Proximity sensor woes under iOS 4? There's a clean install for that

Is your proximity sensor malfunctioning under iOS 4, leading your cheek to hang up on calls or otherwise frustrate your ability to have a conversation? iPhone's proximity sensor is supposed to detect when the iPhone is moved up and close to your face so it can dim the screen and turn off multitouch, preventing just those types of problems. With iOS 4, for some users, it seems to randomly stop working, making multitouch live again, and that's when the problems start.

Some folks who have been grappling with this issue say a clean restore fixed it. That means re-installing iOS 4 and setting up as a new iPhone -- not from backup. It can be an incredible pain in the apps, costing you time to re-enter settings and losing your place in offline games, but if face dialing and other proximity sensor issues are driving you even crazier than a re-install would, it's something to consider. Yes, even on a brand new iPhone 4. Seriously.

Sure, a magical iOS 4.0.1 update could show up any time to fix that antenna reception problem and cure proximity issues in one fell swoop... but it might not either. If the work involved in a clean install has you panicked, wait as long as your sanity allows and then get it over with as quickly and cleanly as you can. (Or explore Bluetooth and keep your phone in your pocket).

If you're experiencing the proximity problem, let us know. If you've done the clean install, let us know if that fixed it.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

More Posts



← Previously

Incipio dermaSHOT case for iPad

Next up →

iPhone 4 vs everything - mega gallery

Reader comments

Proximity sensor woes under iOS 4? There's a clean install for that


Yes it is driving me freaking nuts. When I got my iPhone 4 I did a clean install. So I don't see how starting over again is going to help.

Tried a full restore and it didn't fix the issue. My wife is now on her 3rd iPhone 4 (1st one was original phone purchased on launch day, second one was replacement due to "no sim card" error with first; now third replacement due to proximity sensor issue). Proximity sensor issue is still there. She is hanging up on people during phone calls. This must be a software issue due to the fact that she experienced the issue with all of the replacements. Apple--please issue a fix--fast!!

I'm definitely having an issue with the proximity sensor. I'm not going to do a reinstall, however, because from what I've read, that's a fix for an issue of the proximity sensor going a little haywire and deciding that it wants to keep the screen black after a call is over. My problem is that it's just too sensitive, and that I'm pressing things with my ear. I think this mainly has to do with the repositioning of the sensor, but I certainly think that a software update to decrease the sensitivity would do the trick.

I tried the full restore to no avail. I did not set up as a new iPhone though. I think it is more related to the VERY snug fitting headphone jack and that it is not sensing when the headset has been removed. I would suggest those having the proximity sensor problems try inserting and removing the headset to see if it is simply that. In the short term, you can certainly use the headset for calls until there is a definitive fix from Apple.

I haven't had the problem yet on my 3GS, but If I do, I'll flip out. There are many things customized in apps that if wiped out, are not recoverable.
If this is a real problem, Apple needs to fix it with an update quick. What is wrong with them?

My iPhone 4 has had this issue from day one. Also I have the signal issue but only in my home town when I travel to another system its fine. I put a rubber case on it and has fixed the signal issues. But the Proximity sensor is getting old either Im dialing, putting someone on speakerphone or facetime. Hopefully there will be a software fix for this. I had a 3gs for a year and never ever not once had the sensor mess up. On the Iphone 4 its more than I can count for only having it for over a week.

If you have reasonably this pockets they can sometimes trip the touchscreen so during a call over Bluetooth(and later via headphones) my friend kept saying are you pushing any buttons on your phone or am I just beeping?!? And obviously I hadn't thought about something malfunctioning so it didn't occur to me how I was doing it, all whilst the phone was in my pocket. Very sensitive touchscreen plus thin pockets equals MID-THIGH FINGER!

Proximity sensor issue is actually three problems:
To solve first one, you have to do a full restore as a new phone. This gets reduces the chance of a problem.
You have to check if the prozimity sensor is actually working in the hardware. Most do but some don't. Of my small sample of three phones, one had a broken hardware proximity sensor.
Finally, you have to keep(at least the upper portion of) the phone against your ear. If you hold it by your neck/shoulder or away from the ear, the 4's sensor turns off and trouble happens.

I live in the UK and did have the proximity problem big time. I am actually on 3GS and had decided to leave iPhone 4 and wait to next summer for iPhone 5 (bound to be one). However I did do an up-date to OS4 and then spent two frustrating days finding that half way through conversations I lost contact with people. Looking on my screen all I saw was the apple logo, then within a couple of minutes, the logo disappeared and my lock screen emerged. I decided to do a complete restore and set my phone up as a new one. Since then I have had no issues at all. Fingers crossed ;-)

I wish this setup as new phone restore fix works, but it doesn't. I've started to train myself to make sure that my ear is pressed right up against the phone where the proximity sensor is. Haven't had a problem since. What I cannot do anymore is hold the phone with my shoulder under my ear. That immediately hangs up, initiates speaker phone or facetime. Hoping for a 4.0.1 fix.

I have a very specific question. Does anybody have an iPhone 4 that the range for screen deactivation is around the 2 inch away mark?
ALL of the newest iPhone 4s that I have seen or asked friends about so far activate at a range of around 1 inch away from the screen.
The old 2G, 3G, 3GS, and even the HTC Evo all activate around 2 inches away from the screen. If anybody has any info regarding this or has an iPhone 4 that has a range of around 2 inches for screen turn off, please feel free to email me directly at
If none of the iPhone 4 have a range of more than the 1 inch, then THIS IS THE PROBLEM and the iPhone 4 in it's current hardware state will not work for me.
Also, feel free to answer and confirm if your range is at the 1 inch away point. Maybe this will help Apple figure out how to fix the problem if they wish to do so.
I love this phone, but I cannot live with this issue. With the sensor only activating so close to the phone there is not enough cushion on the reaction time for the phone to shut off the screen-especially if it moves away from your face.

I did a clean install of ios 4, setting up as a new phone, when the os first came out. Yet I am getting the problem so I doubt doing it again would fix the problem. Maybe it would set it back some but I'm sure it would pop up again.

I can confirm that the iPhone 4 proximity sensor shuts off the screen at 1" away from the earpiece. The sensor appears to be right in the center above the opening for the earpiece. At more than 1" away, the screen becomes active. A software fix could be the answer.

No clean install here. That's totally moronic to recommend someone do that to fix a silly issue. I guess Apple doesn't understand the concept that some people have a lot things in their backups that would take an unnecessary amount of time to get back or complete again. Not just games...
Format and reinstall shouldn't be the first answer. I've shaken down several apple geniuses about that simple cop out answer.

My wife experienced this the other day. She somehow hit the keypad and started dialing during a phone call. Waiting for the miracle update....

I won't be restoring mine. I don't believe for a second that it will do any good whatsoever. I've had 2 calls in the last 2 days screw up thanks to this. Just tested against my wife's 3GS. On that, once you get closer than about 2.5cm it shuts down the screen, and it doesn't come back on until it's about 3.5cm away.
On the ip4, it shuts the screen down at a little bit under 2cm and it comes back on at about 2.25cm. So the buffer is definitely smaller.
Now, that still seems far enough. I don't hold the phone that far from my ear. Yet it screws up and the 3GS never did.

I had the same problem it pissed me off so I returned it and got a new one and now this one works great!

  • def had this problem w my iPhone 4. it would randomly mute/hold calls. FIX THIS APPLE!!!!

Yes my iPhone 4 is messed up and I seem to always hit the FaceTime button and then I try to hold tighter on my face and then I start to lose reception. I contacted apple last night an he told me to do a reset and I did that and he said it was fixed even after I told him it was random. I cant imagine doing a full restore. Seems like a pain.

Man I am glad to hear i wasn't alone. I was having a personally conversation with my wife when it turned on the speaker phone as I was holding the phone on my shoulder and then everyone in the room heard what she was saying. iP4 here.

My proximity sensor has this problem, but I normally talk with a headset (or headphones) so Im not going to take the step of a clean install just yet...

Went to the apple store here (Utah) and they had never heard of the issue. They swapped out my phone for a whole new one. New box. New cables. It was great cuz I only had to give them my phone and now have a bunch of extras

That's so weird. I'm new to iPhone and called a friend who has been a long time iPhone user to ask her how to stop my cheek from disconnecting calls. She has a 3GS and said that has never happened to her. Now I smoosh the phone against my ear to prevent it.

I'm starting to really question the validity of this website...

  1. The restore route only fixes problems for people migrating from a 3g or 3gs.....
  2. The sensor was moved from the left of the earpiece to above the earpiece which could be resulting in the well as the sensor being too sensitive.

What a waste of an article that spreads a TON of false hope.
The best we can hope for is 4.0.1 that makes the proximity sensor a little less sensitive. If you haven't experienced it yet it's because you haven't held it in the way that makes it happen.

I have iPhone 4 got it at launch not problems what's so ever or maybe there is. because I have put my gran on mute a few times I was shouting down the phone, can you hear me then I reliesed it had been on mute?!?

I keep putting my calls on speaker with my cheek and in one case I actually 3 way'd someone in on a phone call.

I HATE THIS!!! this is the one major issue I have with this phone, I called my grandmother in the middle of the night while talking to someone else... it's annoying, and I restored it, still got nothing. it still happens, and I don't want to wear a bluetooth headset all the time... think apple would replace my phone if i take it in?

Just did some testing. The iPhone 4 proximity sensor is located in the center of the phone, right under the speaker. The sensitivity threshold is at about 1". If they just set the sensitivity out to 2", it should be fine.
I bet the jailbreak community can find the registry where this is set and figure out a fix before Apple does. This is definitely software fixable.

i was having this problem with some games. also had trouble with facetime no option in settings, so i guess i better be make fresh new restore.

These complaints are lame. You are speaking into your phones the wrong way.
Why do you have to face palm the phone when talking. Most reasonable people hold it at an angle where the ear piece touches your ear but the mouth piece is 1-2" from your mouth.
Its call noise-cancelling. Use it.

I think the proximity sensor issue is due to the restore of a backup on the iphone 4. I had this issue everytime i restored my data from a backup. Only way to fix it is to make a clean install. I called up Apple hotline and the representative advised me to create a new account (i'm on windows 7 OS) and try to make a clean install. Guess what, it works. Once done, i did a new backup with this new account and the proximity issue does not appear anymore.

Ok I can understand not catching the antenna problem because it was in a fake case, but durinng testing, this should have been realized. To do a full restore is not so good if you have alot of business data. It really is a pain to reload everything from backup. I know some do not have that much information, or apps on their phone, but if you do, good luck. Just what is going to pop up next with iPhone 4? It is a great update, and phone, but now I wonder if this phone was ready. Any new device you will have a few minor bugs that can be missed in testing, but there are major bugs in this phone.

Maybe Apple can come up with another "magical and revolutionary" accessory to drive up their profit margins like the bumpers. Glad I switched to my N1 ...

Totally off topic, but one of the most interesting thing is that any positive discussion/comparison of Android type devices usually includes the borage of fanboys rushing in the flame the devices as cheap and subpar. Yet look at how many problems the iPhone 4 is plagued with. I'm sure android central is having a ball with this.
And I own an iPhone 4. But maybe I need to start giving Android a nice look over considering the utter failure of Apple at this launch...

No cover, did a clean install, "rest all settings" too.....but still have the problem. I'll be returning my iPhone4 if there is no fix from Apple in the next two weeks.

i also have this problem with mine. i had it with my 3g as well, apple sprayed it with compressed air, gave it back, still didnt work and then they gave me a new phone. i also cannot get on the internet despite full 3g coverage "not connecting" to wifi either. i honestly would rather get a new phone and restore it from backup than do a clean install.

Yea, I have this problem ALL day today. I was posses because I was dropping calls multiple times with business clients. Talk about EMBARASSiNG!!!
I checked
My proximity sensor and it screen goes black at about one inch. I think if they bump it up to 2 or 3 inches, that might solve my problem. Need o test on my 3GS to see what it's like there.
My hope remains for a fix very soon!

@Joe McG - No, its directly above the earpiece, not below it.
@Saturnin - Maybe your initial issue was fixed, but the proximity sensor issue is still there, you just haven't held the phone in a way that makes it occur.

@Edtato - The proximity sensor issue is still there, you just haven’t held the phone in a way that makes it occur.

I have never experienced this problem. I didn't even know this was a problem until I read this. I dont have any of the dreaded iP4 issues. But now that I just typed that, the flood gates are open and now I will have them all.

I totally have this problem, and I'm not really interested in taking the time to do a clean reinstall.

@Irish Charlie: I just bought my iPhone4 and I love it. However, I can't make phone calls, text messages and now my proximity sensor is jacked. I think I am going to take this phone back. Lemon, Limón, Limone, Zitrone! This phone is as good as Windows M.E. (Millennium Edition).

clearly this is a fat person issue. people's chubby ass cheeks rubbing on the phone
The analogy here is blaming Levi because you legs chafe

Yep, even found that when I was talking to my dad yesterday I put him on mute, then after I turned that off when I took it away from my face I had launched the camera app and then after that I put him on speaker all without even removing it from my face. UGH! Going back to the apple store tonight! Hope they can help.

lol Ya know what's funny as hell. Someone brings up that there maybe a problem with this or that. No one says anything about having that problem ever. It's then posted and 100 people come out of the wood work saying they have the problem. What gives? And how come I'm not having these problems? Very very confusing. I'm getting peed off here.

@Macboy15 - The proximity sensor issue is still there, you just haven’t held the phone in a way that makes it occur. Don't get peed fact, go to apple's support forums, there is a HUGE thread about it.

Been dealing with this problem since launch. Did a clean install tonight, and did a little testing...seems to be working better. But only time will tell if a clean install truly fixes the issue.

I did a 'restore from new' the day after getting the phone (25th) and I'm having this problem! It's SO annoying! I usually don't use the phone as much as text, but I did today for a few important calls, and hung up on 1/2 of the calls! Also extremely annoying! (I have a case covering the antenna, btw.) I had to resort to using my headphones as a means of avoiding hanging up on the person with my cheek!
Also, when I end a call the sensor takes about a minute to light the screen up again... it's not black, just dim. I have to hold my phone directly under a light bulb for it to light up immediately... I hope a software update fixes these issues, and pronto... I've never felt like such a dummy for being an early adaptor with an Apple product. Lame sauce!

Why not just return the junk! Its obvious the iphone 4 has some serious technical problems. From holding it wrong/reception issues, sensor problems, and the yellow patches on some screens.

I haven't had a single dropped call, my volume buttons are correct and no yellow spots. The only problem I have is this proximity problem. But it is effecting more then just the iP4 so I am sure it is just a software adjustment to the thresholds that they changed which I am sure will be addressed in the next update.

I have this issue big time and it is driving me crazy. I really don't want to have to do a clean install, but it is sounding like I am going to need to......

Ralph--Obviously not a "fat person" issue considering I'm a size 0 and have this issue. ;)
Mine not only hangs up on people but it randomly calls my dad. Maybe the iPhone is telling me that I should call him more? LOL.

Yes I had this problem too. Twice during an iPhone 4 call my cheek turned on speakerphone.

I think everybody should have a look at this post that was deleted from the Apple support forums by Apple. It seems that they have no interest in fixing this issue or even making a statement on it unless they are forced to by a lawsuit or something to that effect. I am VERY disappointed in Apple. I have been a fan for over 15 years. It seems as if they have forgotten who they are and just becoming a big bully now. (see below)
iphone4_925 posted "Re: Issue with Proximity Sensor during calls" in "Issue with Proximity Sensor during calls" on Jul 5, 2010 6:16:29 PM.

ramellam wrote:
I took my phone to the Apple store for repair/exchange this evening. The Genius first said that he had not heard of the issue (yeah, right! total lie). I told him there are nearly 70 pages on the Apple Support forum for this exact issue. He immediately dismissed my comment and said, "We typically don't lend too much credence to support forum posts..." Ok....
Anyhow, the Genius made a call on my phone and, of course, he did not encounter any of the proximity issues I'm having. He gave the phone back to me and said, "There doesn't appear to be any issues with your phone. You'll just have to get used to the new Proximity Sensor location on the iPhone 4..." I was like, "Ummm... Huh?" He refused to exchange the phone.
Luckily, I bought my phone from Best Buy on launch day. I immediately went back to Best Buy and the Mobile Phone sales guy said they've already had 9 of their 30 launch day iPhones returned due to antenna and proximity sensor issues. He put me on a list to exchange the phone. Luckily, I have 45 days to exchange the phone, since I'm a Best Buy silver rewards card holder...
Anyhow, I'm kinda bummed the Genius refused to help me :-(. He was rather arrogant, too, which really made me mad. Oh well... Back to Best Buy it goes...

Wow just cause of this attitude of apple employees They are being SUED by lawyers well apple you should take this time and save yourself from another class action law suit for proximity sensors
PS ~ Apple mods now don't be wasting your time deleting this post since I have a right to say stuff when you guys sell us your defective product and I think if apple doesn't address this issue then we all should return the Iphone 4 at lease those who are having this proximity issues.
And also apple instead of deleting peoples post how about investigating why Iphone 4 proximity sensor is going haywire and maybe you will save yourself from another law suit and also people who are having problem with there iphone 4 with the proximity sensor do report it to KCR LEGAL LAW FIRM

I am experiencing the face proximity issue and so is a friend of mine we keep hanging up on each other! Will try the reinstall and see if that helps.

Apple genius told me yesterday that his phone does the something and that it was a software issue that will be addressed by 4.0.1. He replaced my phone, but said don't expect it to be any better. It wasn't.

I did the clean install and it worked for a bit and then started right back up malfunctioning.
The clean install did not fix the problem. I think as many do that it has something to do with ear shape, as there are growing reports that a phone that has the problem with one person works fine for another person. I also notice that only on longer calls do I have problems.

@MarkOD If you check out the law firm who is suing Apple, they're AMBULANCE CHASERS - the scum of the earth!!!! Furthermore, they've had 1200 complaints out of how many iphone users??? millions... Quit spreading FUD!!!

I have had my Iphone 4 for two weeks and i am erady to throw it in the lake. it is SO fristrating having calls muted and dialing while on another call. I have tried the two 'tricks' but still no luck. What can I do??

I would like to thnkx for the efforts you've put in writing this blog. I am hoping the same high-grade site post from you in the upcoming also. Actually your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own web site now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings quickly. Your write up is a good example of it.