Is Apple covering up the real problem with its iPhone?

Did Apple know about its signal strength reporting issue all along?
Written by Joel Evans, Contributor

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?

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