Apple admits iPhone 4 signal problems are software issue, fix coming

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.

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