtube) or browsing the web.

    • xx says:

      Exactly, I suggest yuga should test it from a distance farther away from the access point and at the point of maximum range for the router where the signal would be weaker. Because in real life situations, yung mga nakiki-free wifi sa labas is usually at a distance from the access points.

    • Vignet says:

      Yun naman pala eh, nakiki”free” wifi. Kung yan yung ginagawa mo wala kang karapatan mag reklamo.

    • xx says:

      Duh? You bought the phone, you have the right to complain.

  4. Diego says:

    IMO, this should not stop anyone wanting the phone to go get it because who holds the phone in the way it is shown here. WiFi issues aside, this phone has rock solid specs, I would have got this phone, but I like the xperia arc more.

    • vince says:

      the only downside that i can see on Xperia Arc vs Sensation was the internal memory.

      320 MB storage, 512 MB RAM on Arc over 1 GB storage, 768 MB RAM on Sensation

  5. Pew says:

    As a person who eats networks for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I agree with the earlier posts. The best test should be proximity to wireless access points that you don’t see or you don’t even know where they are – like malls. Even a single bar Wifi connection at home(or anywhere else for that matter)will not affect the throughput speed – so speedtests will not be relevant. It’s more of how stable it can hold the signal it receives from distant access points (or detect distant access points) when death gripping it. :)

  6. garz says:

    It should definitely be not an issue. Who would hold the Sensation that way on a regular basis?

  7. mitch says:

    I am unable to recreate this issue on my sensation. And believe me, I tried.

  8. Lezure2010 says:

    Well as long as the phone still picks up the signal no matter how low it is. The speed of the connection won’t change at all.

    The problem would be connecting to the maximum range of your wifi router. If you are right at the end of the effective range, the death grip would most probably weaken your wifi link, possibly reducing it to nil. This in turn would lose you your internet connection.

    The problem isn’t as big as it seems to be, and as long as people know it’s mechanism, then they could effectively counter it. In short, just stay in a comfortable range within your wifi router and say goodbye to the death grip problem.

  9. GC says:

    went to MOA yesterday and held a Sensation in landscape mode (with the top part of the phone on my left hand). touched the sides of the phone using my thumb and forefinger, and my middle finger held the back of the phone for support. the wifi indicator dropped 2-3 bars. didn’t know about the wifi analyzer since i haven’t owned an android phone yet :)

  10. vince says:

    that explains it.

  11. manoei says:

    Sensation user here as well — take my word guys, aside from this death grip issue there is NOTHING ELSE that I could complain about this phone. Trust me, the other smartphones have hardware issues that are far worst compared to this device.

  12. Kira says:

    I guess every phone has the same problem. Wifi as a radio connection can’t easily pass through human flesh.

  13. Bimboy says:

    finally, that gave clarification, good to know our suggestions were heard :)

    I suggest a followup test, what if you start from a 1 or 2 Bars then repeat this test. Thanks yuga

  14. Oski says:

    pwede nmn yatang lagyan ng silicon para d mag occur ung death grip na un eh ,, gaya ng IP4

  15. wreek888 says:

    Pardon me, but what is death grip?

  16. whatif says:

    ganyan ba kayo humawak ng cellphone (sa taas)?

  17. GC says:

    was able to try a sensation test phone. because of the big size of the phone, you won’t even reach the death grip portion when you hold the phone normally in portrait mode (and this is considering my big hands).

    held the phone in landscape too and here are my findings:
    1. tried speedtest.net without touching the death grip portion: .30 mbps dl
    2. held the phone by the death grip area: .32 mbps dl!
    3. only after several tries was i able to drop the wifi connection and switch to 3g. and take note, i was deliberately trying to drop the signal.

  18. Raphael says:

    Aside from being entertained by the comments, I learned new names of phones, flesh and wifi, and a new interest in mobile phone technology

  19. It’s amazing to pay a quick visit this site and reading
    the views of all mates about this paragraph, while I
    am also keen of getting familiarity.

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Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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