Apple: iPhone 4 Reception Problem Due To Incorrect Display Of Signal Strength; iPhone Software Update Coming Soon To Fix It

BY Jason

Published 2 Jul 2010

iPhone 4 reception issue

After hearing from the experts about iPhone 4’s widely publicized reception issues, we had hoped that Apple will be able to magically fix it with a software update.

Apple has just released a public statement to confirm that they’re incorrectly displaying the signal strength, which will be fixed with a software update that will provide users a much better indication of the reception that they are getting in a given area.

Apple has just released the following open letter to iPhone 4 users who are complaining about the reception issues:

Dear iPhone 4 Users,

The iPhone 4 has been the most successful product launch in Apple’s history. It has been judged by reviewers around the world to be the best smartphone ever, and users have told us that they love it. So we were surprised when we read reports of reception problems, and we immediately began investigating them. Here is what we have learned.

To start with, gripping almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by 1 or more bars. This is true of iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, as well as many Droid, Nokia and RIM phones. But 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. This is a far bigger drop than normal, and as a result some have accused the iPhone 4 of having a faulty antenna design.

At the same time, we continue to read articles and receive hundreds of emails from users saying that iPhone 4 reception is better than the iPhone 3GS. They are delighted. This matches our own experience and testing. What can explain all of this?

We have discovered the cause of this dramatic drop in bars, and it is both simple and surprising.

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.

To fix this, we are adopting AT&T’s recently recommended formula for calculating how many bars to display for a given signal strength. The real signal strength remains the same, but the iPhone’s bars will report it far more accurately, providing users a much better indication of the reception they will get in a given area. We are also making bars 1, 2 and 3 a bit taller so they will be easier to see.

We will issue a free software update within a few weeks that incorporates the corrected formula. Since this mistake has been present since the original iPhone, this software update will also be available for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G.

We have gone back to our labs and retested everything, and the results are the same— the iPhone 4’s wireless performance is the best we have ever shipped. For the vast majority of users who have not been troubled by this issue, this software update will only make your bars more accurate. For those who have had concerns, we apologize for any anxiety we may have caused.

As a reminder, if you are not fully satisfied, you can return your undamaged iPhone to any Apple Retail Store or the online Apple Store within 30 days of purchase for a full refund.

We hope you love the iPhone 4 as much as we do.

Thank you for your patience and support.


So to summarize Apple's statement on the issue, if you’ve observed the reception issue then it doesn’t mean Apple will fix the reception issues as Apple can’t fix it as it depends on the your carriers network. The iPhone Software update will ensure that the signal is being reported correctly to give a much better indication of the reception that you’re getting (so that you can blame the carrier for the poor reception instead of Apple).

Apple is planning to release the fix in a few weeks so if you’ve jailbroken and unlocked iOS 4 then please remember to avoid upgrading to it as it is possible that Apple will patch the vulnerabilities that allowed the Dev team to hack iOS 4. So it would be prudent to wait for the iPhone Dev team to clarify if it was safe to upgrade to the new version of iOS 4 (most probably iOS 4.0.1).

As always, we’ll let you know as soon as the iPhone software update is available and if it is safe to upgrade. So stay tuned here at iPhone Hacks or follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our RSS feed.

We would also love to hear your thoughts on Apple’s open letter on the iPhone 4 reception problem.

[via Apple]