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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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this is a perfect example of why I hate Apple
By muhahaaha on 7/2/2010 6:11:20 PM , Rating: 1
This is a perfect example of why I hate Apple. They know there is a problem with their new phone, and they first deny it or tell you some garbage like "you're holding it wrong".

Then, definitive proof comes out that the problem is real, and they make up some BS excuse like "OMG the algorithm that displays the number of bars is wrong!!!"

Own up, you asshats!




By darkblade33 on 7/2/2010 11:54:08 PM , Rating: 1
Quoted from ANANDTECH.COM :
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.


By muhahaaha on 7/3/2010 6:25:48 AM , Rating: 1
yeah, when it's laying on the table and not being touched.

STFU apptard, it is an obvious design flaw and Anand's article states that clearly.


By muhahaaha on 7/3/2010 6:30:10 AM , Rating: 1
By the way, I work in the telecommunication industry, so I'm not an ignorant fool.


By muhahaaha on 7/3/2010 6:33:27 AM , Rating: 1
Where us Motoman when you need him? This dork needs to be pwned.


By darkblade33 on 7/3/2010 1:53:26 PM , Rating: 2
The first paragraph is without the bumper case.. he still says he is getting better reception despite a lower signal ..

The second paragraph he states the bumper case is now on..

For the majority of people in big cities like me ( columbus Ohio ) where the signal is strong, the drop in signal doesnt matter. If you read how much the signal drops ( when you're not squeezing the living sh$t out of it to make a point ) when you're holding it normally.. its not enough to matter anyways.

Fact is most of the people who are "bitching" about this don't even own a iphone 3gs or iP4 ... they are just making noise on these forums..

for the record, I have an Evo, but my wife has a 3gs, my cousin got a iP4 with no issues in reception


By hyvonen on 7/3/2010 2:13:08 PM , Rating: 2
Let me explain it so you'll understand.

IF measured signal strength is -113dBm, 4 is better than 3GS.
IF using the bumper case (for which you have to pay $30 or so), 4 is (probably) better than 3GS in every case.

IF NOT using a bumper case, AND "holding the phone wrong", 4 is worse than 3GS because the better receiver hardware can't compensate enough for the massive signal loss due to the shorted antennas. This is why people in relatively low-signal areas lose reception altogether with 4 even though 3GS works fine.

Now, Apple could reduce the attenuation by coating the antenna at extra cost to them (plus the embarrassment of having a - GASP! - design flaw in an iPhone).

OR, Apple could make you buy a bumper case at extra cost to YOU (and more revenue to them), and say that nothing is wrong.

Of course, we all know which path was chosen.


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