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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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I call Bull$#!t
By HighWing on 7/2/2010 12:58:20 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
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.


AT&T's big ad campaign for the past year has been "More Bars, in More Places" Does no one notice a connection here? Both AT&T and the iPhone have been plagued with reports of not so great service, yet they continue to use the same ad campaign that is quite laughable at best.

In my opinion I think Apple knew about it and deliberately coded it that way to make the iPhone "appear" to have better service than it really did in hopes to quite the complaints of the actual bad service. ie If the customer is always looking at the phone and seeing more bars, they feel confidant that they have service, when in reality they might not. I wouldn't be too surprised if AT&T had a hand in this as well.

After all, like the article already pointed out, they had months of usage testing before release. And I find it rather interesting that they "discovered" this rather quickly after news of it, and a pending lawsuit broke.




RE: I call Bull$#!t
By radializer on 7/2/2010 6:05:54 PM , Rating: 3
This exactly

In fact, if you look at the old iOS updates ... the step from v2.0.2 to v2.1 reported a feature implemented that Apple called "Improved accuracy of the 3G signal strength display"

In layman speak this was just saying "what was 2 bars then, is 5 bars now” .. and the links below show that both Ars and Gizmodo experienced exactly this, as did many of their readers.

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2008/09/cell-b...
http://gizmodo.com/5048905/iphone-21-update-availa...

Now this was late 2008 - maybe this was when they (Apple + AT&T) were taking flak for coverage (not sure). This seems like an obvious attempt to report optimistic signal strengths in the form of "more bars in more places".

Now, the problem statement is quite different and the 24dBm drop op top of this "improved accuracy" indicator ends up reporting a loss of 4-5 bars of signal in certain circumstances.

Sure enough, and very amusingly, I might add, Apple's is "stunned to find that they were calculating the bars of cell signal strength wrong" on iPhone4 with iOS v4

“Stunned, I say!” :-)


RE: I call Bull$#!t
By mpjesse on 7/2/2010 7:56:15 PM , Rating: 2
THANK YOU for reminding everyone of that 2 year old update. Quite frankly I'm amazed that all these geniuses on here forgot about the reception issues with the original 3G and what apple did to fix it. At the time they alleged the 3G was "under reporting signal strength" and now the iPhone 4 is over reporting it? LOL. And they're "stunned!". The fact is this: apple has been using the same fu*cked up formula since the 3G "fix" back in 2008. All the conspiracy theories about apple using a different formula to try and hide the iPhone 4's antenna issues are baseless. If apple had a unique formula for the iPhone 4 then why are they issuing updates for the 3G/S?


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