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Swedish researcher claims iPhone 3G's sensitivity is poor

Researcher says that a manufacturing problem could be to blame for the iPhone 3G's problems in connecting, and staying connected, to 3G networks.

A Swedish researcher said he thinks he's discovered why the iPhone 3G has a hard time connecting to 3G networks.
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Updated 3:15pm with some clarifications due to language issues.

A wireless researcher in Sweden claims to have identified the issue causing iPhone 3G reception problems around the world.

Ny Teknik, a Swedish tech newspaper, has published the account of a scientist at the University of Gälve who investigated the iPhone 3G and discovered that the phone is not as sensitive to 3G signals as other phones. Claes Beckman is claiming that the iPhone 3G's nominal sensitivity is below that of published standards for 3G phones, meaning the phone drops the connection with a 3G tower more quickly than other 3G phones as it moves away from the tower and averages slower data speeds when connected.

UPDATED 3:15pm - Ny Teknik wishes to make clear that Claes Beckman was not the researcher who originally discovered the sensitivity issues. That person wishes to remain anonymous for fear of being fired for testing the iPhone 3G on his organization's equipment. Ny Teknik contacted Beckman and the university to confirm the credibility of the research, which he did "without hesitating," according to the author of the article.

Beckman The researcher told Ny Teknik that such an issue would have been easily discovered in the certification process for the iPhone 3G in the various countries in which it is now available, implying that a manufacturing problem is to blame. Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai, is believed to be the manufacturer of the iPhone 3G, and reportedly increased production of the unit at the beginning of this month.

On Wednesday, Vodafone Australia joined the ranks of carriers blaming Apple for the reception issues with the iPhone 3G. T-Mobile Netherlands is telling its customers that either a hardware or software issue is to blame, and a financial analyst has also gone on record predicting problems with the iPhone's 3G chipset. Apple has been silent on the issue, and AT&T has denied that there are widespread issues with the iPhone 3G.

I put in requests to researchers at Stanford University's Microwave Integrated Circuits Laboratory, as well as the University of California's Berkeley Wireless Research Center to see if they'd be willing to duplicate the findings. I'll let you know if they respond.

As an aside, thanks to everyone who has been sending in their iPhone 3G stories, but I have a new request. If you have tried to return your iPhone 3G anytime after Sunday at an Apple store, and you'd be willing to answer a few questions, please send me an e-mail (