Apple's embarrassing error
It looks like one of the more embarrassing foul-ups from a major technology company. First, mounting complaints about the signal problems with the iPhone 4 are mostly dismissed by Apple, with Steve Jobs advising "don't hold it that way". Now the firm has sent out a letter saying it's discovered why there's what it describes as a "dramatic drop in bars" when users hold the phone in a certain way.
It turns out that throughout its history, the software used by the iPhone has been exaggerating the strength of the signal. "We were stunned to find the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength has been wrong," says the letter.
It goes on to explain that iPhone 4 users who've seen their signal drop away from five bars to nothing may actually have been in an area where they were lucky to get any signal at all. Now Apple is promising a software update for all users which it says will give them a much more accurate read-out of reception.
Many people who have owned an iPhone from the beginning have had frequent complaints about dropped calls and poor reception. Now they've found out that the phone was exaggerating its capabilities all along. They are entitled to ask why it has taken Apple three years to work this out.
Apple ends its letter with a reminder to any customers who aren't satisfied with the iPhone 4 that they can return it and get a full refund within 30 days of purchase. One of the networks, O2, says it gives customers a 14-day cooling-off period.
So will this episode have a serious effect on sales of Apple's latest gadget? I doubt it. I walked past an O2 store this afternoon and found a long queue snaking its way out of the door and around a corner. I asked a few people whether they had come to return their iPhones, and they looked at me as if I was mad. "We're waiting to buy one," they said. It may have trouble making phone calls, but the iPhone's fans are so bewitched by its other capabilities, they seem prepared to ignore that.