Official statement from Apple
Dear iPhone 4 Users,
The iPhone 4 has been the most successful product launch in Apple’s history. It has been judged by reviewers around the world to be the best smartphone ever, and users have told us that they love it. So we were surprised when we read reports of reception problems, and we immediately began investigating them. Here is what we have learned.
To start with, gripping almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by 1 or more bars. This is true of iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, as well as many Droid, Nokia and RIM phones. But some users have reported that iPhone 4 can drop 4 or 5 bars when tightly held in a way which covers the black strip in the lower left corner of the metal band. This is a far bigger drop than normal, and as a result some have accused the iPhone 4 of having a faulty antenna design.
At the same time, we continue to read articles and receive hundreds of emails from users saying that iPhone 4 reception is better than the iPhone 3GS. They are delighted. This matches our own experience and testing. What can explain all of this?
We have discovered the cause of this dramatic drop in bars, and it is both simple and surprising.
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.
As a reminder, if you are not fully satisfied, you can return your undamaged iPhone to any Apple Retail Store or the online Apple Store within 30 days of purchase for a full refund.
We hope you love the iPhone 4 as much as we do.
Thank you for your patience and support.
Here is the link:
Letter from Apple Regarding iPhone 4
So basically they are saying that they're going to update your phone to tell you that your reception is worse than it really is, bar wise. This doesn't fix anything. This isn't going to fix the people who live in lower reception areas from losing service completely or drop low enough to drop calls, where their previous iPhones or whatever they used works fine. I recall one time, with the original 3G, they tweaked the bars because they were incorrectly displaying the wrong amount of bars. So did the have it right at that time? I guess a lot of people are going to be in areas where they get 2 bars max, all day, everyday.
This is just smoke and mirrors and highly disappointing. They also need to address the proximity sensor, although I think they are going to sneak it in. It's a real simple fix, just give it more tolerance.
Last edited by ghostface147; 07-02-2010 at 08:23 AM.
- 07-02-2010, 08:52 AM #2
I've not yet "done my time" in line at an Apple or AT&T store to get my iPhone 4 but I've been reading everything I can get my hands on about the problems. The review on AnandTech was very informative:
Apple's iPhone 4: Thoroughly Reviewed - AnandTech :: Your Source for Hardware Analysis and News
Their testing indicated that they could hold calls with the iPhone 4 in locations where the 3Gs would not. But it's important to note that they did have a case on the phone!
I played with my 3Gs and did the *3001#12345#* trick to put it in Field Test mode. At my home my best signal is around -68 dBm (as indicated by the phone). Cupping it tightly with both hands will drop that to as much as -103 dBm. However, in both cases, my phone still indicates five bars.
Antennas are very, very tricky and finicky beasts. They typically give the best performance when they are located away from anything conductive . . . like us! To complicate matters further, each person, due to individual physiology, will impact the iPhone 4 antenna differently.
I agree with you - Apple did goof this one up. On the one hand, they wanted that cool look that the edge antenna allows but now we all know the consequence. Obviously it needs some sort of non-conductive coating. Course that has the problem of eventually wearing off.
I don't think this is over for Apple. My guess is they will eventually capitulate and offer free or discounted cases to customers with persistent issues (meaning, of course, those that are willing to again do time in line at an Apple Genius Bar or on infinite hold on the phone with customer service).
- 07-02-2010, 09:13 AM #4
The ultimate fix is using a case or "hold differently" Or taking it back.
This software fix won't change anything.
I'm surprised Apple throws in that bit about returning if you're not happy. Um..Apple? People aren't likely to return it and go back in time to a 3GS. They'll return it and leave your ecosystem. While for others, it's not as simple as returning it. They are invested in your ecosystem.
But how about making sure people are satisfied? You've got one cure laying around called a Bumper. Surely you want to give that out before recommending they return iphones??? While you're at it, make some accessories that actually work with Bumpers/cases and encourage 3rd parties to do the same.
- 07-02-2010, 09:29 AM #5iMore Intermediate
- 227 Posts
So, they artificially trumped up the signal strength meter on the 3G and 3GS to make it seem like reception was better than it actually was. This little quirk with the 4, though, has caused this decision to come back and bite them in the *** so they conveniently uncover this mysterious miscalculation in signal strength and will correct the formula.
In the end, I don't care. I get fantastic coverage everywhere I go on a daily basis.
- 07-02-2010, 09:59 AM #6
- 07-02-2010, 10:14 AM #8iPhone Beginner
- 73 Posts
There's more to the story than this. Apple actually changed how the iPhone 4 deals with AT&T's cell towers. Instead of defaulting to the strongest signal, it chooses the best signal. That is why you see this happening on 3G and 3GS phones.
My guess is that software will help, but not cure the issue.
- 07-02-2010, 10:56 AM #9iMore Intermediate
- 275 Posts
This is interesting. As my other posts say, I don't have my i4 yet, however, I have a question. For those of you who are upgrading from 3G or 3GS - How was your service with those phones. To clarify a bit more - if you were at home and you used your old phone without troubles, and now you're having trouble with your i4, is this your phone issues or the tower/signal issues?
- 07-02-2010, 11:10 AM #10
- 07-02-2010, 11:15 AM #11
The only thing the software is going to do is adjust how it relates signal levels to bars. (UPDATE: I have a followup piece about Appleâ€™s new... â€˘ fscked.co.uk 5 bars that the iPhone 4 shows is a bit misleading with the 5 bar range being pretty huge and the 4 being less so and bars 3 - 1 being very very small, to where very little signal drop will take you from 3 - 1, but the same level of signal drop will leave you with 5 bars if you are in the right area.
Buy a case and reduce the impact of the human body on the antenna or return the phone. It's the two options we have.
- 07-02-2010, 11:45 AM #12
- 07-02-2010, 11:52 AM #13
- 07-02-2010, 12:01 PM #14
- 07-02-2010, 12:07 PM #15
Last edited by Hack-My-I; 07-02-2010 at 12:12 PM.
- 07-02-2010, 12:23 PM #17
- 07-02-2010, 04:25 PM #18
I think that they had the signal display calibrated for when the antenna was inside the phone. Now that it's outside, it talks differently and Apple didn't change their end. Remember, they had to recalibrate the signal display when the 3G came out originally in 2008. I don't think they 100% forcefully lied, but some are making it out to be a lot more than it really is. This doesn't change the fact there for some, there are serious issues, regardless of signal display.
- 07-02-2010, 04:41 PM #20
- 07-02-2010, 04:56 PM #21The company said it will fix the formula to one recommended by AT&T Inc. through a free software update within a few weeks for the most recent iPhone models, 3G, 3GS and 4. However, the "wrong" formula goes back as far as the original iPhone, launched in 2007.
"i don't know why i lost you... i had full bars!!"
- 07-02-2010, 05:12 PM #22
- 07-02-2010, 05:38 PM #23
I have to agree with this article. Even though I can reproduce the signal drop, I have yet to lose a call which happened constantly with my 3GS. I've also tested using speedtest and my results on 3G are the same whether I have one bar or five. I guess I'm one of the lucky ones who doesn't have an issue.
Consumer Reports Electronics Blog: iPhone 4's supposed signal woes arenâ€™t unique, and may not be serious
- 07-02-2010, 05:39 PM #24
It's a freaking joke. The fix is to tweak the software to display a different signal strength indication? And they're making bars #1 and #2 (the left most and shortest, indicating the lowest signal strength) taller to do what? Confuse us or try to psych us into thinking the signal strength is better than it really is?
Yesterday I thought the suits against AT&T and Apple were frivolous... today I am starting to think that Apple needs to be sued...
All I can say is "Wow!".
- 07-02-2010, 05:57 PM #25