Print 88 comment(s) - last by soloman02.. on Jul 5 at 3:34 PM

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 Pirks on 7/2/2010 11:01:07 AM , Rating: -1
Given that reception is still better than in previous model (3GS) you're telling that design is bad because reception is not drastically better, it just simply better? Hmm. That's going to be one tough argument to sell in court. When you sue Jobs, he comes back holding your old 3GS and new 4 together, makes a call with 3GS, drops it due to poor reception, than makes a call with 4 and doesn't drop it 'cause reception is better... what would you do there man?

Would you say "Steve, you OWE ME MONEY, 'cause I wanted my new phone to have DRASTICALLY better reception than the old one, and you made reception just simply better, NOT DRASTICALLY better"?

Would you say so, huh?

RE: Anandtech
By nafhan on 7/2/2010 11:29:02 AM , Rating: 3
What are you trying to defend? Yes, the phone works even when you're "holding it wrong." We get OK reception instead of great reception because of a design flaw that could have been easily fixed, and that's OK? On top of that, Apple is essentially denying this problem exists, which is silly to say the least.

RE: Anandtech
By Pirks on 7/2/10, Rating: -1
RE: Anandtech
By weskurtz0081 on 7/2/2010 11:49:35 AM , Rating: 2
Anand also said that the antenna should be coated, which would prevent the massive attenuation problem that the iPhone 4 is having. So, while the antenna could have been great, it's incomplete because they left off a coating that could prevent the power loss when it comes in contact with human flesh or other conductive materials.

The design is good, but the screwed up by not putting a coating on it, and therefore, the design is flawed without it. So, if you are in a bad area with low dB, and then you touch the antenna in that area, you can expect to have 0dB. So, use a bumper, and everything will be fine (other than being forced to buy a bumper).

RE: Anandtech
By Motoman on 7/2/2010 11:51:34 AM , Rating: 5
Anand also said:

The main downside to the iPhone 4 is the obvious lapse in Apple's engineering judgment. The fact that Apple didn't have the foresight to coat the stainless steel antenna band with even a fraction of an ounce worth of non-conductive material either tells us that Apple doesn't care or that it simply doesn't test thoroughly enough.


At the bare minimum Apple should give away its bumper case with every iPhone 4 sold. The best scenario is for Apple to coat the antenna and replace all existing phones with a revised model.

Funny how you seem to miss those parts. Then again, you are I guess it's amazing you can read at all.

RE: Anandtech
By Pirks on 7/2/10, Rating: -1
RE: Anandtech
By Mitch101 on 7/2/2010 12:28:17 PM , Rating: 2
You need to spend more time on this site.

RE: Anandtech
By Helbore on 7/2/2010 4:44:33 PM , Rating: 2
Why coat the antenna when your customers will defend your poor engineering decisions?

You've got to look at this from an Apple manager's position. If you can avoid doing something properly and save a few pennies, why bother spending those pennies?

It's the nutty attitude we see here that keeps Apple from fixing such design flaws. Why bother when people lie Pirks tell everyone they're doing a good job by cutting corners.

And they ARE cutting corners.

RE: Anandtech
By Pirks on 7/2/10, Rating: -1
RE: Anandtech
By Quadrillity on 7/2/2010 12:09:36 PM , Rating: 2
Then again, you are I guess it's amazing you can read at all.

That made me lol for a good two minutes.

RE: Anandtech
By brshoemak on 7/2/2010 12:05:16 PM , Rating: 2
We get OK reception instead of great reception Is this OK reception better than in 3GS? Anand says yes. Why should I trust you instead of Anand?

Hey guess what, it's on AT&T's network - so less than anticipated signal strength apparently does make a difference. It doesn't matter if it's marginally (feel free to argue about the word 'marginally') better than the 3GS but you need all the signal strength you can get for AT&T's network in some areas.

You can also argue about the strength of the phone itself, which I won't disagree with, but using it on AT&T's network in some places is like putting a Lamborghini on ice - looks nice but you aren't going anywhere.

RE: Anandtech
By rocky12345 on 7/2/10, Rating: 0
RE: Anandtech
By hughlle on 7/2/2010 1:29:33 PM , Rating: 1
so you are not denyinbg the fact that the phone is crap :P just that it's not quite as crap as the 3GS?

RE: Anandtech
By Pirks on 7/2/10, Rating: -1
"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook

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