Apple letter regarding iPhone 4: Signal strength formula ‘totally wrong,’ software fix on the way

Invisible Shield for Apple iPhone 4!The following is a “Letter from Apple Regarding iPhone 4,” verbatim:

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.


Source: Apple Inc.

MacDailyNews Take: Finally!!! Mistakes happen and hopefully this letter and software fix will quell the firestorm. This also explains why we could move our iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS bars with certain grips, but never seem to get calls to actually drop. That this has been present since the original iPhone explains a lot while also making us wonder what the heck took so long to figure it out? iPhone reception/signal strength has criticized since the original iPhone shipped; you’d think Appel would’ve figured this out years ago! Anyway, the good news is that the issue seems to have been finally discovered and a fix is on the way.

It figures: After days of this, that, and the other thing, our original source was right all along! Here’s our initial Take from the very first article we covered regarding iPhone 4 reception, posted on June 24, 2010: “We can reproduce the issue of diminishing or disappearing AT&T bars on our units by blocking the lower left corner completely with our hands on iPhone 4 units without cases, but do not believe it to be a hardware issue. In fact, with 3+ bars, we don’t notice any loss of reception, even if we make the bars go away. According to a trusted source, there are multiple points on the iPhone 4’s frame for antenna reception. Our source says that the issues ‘can and will’ be addressed by tweaking, balancing, and/or redistributing antennae reception and/or signal strength display via software. When asked if it could be a hardware issue, our source said, ‘Don’t be silly. It’s not the hardware. Apple’s too smart for that. In fact, most any handset maker is too smart for that.'”

We’re sorry we doubted our source and we’re sorry we doubted Apple and Steve Jobs, too. From what was being reported (fake Jobs email, purported indifference by Apple, customers supposedly being told by Apple reps to “buy a bumper, etc.), we thought it imperative to speak up strongly on behalf of Apple’s iPhone 4 customers. We’ll hold our fire in the future and point people directly to this episode to explain why we’re “not jumping on Apple” when being endlessly accused of being “Apple lapdogs,” “Apple Fanbois,” and much worse. We will be more patient. Again, we sincerely apologize. It won’t happen again.

Now, prepare for the naysayers who will claim that Apple is lying in 3… 2…


  1. When the same morons that expect perfection, find it unreasonable to allow thorough investigation of a perceived problem and rant while frothing at the mouth as we’ve seen here in the past few days, they are nothing more than arrogant and dumb.

    The obnoxious, ignorant, spoiled brat, restless American consumer has egg on his face again, as predicted.

  2. Apple is lying.

    If they’re not lying now, then they were lying before, by displaying bogus signal strength information, both to make their own product look superior to others, and to cover up the shortages of their carrier partner.

    The party line here, “When it works, it works great,” may not sustain the Reality Distortion Field. Will need something else.

  3. How can you say they are lying? What proof do you have? Are you an antenna expert that can offer information that it’s a hardware issue? This is why I buy Apple products, I don’t expect them to be perfect but they always follow through and correct mistakes promptly. Because of that history I believe them when they say it’s an error in the software. I am sure that the on the people that think they are lying have never made a mistake in the lives and they walk on water.

  4. Look, this is much ado about very little and getting quite tiresome. My iPhone 4 works wonderfully well. It has better reception than my previous iPhones and other brands I have used. Give Apple a few weeks and all this will settle down. Their explanation is fine.

  5. Comment from: Silly – Jun 24, 10 – 03:07 pm:
    Call me silly but I won’t hold my breath for a ‘software update’ to remedy this.

    Coment from ploogman – Jun 24, 10 – 04:04
    1. sorry but this is a serious issue and not likely a software issue – it was probably not well tested without a case because of secrecy concerns so it was not really noticed ahead of time… it is NOT just an issue with the bars on the display…

    Comment from: Dallasm – Jun 24, 10 – 05:15 pm
    Riiight.. That software. That’s why touching the two antennae makes the cell phone drop calls.

    More gems in the original MacDailyNews article:
    iPhone 4 ‘reception’ issue likely fixed by software

  6. “We’re sorry we doubted our source and we’re sorry we doubted Steve Jobs, too. From what was being reported, we thought it imperative to speak up strongly on behalf of Apple’s iPhone 4 customers. We’ll hold our fire in the future and point people to this episode to explain why we’re “not jumping on Apple” when being endlessly accused of being “Apple lapdogs,” “Apple Fanbois,” etc. We will be more patient. Again, we sincerely apologize. It won’t happen again.”

    MDM: Perhaps you should have listened more to you mother.

    And remember, next … is garbage day. Don’t forget, like you have for the last … years.

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