Tuesday, July 6, 2010

iPhone 4 Reception Issues have been Confirmed - Not by Apple Though...

iPhone 4.jpg
It didn't take long for the complaints to start.  The iPhone 4 had barely been on the market when the rumblings started of a problem with reception.  People were having some serious problems when holding the phone a certain way and were looking for answers.  Unfortunately, those answers didn't come from Apple.  The official Apple response was the following:

Dear iPhone 4 Users,

The iPhone 4 has been the most successful product launch in Apple's history. It has been judged by reviewers around the world to be the best smartphone ever, and users have told us that they love it. So we were surprised when we read reports of reception problems, and we immediately began investigating them. Here is what we have learned.

To start with, gripping almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by one or more bars. This is true of iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, as well as many Droid, Nokia and RIM phones. But some users have reported that iPhone 4 can drop four or five bars when tightly held in a way which covers the black strip in the lower left corner of the metal band. This is a far bigger drop than normal, and as a result some have accused the iPhone 4 of having a faulty antenna design.

At the same time, we continue to read articles and receive hundreds of emails from users saying that iPhone 4 reception is better than the iPhone 3GS. They are delighted. This matches our own experience and testing. What can explain all of this?

We have discovered the cause of this dramatic drop in bars, and it is both simple and surprising.

Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays two more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display four bars when we should be displaying as few as two bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don't know it because we are erroneously displaying four or five bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.

To fix this, we are adopting AT&T's recently recommended formula for calculating how many bars to display for a given signal strength. The real signal strength remains the same, but the iPhone's bars will report it far more accurately, providing users a much better indication of the reception they will get in a given area. We are also making bars one, two and three a bit taller so they will be easier to see.

We will issue a free software update within a few weeks that incorporates the corrected formula. Since this mistake has been present since the original iPhone, this software update will also be available for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G.

We have gone back to our labs and retested everything, and the results are the same- the iPhone 4's wireless performance is the best we have ever shipped. For the vast majority of users who have not been troubled by this issue, this software update will only make your bars more accurate. For those who have had concerns, we apologize for any anxiety we may have caused.

As a reminder, if you are not fully satisfied, you can return your undamaged iPhone to any Apple Retail Store or the online Apple Store within 30 days of purchase for a full refund.

We hope you love the iPhone 4 as much as we do.

Thank you for your patience and support.

Apple

 

However, others began to do research and determined that the problem was more than a bad algorithm in the bar graphic.  The very bright people at anandtech.com did some really in-depth and fairly exhaustive research into the problem and came up with some amazing info related to the reception of the iPhone 4. It seems, the answer isn't as simple as the folks at Cupertino would have you believe.

Now do I think Apple will correct the problem?  Yes I do.  However, my feeling is that it's easier to just be totally upfront to start with.  Apple makes great products and I'm still a happy user, but they definitely could've handled this one better.

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