Apple addresses iPhone 4 complaints: It's the software, stupid!
Subject: Mobile | July 2, 2010 - 03:06 PM | Ryan Shrout
Apple has finally come forward and addressed the issues of the iPhone 4 antennae without condescending remarks from its CEO. As it turns out, according to this letter published by Apple today, the problem is not with the iPhone 4's antennae but rather the algorithm that Apple has been using to go from the signal decibel ratings to a non-linear "bar" scale that we are all used to. From the letter:
There is so much about this that makes me cringe. Essentially, since the days of the original iPhone, Apple's software team has "accidentally" gotten it all wrong! To think that four years could go by without an engineer raising a hand to the issue seems insane and the conspiracy theories will pop up today, if they haven't already.
Did Apple decide they wanted people to think better of their phones so they made it appear to have MORE signal strength than it really did? Was it something Apple and AT&T worked on together to try and counter the nagging critics of AT&T's service?
We had a good chat with Anand Shimpi yesterday on This Week in Computer Hardware about the story on Anandtech.com that looked at the iPhone 4's signal strength and its very non-linear scale. (It's a great article and well worth the read.) This graph of that scale as it exists today tells the story:
Image from Anandtech.com article
Here you can see that first four "bars" of signal apparently scale over only 22 db of signal strength while that magical fifth bar scales 40 db!! That means that even moderate signals would likely be displaying 4 bars of strength when they should only have been showing 2 or 1, according to Apple's announcement today. We are meant to believe then that Apple simply made a mistake with its phones and that this was ALLLL a big mis-understading but it's hard to take it that way given the evidence that is out there now.
It seems that only because the external antennae sees a sharper reduction in signal strength with a hand placed on the infamous left corner that this custom scale Apple has implemented is getting attention. From Anandtech.com:
The new phone might be a better phone, even with a more sensitive antennae, but Apple was obviously not being honest about the signal drops, about the fact that this phone should have a non-conductive material covering the antennae and now we know they weren't honest about its "bars to signal" relations.
But don't worry, Apple is going to make things right:
Well THAT is a relief.