Apple posts open letter regarding iPhone 4 antenna reception issues

Apple open letter on antenna reception issues

Apple has posted an open letter addressing the widely reported issues surrounding iPhone 4 antenna reception -- how it drops or loses signal when held in such a way that the lower left side is covered.

Short version is, Apple's claiming they are, and historically have been, miscalculating how they display signal strength as bars on iPhone. They repeat that all phones will drop some signal when held in certain place, Nokia, Android, BlackBerry, and iPhone alike, but because of the way Apple was displaying signal strength, the drop appeared far more dramatic on iPhone 4.

For example, if the signal drops two bars when you hold it, and you only really have two bars, you'd see no signal and understand the drop. If you have two bars but Apple is showing you 5 bars, and weighting the calculation far too heavily towards high bars, you could drop 2 bars and really have 0, but iPhone is still showing you 3, 4, or even 5 bars. There in lies epic frustrati

A software update, to be issues within a few weeks, will change the calculation to AT&T's recommended method, and Apple will make the lower signal bars easier to see at the same time. So, in other words, your signal will still drop but it won't look to be as good before it does so.

Apple also reiterates that both they and their customers continue to report that iPhone 4 has better than any previous model, and remind everyone that anyone unsatisfied can return an undamaged iPhone 4 for a refund within 30 days.

While this does seem to address the miss-reporting of signal strength Anandtech found in their tests, and acknowledging that iPhone 4 does get better reception and does drop fewer calls -- when it works -- it doesn't seem to address the higher levels of attenuation seen in raw signals, or some reports that the baseband software wasn't properly adjusting when that attenuation occurred.

A few weeks seems like a long time to push out an iOS 4.0.1 update just to fix signal bar strength reporting, so either Apple is just waiting until their usual late July window for their first update or are working on other bug fixes -- related to the antenna or other issues like the proximity sensor -- we'll have to wait and see.

Full letter after the break.

Dear iPhone 4 Users,

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.

To start with, gripping almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by 1 or more bars. This is true of iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, as well as many Droid, Nokia and RIM phones. But some users have reported that iPhone 4 can drop 4 or 5 bars when tightly held in a way which covers the black strip in the lower left corner of the metal band. This is a far bigger drop than normal, and as a result some have accused the iPhone 4 of having a faulty antenna design.

At the same time, we continue to read articles and receive hundreds of emails from users saying that iPhone 4 reception is better than the iPhone 3GS. They are delighted. This matches our own experience and testing. What can explain all of this?

We have discovered the cause of this dramatic drop in bars, and it is both simple and surprising.

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.

We will issue a free software update within a few weeks that incorporates the corrected formula. Since this mistake has been present since the original iPhone, this software update will also be available for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G.

We have gone back to our labs and retested everything, and the results are the same— the iPhone 4’s wireless performance is the best we have ever shipped. For the vast majority of users who have not been troubled by this issue, this software update will only make your bars more accurate. For those who have had concerns, we apologize for any anxiety we may have caused.

As a reminder, if you are not fully satisfied, you can return your undamaged iPhone to any Apple Retail Store or the online Apple Store within 30 days of purchase for a full refund.

We hope you love the iPhone 4 as much as we do.

Thank you for your patience and support.

Apple

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 128 comments. Add yours.

chippy19977 says:

Step in the right direction.

Ashere says:

This doesn't explain the slowing of data speed and the dropped calls!

ghostface147 says:

Garbage. Absolute garbage from Apple. They are basically saying they were lying the entire time. Oops, when you had 5 bars, we meant to show that you have 2. Pay no mind to the dropped signals, slow data speeds or whatnot. It's all about the bars.

DT says:

How is this a step in the right direction? All this update will do is make your phone show LESS bars on average (awesome) and doesn't address how holding the phone naturally in your hand will severely hsmper reception... in some cases to the point of dropping a call. Apple needs to do the right thing and issue free bumpers.

Exechobo says:

Surprising the software was overly optimistic in showing bars? Suspicious. But on balance, my experience reinforces Apple findings completely- cant get a strong signal where my old BB didn't, and when the signal is weak, cupping the BB in my hand lost the same signal. iPhone reception compared to BB? Less effective, but acceptable.

Jobs says:

You're holding it wrong. And we were showing you too many bars in the first place. Not a big deal.
-Steve
Sent from my iPhone

I'm Da Man says:

SOMETHING SEEMS VERY FISHY APPLE ?

Nicholas Dillon says:

What will this fix? So now I will really know that AT&T coverage is garabage. Doesn't do anything for the fact that I completely lose my connection and go into NO SERVICE mode when holding this damn thing.

Tino72 says:

Complete crap. I have 1 to zero bars where my wifes 3 g is getting good signal. So I actually have worse service than my phones displaying since you say the bars are wrong ? Explain my slow data and 3 drop calls yesterday while sitting here. Apple your update comes conveniently after my 30 day return.

Nigel Manson says:

This is Pretty lame. That's the problem "we
Have gone back to the lab to check the signal and everything is good as ever" go out the bloody lab and compare the old iPhone and the new iPhone out of this bloody lab, and then they'd bloody see how bad it is- I wish they'd just own up and go- we f'ed up the new antenna design doesn't work- instead of blaming it on blinking software that's not the problem it's frickin

Mark says:

Sounds fishy to me too. How about the option to show dBm as well?

ghostface147 says:

@Tino72. So what's stopping you from returning it now?

UntidyGuy says:

The dropped calls are explained by the fact that you were in an area with poor reception but instead of seeing three bars you saw five. Then when the antenna gets covered up you get zero. I don't believe, however, that the bars got set that way for no reason. They wanted to give five bars so that people thought they were getting good reception.

TumnusMr says:

What is it going to take to convince them there is a problem (or at least publicly admit it)???
Certainly there have been a lot of hysterical posts where people do nothing but watch the signal meter and complain just because the signal meter went lower even when data and voice works just fine.
BUT it is easily demonstrated that just touching the bottom left seam (you don't have to tightly grip it) will cause the data connection and voice calls to drop after around 30-60 seconds. It doesn't happen immediately, but it does happen.

(Copy of) Dev says:

I am not sure whether to be amused or insulted here. "Our bars are misleading, so we'll change how we show them?". Thousands of people (myself included) can reproduce dropped signals and/or dramatically slower data speeds depending on how we hold the phone. Showing us an extra bar is not going to help - at best it will quiet those people who cannot be bothered to look into the reasons behind poor performance. This reminds me of the old joke saying:
"If at first you don't succeed, lower your standards."
Truly, I expected better from Apple.

sfditty says:

This is 100% bull. Try using the speedtest app, alternating between holding it the correct way and the natural way. The difference is dramatic- I get 2-3.5 Mbps holding it the "correct" way, and .03 to .6 mbps (when it does actually finish) holding it the way I would if I wasn't thinking about how I'm holding it. They are either lying or they are incompetent.

cardfan says:

@MrC
The only remedy for that is to get a case or bumper. No software fix in the world is going to change that your signal drops as that seam on the lower left is covered.
Apple excuses this by saying "others" do it too. Maybe so, but i've never noticed it much before if so.

jstrickland says:

At first read, the letter does seem somewhat of a cop-out. However, I must admit that my own experience does match what Apple is saying. I have seen my bars drop down to almost nothing, but have yet to experience that resulting in a dropped call or data connection.
I think more people would have been receptive to this letter though, if Apple had not been so dismissive of the problem when it was first being reported.

AdamAnt says:

Being im from NY im not buying that lame answer !!

justin says:

can some people try this and let me know what results they get...apply the death grip and see the reception bars drop. then turn off 3g and let the reception come back to full and reapply the death grip. for me when the 3g is off the death grip has no affect...don't know if this means the phone is over sensitive on 3g or what but i agree the statement from apple today is kida like BS

Dig digity says:

AT&T = overloaded and patchy coverage.
Don't like your iPhone 4, return it and get your money back. It's just a phone, not a pacemaker or life support machine, you can live without it.
Someone else will like getting their hands on yours as a refurb anyways.

itsyours2 says:

I live in a smaller town where quantity of cell tower locations are rather are low. And I've been very pleased with the signal strength! In comparison to my previous 3GS, it's better in my opinion. Now I will say I've had the INCIPIO SILICRYLIC case on it since I bought it, so my hands don't phisically touch any part of the phone during a call...

Hassan says:

Let's just lower the bar until we can walk right over it.....

Tom Chartrand says:

What a bunch of whiners.....Go find a better smartphone and turn your 4 in for a rebate if it's such a fail.

Steve says:

What happens on Apple??
The iphone 4 is born with a big error on design and architecturing but Apple will never say this to their fans... they'll correct the display of the signal but the antenna reception problem is hardware and it will remain forever. Maybe they think that we're all idiots?

shollomon says:

The lag time until the fix is released is about jailbreaking. Why you ask? They want the JB guys to release a JB so they can see the crack they use, then Apple can make sure this fix breaks the JB.
The rest is corporate PR BS. There is likely a problem with the antenna, but they aren't going to fix it.
I have not been able to replicate the problem myself.

LXXIX says:

I can get the signal to drop with a bumper if I hold the phone in my left hand. I'm standing in the same place where my 3GS gets excellent reception and fast data transfer. How is this a signal display issue again? I seriously hope that they're just going to slide in a power boost when the phone detects an attenuated signal underneath the "updated signal display" BS. I'd gladly sacrifice the extra battery life if I know that my phone won't drop calls all the time.

whsingleton says:

I'm not as troubled with this as I am with another common problem people (including myself) are having... specifically, in certain areas my 3G data speeds become erratic and/or nonexistent. I need to take this phone back if they don't patch that in time.

Abe Froman says:

Of course, by the time they get this update out and people are able to test it, their 30 day return window will have passed.

cardfan says:

Betcha the iphone 5 doesn't have an external antenna. Keep in mind how Steve got up there and bragged about brilliant engineering. Not so brilliant now..
Issue out free Bumpers, and learn from it Apple. Less than a year to the next iphone.

Doug says:

I have never had one problem with signal attenuation with my iPhone 4 from holding it. Of course the people who have problems are going to gripe on these sites, but I think you are in the minority. My guess is, as apple stated, you are probably in an area with bad signal strength to begin with. Having said that, I still prefer verizon over At&T because I do get occasional dropped calls that I never got on Verizon. BUT, IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT THEN RETURN/SELL YOUR IPHONE!!! No one is forcing you to choose iPhone or AT&T. Besides, maybe if enough of you whining babies leave, the server will improve. I guarantee if verizon had exclusive rights to the iPhone they would be having similar issues. iPhone is a data hog. Once iPhone goes to verizon (hopefully the early 2011 rumors are true) ten it should share the load and improve everyones experience. Until then, DEAL WITH IT OR LEAVE! No one will miss you.

Danredwing says:

Absolutely no problems with my iPhone 4 in Portland OR. No case, so dropped calls, no slowing of data. All 3 previous iPhones were great too.

whsingleton says:

Ok, I take that back. LXXIX posted comments that remind me about a lot of people's symptoms. This is BS. iPhone has jumped the shark, I'm afraid.

carlos says:

"As a reminder, if you are not fully satisfied, you can return your undamaged iPhone to any Apple Retail Store or the online Apple Store within 30 days of purchase for a full refund."
they want you to return it before you talk trash about iPhone 4. i played with all of the iphones from the local apple store and NOT ONE had the signal issue....fair oaks apple store...and the store is bellow ground also......

Robert says:

Hey dang you apple! It is the display of the bars on my iphone that is making me drop calls, its your dang Antenna and how I hold it like I do all my other older iphones! Fix this and give a free bumper. I'm not going to get a case to fix your flaw. If you don't do something at the end of the 30 days, you can guarantee I'm giving this back!

HungWell says:

I smell a class action lawsuit. It's not just the bars, it's the quality of the signal decreasing SEVERELY when I grip across the antennas.

BSmith4832 says:

I've continued to drop calls everywhere I go around my general area. It's been about a dozen calls in the last week or so. I can 100% honestly say - I MIGHT have dropped 2 calls for the entire year I had my 3GS for. I'm just so tired of this, it's ridiculous.
I'm not going to beat the horse to death like everyone else here... but this might be the turning point to me going to another phone... I just wish there was a phone as nice as the 4 on the market.

firesign3000 says:

I'm in Cincinnati and AT&T has (imho) great service around here. In places, mostly in some buildings at work, where my 3G got no service, my 4 gets two bars or better and I am able to successfully make and receive calls. I can hold it in the "death grip" and it still doesn't drop the calls. In fact, I've never dropped a call on either iPhone yet, or any other phone I've had on AT&T going back to Cingular days. Now, I'm not saying that people aren't having problems. I have no doubt that they are. But if you live in an area where AT&T coverage sucks, why would you buy an AT&T phone? Much as I love the iPhone, I sure wouldn't. If you are so unhappy with the iPhone 4, why keep it?

Thomasj106 says:

Apple says “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.”
Tom says “Upon investigation, I was stunned to find that the formula Apple uses to calculate how many idiots they think are out here is totally wrong.”
Fixing the display so that bars indicate a false signal strength does not fix the dropped calls nor the poor call quality. Software cannot fix or compensate for a bad hardware design. You can tell me that AT&T is providing me poor signal quality (which is true fact) but the real fact is if I make a call while showing 4-5 bars and not holding the phone, I can talk uninterrupted & with complete clarity for an entire 20 minute conversation. Without moving from my location, but by holding the phone, the display shows a flatlined signal. I cannot connect many calls, I drop connected calls, and/or the entire conversation is broken up. Changing the display WILL NOT fix that problem. Listen to a portable radio with an external antenna and grab the antenna. The signal is interrupted by grounding the metal antenna and the radio produces poor sound or just static. The problem exists. Period.
While in my office or house (which, btw, has ALWAYS showed 4 bars on my 3GS in both locations and made calls with clarity and never dropped them in either location) the iPhone 4 shows 4 bars as well. The calls are successful AS LONG AS I AM NOT HOLDING THE PHONE.
Apple seems to think that they again are going to pull the wool over our eyes. Steve Jobs needs to man-up, take responsibility for this mistake, step up to the plate and FIX THE PROBLEM. This got past Quality Control. I am not happy about it but it happens. What I am pissed off about is that they are denying it and are looking to make it a casual issue by appeasing the masses with yet another mistake, hoping that the people will be gullible enough to accept it. C’mon Apple, I have become a loyal fan in the past year, switching from a PC to a Mac and from a Palm Treo to an iPhone. Don’t treat me like I’m an idiot. That I won’t tolerate.
I am mad at myself for two things. 1) I know that holding an antenna without insulating myself from grounding it will produce poor signal. I grew up in a time when cars had aerials and we all had transistor radios with retractable antennas that you didn’t touch when you were listening to them. Why that didn’t cross my mind, I’ll never know. 2) Selling my 3GS prematurely. I would gladly take my new iPhone 4 back to AT&T, cancel the new two year contract, and reactivate my (virtually flawless) 3GS. I would have to eat the $$ I spent on protection gear for my iPhone 4 but it would worth it. It would it also serve to re-teach me a lesson that I already knew…NEVER buy a new product the moment it hits the market.

Rob Terry says:

This statement by Apple is not true. I just tested this again while sitting here at my desk at work. If I hold the phone in my right hand or not touch the lower left corner while in my left hand and call my office number, my phone rings. If I hold the iPhone 4 in my left hand, no pressure, just hold it normally and call my office,call doesn't go through (due to signal). This is the only phone that does this. I don't see how adjusting my display of "bars" is going to be helpful to me with this issue.
So, as an AT&T customer, what phone should I return this one for and get instead?

Al Diggidi says:

What BS!!!!! It really is the phone so sad to say!!! My wifes Razr2 is has rock solid signal(no dropped calls and fast web speeds) while my new iphone 4 lies to me!!!!

Rags says:

It's great they found the issue. No one is perfect. It's even better that they invite you to return the device if you are unsatisfied. Crying about it on the Internet like most of you are doing will not get your money back or fix the problem. Give the phone back to Apple, get your money and move on. It's that simple. Let's just wait to see if this software fix will dry up your tears. Until then, shut up and wait; or get a different phone. Problem solved.

Sausage Party says:

While not the 100% fix some fanatics seem to want, it acutally explains a lot of what I see. In the 3G and 3GS days I would sit in my corporate lunch area and have maybe one bar 25% of the time (e.g. no signal) With the 4 I get 4, sometimes 5 bars. Is the phone that much better? Or is it reporting wrong? If I hold it "wrong" it goes back down to one bar but is actually holding a signal 80% of the time. Overall BETTER than before, although the feeling of bars dropping seems dramatic.
I'd challenge people not to put your phone under such a microscope because all this fanatical talk has heightened your senses to the problem. Ground yourself in reality and remember what it was like before. If it is indeed worse and you lose signal where you didn't before (like at home which is bad) then wait out this update and see if it fixes the problem. If it doesn't then buy a bumper (don't tell me you're not buying a case anyway - most do) or sell your phone on eBay for a profit and move along.
I'm going to wait it out and not panic. Not everything is a fanboy issue, but honestly the product is still way better than anything out there. Next year there will be an improved model and I'll get that one at full price and still sell the 4 on eBay for a profit just like I have all my past phones.
I know the feeling of disappointment that this wasn't a home run right out of the gate but show some patience. I know you still love the phone otherwise you wouldn't be biT#)$ing like this.

Andres says:

no sorry not taking it ... i have tried to hold the 3gs every way possible and no loss of bars. iPhone4, 1 finger and starts dropping bars. this is a design flaw and im not saying that to get it replaced cause i would have already taken it back .. love the phone but Apple needs to admit they F up. and cell calculation BS! if thats the case then y the F does the 3GS (right next to my i4) not drop or show different bar? Come on Apple. this is your "field test" you giving "Apple testers" cant compare to the consumer test! try again.
PS. i have dropped more calls on i4 then on my (2) 3GS phones. but to me the phone i awesome.

BSmith4832 says:

@Thomasj106 Very well said. I feel exactly the same as you - same issues and situation as you. I'm out of ideas, utterly disgusted, and thoroughly let down.

Sausage Party says:

.. and yes, Apple needs to just fess up. People will still keep their phones and love them but will be farm more likely to get another Apple product if the company admits they aren't perfect. Its not always that easy though - again lets give them some more time. This is an awesome phone isn't it?

Jhunt4231 says:

Back when the 3G came out there were widespread complaints that it was only getting 2-3 bars of 3G coverage just about everywhere. Apple came up with a software update to "fix" the issue. Afetr the update I got 5 bars everywhere. I knew that all the did was change the "formula" to give you more bars that you were actually able to pick up. I do the same thing to my thermostat at the house so my wife dosent complain about the air conditioner running so far.
I'm calling BS that it was a surprise that their formula was off. Their past "fix" just came back to bite them in the butt.

NickD says:

F this everyday i come closer and closer in returning my phone. Reason why because now I cant trust apple with signal and as bad as signal is already with Att it just makes me even more worried that Im going to be trick in the performance of the network with this phone. This mean Apple could get away with poor signal if they fix the bars and not correct the problem. I smell shenanigans coming. I smell blackberry Storm.

SJob. says:

I simply don't feel like replacing all 1.7 + million iPhones. Imagine how many more suicide attemps this will bring to foxxconn while we try to get phones out ASAP. Nonononono people, deal with it. It's not as bad as you think.

JD says:

The real story is this:

  1. The hardware is better than previous models. Faster, better overall reception.
  2. Apple programmed the dang thing to make it look like it was way better than it is.
  3. They realized doing #2 was bad and are fixing it.
  4. People will get normal coverage after the update but the bars won't drop like a rock.
  5. There will still be whiners.
  6. People will keep their phones because there are no good alternatives.
Jimbo says:

@HungWell
Multiple such suits have already been filed - at this point it is a matter of picking which one going forward will be the representative class.

anto says:

the key point is, if u live in a place with low signal, dont use this phone, lol...

J1CA says:

Bull.
I'm Da Man
SOMETHING SEEMS VERY FISHY APPLE ?
2 me 2???
 your Full of it. Lies

Dorito says:

I hope Steve will find a fix soon for my iPhone4, I just read this on MSNBC it is titled "Apple ‘stunned’ to find flaw in iPhone 4"
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38055126/ns/technologyandscience-wireless/

Hyper0id says:

I bet all of this people comenting bad stuffs of the iPhone 4 are anti-Apple competitors or jealeous people, everyone knows Apple have been a huge success with the iPhone, and they barely have iPhone issues (unless if you jailbreak it, maybe you'll have issues) the iPhone is the best smartphone in the planet. Is only a matter of time; Everyone knows that when one of there products have an issue they always fix it and the right way.

CPFB says:

I read this to say that iPhone 2G won't get an update to fix this "issue." Is that right?
Also, for those of us still clutching to our iPhone 2G's while we clinch our penny's for shiny iPhone 4's, does this also mean that iOS 3 will not be getting any more updates?

senort01 says:

Hurray for an update that will tell me more definitely how bad AT&T's network is!

skew says:

Ok Apple. Explain how placing 1 finger on the side and it goes to no service and when you call it goes straight to voicemail. Simple remove said finger and the phone goes to 3 bars and when you call my phone it magically rings?? My 3gs or any other phone I have owned in 20 years did this. Yes other phones the signal will drop, I have never personally seen more than 1 bar when you palm it. But going to no service is a problem.

ermax says:

So they had a buggy placebo in the new firmware. Now they are just going to remove the placebo altogether. I couldn't reproduce the sig drop for several days. I did just finally notice the bars drop at my house and then come back when I let go. I also noticed when using Speedtest that the download speed wasn't effected much by holding the phone but the upload speed dropped significantly when holding it. I have had my phone for 4 days yet and haven't had a single dropped call which is a massive improvement over my 3G.

excaliburca says:

Frankly, I'll believe it when I see it (or, as I'm in Canada, when everyone else reports seeing it :) ).

andre says:

Here is the real press release:
Dear iPhone 4 Customer,
We at Apple would like you to believe that we don't know how to read some basic numbers like signal strength, and turn that into a display of between 0 and 5 bars.
We would like to offer up that this requires a complex formula that we were not clever enough to have thought out before getting into the mobile phone business.
We sincerely hope that you will accept this new explanation, and hope you can really believe a company like Apple could have been displaying signal strength incorrectly for so many years now without anyone noticing.
We would also like to suggest that it takes a new iPhone model, with much better reception, to show up this miscalculation. Yes, please believe that a very slight degradation of your signal (with such a strong signal now) can jump way way down on the graph, using our flawed formula. It's all in the math as you'll see below:
No signal = 0 bars
1/5 of full signal = 1 bar
2/5 of full signal = 2 bars
3/5 of full signal = 3 bars
4/5 of full signal = 4 bars
Full signal = 5 bars
You see how complex that is? You must understand how we got that wrong, and how such an error could have escaped notice over the years and the many millions of iPhones out there.
You see, what we've discovered here is that when your hand touches our metal strip on the outside of the phone, this suddenly causes our formula to be accurate where it wasn't before. Without your hands touching the metal strip, the formula isn't accurate. We were stunned how our mathematical formula transforms itself when the user touches the metal strip. Yes, our flawed formula is actually rewriting itself upon user contact, and it temporarily calculates the signal correctly. When you let go, the formula rewrites itself, and suddenly becomes flawed again, displaying an inaccurate number of bars.
We can take readings from accelerometers, gyroscopes, compasses, gpses and calculate if your wallet is in your right or your left pocket, and how much money you have, but we have not yet mastered the complex formula required to show how strong a radio signal is.
We have discovered that if we alter the formula from the above, and implement something called "AT&T math" into our world-wide base of telephones, this will solve all of our hardware issues with the new phone.
We have also discovered that we have been displaying bars one and two incorrectly. When you have a weak signal, we had previously shown smaller bars to represent what we believed was a weak signal. We were stunned to realize that these weak signals were actually "weak but tall", and we have been misrepresenting them as "weak and short". As a result, we will be making bars one and two taller to more accurately represent these "weak and tall" radio signals.
We have decided that this new software should be made available free of charge to our users. Despite the new features like the new "Taller One & Two", and the fact that we are now licensing this new formula from AT&T, we will not be passing along any additional costs to you.
Coincidentally, you will be seeing AT&T's new advertising campaign called "Bigger Bars in Lesser Areas".
We have gone back to our labs and retested everything, and the results are the same— the iPhone 4’s wireless performance is the best we have ever shipped. We think. You see we've been using this formula to measure the signal strength…
We hope you love the iPhone 4 as much as Steve says you will.
Thank you for your patience and your money.
Apple

DeathGrip says:

How the **** does this explain dropped calls and data service slowing to a crawl when you bridge the antenna gap at the lower left edge of the phone?

Harry Seaward says:

So if it's showing two bars too high, then wouldn't that apply at the lower end too? For instance if my phone shows one bar, it's actually getting no signal? That's not correct, because I can talk for hours on one bar. Or is the "calculation error" more accurate when the signal is weaker? BS. This is all spin. Of course it's a design flaw if putting a case on it fixes the problem.

sting7k says:

This has been an issue with every iPhone? My reception is fine, it's the 3G data that doesn't work.

Michael says:

Alright, I can dig that, however if I hold my hand over that spot I can drop my signal to the point that I lose service and it goes into "Searching..." mode... There IS no service at that point and it's not just how the bars are being displayed. The attenuation is so bad that the signal goes away.
That's the issue I need fixed. I don't give a damn if any bars show at all, just fix that...

TechnoGuru says:

I don't believe it is a software issue. We have three ip4's in our office, and one of them does have the "death grip" issue, however the other two do not. The user with the issue also drops calls, and the other two, in the exact same area do not drop calls.
He is exchanging the phone for a new one that hopefully does not have the problem.

cardfan says:

@Michael
They can't fix that. That's hardware. You've got three choices.

  1. Don't hold your hand over that spot.
  2. Put a case/bumper on it
  3. Or return phone and get something else.

It's really that simple.

a skeptic a day says:

They seem to be putting a lot of stock into the articles and hundreds of emails they're getting saying that reception is better than ever, when every one of those reports is based on incorrectly overstated signal strength as displayed on the phone. I'm not saying that the iPhone 4 doesn't really have better reception, but when reports came out the same day the phone was released saying things like "and I've noticed so many fewer dropped calls" when you've only had the phone for 2 hours is probably a more a function of the placebo effect induced by overstated bars than an indication that actual signal strength is better (unless of course those reports came exclusively from people who use their iPhone 4 in the middle of Montana, in an area where there is little-to no service, and every call is always dropped).
Lets see how consumers report the level of improvement in their signal strength after Apple stops inflating the bars to make their phone look good. oh, and I can't wait to pick up my preorderd iPhone 4 in 6ish days. no signal issues where i'm at.

Glenn#IM says:

"Will change the calculation to AT&T's recommended method". So there is really nothing wrong with the iPhone 4. AT&T is saying they have the best coverage, as long as you program your phone according to our calculation. I now wish the phone was on different carriers without the update to see what is really going on.

JG says:

If your this angry over this antenna problem, return the iPhone !!!!!

Doug says:

Hey whiners -
Do us all a favor and return your iPhone and leave AT&T.
Thanks.

HACK-MY-I says:

@anto
I have the iPhone 4 and my bro has a BB, we live in a very very strong signal area, he always has all his bars and never drops calls while i have 3-4 bars and drop about 11 calls per day -no lie- Its the stupid phone!
Also, so SJ says we can return it within 30 days, what about the restocking fee?? will that be waived??

csimpkins says:

Sorry, I didn't realize expecting my phone not to drop every third or fourth call was considered 'whining'.

Doug says:

@chris - who is forcing you to keep your phone? You are still within the 30 day return window. If the AT&T coverage around you is not up to par then why subscribe? If it's for a phone, then a) you are an idiot and b) you should stop whining.

thekevinmonster says:

I think we're gonna have to see what happens with this, just like with the iBook logic board issue (where Apple got sued and then created a special warranty program for it.)
Has anyone said anything about whether holding the phone affects wifi or GPS? aren't the two other external antennae for the wifi/bluetooth and GPS radios? You have to hold both of those in order to operate the phone unless you have a case.

thekevinmonster says:

Also, on the subject of all the 'antenna is at the bottom so it doesn't give you brain cancer or so says the FCC' stuff, you hold the phone in your hand. Why don't we worry about getting hand cancer? I guess this is off topic, but everyone's frothing at the mouth and playing armchair lawyer over all this reception stuff anyway, I might as well ask a reasonable question :)

DeathGrip says:

@Doug - what do you care anyway, fanboy? Stop whining about the whiners.

Danielle s says:

I really find this all funny...
It seems every iPhone launch there is immediate talk about the flaws of each phone, which is plausible because this is what people do. When you buy a smart phone in the first few weeks there are going to be glitches, followed by an update. I don't buy an apple product just because I think the product is wonderful, I buy them because I think the Customer Service is great both with Apple and AT&T. Maybe it's luck of the draw, or case by case situation.
My feeling on the antenna issue, maybe because my hands are small, but I don't hold my phone that way...even holding the 3G I didn't. Not every person holds it that way either. That being said if your going to look for something wrong in a product you will find it.
In the future; Don't buy an iPhone if your going to complain about it...go buy something else if your so unhappy....you have 30 days to return it!!!

ThisBrian says:

Look if your one of the ones that have a iPhone that goes to searching and loses all connection take it in for a trade, there is no way they can deny that you don't have a problem. But if your just dropping a couple of bars and it doesn't disconnect, you are worrying about nothing and just letting bar drops bother you.
Obviously others are having good experiences, like myself. There will always be manufacturing errors in mass production of electronics. So show that your phone loses complete connection to the Genius at the Apple Store. If they say bars will drop, say yes I know bars will drop but my phone loses complete connection and this is not standard.

Jack Kwack says:

Where is iPhoneMilk claiming that his iPhone doesn't suffer this issue?

Dan says:

hey my i4 works great and makes calls no problem
carry on

Doug says:

@DeathGrip - I think you're missing my point. See Comments from myself (earlier) and from Danielle S.
Wake up call - There is no perfect phone or perfect service. But thats all i have to say. You can go back to your utopian daydream with the avatars now.

DaJe' says:

I have always had 5 bars on my 3Gs so does this mean I will always have 2 bars now.. Im confused.

Thomasj106 says:

Second comment:
So basically what Apple is saying to us is that once we've past our 30 day window of opportunity to return the phone and cancel our AT&T contracts, they will issue a software repair that will in essence, not solve the problem, but trick our eyes into thinking that the problem is solved...not matter how long it takes to download a page in Safari or how many times we have to call back the person we were trying to have a conversation with.
Apple has a more serious problem here. You've simply lost our trust in the company and Steve Jobs. We do not appreciate being taken for fools. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me" The outlook for my future purchases of Apple products seems unlikely unless Apple does REALLY admit that there is a real problem here and will do whatever it takes to correct it without dancing around the facts. When I make a mistake, I fess-up, man-up, and fix it. Contrition goes a long way.

Scy says:

I could be described as an Apple fanboy, but that letter is a load of crap. This in no way explains why reception would decline when holding the phone. Now Apple hands us smoke a mirrors to negatively exaggerate single strength in the hopes that will placate the dumb masses.

Dimwit says:

I can replicate this issue holding my iPhone in my RIGHT hand (my pinkie finger naturally rests on the insulator bar), while holding my iPhone in a light but solid grip, while standing less that 900 feet from the AT&T tower on stone quarry rd in Belvidere IL.
@ Justin, for me at least, it does NOT appear to be 3G specific. It happens on edge, 3G, and 802.11g. I haven't upgraded my router to N yet.

DeathGrip says:

Awww, are people complaining about the precious Apple? Welcome to the bigs, Apple. Part of your marketing for years has been holding yourself to a higher standard (higher quality, etc.). Now you put out a product that might not conform to those high standards and people should just accept it? You created this monster yourself, Apple.

Macboy74 says:

I knew it had nothing to do with the hardware off the bat. And a software update will fix whatever the problem is for the people having this problem. I am one of the one's who do not have these reception problems. As far as covering the antenna with your hand and the signal drops this must happen with alot of phones I did the hold with my gf's brand new bb bold on verizon and it does the same signal drop from 4 to 1 bars duh your covering the antenna. As for the iphone 4 it has been great for me except the dev's need to get hot on the updates for it. For the people that say att is the problem. Not this time and they problaby never were. I have always had the best with at&t where I live better then I have had with yerizon and sprint. If you are one of these people who have bad coverage and a bad iphone4 simply return it there lots and lots of choices out there. Keep in mind alot of phones have problems when they come out. The sprint evo had issues horrible battery, screen peeling off, bugs etc. Funny how all this didn't get the same attention and press as the iphone4.
@jack kwack Not everyone is having this problem he is one of them. What's the problem.

Drew says:

I personally don't experience a terrible change in signal or data speeds but it's Apple still F'd up. They might as well just give out the bumpers. They probably cost 2 bucks to make and Apple is charging 29 dollars for them. They will come out looking golden is they give away the bumpers to "protect" you antenna. I will admit when I do have full bars the speeds are faster than my 3GS but it's more susceptible to being affected because of the placement. I like the phone, but I'm going back to my 3GS for now.
Right now, I just can't extend my contract for 2 years with AT&T and a new hefty 325 ETF fee for this phone. Now if it is fixed in a couple weeks or so, I'll get it again. If not, I would have been glad I returned it. The iPhone is the only reason I'm on AT&T and if this issue isn't fixed and they redesign it next year or come out with a VZW one or something, I'll be in the clear to get that one. Front facing camera, more RAM and better display does just doesn't justify me extending 2 more years with AT&T when the phone isn't going to act right. 3GS here I come.

(Copy of) Dev says:

@Macboy15
Read anandtech's article, or really any of the numerous ones on the topic. Yes, covering any antenna will reduce its performance. However, on the iPhone 4, touching the antenna degrades the signal up to 24dB -- much, MUCH more than the the 3GS or Nexus One (the other phones they tested). With that much more signal blockage than other phones, the attenuation problem will affect more iPhone4 users than users of other phones.
We all realize you love Apple, and you love your iPhone, AND you love AT&T. I am happy that this problem has not afflicted you. It rarely affects me, either. But it is real, and pretending it is not or just changing the bar display will not fix it.
http://bit.ly/9sDHV4

Dragonsoul says:

I had th reception problem, all I did is restore the phone and set it as new phone on iTunes .... I know is not a pretty fix but i have not got the reception issue at all , of course I have my phone in a silicon case cuz I'm not going to be running around with a 700 dollars phone without any protection from falls and etc ...

Jim F says:

They must be using the same PR firm as Toyota!

CBR900RR says:

This is how I read the letter from APPLE
AT&T knew there coverage are not up to par, they told APPLE to falsify and lie about the display bar, and now APPLE is under the spot light because the new iphone 4 does drop more dBm than other phone when holding in hand, so they passing the ball back to AT&T, the next firmware will show the true signal bar and of course all complaint will be pointing to AT&T.

J. Connor says:

It's weird that I can replicate the death grip problem at home, but when I'm in an area that's about 60 miles out I can't. And not even switching over to the Edge network seems to phase it...

Boots says:

Apple us full of it. They are just manipulating our signal bars to appear higher and read different from what they actually are. Great way to brush issues under the rug.

Ivoryplum says:

The letter says WITHIN a few weeks. This just gives Apple time to test the update, and make sure it's ready to be released.
That means it could be here next week...or in 3 weeks. Just gives them some headroom.

apple2382 says:

@JD Come on man stop with the fanboy crap! To say there are no other phone out there that are up to par with the iPhone is crap! Just bc there are no other phone out that fit your preference doesn't mean there is not for everyone else. We need to get over this iphone being the end all be all bc it's not!

Darkstar says:

Common People,
You think this comes as any surprise that Apple and AT&T has been lying to use for the past two years (at least)???
Rene and the rest of Tipb's staff might need to think back a little bit, but I remember back either during the original iPhone days or maybe it was a little after the 3G came out, people were complaining left and right how crappy the signal was. Apple released a software update, and voila!! I had 5 bars all the time, practically everwhere I went!!! I had 5 bars and would drop calls left and right. I'd be on the phone, then the call would go dead, then I'd look at my bars, and there would always be 5.
I TRULY BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE BEEN LIVING UNDER THE DECEPTION OF APPLE AND AT&T FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS (AT LEAST) AND NOW THE TRUTH IS COMING OUT!

Darkstar says:

OOPS***
I, for one, think that so many people where complaining about signal strength, that Apple just made it "look" like everything was peachy just to keep the masses happy.
I will also have no problem whatsoever signing on to a class-action lawsuit against either AT&T or Apple over this very issue. As much as I love my iPhone and as much as I've generally been pleased with AT&T's service in my area, I can't say that it's been flawless, and this EXACT issue has been burning inside my mind for a long time. I think they need to step up and pay for misleading their honest users. Period.

Andrew Flores says:

Lol. Dang. All I hear is complaining. I can't believe no one has money to buy a case for a $200 phone. Who cares if you start loosing signal and or bars. Apple isn't going to change the design till umm about 2012. So deal with it. Besides apple usually makes it's customers learn to adapt to their products so everyone that is complaining will ultimately change the way they hold the phone and grow use to it. I didn't know it was so hard to change how you hold a phone.

iVenom says:

this is very sad. the people that say its not a real problem or that people should just return their phones or leaved the carrier are lame. that is a horrible way to handle a problem. admit it fix it them move on to inovating, dont sweep it under the "we lied the whole about signal" rug.

Photo Man says:

Anyone with common sense knows what happens when you make contact with external antennas: it degrades the signal. Tell me how a software update is going to fix metal? All this software update is fool the consumer into believing they have a good signal. Way to go to Apple.

zero credibility says:

A serious amount of fanboy idiots on this post. Take your retarded advice somewhere else. Do you honestly think people don't know they can return their iphones ? We are faced with a dilemma, live with a iphone that is a pain in the arse to use , or get another phone that you don't want. That is the problem and that's why people are angry, especially because apple is denying the problem. If you have no issues you can't comment - you have no idea what you are talking about! It's like going upto people with a leg blown off and saying .. "well just get an artificial leg!" .. it's a obvious solution .. but doesn't deal with the dilemma involved.

gunnarliden says:

I will be excited to see this, as I now have a bumper, 5 bars, and still drop 60% of my calls.

Robert says:

Explain this Apple. If I have no bumper and hold the phone the signal drops because you say unblocking the antenae. If I put a bumper on and hold the phone exactly the same I should still see that same drop because I'm still blocking the antenae. Funny how it doesn't work that way. The tangled web we weave. Apple is digging a pretty deep hole.

TK says:

They're just adding fuel to the fire that is the coming lawsuits. They've been saying their phone is great and works perfect when it hardly functions as a phone and they've been lying about it's predecessor's reception as well. Utter fail.

Schrutefarms says:

I was looking forward to owning this phone for a long time. I bought it. Nothing negative at all has happened. No issues when I touch the antenna. No splotches, no proximity sensors issues. I had some battery issues. Took it to the apple store and they were willing to replace it. I restored the phone and everything was great. Not every phone is having issues. If you really want to get the phone swapped out for one that doesn't have any problems. Just say the battery is draining overnight and they will replace it for you.

TK says:

Another thought, the acknowledged a reception issue, then denied it, then acknowledged it again and said there's no issue again now they said that all cellphones have this issue and now are saying it's a software bug in how the bars are displayed.
Apple, make up your mind or just admit that you screwed up and recall the damn thing and fix the issue (which isn't going to happen but should).

Keisuke says:

Awesome explanation to take the heat off Apple and place it firmly on AT&T. Great job passing the buck.
That said, here in Japan there are no signal complaints. I wonder why...

Noodles says:

Some of you don't get it. Apple are simply tweaking the software to make it appear to the user, the iphone has enough bars, good signal strength. It does NOTHING to the radio. This has happened with every iteration of the iphone. Software does not fix hardware.

brian1269 says:

Yeah, Noodle is 100% right. And I think this means Apple has no solution to the real issue. Which means sadly I am going to have to return my iPhone for and go back to the 3G or Android until they can fix it. A real shame. Next time do some damn testing instead of guarding and being so secretive with your phone like it was the Manhattan Project.

Andrew Flores says:

I don't think anyone can solve this issue, except by putting the antenna back into the phone, but even then someone will find away to make it lose bars or reception by placing their hand a certain way. The only reason it's a big deal now is because the antenna is on the outside because Apple thought it would help and actually has unless you give the phone the infamous "death grip".
Click this link:
http://www.pcworld.com/article/200453/antennaexpertappleisrightiphone4signalwoesoverblown.html?tk=hpblg

Yarrah says:

(With anger...) That is so bull. I can't believe my eyes just read that from Apple. It's insulting! I completely lost respect and credibility for this company. Grrrrr! I feel I want to smack all my Apple products in Steve Jobs stupid black turtle neck.
...and Rene, really man, stop the fanaticism.

Yarrah says:

Has anyone noticed this post has 121 COMMENTS and I can only read 21? Are you guys seriously deleting all the rage comments this is getting?

Yarrah says:

My mistake... I am just freaked out by apple's letter.
I have to chill. Later.

Yarrah says:

Lol @andre that was EPIC! I had a great laugh, I will get a good sleep now.
Apple, you can kiss my #$%&
hahahah

Aston says:

Guys, I heard there is a thing called micro sim adapter. These guys sell it here: gomicrosim.com .What do you think, is it worth buying one? They say it allows me to use my micro sim card from Ipad in my old Iphone 3g, thus saving bucks on the data plan.

B1973 says:

I have had these issues since day one and thought there would be a software fix, but to day I have a poor reception in my own house, where I have a 3G Microcell hooked up is ridiculous. My wife's 3GS will show 5 bars and maintain them no matter how she holds her phone. I hold my phone covering the lower left hand corner (over the black line) and the phone will show no signal and no network connection. How does that happen?

mark says:

Why do people keep saying just return it. Its not that simply , I paid the ETF to leave Verizon for the new iphone4 . I am So DISAPPOINTED . What should I do now call to see if they will back back my number and they said no.I should have listened to my friends . marketing hype and reality are two different things.

eric says:

What a bunch of bulls**t!! Just take the phone back and buy an Android phone and that will fix your problem. Way to go Apple!! Your product sucks, just admit to it!!

imop45 says:

So, does that mean when you have ZERO bars, you actually have NEGATIVE TWO (-2) bars?

imop45 says:

So, does that mean when you have ZERO bars, you actually have NEGATIVE TWO (-2) bars?
-Sent from my Palm Pre (showing one bar, but surfing great)

zack says:

This company (Apple) continues to amaze me with their actions and hold over consumers. They build up so much hype into their products without even telling people what they are made of, for instance; What speed is the processor running at? Oh wait they won't tell us. This mentality is what drives me crazy about Apple. They suck people in and put them in some type of trance to buy their overpriced items before even seeing what they look like. This ignorance is why Apple can fool people into believing the problem lie in "the bars" and not their design.

Patrick says:

People are actually defending this flaw? Pathetic.