BBC BLOGS - dot.Rory
« Previous | Main | Next »

Apple's embarrassing error

Rory Cellan-Jones | 17:14 UK time, Friday, 2 July 2010

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.

Apple iPhone 4It 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.


Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    I am sick to death of about hearing this. Apple are damned if they do, damned if they don't.

    They have found the fault and promised to fix it. What more do you want?

    Honestly, the hype surrounding this is unreal. If only people cared this much about real problems, rather than a simple fault that will be fixed, for free, or if you prefer you can get a full refund on your iPhone 4.

  • Comment number 2.

    Sorry JJ, but Rory appears to have facts on his side. See what AnandTech says about the antenna -

  • Comment number 3.

    JimmyJammy, this is not the fault and it cannot be fixed by a software update. Simple misdirection by apple to move blame away from their poor antenna design which causes users to lose signal when holding it "the wrong way".

    The simple fix would be for apple to give away cases to every user which WOULD fix the issue however I'm sure they'll try their hardest to not have to spend the money required as long as they have people willing to defend them to the death.

  • Comment number 4.

    A fix for the miscalculation of signal? Hmmm... What about a fix for the miscalculation of the sale price...?

  • Comment number 5.

    I'll repeat what I said in my first post:

    Apple are damned if they do, damned if they don't.

    @ SrnasLoveChild,

    "this is not the fault and it cannot be fixed by a software update"

    Really? So you know more about the iPhone than the people that created it? I think you need to call Apple and tell them what they're doing wrong.

  • Comment number 6.

    "The uproar over the new iPhone’s reception problems is much ado about nothing, an antenna expert said today. “We’re making a mountain out of a molehill,” said Spencer Webb, an antenna engineer with 11 patents to his credit, and the president of AntennaSys, a mobile device antenna design and consulting firm."
    Computerword article July 2 2010.

  • Comment number 7.

    Apple says in their "letter" ( "Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place." That doesn't make a lot of sense. If they weren't real in the first place, why do they drop?

  • Comment number 8.

    Presumably that's the reason for the poor battery life too?

    When your i-phone reads two bars its actually at minus three, and has turned itself into a broadcast cell on your providers network...

    When will they discover this miscalculation applies to their silly prices too?

    "when the price tag says 500 quid what it really should say is 150 cos that's all that our junk is really worth"

  • Comment number 9.

    This is ridiculous, I -nor anyone I know- have had any problems with reception on iPhone 4s.

    The only way I can reproduce even a small reduction in signal is by wrapping my hands around the WHOLE of the edge of the phone.

    Talk about making a mountain out-of-a molehill. A couple of duff handsets & it's the worst phone in history- it's a great device & will sell by the bucketload regardless.

  • Comment number 10.

    I really really wanted the new iPhone - I'm far from a natural Apple hater and love love my ipods of varying types but honestly, for me this is absolutely a deal-breaker and until I have more information about the solution it has been the difference between me buying a new phone and postponing and considering alternatives. I'm not claiming to be a great trend-setter but think it might be indicative of a potential problem for Apple after the initial rush of people who will buy any of their products at any cost..

  • Comment number 11.

    When a consumer buys a car, you never hear of him slagging the vehicle off. That's probably because he has done extensive research into the vehicle before buying it. Even if it does cause problems, the owner is unlikely to admit it - unless it is a safety issue.

    Why is it so different with mobile phones? People should do research before buying and NEVER ever buy a Mk 1 of anything.

    IF you bought a product that does not do what you want it too, then you only have yourself to blame. If however, it IS a technical issue with the design and/or a manufacturing problem, then that is different.

    All phones have problems, yet it always seems to be Apple that get it in the neck - for example, how many companies take out litigation against them? A sure sign of jealousy.

  • Comment number 12.

    I love the comment about the hype being unreal! Quite - the hype around this phone is unreal, and it's moderately funny that it this all continues and the queues are still there even though it fails to operate properly it's most basic function.

  • Comment number 13.

    Jimmy, I think you really need to do some research into the problem yourself. The link posted in the 2nd comment should explain it all for you.

  • Comment number 14.

    Rory - your post seems at odds with the main article on this which states:

    However, there have been few - if any - complaints about older iPhones losing signal strength when held in a certain way.

    The writer clearly hasn't been reading my blog about the iPhone 3Gs and poor signal or your comments. Judging by the number of hits it gets for people looking for the phrase "iphone 3g no service" I am far from alone.

    Hopefully they will now fix it although the explanation of the signal being displayed incorrectly is hardly reassuring. Having even less signal on the iPhone 3Gs is not likely to improve matters!!

  • Comment number 15.

    This is a classic story of miss-direction. A problem has been stated and shown/demonstrated, however, apple have explained via an emperor's clothes yarn of software effecting ALL Iphones, so what you thought you had (you didn't) and what you have, isn't what it should be?
    Lets cut to the basics... Users of current Iphone have noticed a massive performance difference depending on the way you hold the phone, which is reality. Re-scaling a signal level aint going to do S**t.
    Stay clear of Apple is my advice! Massive hype, little substance and lot's of control freak managment. Buy HTC phones instead which WAY outperform Apple garbage.
    Apple in my opinion are way overated and underperform, which this tale shows in clear daylight.

  • Comment number 16.

    Surely the problem isn't just that iPhones have been dropping the signal when they were reporting good strength, it's that they've been dropping it under conditions that other handsets don't.

    So it may be that Apple are right that they've been over reporting the signal levels that the iPhone can pick up, but they're still getting worse signal levels than everyone else in the first place.

    In any case, it tells you a lot about Apple's arrogance that their response to problem reports is to deny everything, then blame the customers, then several years later actually check for a bug.

  • Comment number 17.

    Apple. Hahaha. Oh my. Hahahahahahaha. Ha ha hmmm mmmm. Oh, hahahahahahahahaha. The statement by Apple is the funniest thing and the most ludicrous excuse for a faulty design I have ever heard. Hahahahahaha ha ha. Oh dear oh dear. I'm guessing those 3 job adverts for antenna engineers went up to replace the poor guys who are now locked in Apple's dungeons with Iphone 4s having been told to phone for help. Hahahahahahah!

  • Comment number 18.

    You have to admire the man's gaul!

    I think Mr Jobs is going slightly mad. First of all he bans Flash for being a 'closed' system. From the mother of all closed systems this was laughable. Now he is saying that Apple engineers got the formula wrong for calculating signal strength!! So, the phones aren't losing signal, it's just you were getting a rubbish signal to begin with and we were telling you it was great.

    Now, I actually like Apple products, but recently I think poor Steve has been working too hard and is starting to make some crazy decisions!

  • Comment number 19.

    1. At 5:48pm on 02 Jul 2010, JimmyJammy wrote:

    Apple are damned if they do, damned if they don't.

    Basically there's only 3 possibilities:

    1. Apple have been grossly misrepresenting signal strength for years.

    2. Apple have built a fundamentally flawed piece of kit.

    3. Both of the above.

    None of those options are exactly great - you live by the i-sword you die by the i-sword.

  • Comment number 20.

    "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."

    Can you PLEASE stop making factually incorrect statements Rory?

    Have a look here -

    A very detailed independant technical review finds that the iPhone 4 is BETTER at making calls in low signal areas than the previous model - "The difference is that reception is massively better on the iPhone 4 in actual use."

  • Comment number 21.

    Still amazed at how many people who don't own any Apple products feel the need to vent to such bile. It's a company selling a product NO-ONE has to buy.

    Going back to the original story, this seems to be along similar lines as experts in the field have been coming out with since the story broke. iPhone reception has generally been poor since the start in my experience. My Nokia, Blackberry and other phones I have used for work on the same network as my iPhone can get signals where the iPhone can't.

  • Comment number 22.

    It's just bad design at the basic electronics level. Admittedly if they admitted that they would end. They have to save a bit of face in this mess. I will get a refund and will have much less faith in their products in the future.

  • Comment number 23.

    I wonder if many people posting here or indeed Mr Cellan-Jones have actually used an iPhone 4 in the real world?
    Or have they just accepted all the reports of the fault appearing on the internet as fact and the views of the "experts" that Apple's antenna design can't possibly work?
    It is a radical design, it is more susceptible to signal reduction than having the antenna inside the phone. It will lose signal if you deliberately try and block it as people are doing in these so called scientific tests.
    But it also gives vastly superior reception if held in the normal way you would hold a phone.
    There are 1.7m of these things out there and the number being returned is absolutely miniscule.

    Go use it as it is supposed to be used and stop trying to find faults with it!

  • Comment number 24.

    The one thing that I cannot get my head around is how on earth this got through to production. Add to that the actual 'promotion' in the keynote speech of the antenna being the outer case. Other than this i'm happy with my iPhone. Because of this however I am ditching it.

  • Comment number 25.

    Whay are they saying it only affects left-handed users?

    I am right-handed, but always hold phones with my left hand.
    Mainly becuase it leaves my 'main' right hand free to write ect...

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    Do you own one WindsofChange? Do you see the problem?

  • Comment number 28.

    Perhaps Apple have gone about getting an RF (Radio Frequency) wave of sufficient signal strength to and from their new IPhone4 in the wrong way. Instead of relying on a metal band wrapped around the outside of the instrument's case they should have explored the use of fractal antennaes. Dr. Nathan Cohen whilst at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) developed fractal antennaes using the fractal branch of mathematics. Please refer to: for a more detailed tutorial of what these fairly new type of antennae can achieve in providing superior signal to noise ratio for the new Apple IPhone4 than the metal band now in use. With the requirement for strong RF signal strengths on IPhone4 in order to send and receive massive amounts of data packets sufficient for extant and future apps use of fractal antennaes are warranted. If any Apple engineers are interested in addressing their current anomalies please have the software developers fix their signal strength reading from 4 or 5 bars back to 2 or 3 bars, which is the correct reading. Concurrent with this effort their RF engineers should explore the use of fractal antennaes and providing a retro fitting programme to change out the current metal banding for a fractal model of antennae on the IPhone4's already sold. In this way Apple look to provide a more elegant solution for their IPhone4.

  • Comment number 29.

    I own a iPhone 4. I have had no problems with it since i have had it. it is quick. it makes calls and will almost always have 100% signal strength (i travel all around the west midlands and rural places). It is an exceptional phone and will continue to be because of it's integration with all other services.

    So to all others who had decided to bash the iPhone, post up your testimonials here on YOUR iPhone, because i bet that you haven't even had one in your hands for more than a few minutes. If you make a statement, back it up with facts please.

    Apple is an exceptional company. They deliver more than just a product, they give the services all around that product that make it an everyday part of your life.

    Get over your obsession of seeing apple fall.

  • Comment number 30.

    I don't have an iPhone 4 so have no idea whether the signal is better or worse than other iPhones but from what I have seen so far, this looks like Apple have admitted they infringed Nokia's antenna patents and far from this being 'cool engineering' it is actually a desperate return to external antennas. As I remember, external antennas were usually rubber covered. Maybe there is a reason for that. Any antenna experts know?

  • Comment number 31.

    Quote from your article "However, there have been few - if any - complaints about older iPhones losing signal strength when held in a certain way."

    There have been plenty of complaints about the signal on the iphone 3gs especially on Vodafone! Check their forum. Mine is very poor compared to 'normal' phones. It doesn't help that the antenna is across the base of the phone just where you hold it.

  • Comment number 32.

    Yes, I own one.
    No, I don't see "the problem" - I see the symptom if I deliberately set out to block the antenna by cupping my hand around it and squeezing or I hold it with finger and thumb on the join between the two antennas and again squeeze hard.
    I know 11 other people with iPhone 4's and all exhibit the same behaviour but none have any problems with dropped calls or slow connections.
    This issue is a mixture of tech sites trying to make a story out of Apple screwing up and the poor reception that AT&T (the sole US provider) has in many areas of the USA.
    If you wanted to but one but are worried about it, try it and, if you have problems, take it back. Apple have always accepted returns if you are not happy.

    Before you ask, I don't work for Apple and have no association with them apart from being a happy customer.

  • Comment number 33.

    ...So Apple Sell a Phone...

    Depending on who you believe this phone either can't make calls when you hold it "the wrong way" or it can't hold a phone signal as well as they advertised.

    So a phone that doesn't work too well as a phone then.

  • Comment number 34.

    So hmm nice, apple have been grossly misrepresenting signal strength since the iphone was introduced, I (and probably many others!) have spent over £1000 on the 3G in the last 18 months, most of the time it would switch straight to voicemail when someone tried to call, i'd be like, thats odd, it's on and has signal… does this admission of apple's major error and false representation of signal mean that i can get a full £1000 refund for 18 months of iphone 3G which could not receive calls even while showing signal ???

  • Comment number 35.

    Just to be clear, I own a iMac; iPad; iPod I'm a apple fan. However I'm not like few individuals who believes that apple can't do anything wrong.

    Personally, I will never be interested in getting a iPhone because the battery life is laughable! I notice this from few colleagues at work....every morning is the same story....rushing around to borrow people's iPod got really annoyed when some guy actually start charging the borrower a rental fee of £1 per hour!! I just feel what good can a mobile phone do if it doesn't have good enough battery to power it? It's like I buy a Ferrari without a engine.....I.e. Nice to look at but zero functionality!

    Now they come up with this "Cosmetic" upgrade. I wouldn't trust it, as there are people reporting that they lose connection entirely ie no calls can be made nor receiving calls , this mea

  • Comment number 36.

    iPhone launch, maybe the problem was already raising it's ugly head?

    Steve Jobs reaction, blame the audience,

    Enough said!

  • Comment number 37.

    Leave Apple alone!

    Well, yes... when they explain why the phone cuts out when you hold it a certain way. You see, that's got nothing to do with the whole signal bar issue which is merely a diversion.

    And of course people will still buy it. Will as many over the year though?

  • Comment number 38.

    The mistake people are making it to assume that the iphone4 is meant to be held close to the head... it's either to be held in an open hand or waved around in such a way so that everyone can easily see you can afford to spend £600 to £900 on a phone (work out the monthly payments), or be placed on a pedestal and admired and worshipped by Apple fans.

  • Comment number 39.

    @ #34 John:

    You're right - far too many calls come straight through as voicemails. The more you think about it the more cases you remember of people on the other end of the call unable to hear you at all. Such faults would always sit in your mind as the fault of the network, never the fault of the phone.

  • Comment number 40.

    Karl. Yes Apple is an Exceptional company, but possibly not in the way you mean..

    Yes Apple have a whole ecosystem around its products, but unfortunately its inbred with low genetic diversity, its starting to through out bad mutations. The closed ecosystem is fine if you like that sort of thing, but it rarely lasts for ever. It will implode, this is just the early stages, which started with the monstrously misguided iPad. Sure its selling, but that isnt why it will ultimately fail. Developers are already seeing that the Apps store isnt actually making them money (the average gross is $2 a day) and websites are seeing that having to make apps so that iOS devices can work with them is tiresome and unrewarding.

    The backlash has started, and Jobs treating his fans like idiots will soon wear very thin. He is surrounded by 'yes' men and admits he doesnt read reviews that are outside the 'safe' pro-apple zone.

  • Comment number 41.

    "So, the phones aren't losing signal, it's just you were getting a rubbish signal to begin with and we were telling you it was great."

    This sounds exactly like Apple marketing all over, they tell you you're getting something your not...

    On one side I can see how bad a fault this is, if the reports are to be believed, but on the other side I can also see that none of the Apple-ites care because they have their shiny new handset which does everything they want it to.

    Apple have shifted how many millions of these handsets already? Why should Apple even care that their current iteration has a serious fault? It's just something their brainwashers, er I mean marketing people can gloss over for the inevitable iPhone 5, which will be bought by the bucket load as well.

    Lets face it, whilst there are better products on the market, HTC, Palm, BlackBerry even (for business use at least), Apple will still have it's little sheep following it...

  • Comment number 42.

    "29. At 8:36pm on 02 Jul 2010, karl wrote:

    I own a iPhone 4. I have had no problems with it since i have had it. it is quick. it makes calls and will almost always have 100% signal strength (i travel all around the west midlands and rural places). It is an exceptional phone and will continue to be because of it's integration with all other services.

    So to all others who had decided to bash the iPhone, post up your testimonials here on YOUR iPhone, because i bet that you haven't even had one in your hands for more than a few minutes. If you make a statement, back it up with facts please.

    Apple is an exceptional company. They deliver more than just a product, they give the services all around that product that make it an everyday part of your life.

    Get over your obsession of seeing apple fall."


    Care to tell us what security features when compared to, hmm lets say, a BlackBerry on a BES, an iPhone has?

    No wait I'll save you the bother, it has none. Even a personal BlackBerry (on BIS) has more security features than an iPhone.

    I think the people "bashing" Apple know more than you give them credit for Karl. ;)

  • Comment number 43.

    The second post here points to a link - - this is a completely sound and engineering based analysis which explains exactly why the small reduction in signal caused by holding the phone in a certain way will, for some users, result in a very large reduction in the reported signal strength on the display. At the same time, other users with different actual signal strength (but reported as the same) will not see a large drop, although the signal may change by the same amount.

    And before anyone jumps to conclusions, no, I am not an iPhone user, nor an Apple fan-boy. Rather, I am an engineer who understands a bit about antennas, relative signal strengths, their effects in digital communication systems, etc.

    It is clear from the analysis, that there is indeed a problem in the reporting of the signal to the phone display. It is equally clear that there is very little wrong with the phone itself, and that the display reporting issue will be fixable via a software update.

    It is a shame that the faulty reporting happened and was not noticed, but it is not a surprise given the nature of cell phone development and the testing of their software. Kudos to Apple for putting their hand up, and also for developing a very fine product.

  • Comment number 44.

    Of course Karl When Obama became president they tried to make him take the only devices that were CIA approved for security.. Windows mobile devices... They had to specially redesign blackberry software for the purpose because he insisted on keeping it. Apple? Not a chance in hell..

  • Comment number 45.

    I too own an iPhone 4 and have experienced no problems. It is quite simply the best mobile I have ever owned. I wish people would stop jumping on the Apple-haters' bandwagon when the signal-strength issue has been shown to affect only a minority of the 1.5 million-plus units sold so far.

    Apple is deservedly successful: it strives to improve the user experience and puts it at the heart of everything it does. Of course nobody's perfect but Apple actively encourages feedback via its website and works to address any gremlins brought to its attention. This is just a case in point and I can't see why it's generated such a media frenzy. By all means dislike its products if you want, but don't criticise those of us who find them to be streets ahead of anything else out there.

    The company's slogan is "It just works". Apple has done nothing yet to persuade me otherwise and for as long as that holds true, I will continue to enjoy the things it designs and the ease of use that goes with them.

  • Comment number 46.

    So there has been a long-standing, on-going problem with how signal strength has been represented on your iPhone. Of course this was totally accidental…Apple themselves were "stunned" to discover this. I guess stunned in the same way that Google were stunned to find they'd been accidentally collecting information from people's wireless networks in their street cars. "Really? Were we? Well….what do you know, so we were!"

    So panic stations're not losing your signal at all (even though people are reporting loss of function, not just loss of visual bars), it's just that a bizarre mistake in how the phone tells you the signal is. So they'll patch it so that it shows the correct signal and that will fix everything.

    Kinda like how Labour solved unemployment and crime not by reducing it but by altering how it was recorded. I've never heard so much rubbish.

    Let's look at the possible scenarios.

    1) Something as fundamental and basic as signal strength display was chronically flawed and making it display correctly will fix this. The flaw was totally unknown to Apple. (the official story)

    2) Apple have deliberately misrepresented signal strength and knowing it was causing the issue decided it would be better to own up to a minor evil to mask a major evil.

    3) There is nothing wrong with the current signal display and the phone *is* losing signal, but Apple are going to patch the phone to re-scale it, not solving the issue but making the issue appear to have been solved.

    I personally can't think of any other possible scenarios. "1" I simply don't believe and "2" and "3" are as bad as either other. Poor, poor show.

  • Comment number 47.

    boy, it amazes me how people can knee jerk defend apple like a bunch of religious zealots defending their leader.

    I have the iPhone4 and its a very nice phone but I do have the signal issue and I do want to return it.

    Orange UK will not allow me to return it as they say they do not have a return policy. I am busy doing battle with them, but wonder about Apple's kinda admission. It annoys me because it, I believe, stands between me getting a refund or not. If they admitted there was a problem, Orange UK would HAVE to refund me, but now I have to wait to see if this so-called fix will fix anything.

    Really annoying. I would love to get rid of my phone, but cannot at this point. I wish I had bought it online or from o2.

  • Comment number 48.

    I visited the Apple Store in Birmingham two days ago and picked up a working demo phone. Four bars diminished to nil within the minute. I am left-handed, so the bottom left corner of the device nestles naturally within my left thenar eminence; just as described in the press.

    Mr Jobbs, I have been left-handed for forty years and I'm not going to change now. Not even for yer iPhone 4! You've boobed in your design, testing and now response to this problem. Here's hoping you manage to claw-back our confidence with something other than a cosmetic software "cover-up" fix.

  • Comment number 49.

    As today’s news…..Buyers already gonna file a lawsuit against Apple (Class Action) It was what I predicted even before this phone come out to the market…people…be smart rather than Apple I-products fanatics.

  • Comment number 50.

    haha............i'm loving this. so Apple admit to using software which exaggerates signal strength, what else have they 'exaggerated'? Can't believe people fork out such figures for (lets face it - a mediocre) device just cos its got a picture of a chewed piece of fruit on it (?!)

    Relay race, final leg. iPhone 3G desperately tries to hand the baton onto iPhone 4, but drops it (communication issue most likely;) and Android comes thru and storms to victory.

  • Comment number 51.

    Is it just me...? I don't get this left-handed user's stuff. Surely, most left-handed people would hold the phone in their right hand when calling in order to keep their left hand free for tasks requiring greater dexterity than holding a phone. As a right-handed user, I do hold a phone in my left hand so that I can write, type one-handed, use a computer mouse, etc.

  • Comment number 52.


    The law firm in question were actively advertising for complainants to come forward to make this case. They got only two who were willing to put their name on the line.
    If you have read the suit you will see it is the most preposterous piece of nonsense. A minor law company trying to make a name for itself.

  • Comment number 53.

    It is good to see Apple's marketing facade being rightfully exposed to shed light on more quality phones on the market, albeit through the BBC unwavering Iphone-centric reporting.

  • Comment number 54.

    Easy way to test what sounds like a load of......

    Get an iPhone4 and any other phone, on the same provider. Put them side by side and see what their relative strengths say. If they both say the same then the Apple formula is right and they're blowing smoke. If they differ then Apple have dropped a really embarrassing clanger.

  • Comment number 55.

    Why is it so wrong to criticise Apple, but those same people think its fine to criticise other companies. Too many double standards going on.
    People should be allowed to criticise if that is what they think, but should not be berating others for airing their views.
    Honestly, if you like Apple product then just buy them!

  • Comment number 56.

    Apple answers to the Iphone 4 fault...*if your left handed, learn to be right handed, oh and we also have a software update coming out for a hardware problem, oh and also we knew about this before, so buy the £20 rubber band that goes around the Iphone4*

    Makes you wonder how these people have the brains to make the Iphone in the first place, maybe they really have nerds underground that they whip to make it....

  • Comment number 57.

    "We were stunned to find the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength has been wrong"

    Are Apple customers really so generous, gullible, green?

    "We were stunned to find the formula we use to calculate how many hard earned notes we were prepared to pay for this tat has been wrong"

  • Comment number 58.

    If this ISSUE was real, 1.7 Million people who purchased the iPhone 4 in the first 3 days would have returned their handset by now (still within the 30 days allowed, as stated in Apple's open letter). They have not, plus I guarantee that another 1.3 million people (at least) will have purchased an iPhone 4 by 30th June 2010, closing the June financial quarter with 3 million (plus) iPhone 4's in the sweaty hands (left and right) of everyday people of the human race.

    Frankly, by coming clean and admitting a problem, this is probably a first in the mobile handset space. I have not seen many open apologies from Nokia or RIMM or Samsung et al, for the fact that they advertised 'easy to use' handsets over the last 20 years, only for users to find that the only thing they could do with the handset was actually 'make a call', and not, as advertised, download all sorts of add-on's to enhance the device.

    This is a 'storm on the antenna bar' that the naysayers, who are clearly still upset at the ascendency of Apple Inc. in the mobile space (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), will keep harping on about because of the rank jealousy when they see such superb engineering of a handset (yes, clever antenna design, retina display, cameras et al), plus the outstanding capabilities of iOS4 that bind this together to create truly astounding capabilities such as iMovie, Face Time, App management et al ... too many to mention).

    Get a life and get an iPhone 4!!

  • Comment number 59.

    29. At 8:36pm on 02 Jul 2010, karl wrote:

    I own a iPhone 4. it makes calls and will almost always have 100% signal strength (i travel all around the west midlands and rural places).

    If what they say about fudging their signal strength display is true, you could go to Pluto and it would still display 100% signal. :)

  • Comment number 60.

    I purchased an iphone 3gs 2 momths ago. The signal strengh in my house is much worse than it was on my old nokia. I also get a similar problem to the iphone 4, in that when I pick it up the signal often drops out to "no service". A great phone which is badly let down by poor reception.

  • Comment number 61.

    I think it is ridiculous how much people are complaining about this I have got a iphone 4 and used to have the 3GS. Yes I realise there is a slight problem with the signal but only when you hold it like a complete idiot and in a way you would never hold it when you use it properley. I also think that all these websites making a massive deal of the problem are always looking to find little faults in apple products just because thier products are so revolutionary and so much advanced than any other phone on the market.

    People have to realise that the new iphone has so many good features on it and by exaggerating this problem all the time makes the good things get overshadowed by one little fault that can be fixed

    So stop making a mountain out of a molehill and realise that you have spent your money on the best smartphone on the market by abosloutley miles

  • Comment number 62.

    Why not just put the signal level in the display as RSSI in dBm then we'll know whether the antenna is affected by holding it or not.

  • Comment number 63.

    Sick to death of hearing hype about Apple?

    /signed :)

    Anecdotally, I think many mobile phone signal strength reports are "calculated" and misreport. However, this is an embarassing admission for Apple - perhaps a little more reality in reporting would be good for us all (concerning signal strength or other matters!)

  • Comment number 64.

  • Comment number 65.

    The iPhone 4.0 is a great product (mine by the way works fine). It is very unfortunate that a product that was once seen as 'cool' or 'state-of-the-art' is now perceived by many as a failure or worse, a bit of a joke ('Oh, you haven't got one of THOSE have you…?) Unfortunately perception is always greater than awareness, and Apple's arrogance in handling the 'signal/bumper' issue my haunt the iPhone's image for some time and for further iPhone generations to come.

  • Comment number 66.

    The comments on this page are truly unbelievable!

    Any other product from any other company and people would be up in arms.

    What is it about Apple users? You are all mad.

    And what is it about the BBC and other press outlets? Free iPhones is it?

  • Comment number 67.

    An old article published before the phone was even out and wildly inaccurate

    1. Apple makes premium products. People are prepared to pay more for them in the same way people will pay more for an Audi, BMW, Lexus. That s the way they have always been.

    2. Utter nonsense. The iPhone 4 is cutting edge technology in its screen, processor, case, antennas and many other areas. Using the phone as a Wifi hotspot is not something that the majority of users want or need.

    3. Correct - a business decision taken to maximise battery life and performance and push web designers way from outdated closed software. Flash support in Android is still not out in the wild so nobody has seen the affect it has on performance.

    4, Not correct - iPhone 4 has multitasking implemented in a manner than does not adversely affect battery life and performance unlike Android, Windows mobile, etc. This was known when this article was written

    5. Incorrect - IPhone 4 battery life is vastly better than any Andriod phone. In particular it is better than the HTC Desire and Incredible

    6. Incorrect. The only cost is paying Apple for the approval cost to ensure the app meets standards and does not contain malware. This is a tiny cost compared with the potential earnings and benefit of being on an Apple approved selling point.

    7. I have to agree with this to a certain extent but no better or worse than any other phone supplier.

    8. Nonsense. People buy Apple because of the design architecture

    9. Apple doesn't charge for Satnav, App providers do. Google provides free satnav through its map system which is primarily an advertising tool. The paid apps for iPhone (for example TomTom) are vastly superior to Google.

    10. This is an astonishingly stupid statement. I really cannot understand what he is on about.

  • Comment number 68.

    @46 - You are spot on mate. Whatever the real reason it MUST be bad for them to 'own up' to the lesser evil. Apple almost never own up to bugs (they just quietly patch away) so for them to do so now must be hiding something serious.

    As I stated before I am not an Apple hater, I own many of their products. However I am starting to see cracks in their facade. I personally think that Steve Jobs is losing the plot - he should step down before it is too late (then we can get flash on the iPhone and iPad!).

    This admission is really interesting in that it has been made at all.

  • Comment number 69.

    It would be nice if some of our license fee was actually spent on a well rounded tech industry commentary and not just Apple and Google as usual.

    I am forced to pay a license fee and you should be forced to do your job properly.

  • Comment number 70.

    I get better reception on my iPhone 4 than my old iPhone 3G no matter how I hold it and whether or not it's in a case. Not had a single dropped call so far on my new phone while it did occasionally happen on my old 3G. Not quite sure what the fuss is about, nor am I convinced Rory is being completely impartial on this one.

  • Comment number 71.

    I think the big issue that a lot of people have is the iPhone hasn't been a very good smart phone at the end of the day... Only now is it capable of doing a lot of things my old nokias have been capable of for years. I think this is one of the main reasons many people have a beef with the mad rush to get them. Yes this is slightly silly that apple have taken x number of years to realize that they made a mess of their signal strength calculations and why this took em this long is anyones guess...

    And before people say I'm an apple hater I own a Mac book pro, an iPod touch, am ordering a new Mac mini and hpave written this response on my iPad...

    But as for the iPhone it has been something I wouldn't touch with a barge pole, and now knowing the iPhone 4 issues, probably won't touch any time soon

  • Comment number 72.

    So, Apple`s "fix" for the antenna problem on the new iPhone is to alter the way the signal strength is calculated.

    This gives me an idea. I am going to "fix" the fuel gauge on my car, so that it stays closer to "Full", even when the tank is getting empty. An easy way to improve fuel economy.

    Dear Apple, I smell what comes out of a bull`s bottom.

  • Comment number 73.

    This is rubbish. I work for a mobile phone company. I sit about 200metres from a major switch site. If I cover the bars this signal drops to 1 bar. Is apple trying to tell me that my phone loses signal 200 metres from a 75ft tower is because of a software glitch?

    There is also a cell site at the top of my street and the same happens. It doesn't happen with any phone

    The fact is apple knew about this during testing. That's why they release the bumper. You can't tell me this wasn't picked up in development. Apple knew about it but instead of redesigning the phone they conned their loyal customers

  • Comment number 74.

    Perhaps Apple needs a little more diversity in its workforce - first they were oblivious to the fact that ipad sounds like a sanitary aid, now left handed people are holding the phone wrong..?

    The fact that the signal bar was set too high doesn't really explain why the signal also drops. It might explain a recent incident when a colleague was proudly showing off her new iphone then couldn't understand why it failed to ring/switched to voicemail when I texted her my number.

  • Comment number 75.

    Vincent is correct... this effects right handed users. I hold my iPhone in my left hand and operate it with the fingers on my right hand. Lazy cut 'n' paste journalism, not even taking the time to think about what they are repeating.

  • Comment number 76.

    This is stupid. How exactly can a firmware fault cause the issue? If the phone is assuming the signal is better than it is and there is no problem with the antenna, then it will just go on assuming the signal is better than it is no matter where your damned hand is.

    Apple have basically said "there are actually TWO problems with the iPhone 4! ahahahaha!"

    And Apple fans are saying "See, we told you there was nothing wrong!"

    Good grief, they really do have the dumb market cornered, don't they?

  • Comment number 77.

    The Apple statement talks of how they've miscalculated the strength of the AT&T signal. What about iPhones in other countries? Does the way that O2, Vodaphone, Orange, etc.. here in the UK get mis-reported in the same way?

    I've had no issues with my iPhone 3GS, so for them to also claim that this happens with models before the iPhone4 is odd.

    Doesn't cover up for the fact that they're bringing out a software update, for something that is very obviously a hardware problem - for the small number of people that have it.

    Jobs mantra is indeed getting tired and old. Every release of a new product is getting tired and the same now. They need to shake and freshen things up at the top. If at the next release of iGadget, I hear the phrases "It's even thinner..." and "I happen to have one in my pocket right here...", i will scream! Move with the times, and move on, Steve.

  • Comment number 78.

    Incidentally, I have a mirror for sale that makes you more beautiful when you look into it.

    However, it only works in the dark. Any takers?

  • Comment number 79.

    That telegraph article was the worst piece of technology journalism I've ever read. I'm all for debate on these issues. But that article reeks of bias, lack of knowledge and vindictiveness. Absolutely terrible.

    I'd go so far and to call into question the profesional integrity of the author.

    Opinion of the telegraph way down, now.

  • Comment number 80.

    Sounds like you have an iPhone 4.
    If you pick it up as you would pick up any phone, can you make calls and browse the web?
    Ignore what the bars are doing
    Ignore all the waffle about where the antennas are and don't wrap ypur hand around it - you wouldn't do that with an other phone so why do it with this?

    If you can it is working as it should, if you can't, take it back.
    Simple as that.

  • Comment number 81.

    It is an iPhone this explains

  • Comment number 82.

    It really irritates me that Apple are going to "fix" the problem in the new update by making the bars show the correct signal strength...but this doesn't solve the hardware problem. This is very similar to Xbox 360 Red Ring of Death. They said nothing was wrong and 4 years later they have only just admitted it. This problem could dent Apple reputation as the RROD did for Microsoft (people already wandering if the new 360 S will RROD).....Apple just admit the design fault and get it fixed soon. stop putting the blame on someone else (first us about how we hold it and now the mobile companies)

  • Comment number 83.

    I have had the iPhone 4 since launch day, got it at around 10am after the lovely systems in the o2 store broke for a while :-D

    Now, I had the 3G before this, and personally I found that it wasn't up to par with my other mobile phones as far as coverage and calls were concerned. This isn't helped by o2's network, but regardless...

    After getting the iPhone 4, I haven't had any issues "holding" the phone, and infact I've had my phone drop signal only by holding extremely tight and TRYING to reproduce the problem.

    However, my phone randomly pops up "No Sim" or fails to send e-mails on 3G - the phone certainly isn't flawless.

    o2 have pretty much said for me to replace my phone, however there's no stock to do that at the moment. Essentially, the iPhone 4 still has the odd faulty or flawed phone - but in regards to this issue, I think it's all exaggerated...

  • Comment number 84.

    I have an Iphone4. It works. I can make calls on it, receive calls on it, just as you would expect from a device. I am SICK TO THE BACK TEETH of being told by journalists and the public alike (some of whom have no experience of the product in general) that I have made a poor or bad choice simply because it's fashionable to complain or criticise about Apple. I'm intelligent enough to make my own mind, and am quite capable of returning a faulty item if I want to or need to.

    @iamnosuperman - do you even know if there is actually a hardware problem? Are you an engineer? Are you privy to the design documents and drawings for the iPhone4? No, thought not!

    Apple have spotted a flaw, and have corrected it. Why is this so difficult for people to accept?

  • Comment number 85.

    I have an iPhone 3GS and it has a very poor reception (O2). The signal strength usualy quits to 'No Service' when picked up. This is not a new problem on Mark 4 by any means. Apples explanation is preposterous. Other makes of phone display exactly the same number of bars when sitting next to the iPhone. I still love it.

  • Comment number 86.

    Bars schmars. As long as the line quality is good noone cares about how many bars we have. What about dropped calls and line quality? Lets get some feeback on that and compare it to the new OS apple will release. That will help explain all this.

    If it is just the 'formula' issue then, for heavens sake, put it into context with the utter garbage other phones have come up with (dont get me started on the X1 with windows mobile **shudders**).

    Johnathan Ive (aye up the brits) had a quick chat with a chap whilst back in the UK. Intriguingly, when asked about the bar issue, his response was "but no droppped calls, yes?". Maybe he was confirming the theory that it is just a display issue and calls are unaffected?

    Oh, mine works fine by the way (Vodafone).

  • Comment number 87.

    (@)Jamie Stevens
    Apple have even said that the fixes actually fixes the accuracy of the signal strength and didn't make any reference to fixing the signal drop off. This fix means that instead of going from full signal strength to zero it will go from 3 bars to zero. I do hope it is fixed by the software but Apple have proven by there actions that it is hardware not software. First blaming how it is held, then mobile companies, possible firing the signal engineer (job recently available after Iphone 4 problems) and know avoiding the question about will the problem be fixed by saying the signal bars has all ways (in all Iphone models) shown incorrect signal strength

  • Comment number 88.

    How many times...
    There is NO hardware fault or problem for Apple to fix. The drop in signal strength observed by all these sites IS as a result of the antennas being on the outside and being deliberately covered. This does not occur if the phone is held in a natural manner.
    Putting it in case will lessen the effect of hand being near it just as it will on any phone.
    The software error exaggerates the perceived drop in signal but does not change the real signal in any way.
    People who are in a poor reception area may still get poor reception but it will be better than it would be with an iPhone 3.
    This entire issue has been created by tech sites who think they are smarter than Apple.
    If it was real there would be tens of thousands of people returning their phones. There aren't, as it says in the only truthful statement in the report above, people are still queuing to buy them.

  • Comment number 89.

    Fact:The iPhone4 is the most sensitive cell phone on the market; the corollary being that it captures both the strength and the weakness of the signal with full impact on the user experience, as it should actually. The system of measurement, the algorithm , has to adequately reflect that sensitivity, the User to be let in on the process and better roll with the cellular punches.

    The iPhone4 is an extraordinary piece of technology wrapped in the most beautiful and comfortable shell ever designed.
    And now, it needs a an interface to show the limitation of wave propagation technology and the limit it imposes on Apple's genial creativity.

    An algorithm to showCase human nature's craving for cuddling and reassurance. I have to say that it is a big leap for Apple, and hats off if they come through unscathed.

    fact: the iPhone

  • Comment number 90.

    And at last we see some sensible reports appearing on the web:


  • Comment number 91.

    90. At 00:16am on 04 Jul 2010, WindsofChange wrote:
    And at last we see some sensible reports appearing on the web:


    Yes it was good to read such an unbiased report

    You only have to read the 'reporters' CV (below) to see how difficult it would be to think that this this report may be in any way biased

    Jim Dalrymple has followed Apple and the Mac industry for the last 15 years, first as part of MacCentral and then in various positions at Macworld. Jim also writes about the professional audio market, examining the best ways to record music using a Macintosh. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. He currently runs The Loop. You can follow him on Twitter @jdalrymple.

  • Comment number 92.

    so many...

  • Comment number 93.

    Apple's "Jet Set Willy" moment.

  • Comment number 94.

    "It looks like one of the more embarrassing foul-ups from a major technology company."


  • Comment number 95.

    I think Fake Steve says it best. Pathologically insane fanboys will grab this crumb of comfort like the holy grail and defend the object of their adoration to the death and the general public will have a fuzzy idea that 'like, something was wrong but Apple are doing something'.

    Good marketing even if it all boils down to two things:

    1) Apple have been lying about their devices' ability to register signal strength for two years.
    2) There is still a fundamental hardware issue in making the aerial the frame. You can't change the laws of physics, boys and girls.

  • Comment number 96.

    Oh, dear , its the old Apple buyers are mindless sheep argument again?
    The typical Apple buyer is of above average IQ, has above average disposable income and demands high quality products and customer service.
    I assume you do not own an iPhone 4 and are merely joining the discussion because you don't like Apple on principle.

    1. Apple have made an error with their display for years and have admitted that.
    2. There are fundamental difficulties with having an antenna on any device that is handheld. You are right you cannot change the laws of physics but you can compensate for them. The product works.

  • Comment number 97.


    Actually I typed that on my Macbook. That kind of blows your theory, doesn't it?

    On the other hand the average fanboy is blind to objective criticism, lacks basic social skills and rashly jumps to conclusions so I wasn't really expecting anything better from you.

  • Comment number 98.

    As I said, bars shmars. Call connection/quality is the factor.

    In my kitchen the signal is typically awful on my old phone and barely holds a call (darn new houses = faraday cages these days).

    However, in the exact location my iphone4 (same network, vod) holds a call perfectly.

    Same location, finger lightly over the antenna and the call disconnects after about 5secs.

    Conclusion 1: Without touching the antenna the reception is actually remarkably good (I've never had a reception downstairs before).

    Conclusion 2: Lightly touching antenna cuts out call. So antenna problem exists. Nothing to do with bars (It did show 3 bars when I lost the call but I ignore them I'm more worried about whether the call connects or not).

    Conclusion 3: Cannot see how recalculating the bars will fix this. Holding the antenna cuts out call. Whether it shows 3 or zero bars the call still cuts out with holding.

    Recommendation: Move your finger 0.5cm up the side when holding it. Or buy case.

    Problem solved.

    I've off to get on with my life.

  • Comment number 99.

    What is a few signal bars between friends eh? ;)

    A cheaper solution to fix the hardware error would to be to buy a cheap £10 phone and tape it to your IPhone. You can use your phone for all phone calls and still use your IPhone for all non phone related activities...;)

  • Comment number 100.

    Phone, doesn't make calls, nice.

    I'll buy an iPad also, so people can see I'm cool from further away.


Page 1 of 2

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.