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Apple says that it was merely drawing the signal bars wrong and that its phone has no issues.  (Source: Engadget)
"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." -- Apple

The iPhone 4's launch went well for Apple in terms of sales -- moving 1.7 million units -- but not so well in terms of publicity.  Just before the official launch, news of Apple's scheme to track users' whereabouts and use it to target ads at them was aired.  And then the launch itself was marred by some ugly reception issues.

Apple has at last formally responded to those issues, curiously claiming, in essence, that there is no issue at all.  It writes in a press release:

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 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 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 4 or 5 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 1, 2 and 3 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.

So in essence the long awaited firmware "fix" from Apple is apparently to change the way bars are represented on the phone to reassure disgruntled customers.  

Apple and its U.S. carrier AT&T are already facing a class action lawsuit over the signal issues.  Apple CEO Steven P. Jobs further fanned the flames when he told his critics, "Just avoid holding it that way."

He later revised his statement to be, "There are no reception issues. Stay Tuned." 

Apple's claims that it was merely drawing the wrong number of bars are somewhat strange considering all the complaints of dropped calls that have been reported.  Many users who previously had AT&T and/or iPhones have commented that the problems appear to be largely with the handset itself, rather than the network -- despite the A&T network having more than its share of voice issues.

Customers can get somewhat of a solution for dropped calls if they purchase one of Apple's Bumper cases that seems to nullify some of the signal issues.  The interesting thing is that Apple never before sold first-party cases for the iPhone.  That has led some to accuse Apple of manufacturing the cases either to cover up its signal shortcomings or as a scheme to rake in more of its customers money.

Another curious thing about the incident is that the iPhone appeared to be almost in complete form way back in April -- thanks to Gizmodo's "acquisition" of a lost iPhone.  That raises the question of how such issues went unnoticed when there were months that could have been allocated to usage testing on the completed handsets.  



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RE: Anandtech
By LordSojar on 7/2/2010 10:06:21 AM , Rating: 4
Directly caused it? Doubtful. Played a small hand in it? Likely. The decibel ranges on each par prior to this update were rather silly. Though, that doesn't excuse Apple's ignorant behavior and treatment of their customers. Then again, this is Steve Jobs we are talking about, a man who fancies himself your new god.


RE: Anandtech
By therealnickdanger on 7/2/2010 10:30:16 AM , Rating: 4
Every person with an opinion on the iPhone 4 reception "problem" should read this before opening his mouth:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/3794/the-iphone-4-re...

Just sayin'.


RE: Anandtech
By Mitch101 on 7/2/2010 11:50:32 AM , Rating: 5
Apple should just recall them. Then sell them at twice the price as the new iPod Touch.

Really can you call any of them phones?


RE: Anandtech
By darkblade33 on 7/2/2010 11:57:24 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah like the part where ANAND says
"From my day of testing, I've determined that the iPhone 4 performs much better than the 3GS in situations where signal is very low, at -113 dBm (1 bar). Previously, dropping this low all but guaranteed that calls would drop, fail to be placed, and data would no longer be transacted at all. I can honestly say that I've never held onto so many calls and data simultaneously on 1 bar at -113 dBm as I have with the iPhone 4, so it's readily apparent that the new baseband hardware is much more sensitive compared to what was in the 3GS. The difference is that reception is massively better on the iPhone 4 in actual use.
With my bumper case on, I made it further into dead zones than ever before, and into marginal areas that would always drop calls without any problems at all. It's amazing really to experience the difference in sensitivity the iPhone 4 brings compared to the 3GS, and issues from holding the phone aside, reception is absolutely definitely improved. I felt like I was going places no iPhone had ever gone before. There's no doubt in my mind this iPhone gets the best cellular reception yet, even though measured signal is lower than the 3GS.


RE: Anandtech
By Howard on 7/4/2010 7:41:37 PM , Rating: 3
I like the part where you forgot to note that the above paragraph was describing the phone's performance with a case on.


RE: Anandtech
By Proxes on 7/2/2010 1:13:11 PM , Rating: 5
Apple's display of the bars is no different than how woman's clothing companies work.

Company XYZ puts size 4 on the labels of their size 6 pants.
Company ABC puts size 6 on the labels of their size 6 pants.

Women buy from XYZ because saying they wear size 4 pants makes them feel better about themselves.

Apple incorrectly displayed the signal strength on the iPhone so people would think they have better reception than other phones/cell companies.

Apple gets outed and two days later announces a fix.


RE: Anandtech
By TSS on 7/2/2010 3:01:16 PM , Rating: 2
Calling this a fix is less true then calling an apple product a "fix".

All they did was change the bars from showing a more-then-positive number due to the highly advertised antenna to less-then-positive to try and hide the failing antenna.

Apple has been found out of consumer manipulation and the thing they do to fix said act, is consumer manipulation.

A few years back on Steve's birthday i called him a visionairy and one of the most creative minds on the planet. The fact that he can do the above and the apple fans will eat it up like chocolate cake makes me realise how absurdly right i was, though not in the way i approached it at the time.

I predict the last we'll hear of steve is his manically laughter as he rides his personal helicopter made out of money into the sunset throwing kittens at his persuers, only to settle down and live the rest of his life on some private island in the bermuda triangle, surrounded by his most faithfull apple-ites.


RE: Anandtech
By Proxes on 7/2/2010 3:19:25 PM , Rating: 2
Well maybe I should have put the word fix in quotes like you did. I was by no means saying that Apple actually "fixed" anything.


RE: Anandtech
By torpor on 7/2/2010 5:38:54 PM , Rating: 2
And once Apple got caught selling size 6 as size 4, they just changed the label to make the 4 look just like a 6, unless you look really, really close.

We are also making bars 1, 2 and 3 a bit taller so they will be easier to see.

I bet for a given signal strength, this "taller" bar will give an equivalent on-screen height to the falsified display.

Apple truly is all about packaging.


RE: Anandtech
By dsuse on 7/2/2010 6:32:30 PM , Rating: 3
Apple does seem to have problems with bars.
They did lose one of their iPhone 4 prototypes in one.

Come to think of it, that one DID have a "top-secret" plastic bumper case attached to it for field testing. So perhaps Steve Jobs penchant for secrecy led to them not cluing into the problems with the exposed antenna until it was too late in the QA testing process to correct it (of course, this still does not explain the other problems with the prox. sensor, the screen issues, the defective performance with photos/movies...).

They should take away Steve's secret decoder ring for this.


"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis














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