Apple has owned up to errors in the way signal strength is displayed in the iPhone 4, a flaw that the firm blames for user complaints regarding fall-off in signal reception when using the device. A software fix is to be made available to address the issue within weeks.
In an open letter to iPhone 4 users, Apple claimed that reception on the iPhone 4 has actually been improved against the earlier iPhone 3GS model, so the company was puzzled when reports of reception problems started to surface almost as soon as the new device went on sale.
An investigation has revealed the reason, according to Apple; an incorrect algorithm for calculating how many bars of signal strength to display means that the handset was misleading users into thinking they had a good signal, when this was not necessarily the case.
"Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays two more bars than it should for a given signal strength … 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 four or five bars," the letter explained.
"Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place."
Incredibly, Apple said that the issue goes right back to the original iPhone.
The company has now changed the way it calculates the number of bars to display, and will issue a free software update within a few weeks that will be available for the iPhone 4, and also the iPhone 3G and 3GS.
Earlier, the problems were ascribed to the steel band that encircles the new handset and which doubles as the wireless antenna. Users were said to be smothering the signal when grasping the phone, especially those holding it in their left hand.
Apple said that any users still not fully satisfied can return their iPhone within 30 days of purchase for a full refund, providing it is undamaged.