Apple has issued a press release this morning responding to the numerous complaints that have been circulating regarding reception issues with the new iPhone 4. In a Letter from Apple Regarding iPhone 4, Apple reiterates previous comments that holding any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by one or more bars, and acknowledges that this is as true of the iPhone 4 as it was of previous iPhone models and other manufacturers’ phones. The letter goes on to note, however, that “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.” Apple admits that this is a “far bigger drop than normal” and concedes that it has led some to believe it to be the result of a faulty antenna design.
Apple reports that on further investigation it was “stunned to find that the formula [used] to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong.” In essence, the company explains that the iPhone 4 sometimes displays four bars even in weak coverage areas where it should only be displaying as few as two bars. Apple notes that users who are seeing a loss of several bars when gripping their iPhone in a certain way are likely in areas with weak signal strength, but don’t realize it due to the calculation error. The letter notes that a user’s “big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.”
In the letter, Apple indicates that it will be releasing a free software update “within a few weeks” that will use AT&T’s more recent formula for calculating how many bars to display for a given signal strength. The result of the update will not change the actual signal strength but will report it more accurately. Apple notes that this error has been present since the original iPhone and will also be corrected in the software update for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS models.
As part of its iPhone 4 review, AnandTech took an in-depth look at the iPhone 4’s antenna and its signal issues, finding that “cupping the bottom left corner and making skin contact between the two antennas does result in a measurable difference in cellular reception,” but adding, “RF is a strange beast.” According to the review, standard signal strength for a UMTS 3G phone can range from -51 dBm—standing underneath or extremely close to the tower—to -113 dBm, the lowest amount of signal the phone can have before disconnecting entirely. Interestingly, AnandTech found that the iPhone 4’s bars map signal differently than one might expect, with more than 40% of the range of possible signal levels—from -99 dBm to -51 dBm—reported as five bars. The four bars indicator begins at roughly -99 to -101 dBm and three bars at -103 dBm, with two bars extending down to -107 dBm, and one bar covering all signals lower than that.
Based on AnandTech’s tests, the iPhone 4 exhibits a maximum signal drop of 24 dBm when held in the left hand and crossing the black strip at the bottom with the palm. When held naturally, but without making contact with the open palm, a drop of nearly 20 dBm was seen; when held naturally inside a case, that number dropped to 7 dBm. For comparison, the iPhone 3GS experienced drops of 14 dBm, 1.9 dBm, and 3.2 dBm, while the Google Nexus One scored losses of 18 dBm, 11 dBm, and 8 dBm, respectively. Despite the drops, the review finds that the iPhone 4’s antenna is actually improved from the iPhone 3GS, with the new handset showing an improved ability to perform calls and receive/send data when at the one bar signal level, and when encased, it was able to find and/or hold on to a signal in spots where the iPhone 3GS failed to find to do either.
A class action lawsuit has been filed against Apple and AT&T over the iPhone 4’s cellular reception issues. The suit, filed in Maryland District Court, revolves around the “left hand” reception issue, and alleges that Apple and AT&T “knew or reasonably should have known of the iPhone 4’s defective nature prior to placing the iPhone 4 into the stream of commerce.” Claims against the two companies include general negligence, defect in design, manufacture, and assembly, deceptive trade practices, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud by concealment. The suit seeks compensatory damages and “other remedies.” [via Gizmodo]
According to AdMob’s May 2010 Mobile Metrics Report (PDF Link), more than half of all iOS users are outside of North America, compared to 67% of Android users and 58% of iPad users. 43% of iOS devices were in the U.S., followed by 9% that were in the U.K., 6% in France, and 5% in Canada. Notably, both iOS and Android represent much higher usage than share of handsets sold, with iOS representing 40% of mobile app and web usage compared to 15% handset marketshare; Android stood at 26% and 10%, respectively. iPhone’s worldwide share of traffic generated by smartphones stood at 39.9% in May, well above the second-place Motorola Droid with 6.8%, but down significantly from its 47.9% share in May 2009. AdMob’s Mobile Metrics Reports are based on data gleaned from the company’s network of more than 23,000 mobile Web sites and applications around the world.
A purported copy of Apple’s internal iPhone 4 antenna troubleshooting procedures has been leaked and posted online. Claiming to received the document from an unnamed Apple source, Boy Genius Report states that the list represents the exact procedures AppleCare representatives must follow when dealing with customers experiencing reception problems with their iPhone 4 units. The reps are told to tell iPhone 4 customers to “avoid covering the black strip in the lower-left corner of the metal band,” and note that “the use of a case or Bumper that is made out of rubber or plastic may improve wireless performance by keeping your hand from directly covering these areas.” The representatives are told not to perform warranty service, only escalate if the issue exists when the phone isn’t being held in a hand, and not to offer free bumper cases to angry customers.
Verizon Wireless will start selling the iPhone early next year, according to a new report. Citing two people familiar with the plans, Bloomberg reports that Verizon will launch the phone in January, ending AT&T’s reign as the exclusive carrier for the device in the U.S. and expanding Apple’s potential customer base to include those who aren’t willing to join AT&T. “The fact is, Apple is going to dramatically increase the number of devices it sells in the U.S. when exclusivity at AT&T ends,” said UBS AG analyst John Hodulik. “It’s hard to ignore the quality issues that AT&T has faced.”
Online video service Hulu today announced Hulu Plus, a new $10 per month, ad-supported subscription service that offers users the ability to watch Hulu content on a wide variety of devices. Notably, the new Hulu Plus service will allow subscribers to watch any TV show from a sizable catalog, streamed in 720p, on the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, third-generation iPod touch, and iPad via the new Hulu Plus app. Writing about the announcement on the company blog, Hulu CEO Jason Kilar said, “I’ve been watching Hulu on my iPad for several weeks now, and I’ve watched more TV through the iPad than any other device.” The Hulu Plus service will also offer users access to more current full-length episodes and seasons than the standard service. Hulu Plus is currently in a private, invitation only phase, and will be opened up to all customers “as soon as [it’s] ready.”
In an email exchange with an iPhone 4 customer seen and verified by iLounge, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has denied that the iPhone 4 has any actual reception problems. The iLounge reader in question, who has requested to remain anonymous, wrote Jobs after experiencing reception issues when holding the device in his left hand, saying, “Steve, I love the phone. But no one, [not] even your Apple Store has answers for my phone with the left side reception and the proximity sensor acting up.” Jobs issued a one-line response, saying, “The iPhone 4’s reception is better than the iPhone 3GS.” Our reader replied, “Yes it has better reception, is there going to be a fix for the [l]eft side antennae and [t]he Proximity Sensor problem or do you recommend taking it back for replacement?” Jobs once again replied in one sentence, again stating that “There is actually no problem with the real reception.” Jobs then issued a third, final response, saying, “Actually, the iPhone 4 is great. Sorry you’re having troubles.” Apple previously issued a statement regarding the reception issues, telling users to avoid gripping the iPhone 4 in the lower left corner if they experience severe attenuation.
AT&T has started selling the iPhone 4 both online and at its retail stores, leading to another round of lengthy lines for the popular new handset. Mac Rumors reports that some lines are more than one hundred customers long, and a search of Twitter shows a large number of people in lines across the country. AT&T was originally expected to offer the iPhone 4 on launch day, announcing only two days prior that it was pushing its walk-in sales launch back to June 29 due to limited supply. AT&T is offering the iPhone 4 on a first-come, first-serve basis.
A number of iPhone 4 owners are experiencing a couple of new bugs unrelated to the ongoing reception issues. Over three hundred replies have been logged on one Apple discussion board thread dealing with a proximity sensor issue in which the iPhone 4 prematurely activates the screen, leading to inadvertent button presses and even accidental hang-ups. Another lengthy thread deals with a problem where the Camera app crashes immediately after opening. In both cases, it is unclear whether a software update will be able to fix the issue, or whether a hardware replacement will be necessary for those affected. [via AppleInsider | Mercury News]
Apple has posted its new television ad for the iPhone 4 online. Based heavily on a video shown during the company’s keynote address at WWDC, the minute-long spot focuses solely on the iPhone 4’s FaceTime video calling feature, and shows a number of different people using FaceTime in different ways to communicate. As it was during the keynote, the video is accompanied by the song “When You’re Smiling” by Louis Armstrong. Apple’s new iPhone 4 television ad can be viewed on the company’s website. [via Daring Fireball]
The component costs of the new 16GB iPhone 4 are roughly $188, according to research firm iSuppli. Based on their own teardown, iSuppli estimates that the iPhone 4’s high-resolution 3.5-inch “Retina display” is its most expensive component, costing an estimated $28.50. According to BusinessWeek, iSuppli estimates that the phone’s A4 processor costs $10.75, the gyroscope chip $2.60, and the accelerometer $0.65. “Over the years, the iPhone has generally tended to hover in the $170-to -$180 cost range because Apple seems to be trying to hit some kind of budget,” Kevin Keller, who helped conduct the iSuppli teardown, told BusinessWeek in an interview. Notably, iSuppli’s estimate does not include costs such as labor, shipping, advertising, research and development, or patent licensing.
Apple has posted a new support document explaining how to configure a firewall or security software to enable iPhone 4 FaceTime video chats over Wi-Fi. The document claims that while FaceTime will “just work” on most Wi-Fi networks, the feature may fail on some networks protected by a firewall. According to the document, port forwarding must be enabled for ports 53, 80, 443, 4080, 5223, and 16393-16472 (UDP) for FaceTime to function correctly on firewall-protected networks. For all other Wi-Fi related issues, Apple refers users to its general Wi-Fi troubleshooting document.
Due to the massive popularity of the iPhone 4, Apple’s shipment estimate for new online orders of the handset has been pushed to three weeks. It took less than 24 hours for Apple to sell through its launch-day allotment of iPhone 4 units online, pushing the estimated ship date back to July 2; hours later, the date was pushed back again, to July 14. In a brief statement included in the company’s announcement of 1.7 million iPhone 4 units sold in the first three days, Apple CEO apologized to customers who were turned away because of limited stock; despite the supply issues, Apple is on track to launch the phone in an additional 18 countries by the end of July. [via AllThingsD]
Apple has announced that it sold more than 1.7 million iPhone 4 units from Thursday, June 24 through Saturday, June 26. “This is the most successful product launch in Apple’s history,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Even so, we apologize to those customers who were turned away because we did not have enough supply.” The iPhone 4 is available now in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, and Japan, and will be available in an additional 18 countries—Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland—by the end of July.
Apple is offering new iPhone 4 users a dedicated toll-free hotline for them to call to test the FaceTime feature of their new handsets. Mobiture reports that calling 1-888-FACETIME and instigating a FaceTime call allows users to video chat with an Apple representative who can tell the caller how to use the feature and offer advanced tips. The service is available from 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. Central Time; Wi-Fi is, for obvious reasons, required for the service. [via Engadget]
Apple has issued a statement on the reception issues some iPhone 4 users are reporting when holding the device in their left hands, with their palms bridging the small gap between the upper and lower steel plates. According to Engadget, Apple said, “Gripping any mobile phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases.” Notably, a large portion of Apple’s promotional material for the phone up to this point has featured people holding the phone in the exact same manner, and while the service changes do not appear to be as severe as the loss in service “bar” indicators suggests, the issue is gaining media attention and could become a larger problem should it become more widespread.
The Icon Factory has released a major update to its popular Twitter client. Twitterrific 3.0 merges the previous separate iPhone and iPad versions into a single universal app for both platforms and adds support for iOS 4 fast app switching and interface optimizations for the iPhone 4 Retina display. Other new features and improvements include VoiceOver accessibility for the visually impaired, a light appearance theme, OAuth authentication and tweet integration for media upload services, new “Relationship” information on the user profile screen and a simplified and friendlier user interface for iPhone users. The update also fixes problems with shortening very long URLs and preserving draft tweets when network problems occur. Twitterrific 3.0 is available from the App Store as a free ad-supported version—a Premium upgrade is available within the app for $5 to remove the advertising and add support for multiple Twitter accounts. Twitterrific 3.0 Premium is a free upgrade for Premium users of the iPad version; users of Twitterrific 2.0 for the iPhone will need to purchase the Premium upgrade separately or use the free, ad-supported version with single account support.
De Voorkant has released an iOS 4 universal update to its archive file management application, iUnarchive. Originally released as an iPad application, iUnarchive 1.2.1 is now a universal app that can take advantage of the file management features of iOS 4. iUnarchive allows users to open and display the content of compressed files from other apps such as Mail or Safari using the built-in “Open In” option found in iOS 4. Users can then open individual files in other supported applications or open any additional nested archives contained within the original file. iUnarchive can open ZIP, RAR, 7-ZIP, TAR, GZIP, bz2, LhA and StuffIt archives, including password-protected files and can preview contained JPG, PNG, GIF, XLS, DOC, PPT, PDF, RTF and iWork documents as well as text files and syntax-highlighted programming language source files. iUnarchive requires iOS 3.2 or later on the iPad or iOS 4 on the iPhone and iPod touch. It is currently available from the App Store for $1 for a limited time and is a free update for users of the iPad version.
Return7 has released an update to its photo geotagging application PlaceTagger adding iOS 4 background location support. PlaceTagger allows users to track their location while taking photos using a standalone digital camera and then later use that location information to automatically add geotags to photos during import into iPhoto or Aperture or export geotag information via a GPX file for other applications. The addition of iOS 4 background location support to the latest version will allow PlaceTagger users to more effectively track their location without having to worry about leaving the PlaceTagger application constantly running. Although PlaceTagger provides options to balance location accuracy and battery usage, the release notes indicate that “PlaceTagger will consume more battery in the background than it will in the foreground” suggesting that background location tracking inherently consumes more power or simply may have fewer configuration options available for power-saving. PlaceTagger is available from the App Store for $10 and is a free update for current users.