Rather than placing the blame on the fourth-gen iPhone's exterior antenna design, Apple is offering up an unexpected explanation: the signal bars don't accurately reflect signal strength.
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. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.
A software update will be issued "within a few weeks," so for many of you still waiting for your iPhone 4 to arrive (or you're still in line outside your local Apple or AT&T location), this might not even trouble you.
Does this mean that users can go back to holding the iPhone 4 with their left hands? It should, although Apple still asserts that "gripping almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by 1 or more bars." This might be true, but that doesn't excuse the error in the first place.
Related coverage on ZDNet:
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- DIY: Use rubber bracelets as cheap iPhone 4 bumper
- i4: broken glass (update: Apple fixed it)
- No free bumpers for iPhone users?