In response to public backlash against the iPhone 4's myriad technical issues, Apple issued an apology addressing widespread complaints of poor reception. The iPhone 4 "has been judged by reviewers around the world to be the best smartphone ever," began Apple, "so we were surprised when we read reports of reception problems, and we immediately began investigating them." After dispelling concerns about the "grip of death" that disrupts the phone's reception, Apple revealed their findings and solution:
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.
Is the problem killing the iPhone 4's reputation really rooted in a programming flaw? Tech writers are not only unconvinced, but also irked by Apple's half-hearted and puzzling response.
- You Aren't Addressing The Real Problem sighs Business Insider's Nick Saint, decrying Apple's "crazy" open letter. "'Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.' Whoever crafted this train wreck of a sentence is probably going to lose his or her job. Leave aside the fact that this isn't English. Granted that signal strength is often being over reported, why does that particular grip cause the reported signal strength to go down?" Despite Apple's opaque apology, Saint is not writing the iPhone off just yet. "We aren't judging before all the facts are in. But Apple isn't helping us out either"
- An Inadequate Response Computer World blogger Mitch Wagner, declaring Apple's response "the kind of non-apology apology that politicians give out when they're caught making outrageously offensive comments about a major ethnic group."
- Not Enough Information Ars Technica's Jacqui Cheng is put off by the lack of information shared with iPhone users. "Apple's statement doesn't address the very real issue of handsets losing up to 24dB of signal strength from simple bridging two of the phone's antennas—which is either a serious hardware flaw or another error in how the phone detunes its antennas." While Apple's letter promises a quick fix, it isn't enough to allay Cheng's concerns. "Apple didn't give enough information to really know what's going on, but we cautiously await this software update that will claim to fix everything."
- I'm Still Confused writes Harry McCracken at Technologizer. "But unless a lot of smart people are suffering from mass hallucination, I don’t see how the software glitch Apple detected (completely) explains what’s going on here. And Apple, being full of smart people itself, understands that. Right?"
- Apple Missed the Mark The Next Web's Jacob Friedman scoffs at Apple's "hard right turn into fantasy land." While the programming problem may be a contributing factor to the iPhone's reception issues, it certainly does not tell the whole story. "The biggest problem with this explanation is that it doesn’t even begin to explain why holding the phone with your left hand causes dropped calls," writes Friedman. "A more accurate reckoning of how many bars you actually have is great (unless you’re AT&T, at which point your customers will realize how bad your network actually is). However, even if callers only actually have three bars when it looks like they have five, this doesn’t explain why those three bars disappear when you touch the phone."
- What They Really Mean Is... John
Gruber provides a blistering "translation" Apple's apology letter at
"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."
We cannot believe we had to write this fucking letter.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.