Is Apple covering up the real problem with its iPhone?

Is Apple covering up the real problem with its iPhone?

Summary: Did Apple know about its signal strength reporting issue all along?

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A couple of days ago Apple sent an open letter to iPhone 4 owners. The letter was in response to earlier reports of iPhone users having reception issues when holding the iPhone 4 the wrong way.

If you're not familiar with the reception issues, Sam Diaz does a great job recapping the whole timeline. The crazy part about the latest round, though, is that instead of Apple admitting to a hardware flaw, the company is now saying that it has been misreporting signal strength since the original iPhone.

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. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars.

So, what does all of this really mean? For starters, I can't help but think that Apple was just caught doing something slimy. I remember when I was using the first generation iPhone and had reception issues in areas where my other phones were working great. At the time, Apple was blaming AT&T but my other AT&T phones were performing perfectly in that same area where I was dropping calls. Then Apple issued an update which fixed the reception issues, or so it claimed. It seemed that I had more bars "in more places", but that I still didn't have the solid coverage I should have been experiencing, given all of the bars I was seeing.

Now we'll see an update to the iPhone (all generations) that will properly report the signal strength. The reason for the misreporting all of these years is apparently a bad formula used to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display. So, one software fix and we'll all see the proper representation of bars. The scary part of all of this, though, is that now instead of people reporting that they saw their bars drop from 5 to 0 when holding their iPhone 4, we'll be hearing how the phone hardly gets any bars at all.

I think the end result will be Apple and AT&T both being at fault. Apple with a design flaw, though they'll never admit it, and AT&T with coverage issues. So, we'll be back to the world blaming AT&T's network, and the focus will move off of Apple once again.

I still can't help but think that Apple pushed out an update long ago, for the original iPhone, that the company knew was misreporting the signal strength. Now that everyone is complaining, they figure they'll adjust it to report the true representation of the signal strength, and then deal with the aftermath.

In the end the iPhone customer loses. The iPhone 4 will have to be held a certain way, and now iPhone users around the world will suddenly see just how poor their cellular signal really is.

Do you think the signal strength was a coverup from the beginning?

Topics: Hardware, Apple, iPhone, Mobility, Smartphones, AT&T

Joel Evans

About Joel Evans

With more than 15 years of mobile, Internet and wireless experience, Joel specializes in taking existing brands and technologies into the mobile and wireless space. Joel is currently the VP of Strategy Integration for Mobiquity, an enterprise-class mobile solutions provider.

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279 comments
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  • RE: Is Apple covering up the real problem with its iPhone?

    Regardless of the issues Apple comes off as aloof and insensitive to its customers. The diehard fans will believe all that Apple says and wont change but for those on the fence it could be the factor that pushes them away.
    I dont feel its a cover up as much as its poor quality assurance. When caught Apple makes excuses and insults the sophistication of its patrons. This occurs in all phones but I feel the location of the antenna exacerbates the issue. My Nexus one does the same thing; annoyingly.
    rmstrong37
    • RE: Is Apple covering up the real problem with its iPhone?

      @rmstrong37
      Agreed. Don't forget about the jailbreak community (a significant?? fraction of the whole) who don't take everything Apple says or does as gospel, and who try to do something about issues with the devices. Apple is worse than "insensitive" to jailbreakers, they want them to cease to exist. They have no business improving the product, only Apple can do that.

      I rarely have issues where I go with my 3G, but since the antenna topic surfaced, I simply changed my bars to a numeric reading.
      Schoolboy Bob
      • RE: Is Apple covering up the real problem with its iPhone?

        @Schoolboy Bob

        " Apple is worse than "insensitive" to jailbreakers, they want them to cease to exist."

        Don't be dumb. If Apple cared about jailbreakers they'd sue them.

        Apple probably grits their teeth at the idea that a jailbroken iPhone could harbor a virus or end up tarnishing their reputation, but they look the other way.

        Microsoft, OTOH, sued a kid in Europe who hacked an XBox to run Linux.
        Jkirk3279
      • RE: Is Apple covering up the real problem with its iPhone?

        Jkirk3279:

        Gritting their teeth? Jailbreakers are no different that Wozniak and Jobs, themselves, with their foray into the blue box and phone phreaking arena.

        "With the ability to blue box, what was once individuals exploring the telephone network started to develop into a whole sub-culture."

        "Some of the more famous pranksters were Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, founders of Apple Computer. On one occasion Wozniak dialed Vatican City and identified himself as Henry Kissinger (imitating Kissinger's German accent) and asked to speak to the Pope (who was sleeping at the time)."
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_box

        I would think that Apple is more likely encouraging and monitoring the forums of the next generation of hackers (iHacking OS X 86ers, jailbreakers, etc.), not gritting their teeth at them (although that's your characterization and it is unfair to attribute it as "actual" way Apple sees them, as we have no evidence as to how Apple sees them). I know I'd be watching for items they develop to make my software and processes better. I am sure Apple is smarter than to step on these unique individuals.
        emcauley
      • RE: Is Apple covering up the real problem with its iPhone?

        @emcauley

        You are talking about the same company that was trying to make jailbreaking an illegal act, made Ellen issue a public apology, and sues everybody that they possibly can. Jobs is very much sue first ask questions later. Yeah, they're just a bunch of cool hipsters that love hackers. Apple is a bunch of suits that put the bottom line first and foremost. Cause everybody is the same person they were 30 years ago. And money never changes anyone.
        StupidTechZealots-23432415690276115908309621553360
      • How naive.

        "Don't be dumb. If Apple cared about jailbreakers they'd sue them."

        For what? They're doing nothing wrong or even illegal. They're installing software on a computer THEY BOUGHT. This is like claiming that Sony can sue you for playing Warner Brothers music on your Sony stereo.
        dgurney
      • RE: Is Apple covering up the real problem with its iPhone?

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    • RE: Is Apple covering up the real problem with its iPhone?

      @rmstrong37
      I agree about the coverup. As Joel says "I remember when I was using the first generation iPhone and had reception issues in areas where my other phones were working great." So other phones are not having all the coverage problems that Apple is having from their first generation!
      wshick
      • RE: Is Apple covering up the real problem with its iPhone?

        @wshick
        Agreed! @Jkirk3279: Why did you bring Microsoft into a thread about an Apple product? And, you started talking about a game machine when everyone was talking about phones. If you are going to dabble in FUD, please stay on topic. Please?
        eargasm
      • RE: Is Apple covering up the real problem with its iPhone?

        @wshick

        I have a spare AT&T SmartPhone (An older Samsung model) which I was forced to use for a couple weeks while my iPhone was having the battery replaced under my extended warranty. That experience proves what I've been saying since I bought the iPhone and got the "signal strength update" weeks later: fixing the meter so it never says less than 3 bars doesn't fix AT&T's lousy coverage; the only difference is that the Samsung (an unlocked phone from another carrier) TOLD THE TRUTH about how p!ss-poor AT&T's coverage is.

        Don't get all feeling sorry for AT&T here; if you look into their user forums, you'll see people have been complaining about this behavior (BS reading from their signal meter) with AT&T phones for a decade; the iPwn is just the highest-profile manifestation of that phenomenon...

        mnem
        AT&T - 3rd World quality service at Defense Contractor prices: What's not to love?
        mnemennth
    • Heil Jobs

      @rmstrong37 That Nazi bastard should be brought up to face an congressional hearing and at least executed.
      I'm already paying too much in taxes not to mention the global warming hoax and the fact that the President isn't even an American citizen.
      yobtaf
      • RE: Is Apple covering up the real problem with its iPhone?

        @robertmro Fool!
        azurehi
      • RE: Is Apple covering up the real problem with its iPhone?

        @robertmro Spot on -- anyone who disrespects your opinion on this matter is a commo . I agree with you 100% azurehi you're the idiot
        jhad77
      • RE: Is Apple covering up the real problem with its iPhone?

        azurehi:

        Now you know what its like to be stuck between a blockhead and a lard brain.

        Two [click], two [cick], two Fascist, nut bars in one.

        Think of it though, you may now show your friends that these ignorant chumps really do exist -at least in the digital world where they can hide behind their keyboards and not get beat up.
        emcauley
    • The true answer to your AT&T problems...

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      Boomslang
    • RE: Is Apple covering up the real problem with its iPhone?

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  • I only know one thing for sure

    I can't trust Apple, Dell, Toyota, BP, the government, etc. etc.

    With all due respect, it is a stupid question.
    Economister
    • RE: Is Apple covering up the real problem with its iPhone?

      @Economister
      Yes.. I 'm sure we can all trust google. Especially since they have access to your whole life.
      rhegde75