Reflective Ear Canal Issues Impact Proximity Sensors

With the launch of the iPhone 4, numerous users have encountered a malfunction with the proximity sensor during calls. Initially, our survey showed a nearly even split, with 50.1% of participants experiencing issues, while 49.9% reported no troubles. Initially, I counted myself among the fortunate unaffected ones, but that soon changed.

Here’s my tale filled with frustration and disbelief.

Working remotely on Fridays, I often manage conference calls from my personal phone. This past Friday, while using my new iPhone 4, I noticed the screen light up unexpectedly from the corner of my eye, followed by the call being dropped due to an accidental cheek press, a phenomenon now known as “cheeking.” This incident led to the disconnection of everyone on the call, myself included.

After following the recommended route to resolve issues at the Genius Bar, I reset my iPhone, only to face the same issue later that evening.

Subsequently, I booked an appointment with a Genius at my local Apple Store. The Genius, whose name I’ll keep confidential, nearly chuckled as he explained that the repositioned proximity sensor in the iPhone 4 is more susceptible to being activated by light reflecting inside the ear canal.

I was dumbfounded, hoping it was a joke, but it wasn’t.

The Genius advised me to minimize ambient light by shutting the windows to prevent the sensor from activating the screen. He assured me that was the solution and dismissed me.

I was left astounded by such a seemingly implausible explanation being treated as a legitimate solution. Having been in tech support myself, I understand the desperation that can arise when no clear answers are available.

I would have appreciated it more if the Genius had admitted his uncertainty about the problem and suggested a follow-up if it recurred.

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Frank is a dedicated writer for TUAW, bringing readers the latest news and insights about Apple products. With a keen eye for detail, Frank covers everything from the newest iPhone releases to the latest updates on macOS and iPadOS. His articles are known for their clarity and depth, making complex tech topics accessible to everyone. When he’s not writing, Frank enjoys exploring new features on his Apple Watch and testing out the latest MacBook Pro. His commitment to staying up-to-date with all things Apple ensures that TUAW readers are always in the know.