iPad Wi-Fi problems: Anatomy of a released defect

iPad Wi-Fi problems: Anatomy of a released defect

Summary: Some iPad 3 owners are having problems with the unit's Wi-Fi, while most are working OK. Having a small percentage of failures is just a fact of life in the electronics manufacturing game.


Some owners of new iPads are having an assortment of problems with Wi-Fi connections, and many are sounding off in online users' forums about them. Nothing is more annoying than having a new gadget that doesn't work correctly, so who can blame them?

Newly released gadgets with problems are nothing new, and while they get a lot of attention online if you analyze the situation you find such problems are just a numbers game.

The knee-jerk reaction to a new product with a problem like the Wi-Fi iPad is "how did Apple let this get out?" That's a natural stance for an expensive new device. If all new iPads had the Wi-Fi issue then the question would be legitimate, but most owners I spoke with are not having any problems (nor am I).

Sophisticated gadgets are the result of complex manufacturing processes, and the reality is a small percentage of any new product produced will have problems. It is impossible to build a lot of complicated products without some getting through that fail to meet specs.

Apple has probably sold at least five million iPads since the launch, so if only a tenth of one percent of those had problems that's still a healthy number of defective units. Odds are a few owners of those thousands of defective new iPads would take to the online forums to complain and see if others were experiencing the same problem. Even with some chiming in that their iPads are OK, the hundreds of owners discussing their problematic iPads would be enough to get everyone's attention.

Hopefully Apple will step up and take care of those with defective iPads. According to reports that is already happening, so in the end everyone should end up happy. This type of problem is in the end a numbers game, and unavoidable.

This is not unique to the iPad, every single gadget in production has a failure rate. Some we hear about, others we don't. The higher the sales of a new device, the more failures hit the airwaves.


Topics: iPad, Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

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  • You are...

    You are Wi-Fi'ng it wrong.
  • Apple is doing something right

    JK - as you noted, reports are that Apple is already taking care of those units that are defective. This is, I think, one of the things that has helped the Apple brand - since the opening of the Apple stores, the ability of the "Geniuses" to exercise discretion as far as replacing failed devices (in fact it appears they are strongly encouraged to do so) converts many potentially unhappy ex-customers to happy continue-to-be customers. I have had precisely *one* Apple device (an iPod) fail, and upon confirmation that it was still under warranty, I had a new one in my hand within minutes. No arguing, no "we need to give you a refurb unit" - this is an experience unlike what I have come to expect from electronics stores.

    • this is a good change


      I wish more were like Apple in terms of replacements...

      But people told they held it wrong will take longer to please...
      • Yep, it's so much less offensive to just have it written on

        a bright yellow sticker plastered on the phone. Sheesh. Let it go, already.
    • What Apple is bringing to tech ...

      I think that one of the best things about Apple's resurgence is that it has underlined the important of high quality products backed with great customer service. Even in a down economy, we're seeing more and more people turning to Apple products. I would venture to guess that a big part of the reason that people are willing to spend more is, in addition to the software, people know that Apple makes great products and then backs them up with support. I'm glad to see it become a mainstream thing, and not just a niche thing.

      Most tech companies and OEMs could learn a lot from this. The only other company I can think of with the same formula (high quality hardware plus great service) is Lenovo. But when it comes to most other white-box OEMs, not to mention nearly every mobile vendor/manufacturer/carrier, the service absolutely sucks.

      So, three cheers for Apple's influence in improving industry standards of service!
    • But Apple is not officially admitting a problem with wifi

      5 million sold? One tenth of one percent? Where are you getting your numbers from? Kendrick is just pulling numbers out of his behind. If you're going to throw around numbers, base them on facts not conjecture. Journalism 101.
      • Journalism 101 = Don't let facts get in the way of a good story

        Technical fact purveyers are known as technical writers, not journalists.

        Journalists are employed to write things that sell (mainly advertising space). Technical writers are employed to explain technology in understandable terms.

        ZDNet does not seem to employ technical writers!
      • re: Journalism 101....

        @Patanjali: You got that right [lack of technical writers]. Seems they are more interested in rehashing news than releasing breaking news. I know a few who write for ZDnet are like that. Others like to sensationlize obvious stories.
      • Did make any claims

        He didn't make any claim that Apple did in fact sell 5 million. If you had actually read what he said, he speculated that they had probably sold that many by now and it seems like a very valid speculation. He also said that if one tenth of one percent had the issue it would be a healthy number but never stated that the percentage was the actual affected number. Of course all you could see was a large number for sales of an Apple product with a very small percentage used for defective units so you have to call it out. Not that any of it was invalid or wrong, you just couldn't stand the numbers because they are good for Apple.
    • Read it differently

      Apple is worried they may have an issue and as a result they are "collecting" any device that apparently exhibits the issue.
      That is not admitting anything, just collecting samples for investigation.

      The outcome of this "collecting" will determine if there is an issue; if they publish the findings.
      • It is admitting

        It's not admitting there is an issue that affects a vast number of units but for every unit that they replace they are admitting that particular unit failed for whatever reason. By "collecting" failed units it allows them to run an analysis on the failure which in turn could lead them to a particular batch or lot of a particular component that is bad which in turn allows them to determine exactly how many and exactly which units will have the issue. This is a very common practice even if you want to make it into something it isn't.
    • Hmmmm

      If Apple doesn't give [so they SAY] a refurb unit, what happens to all those defective units? Recycling? Landfill?
      I've had some friends complain that they didn't get the same service that you got at an Apple store. More like a hastle.
      Having just a single device isn't much of a "survey" on how Apple does.
      • Plenty of surveys

        Have show that his experience is the more likely scenario than what you claim your friends have experienced. Doesn't matter who the company is, customer experience is going to vary but Apple stays on top of the surveys for a reason.
    • Never sure it is "new" - but does it matter?

      Actually, you can never be sure that the replacement unit you get at an Apple store is "brand new", but it will be "as new" and will carry the exact same warranties as a new one.
      Wife had to replace her iPhone 4S after about a week, and she was told Apple will never disclose if the unit is new or a refurb.
    • fix iPad poor wifi range

      I remember having this issue; it was really annoying being forced to use the new iPad, only in the same room as my wifi router because of the poor range. I spent quite a bit of time researching, for a solution, with no luck. All of the methods I found didn't work for me. Right when I lost all hope, I came across WIRED magazine and found a review of Pong Research cases, After seeing the great feedback on their products, I bought one and it finally solve the <a href="http://www.pongresearch.com/new-ipad.html">new iPad 3 wifi issues</a> . The back cover has a built-in antenna in between its layers, which redirects and boosts the signals and range, allowing me to getting connected from much further away.
  • Apple Wi-Fi antennae

    Personally my admittedly anecdotal experience is that Apple does have an issue with Wi-Fi antennae generally. The WiFi antenna in my 2010 Macbook Pro can't pick up even half the available wi-fi networks that are detected by my wife's 4 year old Toshiba Satellite. On a recent trip to Florida her 4S didn't detect as many wi-fi networks as my 2 year old Motorola Quench, and strangely enough her 1st gen iPad detected more wi-fi networks than my iPad 2. It wasn't a problem because they all detected the network we needed to use, but it was disappointing to see that the wi-fi antennae in the Apple products were generally less sensitive than those on other products, and I was surprised by the lack of sensitivity in the iPad 2 compared to the 1st gen iPad.
    • Okay, so

      because you want to see a wifi network that is likely out of usable range, you are complaining? Seriously? As long as wifi works as it is supposed to with in the reasonable usable range then there is no problem. If a device is picking up a faint signal it just means that the other device is probably running their wifi a little hotter, which means it is consuming more battery.
      • Apple Wi-Fi antennae

        I think you missed the point of my comment.

        It has nothing to do with seeing a wi-fi network out of useable range. I'm talking about networks in useable range that do not appear on Apple products. In one case last Christmas the only useable wi-fi network was visible to the Toshiba, but as far as the Macbook Pro was concerned it didn't exist as it couldn't see it. On several different Apple products in my family the Wi-Fi antennae are not as sensitive as those in other competing products. And in the case of the iPads in our house the first gen antenna seems to be more sensitive than that in the iPad2. I was just making an observation, not a criticism.
      • Imagine that...

        You really DO sound just like Cartman.
      • In my experience...

        iPad 2's wifi is the flakiest of any device I've ever used. It shows that you are connected to 1 network, but is actually connected to another. Sitting on my desk, it will jump between 3 different networks that are currently in range even though I specifically selected 1 network. Frequently need to switch the wifi on and off in order to get back on my desired network.

        All the problems listed above were exhibited on 12 iPad 2's I had to configure for some executives at my office. To hear that a new iPad also has wifi issues is hardly earth shattering.