Apple Inc. said Friday its formula to calculate signal strength is “totally wrong,” and that it will start using a new formula by AT&T to calculate how many bars to display to represent signal strength.
The announcement comes as customers continue to complain of a
significant loss in signal when holding the iPhone G4 in a certain way that seems to interfere with the phone’s antenna.
Apple initially thought the poor reception was caused by the hardware design. The iPhone 4's antenna is part of the steel frame that wraps around the phone itself.
As complaints poured in, Apple suggested holding the iPhone differently. Apple also said phones usually drop reception by one or more bars when held in a certain way and suggested users buy a case and avoid gripping the phone in the lower left corner “in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band.”
"Avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases," Apple said in a statement.
The unofficial Apple tech blog, The iPhone Guru, advised iPhone 4 users on how to modify a $1 Livestrong bracelet as a cheaper fix instead of buying the official $29 rubber case Apple sells.
Customers who experienced signal drops when gripping the phone were probably in a place with poor reception, Apple said, even though the phone displayed a strong signal. “Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place,” the company said in a statement.
Apple maintains the latest phone has the best wireless performance “we have ever shipped.” However, due to the number of complaints, the company said it tested the phone and found that its formula to read signal strength often displayed four bars in places where the strength was equivalent to just two bars. In general, the phone displayed two more bars than “it should for a given signal strength.”
On Thursday, a California law office sued Apple, citing the antenna
problems. The law firm claimed to be speaking on behalf of “hundreds of thousands” of iPhone G4 owners. The suit asks for monetary damages related to the alleged “diminished value of the phone” and for Apple to hand out free phone cases.
Apple said it will release a free software update “within a few
weeks” with AT&T’s formula. It will also make the first three bars a
bit taller, so that they are easier to see. The update will be
available for the iPhone 3G, 3GS and 4G.