Oh Apple. How could you take the sparkle covered unicorn of technology, the iPhone 4, and screw it up? The controversy over cell reception with the new iPhone 4 is fading away, but make no mistake you are injured. It’s not pretty.
If you’ve been under a rock for the last week or so let me set the scene.
Apple released the new iPhone 4 and almost immediately heard from users there were reception problems. Hold your hand in the wrong place (the most convenient place for your hand to be) and the incoming signal as displayed on the beautiful iPhone 4 screen would plunge. Some folks reported going from four bars to just one by merely picking up their phone.
A name was coined for the problem: Death Grip. That’s a p.r. nightmare in itself.
Steve Jobs’ rollout of the iPhone 4 played up the new ‘integrated in the case’ antenna. That means the whole hand/reception problem was more than a little embarrassing.
Last Thursday Endgadget posted this response to the antenna problem from Apple:
In essence, Apple cops to the fact there are reception issues with the new iPhone — namely, that if you cover the bottom-left corner of the phone and bridge the gap between the notch there with your naked flesh, you could see some signal degradation. Yes, you read that right: it’s not a software or production issue, simply a matter of the physical location of your hand in regards to the phone’s antenna. The company’s suggested fix? Move your hand position, or get a case which covers that part of the phone, thus breaking contact.
So Apple’s checked the problem and it’s YOU! Maybe they misread the old adage as “the customer is always right handed?”
On top of this a series of emails were circulated and attributed to Steve Jobs. In Jobs’ typically terse style they dismiss or downplay the complaints of Apple’s customers. Some took a decidedly “let them eat cake” tone.
There’s a question now whether those emails were real but no one disavowed them at the time. Disavow and undo are two separate concepts.
Finally today another announcement from Apple… a strange announcement.
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.
So, yes a hand in the wrong spot does reduce the signal strength, but not to the extent shown on the phone.
John Gruber at Daring Fireball rewrote Apple’s announcement to reflect what he sees as the reality of the situation:
We decided from the outset to set the formula for our bars-of-signal strength indicator to make the iPhone look good — to make it look as if it “gets more bars”. That decision has now bitten us on our ass.
This condition has existed since the iPhone was first released which means Apple and at&t have been
lying about mistakenly reporting signal strength in their favor since day one! That’s a whole other can of worms.
If Apple wasn’t so secretive… if Apple hadn’t taken such a greedily protective stance toward the iPhone this might not be a big deal. But they are and it is.
Blogger’s addendum: Though my iPhone could be running iOS4 I have held back because of jailbreaking, a process which enables me to install software Apple might not approve of (on my phone). So far no reliable, simple, reversible jailbreak has been issued. I expect I won’t have long to wait.