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iPhone 4 reception blamed on 'totally wrong' signal display

updated 09:15 am EDT, Fri July 2, 2010

Apple issues PR letter in light of wide criticism

The broadly reported reception issues with the iPhone 4 can all be traced back to the way iOS reports signal, Apple now claims. "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," part of a new PR statement reads. "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," a spokesperson continues.

As a remedy, Apple says it planning to release a software update "within a few weeks" that will adopt a recent AT&T formula for calculating 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," the company says.

Because the problem has allegedly been around since the original iPhone, updates are planned not just for the iPhone 4 but the 3G and 3GS. The first-generation iPhone is not getting an upgrade.

The company continues to insist that the cellular performance of the iPhone 4 is the best it has ever produced, and that "the vast majority" of owners have not had any trouble. Many people have been able to reproduce the glitch, however, and several lawsuits are now targeting the company with claims of fraud or deception. Until today, the company sometimes advised people to simply hold a phone differently.

by MacNN Staff



  1. starwarrior

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Hold Differently

    Still good advice. Have four iPhoners in ATT fringe area. Adjusting has always occurs even before iPhone. On area high usage days going to the front yard is necessary. It becomes second nature just like riding a bicycle. No one in our area has noticed except me who reads these materials here and at other sites. Except that of course that the current iPhone 4 performance is better than that of older versions.

  1. burger

    Joined: Dec 1969


    comment title

    "Sorry, we were lying to you the whole time to make you think AT&T had good coverage in your area. Now you'll see the truth! Isn't that great?"


  1. ScottG

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Someone Got a Promotion ;-)

    OMG!!! Well someone in the Marking Department just got a BIG Promotion for coming up with this one. Now they can stop wearing that Aluminum Foil hat to improve their iPhone4 Signal.

  1. MyRightEye

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Although I will be buying an iPhone 4 as soon as the white model is released, I will NOT be buying this BS from Apple. The antenna simply should have had a clear coating over the antenna and this would all be moot.

    As for me, I never hold a phone when I am on a call, so it doesn't bother me. I use Bluetooth for every call.

  1. starwarrior

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Wrong about PR Man

    Some engineer or software geek got fired for not understanding nature of logarithmic presentation of measurement of signal strength or something like that. Digging out those DBs can be confusing to the algebraic limited new generation.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    they aren't saying the reception is better or OK or anything. All they're saying is that their phone was lying and the reception isn't as good as it even appears?

  1. telem

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Not discovered in testing?


  1. iphonerulez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    It really doesn't matter whether the signal

    problem is real or imagined. Some group will continue to go after Apple and the iPhone. If it wasn't the signal problem it would have been the yellow spots on the display or some other minor problem. Bloggers seem to enjoy finding faults and then blowing them way out of proportion. It stirs up controversy and the bloggers get attention. For the vast majority of consumers that buy the iPhone 4 it will be a non-issue as long as they don't read all this c*** on the internet and let their minds go wild. Even if 2,000 people have a lawsuit, it is a tiny amount compared to the 2 million or so iPhone 4s sold, so far. If there is a real reception problem, Apple can correct future batches with an antenna coating or software. Will these complaints have an effect on iPhone 4 sales. Not in the least. I really don't understand why people that haven't even bought the iPhone 4 are getting so upset when they can just go buy something else. Nobody has been injured or died yet from poor cellphone reception.

  1. Thomasj106

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Apple says “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.”

    Tom says “Upon investigation, I was stunned to find that the formula Apple uses to calculate how many idiots they think are out here is totally wrong.”

    Fixing the display so that bars indicate a false signal strength does not fix the dropped calls nor the poor call quality. Software cannot fix or compensate for a bad hardware design. You can tell me that AT&T is providing me poor signal quality (which is true fact) but the real fact is if I make a call while showing 4-5 bars and not holding the phone, I can talk uninterrupted & with complete clarity for an entire 20 minute conversation. Without moving from my location, but by holding the phone, the display shows a flatlined signal. I cannot connect many calls, I drop connected calls, and/or the entire conversation is broken up. Changing the display WILL NOT fix that problem. Listen to a portable radio with an external antenna and grab the antenna. The signal is interrupted by grounding the metal antenna and the radio produces poor sound or just static. The problem exists. Period.

    While in my office or house (which, btw, has ALWAYS showed 4 bars on my 3GS in both locations and made calls with clarity and never dropped them in either location) the iPhone 4 shows 4 bars as well. The calls are successful AS LONG AS I AM NOT HOLDING THE PHONE.

    Apple seems to think that they again are going to pull the wool over our eyes. Steve Jobs needs to man-up, take responsibility for this mistake, step up to the plate and FIX THE PROBLEM. This got past Quality Control. I am not happy about it but it happens. What I am pissed off about is that they are denying it and are looking to make it a casual issue by appeasing the masses with yet another mistake, hoping that the people will be gullible enough to accept it. C’mon Apple, I have become a loyal fan in the past year, switching from a PC to a Mac and from a Palm Treo to an iPhone. Don’t treat me like I’m an idiot. That I won’t tolerate.

    I am mad at myself for two things. 1) I know that holding an antenna without insulating myself from grounding it will produce poor signal. I grew up in a time when cars had aerials and we all had transistor radios with retractable antennas that you didn’t touch when you were listening to them. Why that didn’t cross my mind, I’ll never know. 2) Selling my 3GS prematurely. I would gladly take my new iPhone 4 back to AT&T, cancel the new two year contract, and reactivate my (virtually flawless) 3GS. I would have to eat the $$ I spent on protection gear for my iPhone 4 but it would worth it. It would it also serve to re-teach me a lesson that I already knew…NEVER buy a new product the moment it hits the market.

  1. cmoney

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Read this

    The best technical analysis I've seen so far.

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