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Your Computer and Cell Phone Are Lying To You

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the they're-in-it-with-the-aliens dept.

Cellphones 479

Ant writes with a story from Dan's Data, which says that the battery meter and connection-strength displays in your portable electronics are lying to you, "and not just when they whisper to you in the night." Quoting: "Mobile phones, and most modern laptops, have signal strength and battery life displays. One or both of these displays has probably been the focus of all of your attention at one time or another. Neither display is actually telling you what you think it's telling you. The signal strength bars on a mobile phone or laptop do, at least, say something about how strong the local signal is. But they don't tell you the ratio between that signal and the inevitable, and often very considerable, noise that accompanies it ..."

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Pshaw (5, Funny)

MistaE (776169) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384363)

And I bet you're going to tell us next that DRM isn't for our own good and is just a way for conglomerates to steal more of our money with little effort done on their part. Hah!

Re:Pshaw (5, Insightful)

cushdan (949520) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384483)

And I bet you're going to tell us next that DRM isn't for our own good and is just a way for conglomerates to steal more of our money with little effort done on their part. Hah!

skillful integration of two /. themes "I already knew that" "DRM is bad"

Re:Pshaw (5, Funny)

hahiss (696716) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384689)

I was impressed too, though really I was hoping for a car analogy as well. But I'm a guild the lily sort of guy.

Re:Pshaw (2, Informative)

hahiss (696716) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384709)

D'oh. That's gild the lily. . . .

Re:Pshaw (3, Funny)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385153)

But I'm a guild the lily sort of guy.

Ohhh, we represent the lily pad guild, the lily pad guild, the lily pad guild...

Re:Pshaw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24385181)

there it is! [slashdot.org]

Re:Pshaw (5, Funny)

Godji (957148) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385219)

And I bet you're going to tell us next that DRM isn't for our own good and is just a way for conglomerates to steal more of our money with little effort done on their part, just like car manufacturers are telling you that driving an SUV is good for your safety while they make them with cheap truck chassis that are less maneuverable and do not reduce the impact of a collision nearly as much as a car chassis. Hah!

[Citation-Needed] (4, Insightful)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384399)

The article was indeed interesting, and believable. But it has a bad case of [Citation-Needed].

Re:[Citation-Needed] (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384781)

There is no citation needed. I can personally attest to the fact that unless you pay tens of thousands for the equipment it's metering capabilities are ONLY an indicator, more or less like your gas gauge, and not some sensitive sensing system. period. ever.

Most of the work done on electronics in the world is done without exacting measuring equipment. Yes, there will be those that argue, but *MOST* work is done with less than optimal equipment. Think that mechanic working on your car is using micrometers to do everything, or $2500 torque wrenches? For most of the world, good enough is ... well, good enough. Battery monitoring systems can only count down from full charge based on use and time. At best it is a simple calculation that cannot do much to account for aging of the battery or temperature compensation.

No citation needed. That is simply how life is, and why this is a huge 'duh' article, even if joe bloggs doesn't realize it. It's the reason that your vehicle gauges are not calibrated. This applies to just about everything we use.

Re:[Citation-Needed] (5, Funny)

fabs64 (657132) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384927)

I know it's de rigeur, but that was quite a lot of writing for someone who didn't RTFA.

Dan is claiming that (at least in cell phones) there is a deliberately misleading fudge factor.

Re:[Citation-Needed] (3, Insightful)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384937)

But that's just it- the article is very suggestive of conspiracy. Maybe the gauges are aproximations- I don't think that was ever up for debate. But your personal experience doesn't change the need for citations in this article- which I suggest you read.

Re:[Citation-Needed] (1)

chemisus (920383) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385113)

can i cite this on my next research paper? in fact, id like to just copy the whole paragraph and stick it in the summary.

Re:[Citation-Needed] (1)

xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385255)

There is no citation needed. I can personally attest

Heh heh.

Re:[Citation-Needed] (1)

Scotteh (885130) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385139)

The article was indeed interesting, and believable. But it has a bad case of [Citation-Needed].

From the article:

Publication date: 28 July 2008
Originally published 2008 in Atomic: Maximum Power Computing [atomicmpc.com.au]

Don't know where the article is though.

Wikipedia disease (2, Interesting)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385163)

The article was indeed interesting, and believable. But it has a bad case of [Citation-Needed].

Cites are not required for independently verifiable claims.

This is the difference between faith and science. If you give someone information that they can independently verify, and they base their belief on the results of their independent results, that's science (even if they are wrong, it's still application of the scientific method). If you ask someone to believe something based on the idea that a person who says it is trustworthy, that's faith (although not necessarily religious faith). Insistence on credible "cites" to bolster physically verifiable claims or observable reality is not functionally different from a belief in biblical inerrancy. Believing something "because [insert authority figure here] wrote it in a science book" is just swapping one shibboleth for another.

pedantry (5, Insightful)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384403)

Neither display is actually telling you what you think it's telling you.

Who cares? When it's full, my laptop or cellphone works great. When it's empty, the thing stops working. When there's only a few bars left, I either plug it in / move to a different location. IMO, it perfectly performs its intended duty. Anything beyond that is geek pedantry and nitpicking.

Re:pedantry (4, Funny)

PlatyPaul (690601) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384463)

Hey! My battery bar is full! That's must mean I have at least a few hours le

Re:pedantry (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24385015)

These types of posts are getting on my nerves.
If you battery went you would not of made the post at all...I'm not stupid.

Re:pedantry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24385097)

(Let me in on a little secret, you are)

Re:pedantry (1)

lordofwhee (1187719) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385129)

Mod parent +5 Woosh

Re:pedantry (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24385183)

Not really. I completely agree... the jokes, and the In Soviet Russia. I wih there was a mod that says "stupid, slashdot joke". Maybe I'll start marking them all redundant whenver I moderate! That'll fix 'em!

Re:pedantry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24385265)

Mod parent +5... eh, what's the English word for using a meme incorrectly?

Re:pedantry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24384501)

Anything beyond that is geek pedantry and nitpicking.

And that's exactly why its here. Digg is somewhere else.

Re:pedantry (4, Insightful)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384505)

Anything beyond that is geek pedantry and nitpicking.

That is Slashdot.

Re:pedantry (1)

Wiarumas (919682) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384557)

Agreed. I charge my cell phone every night on my nightstand, wake up to its alarm, and it most definitely lasts the entire day. With this habit, I've never even seen the bar go down more than halfway (nor would I panic if it did - I have a car charger too for business trips).

As for noise, it is inevitable AND I came to terms with it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signal-to-noise_ratio/ [wikipedia.org]

I mean, it might be nice to have a noise bar, but I rather have features that were more useful.

Re:pedantry (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384815)

Would you panic if your phone stopped working?

flamebait? (1)

otacon (445694) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384625)

Why would this be modded flamebait? I totally agree here...My devices are as accurate as they need to be...beyond that who cares?

Re:flamebait? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384883)

The point of the article is to be a little bit interesting and a little bit informative (for people interested in reading it), not to quibble over the accuracy of the devices. The headline is a 'hook'.

Re:pedantry (2, Insightful)

Kamots (321174) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384799)

I don't know what this "when there's only a few bars left" thing is that you speak of. But then my cell phone can show a full charge for up to 4 days and then be dead less than 4 hours later.

It'd be one thing if the battery use was constant so I'd know that I just need to charge it every 3 days or so... but as it can also randomly decide to discharge itself in well less than 24 hours...

Well, lets just say that I never rely on it when I travel.

Re:pedantry (1)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385281)

Maybe you need a new battery? My razr is good for days on end (granted I don't use a lot of talk time). It was starting to feel low...would have to charge *almost* every other day or risk going too far into low battery sudden-death territory so I replaced it with some battery I got almost free off of slickdeals. After the phone figured out the calculations on the new battery (the first few charges it would stay at max until it went red) it has been lasting long long periods of time like a phone should.

Ummm, doesn't "lying" imply free will? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24384411)

Are we giving sentience to our cell phones and laptops now? They are not just "misprogrammed" or "wrong"...they are actively lying to us now? Are you implying that they all got together at the factory during the worker's break period and conspired to give false information to their human overlords?

TDz.

Re:Ummm, doesn't "lying" imply free will? (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384657)

Very good point. It's actually more a case of us not understanding what the symbols actually represent.

Re:Ummm, doesn't "lying" imply free will? (4, Funny)

hansraj (458504) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384701)

I would have given you the answer, but I suppose you would rather that I speak axiomatic set theory or such.

Re:Ummm, doesn't "lying" imply free will? (4, Funny)

rodney dill (631059) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384987)

anthropomorphism is a common human tendency... get over it.

now if I can just get my laptop to stop humping my leg....

Re:Ummm, doesn't "lying" imply free will? (5, Insightful)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385287)

It's simply Anthropomorphism [wikipedia.org] . I talk to my car when it runs bad. I don't expect it to hear me or comprehend, but I do anyway. I talk to the computer, too.

When I talk to machines, for some reason it's always cursing, as in "GOD DAMNED PIECE OF SHIT..."

My laptop tells me how much noise there is. (4, Informative)

sudog (101964) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384413)

And I even have a little meter for it mixed in with my signal strength.

I find it pretty useful.. I'm pretty sure everyone's wireless chipset can tell them how much noise or at least how many mangled packets arrive. It's just the little dummy strength meter doesn't convey any of that. I liken most of those sorts of things to the CEL light in cars anyway. Good to know when something's not *perfect* but not so good for understanding why (nor whether it's just a gas tank cap seal broken, or a head gasket blown.)

Wifi meters (5, Interesting)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384443)

Exsqueeze me?

I've written a wifi signal strength meter for an embedded product. During my research, I found it was pretty much standard to base the bumber of bars on the signal to noise ratio, not the raw signal strength.

Re:Wifi meters (0, Troll)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384539)

Yeah. A chick writing software. What a laugh!

What's next? A truly insightful comment on Slashdot?

Re:Wifi meters (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24384737)

moron.

Re:Wifi meters (5, Funny)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384779)

Not only can I write software, but since I can multitask, I can do your mom at the same time.

Re:Wifi meters (2, Funny)

Silicon Jedi (878120) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384881)

What? That's only supposed to be for when a mommy and a daddy love each other very much!

Are you my new daddy?

Re:Wifi meters (0, Offtopic)

$1uck (710826) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384907)

That is hot, I really need to read at -1 more often.

Re:Wifi meters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24384947)

That's the only "your mom" joke I have ever laughed at. Mod that sucker up.

boo yaa (1)

Magada (741361) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385239)

And that is all I had to say about that.

Re:Wifi meters (1)

diskofish (1037768) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384811)

Yeah, everyone knows men are much better than women at programming, drinking and fighting. Just ask the president of Harvard, he'll tell you straight up.

Re:Wifi meters (1)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384735)

It does seem a little dishonest though, don't you think? In the past when I had five bars I thought that meant that I'd a decent margin of error between a conversation and *NO CARRIER*. It just sort of made sense.

Re:Wifi meters (1)

Stavr0 (35032) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384859)

I've written a wifi signal strength meter for an embedded product. During my research, I found it was pretty much standard to base the bumber of bars on the signal to noise ratio, not the raw signal strength.

... which is then overruled by the marketing department because brand 'B' only uses the signal strength, so that makes your product look bad when compared side-by-side, since theirs has more signal bars.

Re:Wifi meters (3, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385075)

[Showing signal to noise ratio] is then overruled by the marketing department because brand 'B' only uses the signal strength, so that makes your product look bad when compared side-by-side, since theirs has more signal bars.

Then show the signal in solid black bars and the noise in staticky bars. Suggest that the marketing department include something to this effect in the ad copy: "Sure you get a lot of bars, but are they good bars?"

Re:Wifi meters (1, Redundant)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385179)

> that makes your product look bad when compared side-by-side, since theirs has more signal bars.

My phone has 11 bars.

Just saying...

Re:Wifi meters (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385259)

Yeah, but I don't think very many people have ever made a wifi purchase based upon the number of bars displayed for a particular location. Most people get a wifi router from their isp, and the wifi built in from their laptops. For an add on, the products in best buy are all based on the same couple of chipsets, which don't really make that much of a difference. Even if they did, where is the data? How can I as joe consumer, or even Mr. Smith regional tech buyer for gigantic Co find the number of bars rating for the places where I'm going to use the wifi devices?

Laptop Battery Dying Too Soon (4, Interesting)

Renegade Lisp (315687) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384453)

This article gives me a hunch why my no-name laptop battery dies so quickly even when Ubuntu still thinks it has 10% charge and several minutes left. Didn't happen with the manufacturer's battery...

Ubuntu usually does an excellent job analysing how good your battery really is (not sure if it's the kernel ACPI or HAL or GNOME that's actually doing it). But when the battery lies so blatantly, it seems even Ubuntu can't keep my laptop from sudden death without a proper warning or shutdown.

first post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24384469)

muuhahah

No connection on a full signal (3, Interesting)

millwall (622730) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384495)

Both my Blackberry and my Sony Ericsson sometimes decide not to connect a call when I have close to full signal. Judging from TFA this could then be because of high noise ratio.

At the same time, I have always wondered why my phones do not give me any indication why the calls were not connected at the time. They both just return to the main screen after a long period of connection attempts.

Re:No connection on a full signal (4, Informative)

Steve J 83 (1267120) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384723)

No, that's because the base station that you're getting your signal from has no bandwidth left. You could be standing next to the antenna, and have 'full' signal, but if 'all circuits are busy' you're SOL regardless of the signal strength.

Re:No connection on a full signal (1)

millwall (622730) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384775)

This is also a plausible reason seeing that every radio base station can handle X number of connections simultaneously.

How do you know for sure that this is what is happening and that it is not the noise ratio that is too high?

A phone will not give you any indication as to what is going on behind the scenes.

Re:No connection on a full signal (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24385185)

on a CDMA phone (verizon, sprint/nextel), that's probably an IA (ineffective attempt, or something) it's not a problem with the phone, but a failure of the cell tower to allocate you a channel. Either the tower's out of channels (wait for someone else to hang up) or the call setup handshaking didn't go through properly.

Oh oh (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384497)

If I'm being lied to, will my tinfoil hat help in this case?

I'd like to see one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24384499)

of those, how do they call it, oh yes, proofs. Like, a disassembled and commented piece of firmware that does what an article claims it does. Not that I don't believe it, but I want to be absolutely positively convinced. Just because.

The balance (3, Insightful)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384513)

The engineers dilemma, at least for battery levels:
  - how the real value taking into account all variances including current usage and thus constantly move up and down the value
  - average out the results to something close, but not exact, since this is what satisfies most people

Fuel gauges also lie (3, Insightful)

Aliencow (653119) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384519)

Is it just my luck or are all cars like that? You go 200km on the first 25% of the gauge, but can barely get to 550km before it's empty?

Re:Fuel gauges also lie (1)

chrisjwray (717883) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384591)

Isnt that the shape of the tank?

Re:Fuel gauges also lie (3, Informative)

Wiarumas (919682) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384629)

Don't quote me on this because I'm not entirely sure on it. My fiance's father is an automechanic and he once told me this - the last quarter tank is the smallest. In other words, the guage does indeed lie to you... the second half of the tank will dwindle faster because its smaller.

Re:Fuel gauges also lie (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384985)

The best part about my car is the huge dent in the bottom of the tank... previous owner had jacked up the car with the fuel tank.

Mine goes from 1/4 to empty REAL fast.

Re:Fuel gauges also lie (1)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384659)

The one in my car is always wrong - it's broken, and reads as empty all the time. ;) But I have noticed that in some other cars I've driven, though.

Re:Fuel gauges also lie (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384903)

Why not replace it ?
It's usually only fuel inside the float so that it sinks to the empty position. If you can find the hole you could easily fix it with a self tapping screw.

Re:Fuel gauges also lie (1)

techiemikey (1126169) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384673)

I think it varies by car type/shape of the gas can. I've driven cars that do that, and i've driven cars which go steadily down at the same rate. The only constant is putting empty above where the tank actually is empty.

Re:Fuel gauges also lie (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384687)

Yep, same with mine and every other I have seen. And then even empty does not mean empty all the time.

Re:Fuel gauges also lie (1)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384797)

There was a time, I believe, where the fuel gauge was connected to a float in the tank that would hit the top at around three quarters full and thus be pinned there, semi-submerged, from full to a little over half a tank. From half down it would be relatively accurate though. Perhaps this time hasn't quite ended?

Re:Fuel gauges also lie (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385089)

It's mostly fine by me actually.

I don't actually care how fast my first half tank is diminishing, beyond estimating my long term fuel economy. I do care when I'm 100miles left though, as that's when I need to start thinking about topping up.

Phone batteries always annoyed me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24384545)

Every phone I've had (although I expect this is universal) has had a really unhelpful battery meter, that would remain displaying full battery (4 bars) for the majority of the batteries life, then the last 3 bars after that would slip away in less than a day.

This might be an accurate measure of remaining battery power, but it's annoying when trying to plan battery usage, as 4 bars could mean I have anything between 5 and 1 day of juice left.

Would it be that much to ask for it to just decrease at a constant rate?

Batteries (5, Interesting)

fitten (521191) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384599)

Dan doesn't seem to know much about batteries. Check out batter power discharge curves and such...
  http://www.mpoweruk.com/performance.htm [mpoweruk.com] Remaining power is estimated based on the charge of the battery. If you notice on those graphs, when you get out to the end of the stored charge, it drops off very quickly, which is why the gauge goes from half to empty quickly.

Re:Batteries (4, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384945)

You statement implies that you think it is more useful for the battery meter to display the charge level of the battery rather than the approximate amount of run time left.

For 99.99999999% of the people on Earth (that's everyone other than you), I'm pretty sure that a linear run time indicator is wildly more useful than an actual charge indicator.

Fuck i hate indians (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24384621)

They fucking smell. Wear some deodorant.

Like my fuel tank (2, Informative)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384623)

It's just like the fuel tank in my gas-hungry 300M... I can go 300km before I hit the half empty mark, but only 125km before it's empty.

On another (more geeky) note, it's also like the progress bar of any install program. It take 2 minutes to get to 98% done, and another 5 minutes before the install is actually completed.

Progress bars, meters and measurement instruments are there only to give you an approximate indication of where you are compared to where you were. Some are more precise (ruler, multimeter) than others (battery life, signal strenght).

Grey-ware needs input. (5, Interesting)

Therefore I am (1284262) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384637)

It really does not matter what these meters say as long as they are consistent. From long experience, my grey-ware then interprets the bars to give me a realistic expectation of battery life or signal strength. Move along now please. Nothing of interest here.

yes, yes they do (2, Insightful)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384647)

That's funny, because when I have no bars, I can't call out, and when I have all the bars, my calls are great. Likewise, when the battery indicator is full, i can talk for a long time, but when it says it's low, it usually dies soon after that. That's all I need them to tell me. I could care less if it's counting signal strength or magic pixie dust, as long as less pixie dust means the phone is going to die that's fine with me.

Re:yes, yes they do (2, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385045)

Likewise, when the battery indicator is full, i can talk for a long time, but when it says it's low, it usually dies soon after that. That's all I need them to tell me.

I think the point is that it'd be nice if these things worked in a linear and predictable fashion.

Showing 'full' from 100% to 51% is neither linear nor predictable.

GASP (4, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384653)

Are you trying to tell me that the constantly changing field of electro-magnetic radiation pouring through my laptop does not always match up precisely to the five bars in the display? Frankly, I find that hard to believe.

You mean... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24384665)

...the cake is a lie?

you can't trust anyone (1)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384667)

very discouraging

Like.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24384703)

...duh.

At some point, you need to simplify for the users (3, Insightful)

captaindomon (870655) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384753)

Signal strength and battery time remaining can get pretty complicated, the more you look into it. There are a ton of different measurements, historical information, performance expectations, etc. that are constantly changing based on how the device is being used, who is using it, etc. At some point, you need to condense all of that information into some pretty little bars that a *normal* user (i.e. someone who has never heard of Slashdot) can comprehend. Is there going to be some precision lost? Of course. Is the graphical representation going to convey all the data gathered and interpreted by the device? Of course not. But the idea is to make it as useful as possible.

Easier for sales (4, Funny)

glindsey (73730) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384837)

Cingular loves to tout "More bars in more places".

"Higher signal-to-noise ratio across a broader range of the United States" just isn't quite as catchy a slogan.

Re:Easier for sales (3, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385143)

Taking the article to heart, maybe the reason they have more bars in more places is because they start at 3 bars for no signal and go all the way up to 4 bars for full signal.

I knew it... (1)

rodney dill (631059) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384841)

...they always tell me size doesn't matter

Remember retractable cell phone antennas? (1)

stevegee58 (1179505) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384853)

I used to work for a certain large cell phone maker so this is straight from the horse's mouth.

Remember those retractable antennas? Well, extending the antenna had no effect on the phone's range whatsoever. In fact, the retractable part was not connected at all. The retractable nature of the antenna was probably functional a long time ago; however, during my tenure they were only retractable due to customer focus group feedback. It made customers feel better to be able to pull the antenna out even though it had no effect.

During this same time period when I was in the biz, the battery and signal strength were in fact functional. It could be they're not now on some phones, based on my antenna analogy.

Ugh (4, Informative)

Se7enLC (714730) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384871)

#1, even with a voltmeter you can't reliably predict battery life. With an alkaline AA battery, you could watch the voltage drop from 1.5V down to 1.1 and know that it was now dead - but with newer rechargeable batteries, the voltage doesn't drop until it's completely dead, so you can't easily guess how long it will take. The only way to do it would be to have the device keep a history of how long it is able to work before the battery dies completely and statistically predict future performance. As if they are going to waste time doing that!

#2 Yes, noise should be considered, but an exact signal to noise ratio isn't going to predict bandwidth or call quality, either. I'm pretty sure that the "signal" they measure is actually signal-to-noise anyway. But even just signal strength is still useful, since you can assume that noise isn't changing that much.

Gas gauges? How many people see that their car stays "full" for a long time and then drops sharply? Or says that it is empty when there's still a few gallons left? Mine will tell me "0 miles to empty" and drive for another 50 miles without coming close to empty. Speedometers? They can be off by 5 or 10% right from the factory. Really every gauge is inaccurate by some amount.

My guess is that companies make the gauges vague on purpose, so that people DON'T try to get too much (false/misleading) information out of them. If your cell phone can make a phone call with "2 bars" of signal, that is all the information you should be taking away from that measure. And if your battery says full for 2 days and drops sharply on day 3, you know that when it starts to drop it's time to charge it. That's all the information you need. Does anybody really think that consumers will be happy with a voltage display? I don't even know what voltage my phone operates at, let alone what the low-end of operating voltage will be.

Oversimplified, not all right (1)

MDMurphy (208495) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384941)

For most phones the signal bars are NOT how well you can receive the tower, but the tower sending back to the the phone the RSSI (received signal strength indication) value. This is the tower telling the phone how well it can "hear" it. For sure, your tiny little phone is going to receive a signal from that tower better than it will receive one from your little 600mw handheld phone. Want a better signal? Use a 3-watt car phone.

This is tied to the battery life. A hand held phone will only transmit at the power needed to be received from the tower, only using it's full 600mw when necessary. (using the RSSI from the tower as the guide ). If you are in a situation where you're wobbling between zero and one bars, the phone will crank up it's power and... suck the battery down faster. If you're in an urban area dense with towers, your battery will last longer. Out hiking in the sticks with one bar (or zero when held between your hand and your head) your battery will poop out much quicker.

Oh thank God! (4, Funny)

oahazmatt (868057) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384971)

Your Computer and Cell Phone Are Lying To You

Oh, thank God! I was worried I was the only one who could hear them!

The phone's not the one that's lying (1)

PriceIke (751512) | more than 6 years ago | (#24384991)

It seems to me the phone's not the one that's lying. It's the marketing and promotion (I'm looking at you, AT&T) that implies that more bars = stronger signal. As the Chief Engineer succinctly puts it, "A computer doesn't lie." If we had some actual truth in advertising it would clear up many misconceptions about technology and how it really works. (Wow, my sig is actually pseudo-relevant in this thread!)

My computer has always been lying to me... (1)

AlgorithMan (937244) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385033)

My first computer told me, Windows 95 was stable and secure...

As a developer (4, Insightful)

timias1 (1063832) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385069)

I have written code specifically around converting RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indication) into those signal bars, and a couple of things.

There isn't standard regarding what reported dBm value should be associated with 1-5 bars. It is purely up to the discretion of the programmer. I have heard RSSI referred to as Relative Signal Strength Indication as well, because the value is at the mercy of internal A/D tolerances. I have seen several copies of the same radios in a lab, (Faraday Cage) report drastically different RSSI values (AKA Bars). Nearby RF sources can influence the signal levels as well.

So that part of the article is true. I dare say anyone who actually knows anything about RF won't claim, bars guarantee connectivity. To say that it is lying to you because you don't understand how it works, makes the submitter look silly. Definition of "Lie" from Wikipedia: "A lie (also called prevarication) is a type of deception in the form of an untruthful statement with the intention to deceive"

We aren't trying to deceive you, we give you the indication because it is better than nothing, and most of the time it is good enough.

AT&T Signal Strength = LIE (1)

Skeetskeetskeet (906997) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385101)

I've been in the middle of town with full bars and dropped calls, driven 5 miles outside town and dropped calls, been within 1/4 a mile of a cell tower and dropped calls. This has been on numerous cell phones as well. The lies they spread about "fewest dropped calls" is enough to make you want to rig dixie cups across the landscape with fishing wire.

More bars (1)

PetiePooo (606423) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385131)

Gives new meaning to AT&T's new slogan.

You too can have More Bars in More Places! [typepad.com] All it takes is a customized firmware load and unscrupulous marketing...

Battery Meter (1)

squoozer (730327) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385135)

I could easily believe that the wireless strength meter is "lying" by not reporting S2N ration but the battery meter is a different kettle of fish.

I, too, have seen how mobile phone batteries are full according to the meter then drop rapidly but I have always assumed this is because of the chemistry used. It's been a while since I studied chemistry but IIRC the way the "fullness" of a battery is measured is by it's potential. One of the really great things about Li based batteriees is that they have almost constant voltage across their whole discharge cycle (there is a sudden voltage drop just before they go flat) which is in stark contrast to say NiCd or Lead Acid. The problem with this behaviour is that it can make it difficult to tell how much charge is remaining in a Li based battery. My guess would be that mobile phones don't have very accurate volt meters in them and they partially guess at the remaining charge based on useage.

It's a Decepticon plot... (1)

Igorod (807462) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385191)

To take over the world by slowly driving all of us insane. They've insinuated themselves in to all of our daily lives by robo-fying our cell phones and laptops.

Bullcrap (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385209)

I write system software and drivers for PDAs. The author is guessing.

There are two reasons for this. They are both bad.
Reason one: A battery that stays (apparently) full for a long time makes a phone look good. Even if it doesn't actually deserve to.
Reason two: When your phone still (apparently) has lots of charge left, you're more likely to use it. People who think their phone's going flat will make fewer, and shorter, calls. And that makes phone companies sad.
That's right - this is yet another example of the Curse of the Marketing Department. Both phone makers and cellular service providers want you to think that your phone is still pretty much full of charge even if it's almost half empty. For this reason, many of them tweak the charge meters to overestimate the remaining charge

Simply put, this is a load of bollocks. The guy who wrote this is guessing. He doesn't have any experience writing systems software.

I wrote a battery driver a few months back. Here's what I did.

I started a thread which would output the actual battery voltage an store it in a file every minute or so. Then charged it up overnight and ran it until the thing died. At the end of the run I have a battery profile that shows the measured voltage versus time. Then I did this a dozen times with different batteries, and under a few different usage scenarios - and made a composite graph of voltage versus time. Then I took a third order polynomial and fit that to the data. I could have done something with more math in it, but the unit I was working on doesn't have a floating point processor. The driver returns the remaining time as a percentage from the third order poly.

Now the problems - there is a fairly significant delta in between battery runs. In other words all batteries are not constructed alike. The number is approximate.

If you have an unusual battery, the numbers will be slightly off. And if you have a bad battery, all bets are off.

But tweaking the numbers? Never even heard of that. The author has no clue what is going on in there. Unless he's the lead developer, or the product is open source what he's proposing is a guess.

really? (1)

NovaHorizon (1300173) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385211)

[quote]You may have noticed, however, that your mobile phone seems to spend an awful lot of time with its battery gauge saying it's full, or at least almost full.

Then, once you get to the half-full mark, the battery seems to go flat surprisingly quickly[/quote]

My phone actually spends almost no time at 'full' or 'almost full'. At least.. not compared to that single remaining battery bar.. I've guesstimated That my phone's battery bars exist between 50% and 100% charge. Where the last bar is 50% AND everything less than that. Because you know.. People who almost never use their phone, and pay for that 'just in case' air time is where the profit is.. not in the people that buy 5,000 minutes and use 4,900 minutes because their phone still says full power.

Machines can Lie? (1)

Neodudeman (1259256) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385261)

Machines, how could you betray my trust in technolust like this!?

It's downright shameful.

fallacy? (1)

Freeside1 (1140901) | more than 6 years ago | (#24385289)

You can't trust much of what you read on the internet, especially when it says computers lie
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