Apple admits iPhone 4 mistake, but it's not the antenna

Apple has today released a letter to iPhone 4 users about the faulty antenna problem, saying that there’s nothing wrong with the phone, it’s simply to do with the signal bar display instead.

The letter reveals that the fruity company was “surprised” to have learned about reception problems and continued the party line of “gripping almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by one or more bars.” It said the iPhone 3GS also suffers from the problem, as does its rivals, which kind of amounts to: “But everybody does it!”

Apple then went on to wonder why some iPhone 4 users saw drops of four or five bars when holding the phone, which is “a far bigger drop than normal”.

Even though Apple has previously said the signal problem is a “non issue”, it has secretly been investigating it, suggesting that maybe, just maybe, it really is a bit of an issue after all. And now Apple has “discovered the cause of this dramatic drop in bars, and it is both simple and surprising.”

Is it faulty antennas? Apparently not.

It’s a problem with the formula Apple uses to calculate how many bars of signal strength it displays. Apple has finally realised its formula is “totally wrong”, and that the phone is displaying more bars than it should be. The real problem is then: “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.”

Sorry, did we just read that right? The problem has nothing to do with Apple. It’s your terrible signal. It must be your network carrier. It must be the unnatural shape of your hand. It must be signal-stealing aliens. Apple’s only mistake is telling you that you have a better signal than you really do. It was being generous, you see, giving two bars for the price of one. You can’t fault it for that, can you?

To fix the problem Apple is now “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.”

It also said it would be making the first three bars taller “so they will be easier to see”, because, of course, that was what everyone was complaining about, not losing their signal mid-call.

Apple will be issuing a software update within the next few weeks to correct the display issue. It said that “this mistake has been present since the original iPhone”, so all iPhone 3G and 3GS customers will also get the update. If it’s the same problem for all iPhones, however, it begs the question why the iPhone 4 seems to be suffering from it far worse than the others. Is it really just a display problem?

In another display of a special type of arrogance that only Apple can achieve the letter also said that they re-tested everything and found that “the iPhone 4’s wireless performance is the best we have ever shipped.” 

Rory Cellan-Jones, a technology correspondent for the BBC, made a valid point about the letter in a tweet: “So Apple seems to be saying iPhone reception has always been a bit rubbish – but the phone has never told you.”

Now, before you get annoyed, remember that this is a “non issue”.