Fix may be in the works for flawed iPhone 3G, but can it mend Apple's broken fences?

Yesterday, DailyTech reported that some iPhone 3G users were experiencing below average call quality and that the 3G service was effectively broken in many areas. However, Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T's wireless unit commented, "Overall, the new iPhone is performing just great on our 3G network."

It appears, though, that Apple and AT&T may soon have to address 3G issues publically as two separate internal sources at Apple and an independent analysis have seemingly confirmed there is a major problem, and Apple has a software fix in the works which may help.

First up is an independent analysis by Ny Teknik, Sweden's foremost engineering weekly, which obtained test documents from unknown sources, which indicated the iPhone was well below specified standards for 3G.  The International Telecommunication Union, a Geneva-based organization, sets and enforces strict standards about the quality associated with products using the 3G moniker.  The deficient 3G iPhone appears to have slipped through the cracks.

According to Ny Teknik’s obtained test report, adjustments between the antenna and an amplifier, which capture the faint signals received by the antenna, are defective.  This makes the phone likely to drop calls and have slower than hoped data speeds.

Next, two unnamed sources with Apple told BusinessWeek  that the Infineon chipset inside the phone is the root of the 3G problems, and that Apple will issue a fix to try to patch over the problems, instead of electing to carry out a full recall.  The report seems to confirm earlier analysis by Richard Windsor of Nomura Securities, which was the first to finger the Infineon chipset for the problems.

The Infineon chip is not physically flawed according to sources, but the chipset software is defective, causing the phone to have trouble switching networks.  One source blames the relatively untested nature of the Infineon chips for this.  They also point out that the iPhone uses far more 3G bandwidth than other phones, thanks to internet surfing.  This means that in heavy use areas, 3G bandwidth can run out.  The phone then is unable to switch networks.

According to the source, the San Francisco Bay area, Boston, and certain overseas locales are among the high use areas particularly susceptible to problems.

This seems to be a separate problem than more basic problem described by the Swedes.  However, the two problems may be related and/or compounding each other.

The two sources did confirm that Apple is working on a software update due out at the end of September at the latest, which is supposed to fix the Infineon chipset problems.  In its dismissal statement, AT&T may have hinted at that stating, "We urge our customers to synch iPhone 3G to iTunes frequently to ensure they have the latest software updates."

The update may come too late to make peace with some disgruntled iPhone owners.  Says one user jazzwill on Apple's site, "I'm so sick of hearing people say 'turn off 3G'.  Uh, why pay an extra $10 [for AT&T's iPhone plan] and get a new phone that is advertised to 'just work' then???…. I returned my iPhone 3G because the iPhone 3G stinks in my opinion. I went back to my original iPhone."

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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