It seems early iPhone 4S adopters the world over have discovered a new issue with Apple’s latest handset. No, it has nothing to do with poor battery life, but rather a complete loss of signal for no apparent reason. To be clear, this isn’t a new “antennagate” — the issue does not occur while holding the device in a certain position — it’s a new problem that causes the device to lose its signal randomly. Users report they can be enjoying a full five-bar signal one minute, then be greeted by that frustrating “No Service” status the next. One user, who started a lengthy thread reporting the issue over on Apple’s Discussion forums, can’t understand why his signal suddenly vanishes on the device, and there’s little he can do to restore it:
I’ve been using an iPhone 4 on a Vodafone contract for the past 16 months and just bought an iPhone 4S direct from Apple. It arrived on Friday morning and I got it set up correctly as far as I can tell. When I first turn it on, it works lovely and exactly as I would expect, able to make calls, send texts and access the internet via the cellular network. However, at what appears to be random, the network will disappear (no bars of signal) stopping me making calls and texts, but still allowing me to access the internet. Sometimes, the internet goes, but I can still make calls and texts. Other times, everything is gone and I get “No Signal” where it normally says Vodafone UK. So when trying to fix this problem after it’s noticed, I try putting it into Airplane mode and back out. The phone scans for a network and goes back to the same state as before I tried this fix. I have tried resetting network settings, but this doesn’t change anything. The only thing that actually fixes it temporarily is turning the phone right off and back on again.
Razorian Fly reports there is a temporary fix that has worked for some users, which is to turn off the ‘SIM PIN’ feature within the Settings > Phone menu. Because this often fixes the issue, it suggests it is a software bug rather than a hardware fault — as some users have been suspecting:
It’s not a hardware issue, it’s software. For some reason, iOS is cycling the radio on and off, I’m guessing something mixed up with SIM pin permissions. What I had to do was turn on SIM pin, then off, at which point it demanded the PUK code. I was able to get it online through my ATT account. After I entered that PUK, then went back into settings and turned SIM pin off, I haven’t had any problems.
Strengthening this belief is a report from one user, who claims the issue didn’t occur until they installed that latest iOS 5.0.1 software update:
I think I have cracked it. I have read every post and comments and tried and every possible fix. Does not work. I’m using iPhone 4S 16gig bought from Melbourne, use in Cambodia carrier Mobitel. Issue, no signal. 3G come and go. I have to on and off to get back signal sometime aeroplane mode on and off. My iPhone is useless. It was fine on 5.0 problem only exist after I update to 5.0.1.
Whatever the issue may be, it seems Apple needs to address it promptly. The volume of complaints on its forums about the problem suggest it is fairly widespread, affecting a large number of iPhone 4S users. A TUAW reader also claims that European carriers “cannot handle [the] amount of complaints.” While we have no idea what’s causing the issue, it does seem to be affecting iPhone 4S users only. There appear to be no reports from users with earlier devices who are experiencing the same issue. Have you been experiencing this issue on your iPhone 4S?