Is this happening to anyone else with a new Samsung Galaxy S4?

Hey all,

So here’s what happening:

I have had a new Samsung Galaxy S4 for two days. With the proximity sensor on, there was no way to use the keyboard while making a call. The screen would instantly go black when taken far, FAR away from my ear, within literally less than half a second. Nobody has any choice BUT to use a kb during a lot of calls-- think of all the times you have to press numbers about 80,000 times while negotiating through unending menus while stuck in automated customer service hell, if nothing else. It took a lot of searching to find out that other people had been able to get out of this situation by turning off the proximity sensor.

Now, the way that the p.s. is SUPPOSED to work is that it turns off the screen when the phone is held to your ear, saving batteries, etc. But it’s SUPPOSED to go back on when the phone is held away from your ear/face. It did not matter how far away I held it, as far as arms’ length would go… the screen remained dark, and no numbers could be entered.I could get the home screen back up, I could get to the page offering options to use the keyboard or to return to the call in progress, but pressing those buttons resulted in the screen immediately going dark once more (again, with the phone VERY FAR from my ear.) There was nothing I could do to get it to work.

Turning off the p.s. has worked-- so far. The real issue is that I can still return this phone within 9 days, and if this IS a problem with this one particular phone, then I should return it. If it’s an issue with all S4’s, then I need to know that, too. So I really need to hear from people who have that exact model-- not the S2’s, not the S3’s. Has anyone else had this problem, and did it fix it to turn off the proximity sensor?

All help appreciated, and the return clock is ticking!!

I’d say just go speak to the technician at the local store right now. That’s where you’d probably have to go to return it anyway. If it is a big issue with the model then they will know exactly how to deal with it. If not, they’d still probably be able to figure it out (I’d hope so anyway!). I found a few threads with a few people in each with the problem specifically for the S4, but that adds up to only 30 or so people versus sales of over 20 million. An infinitesimal amount in the end. The tech will be able to help you either way it goes down.

Weird, how syncronicity works.

Over at Slashdot one of their regular blog commentators named Bennett Haselton posted an extended screed about how Samsung has been selling Android phones with glaring, brain-dead obvious, unacceptable errors. His examples were specifically versions of the Statrosphere. But one of the errors he describes at length is exactly what you describe: having the proximity sensor trigger while the phone is NOT in proximity, and having the soft keypad unusable in consequence.

This is described clearly in the article as a consistent fault in multiple Samsung models, unfixed for years.

I don’t think getting an exchange will help. Either workaround (the one you know about, turning off the PS; or switching to speakerphone mode) will work, at obvious costs. Alternately, get something besides a Samsung, I guess.

I was having that problem with my S3 when I first got it, until I realized that when I pulled the phone away from my ear and went to press keys I was inadvertently holding my “dialing” hand too close to the camera, triggering the PS. I’ve learned to hold my typing hand at a somewhat awkward angle to use the keypad during calls, now.

Probably not the same issue you’re having but just throwing it out there.

You might want to try to blow the earpiece grill a few times. If that doesn’t work try to go to settings, display then Als-ps calibration and calibrate your device.

I would definitely like to try that one. :slight_smile: But I can’t find the setting you mean… here’s what there is.

Under “Display”, I have General: wallpaper, notification panel
Screen: screen mode, brightness, auto rotate screen, screen timeout (I’ve set it to after one minute of inactivity)
Font: font style, font size, increase legibility,
More settings: touch key light duration, display battery percent, edit after screen capture, auto adjust screen tone, high touch sensitivity.

Can’t find the als-ps calibration. It may be easier to find for someone whose smartphone isn’t smarter than they are (NOT me, I’m starting to think.)

Anyway, after much technical calculation and implementation (aka “pressing buttons, shaking it, doing random things, and voodoo chants”) I think that at least a big PART of the problem seems to be much improved. When ps is on, the screen is now coming back on when it’s held away from my ear. Yay!
BUT… there’s still one more thing.

If I’m pressing numbers on the keypad in the middle of the call, it DOES work now. However, it will sometimes just randomly go dark for a second and then come back on. The problem here is that I can just see what could go wrong… 20 minutes on the phone with Humana trying to pay over the phone, and at the very end of it when I’m entering a bank account number, the screen flickers off and I enter the numbers wrong. Then it hangs up on me. This would not be good. Does THIS sound like a particular problem that anyone has seen?

Do you know exactly where the prox sensor is? I haven’t seen a tear-down for the S4, but most devices are using an IR transmitter/receiver to detect proximity. If you cover the wrong spot with your finger, you would trigger it. When the screen goes dark, does it stay that way if you put the phone on a table, screen up, and don’t touch it?
(The other method I’ve seen is to detect the large area on the touch screen. That doesn’t seem to be the case here, based on the symptoms…but anything is possible.)
FYI, saving battery is really a side effect of the prox sensor, not the main reason. The main reason for the prox sensor is to deactivate the touch screen, so you don’t “false” with your face, activating whatever buttons are on the screen.

The real problem is that there’s no way to do this while in the middle of entering a long string of numbers onto the keypad. It will randomly go dark at unpredictable times while this is happening. This is the biggest remaining issue… I wish that automated customer service didn’t put callers through endless ordeals of numerical entries rather than talking to human beings, but they do. (But that’s a different rant… :wink: And so I could see this being a problem at some point.

Yeah…I get that. It’s why I make sure this feature works properly on phones I work on. :slight_smile:

I’m suggesting you just call a friend and put the phone down as an experiment. I’m trying to determine if the phone is sensing you because you’re holding it, or if it’s sensing “nothing” incorrectly.

If the screen comes on when you put the phone on the table, the next step is to slowly run your finger around the top of the phone to try to find where the sensor is. (You often can see the hole if you look closely - although it’s possible to make the material transparent to IR but opaque to visible light, I rarely see it done properly.)

So if the phone behaves normally sitting on the table, AND you can identify a place that holding it causes a problem, you may be able to adjust how you hold the phone in order to get it to keep the screen on when you need it.

The other possibility mentioned in the other thread is that there is a plastic liner of some sort still on the phone. It could be reflecting the IR as well, causing the sensor to falsely believe you have it up to your ear still.
Hmm…this picture claims the sensor is just above the g in the Samsung logo at the top of the phone. Do you cover that up in any way when using it?
It’s also possible that Samsung has an alignment issue with that sensor, and that some phones have the sensor placed outside of spec for the hole in the plastic. That would make it tend to reflect back, perhaps in what appears to be a random fashion. If that’s the case, it could actually be a hardware problem specific to certain phones, and exchanging it could help.

Do you have a case or screen protector?

I’m wondering - why do they need a proximity sensor? Why can’t they just use the front camera? Is it because it uses more power? Maybe they should make a camera with “single pixel mode” or something.

Samsung Galaxy S3
Problem Behavior:

When the Settings->Display->Screen Timeout is set to anything other than 30 seconds the setting is reset 30 seconds when the setting menu is departed.

Is there any method for preventing the above behavior?

Good point. A poorly made/fit case or protector could cause problems here.

Camera does take more power. There are cameras with a single pixel mode - we call them light sensors. Ever see the brightness of your phone adjust when you walk outside, or between rooms with very different lighting? That’s from the light sensor.

The light sensor isn’t useful for the ‘turn off the screen when it’s near my face’ because it might be dark out. The proximity sensor has an IR LED to emit IR, and a sensor to see if it bounces back. To do that with the light sensor, there would need to be a source of visible light.

I will definitely try all of this and post updates! :slight_smile:

In the meantime… I’m getting more and more convinced that this phone is smarter than I am. :stuck_out_tongue: Remember the Star Trek TNG episode where a scientist wants to strip Data down to his component parts, and Picard argues that he’s actually a sentient being who has achieved self-awareness and consciousness? I think it’s kind of like that…

I have an S4 and I haven’t had this problem.

If you dial #0# and press the sensor button, the screen will turn green when the proximity sensor fires. You can at least see what it’s doing.

I hope I can shed some light on this. We just bought five S4’s for our work. One of the (mine) is having the same PS issue. When an object comes within about 10 inches of the front of the phone, the proximity sensor turns on and will not turn off when the object is removed. This is problematic during phone calls…as soon as the phone is placed up to the ear, the screen turns off. Removing the phone from the ear does NOT turn the screen back on…necessitating having to press the power button to turn the screen back on.

I downloaded Android Sensor Box from the play store and it confirmed the problem. On all the other four phones, placing an object in front of the phone turns the PS on, and removing the object turns it back off. But on my phone, placing an object in front of the phone turns the PS on, but removing the object results in nothing…the PS stays on.

I have not tried to do a hard factory reset yet, as I really don’t want to have to reinstall everything. I may resort to that shortly. If that doesn’t work…time to send it in for repair/replacement.

Anyone else had any similar experiences or any progress fixing the problem??

I had the same issues with my proximity sensor. Motion sensor is also intermittently working. Started about 2 months after owning the phone (S4). If you go to the diagnostic program (enter #0# into your phone keypad) you’ll pull up various diagnostic tests. When I go to the sensor test, my proximity sensor test turns green and vibrates as I perform the test…this is normal. However, it is supposed to turn back to white and stop vibrating when you move your hand (other object) away from the sensor. My phone stays green and does not stop vibrating. Youtube has some posts on using this diagnostic setting. I also did a hard reset and a soft reset. Neither did anything for me. I’m returning my phone to Samsung for repairs. It’s still under warranty for 1 year. It’ll suck not having a phone for up to 11 days. That’s what they state will be the max time.

So, I sent my phone to Samsung for the proximity sensor issue and now have it back. Since it was still under warranty, they fixed it at no cost (no shipping fees, no parts/labor costs). I was without a phone for 8 days, but I’m not THAT dependent on my phone. I survived. Phone works fine. I just wonder how long this fix will last. I hope I don’t have any more issues with the proximity sensor.

Good to hear it’s repairable, at least.

+1 Android Sensor Box, confirmed proximity sensor resets itself each use, goes to zero, then stays at zero.

+1 compressed air solution. I just puffed the earpiece a few times with my mouth compressed air, and it works again as expected.

Verizon, Galaxy S4, purchased shortly after release.