Apple: No software fix for iPhone 4 antenna issues

When asked during the iPhone 4 press conference if there would be a software fix for iPhone 4's antenna issues, Steve Jobs and Scott Forestall both said an emphatic (borderline hostile) "no".

While Apple offered apologies, facts and figures, demonstrations of other smartphones having the same issue, and free bumpers and cases to take care of their customers, they said no software fix was forthcoming:

Q (Josh, Engadget): NY Times says this might have a software fix, is this something that can be helped with software? Steve: We just spent the last hour going through how the iPhone 4 drops only 1 more call per hundred than the 3GS. … Go talk to the Times, because you guys talk to yourselves a lot, and they’re just making this stuff up.

Forstall jumped up on stage: “That statement is patently false. Can we continue to tune the way the baseband interacts with the network? Yes, and we do this all the time. But that statement is untrue.” Steve: “One many statements lately that fall into that category.”

So does that mean no software fix, or is this like when they said no iPod with video or no phone?

[GDGT]

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Rene Ritchie

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

More Posts

 

0
loading...
0
loading...
0
loading...
0
loading...

← Previously

White iPhone coming late July, Canada, Australia, 15 other countries coming July 30

Next up →

Apple posts iPhone 4 Antenna Press Conference Video, Antenna Information Page

Reader comments

Apple: No software fix for iPhone 4 antenna issues

48 Comments

No fix. Durr. It's hardware. I'll go with their statistics. They should know more about their hardware than anyone else. I'll also find out when I get my iPhone in the mail soon.

"iPhone 4 drops only 1 more call per hundred than the 3GS"....
Saysaywhat???? Wouldn't that mean iPhone 4 reception is "worse" than 3GS? So how can it be "better" than 3GS?

Only one thing left to do..standing at Genius bar getting my iP4 replaced..according to Stevie J I should have a 99.95% chance that a new one works!

Only the morrons who run and frequent this site would believe that you can fix a hardware problem with a software update.
It's like, if one of your tires keep losing air pressure, do you go have that tire replaced or do you asked the mechanic to update the mother board in you car?
Get a clue people. And no, there won't be any hardware fix after September. That in itself would cost way too much money.

Statistics and Damn Lies:

We just spent the last hour going through how the iPhone 4 drops only 1 more call per hundred than the 3GS.

The comparison was dropped calls TODAY vs dropped calls when the 3GS came out (a year ago).
So Apple is claiming ALL the CREDIT of a full years worth of AT&T improvements to the network (after a year of blaming AT&T for all the dropped calls.).
IP4 TODAY drops one more call per hundred than the 3Gs A YEAR AGO.
In spite of all the fixes to the network. Inspite of the iP4 having better radios.
My guess is that 1 call represents the actual impact of the casual finger placement. 1 in 100 calls are killed by FOD.
FOD: (Contrary to all the "Death Grip" talk, and the facts and figures presented on stage, all it takes is a Finger of Death over the antenna gap as many of the videos show).
But Dropped call per hundred is a statistic they should be ashamed to admit.

Sounds like no fix to me. Apple is stating that it is a typical cell phone issue, except that the iPhone 4 has an obvious spot to demonstrate it. If you are suspicious, I'd wait for the 2011 model iPhone.
So Rene, was this post like a "have you stopped beating your wife?" type of post? The media feedback loop has spiraled so big on this, that we believe that there really is a "problem." It's gotten to the point that people will fixate on the antenna being the issue for when their phone has poor voice/data performance for all sundry conditions. It's a magic meme that can't be conquered, because there will be always users who have some sort of connection issue. This is true for every phone and every network. What if it is like Apple says, cell phones have connection issues, and are not like landlines which always work.
So, it appears that we will only know if it is problem if their AppleCare ticket and dropped call statistics get to significant levels. If we believe those statistics, than AntennaGate is simply an echo chamber media storm over typical problems like shark attacks.
I thought Apple would institute a "fix" to remove the magic spot to get people to stop being fixated on it. It appears I was wrong in my prediction.

"Borderline hostile?" What a couple of douche bags.
I can only imagine what would be happening if this were a Microsoft product. What's a matter Steve - afraid everybody will see that the emperor has no clothes? Nobody at Apple has the balls to tell him how to handle this properly. Nobody. The trouble with hiring nothing but yes men.

And after STATING Yesterday they were NOT told about this problem early, they ADMITTED IT TODAY.
Apple Lies.

Can't they just rewire the bottom left strip to swap functions with the top strip. (who grips that strip?)

I'll be getting my iPhone 4 soon. Like any other product, I'll just use it (or hold it) in whatever way gives me the best results.
The same way I drive from the driver's seat, rather than from the passenger seat. The same way I aim the remote at the TV, rather than at the ceiling. And the same way I play guitar with my fingers, rather than my toes.
Apple screwed up. They admitted it. If it's unacceptable, just return it, or use it in a way that improves performance.
But, for chrissake, grow up! :roll:

@Shrike:

I thought Apple would institute a “fix” to remove the magic spot to get people to stop being fixated on it. It appears I was wrong in my prediction.

You were not wrong, just premature.
Even Apple can not afford to eat 3 million phones. Do the math. A total fix will have to wait for a 2011 re-design.
A mid-cycle stealth fix could be happening now (contributing to the backlog). There are other press stores about a "C" model with an insulated antenna not in electrical contact with the bottom bezel, and or a transparent plastic shield over the bottom bezel (depending on which rumor you believe).
I predict we will see a in-cycle change and those phones will be highly sought after, and the current model will be less so.

@JR:

Can’t they just rewire the bottom left strip to swap functions with the top strip. (who grips that strip?)

No, that would blow their SAR rating to hell, and require FCC recertification, and it would fail to pass.
The 3G antenna is at the bottom. The WiFi Antenna is at the top. But WiFi does not run as much when you are on the phone (its still active some) and its radiation is way less (because its a less powerful radio).

"borderline hostile"
You must have been reading as opposed to listening to Jobs and Forstall. It wasn't borderline hostile, it was hostile and intended that way. They were both responding to a NYT article that had no factual basis and they made that clear. If nothing else was clear, it was crystal clear what a hatchet job the media has done in manufacturing this whole 'crisis'.

They also stated that the number of iPhone 4 customers who have cases is a dramatically lower number than the number of iPhone 3GS customers with cases. It was implied that if iPhone 4 users had same ratio of cases as 3GS users, the iPhone 4 would have much fewer dropped calls than the 3GS, all other things being equal.

Doesn't matter at this point anymore, because nobody is gonna buy the Iphone anymore except for fanboys who will eventually come to the conclusion that Apple doesn't care about the consumer, but of there pockets! I found the best phone out there and it's the Evo 4G! A few more pixels and no customer care isn't gonna hold out much longer!

@Jr " Can’t they just rewire the bottom left strip to swap functions with the top strip. (who grips that strip?)"
No, no, no. The short steel band from the bottom left gap to the top left gap on the left is the WiFi & Bluetooth antenna. The longer steel band from these to gaps on the right is the GSM (EDGE) & UMTS (3G) antenna.
When someone touches the lower left gap and bridges the two antennas, it detunes or attenuates the GSM/UMTS antenna. So, a millimeter or so of skin does not provide enough resistance to prevent it, while it appears several centimeters of skin does, which is what happens when you hold both ends of the phone.
So, there should be another magic spot in the top left by the headphone jack, but apparently no one has tested that.
Either Apple coats the steel with a non-conductive material, uses an internal WiFi/Bluetooth antenna resulting in a non-conductive portion of this outer band, puts a 3 cm or so insulating band by the gaps, or changes the location of the gaps. Changing the location of the gaps is interesting to me. Putting it on bottom by the speaker and by the volume/mute buttons would be interesting.
Or, just ignore it. This is what 98% of the iPhone 4 using population appears to do as it likely doesn't affect them.

@Chris #18
Which is a defacto admission that the phone drops calls without a case.
Stupid of them to announce that. If a case is needed, (and they now admit that it is) it should have come with one.

@icebike
You are missing the larger statistical slight of hand, which disguises the true extent of the antenna problem and is undoubtedly why Steve chose this measure rather than a straightforward percentage or multiplier.
We know the "iPhone4 drops < 1 additional call per 100 than the 3GS." Let's use 1 to make the math easier.
If the 3GS dropped 25 calls out of 100, the iPhone4 drops 26, which means the iPhone4 today drops 1.04 as many calls as the 3GS last year.
My 3G never dropped even close to 25% of calls, so say the 3GS dropped 10 out of 100. The iPhone4 then dropped 11, or 1.1 times as many calls as the 3GS.
if the 3Gs dropped 3 calls out of 100, then the iPhone4 dropped 4, or 1.25 as many calls as the 3GS.
And so on down to 1 call out of 100, which would make the iPhone4 twice as bad as the 3GS.
While, if I had to bet, I would say the last 2 cases are more likely than the first two, statistics without context are meaningless, and there is simply no way to judge performance from the intentionally missing context Jobs provided.

@IceBike
I've tried this so-call finger of death or death grip at the Apple Store, where the iPhone 4 had 3 bars of signal, and I couldn't get the bar to move. I've tried it two different stores and couldn't affect it.
I tried the squeeze on my 2 iPhone 3GS devices at home where my signal is marginal due to radiant barrier on my roof, and it's a bit inconclusive there too. Sometimes can do it, sometimes can't.
Cell performance in poor signal conditions (-100 to -120 dbm) is just plain wacky. A lot of it is how the tower dealing with your phone, how you're holding it, when you hold it, etc. This is a Bermuda Triangle issue where it's impossible to discern a definitive cause, including people with professional equipment.

But the real question is what is going to happen to the people that get an iPhone 4 after September 30th? Will they get a free case too? Or is Apple going to redesign the iPhone 4?

@Shrike
...and yet, in several months of testing, Apple could not reproduce it on their own equipment either in the field or in their 17 expensive test chambers, but, somehow, after the press gets a hold of it, they can reproduce it not only on their phone, but every single one of their competitors? (Without showing methodology or location, of course, and refusing during Q&A to demonstrate on a Bold.)
A Bermuda Triangle only in that it seems fishy...

@(Copy of) Dev
Be it 1 per 100 calls are dropped or 2 per 100 calls are dropped, a difference of 1 call is not human discernible. Even if it was 1000 calls and the iPhone 4 had 20 dropped calls and an iPhone 3GS had 10 dropped calls, that kind of thing isn't human discernible.
More importantly, dropped calls aren't purely symptomatic of poor cell phone performance. There are many factors in dropped calls. Hypothetically, say there are an additional 200,000 new ATT users since iPhone 4 came out. Well, that means ATT's network is loaded more and they'll drop more calls.
It can even be temporally related. A solar radiation peak could be hitting or the Earth's atmosphere could be swelling/changing allowing in more radiation. This results in more dropped calls.
It's complicated.

@Shrike:
One in two calls dropped is certainly humanly discernible.
One in 10 is pretty noticeable.
On in 20, well, might not notice.
The fact that they won't tell you the actual number per hundred is revealing.
And the fact that they are measuring in Dropped calls Per Hundred is an utter embarrassment.

@Shrike:
You really didn't expect it to fail in An Apple store did you? Or at AT&T store? Come on. You know better than that.
They are always in High Signal areas (and probably have a FemtoCell in the ceiling tiles).
This isn't a significant problem in any sold blue area on the ATT coverage map. Its a fringe area problem, and an IN-Building problem.
But Please, Shrike, after Apple has fessed up, don't go on pretending this problem doesn't exist. Christ! Even Steve Jobs disagrees with you about that!

@Shrike
No offense, but most humans can in fact tell the difference between 10 and 20, or between 1 and 2.
No offense, take 2. Numerous people, including now Apple themselves, can reproduce the problem by putting a finger on the antenna. If you have evidence that solar flares occur when fingers get close to stainless steel, great. Otherwise, you run your own experiments to support or refute what came before, not just say "it's complicated" to justify whatever you believed beforehand. More to the point, these are Apple's own numbers. What else would you have us use? Unless you have a microcell inside some an all-radiation-blocking Faraday cage, this is all we have to go by.
Signal attenuation occurs, and now Apple has confirmed some amount of increased call dropping occurs.
You'll have to forgive people being skeptical of Apple's numbers and confirmation when their initial response was denial, their subsequent responses sarcastic if not rude, and their formal response lacking context for any independent observation.

@Icebike "You really didn’t expect it to fail in An Apple store did you? Or at AT&T store? Come on. You know better than that."
So, you're telling me I shouldn't believe my eyes when I see 3 bars of signal on an iPhone 4 in the Apple Store. Thanks.
Also, Apple's argumentum is that this problem is endemic to all cell phones, not that it doesn't exist.
My argumentum is how does one know whether it is the phone or it is the tower, or the conditions or a mashup of all of the above. We all know that cell performance varies from cell phone to cell phone, person to person, location to location, and tower to tower.
My sympathies go out to people who have connection problems in poor signal areas, but not much can be done but wait for the service provider to expand into their area more or to find a different phone that may work better.
I don't have sympathy when they start generalizing. The iPhone 4 performs fine in the grand scheme of things. It works better for some people and worse for others. That seems very normal to me.

@ (Copy Of) Dev "No offense, but most humans can in fact tell the difference between 10 and 20, or between 1 and 2."
When recalling how many times calls were dropped from 1000 calls? If it was only 100 calls, yeah sure people can remember 1 and 2 dropped calls. But that's not a comparative value.
Phone A gets 1 dropped call out of 100. Phone B gets 2 dropped calls out of 100. One really can't say which phone is better at calling. We operate in blockier-grained scales. There are obvious specific scales, but on aggregate, our comparitive abilities are not really that fine tuned.
Your skepticism is warranted. No problem. The only way to meaningfully represent dropped call rates other than percentages though. You can argue that the normalization hides divergent populations like a large segment is having lots of dropped calls, and another large segment is having no dropped calls, but really, using a percentage us fine.

Jobs bottom line is that it's an iPod first smart device second and third a phone. That's basically what it is. That whole hour reminds me of when you were kids and you don't want to admit really your at fault and you bring up somebody else issues. This was real weak.

I have very occasional signal issue but an adjustment of my hand position resolves the issue. No, I'm not sending my iPhone 4 back but I may ask for a refund on my bumper case. I want a case that covers the phone better and they weren't available, when the iP4 came out. It's a heck of a phone. I've suffered through worse issues with my last Palm OS Treo.

@Shrike:
I absolutely agree that the iP4 performs fine in anything but weak signal areas, or when cased, or bumpered.
That's not the issue here at all. We all know its an excellent phone.
The issue is that if you bridge that antenna gap with a finger or a palm the signal drop is sever and immediate.
Now in a 4 bar area you might not notice, but with two or maybe even three bars you can drop the call, and your data rate drops to near zero. Instantaneously.
A simple bumper (or layer of duct tape) fixes this. Apple admits this.
You can Death grip any phone. But you can't short out (bridge) the antennas of other phones because they are internal or a single piece (like 3GS).
Because bridging the gap is WAY WAY worse than a death grip, it drops transmission more, and faster.
Bumper solves that problem.
The fact that you can totally cup a droid or htc and induce a bar drop is not the issue. (Its Apple's deflection).
You don't drop the call, and your data continues to flow (slightly slower).
But NEITHER happens with one finger on any phone but the iP4. I've tried.
So, Please, lets drop this "all phones can be death gripped" stuff and blaming the towers and the solar flares. Lets stick to the Antenna gap, because that is the major problem here.
Bumper largely solved it. Apple stepped up. Nobody expected them to replace 3 million phones. The bumper offer is about the only reasonable thing. They did that. Kudos.
Now if they had just done that without all the other spin and lies we would all be talking about something else.

@icebike "The issue is that if you bridge that antenna gap with a finger or a palm the signal drop is sever and immediate."
Oh, but it's dependent on the conductivity of the skin of the person of involved. For some people's hands, they get the precipitous drop, for some others, nothing. I tried in the Apple Store on an iPhone 4 with 3 signal bars. Couldn't do it. This wasn't cupping the phone. This was bridging the gap with my fingers. Maybe I just don't have very conductive skin.
If you can tell me the population that can do the FOD, and have a control group, and use an Ohm meter for baseline data, I think it would be pretty awesome. Anandtech awesome.

@Shrike:
No question that skin conductivity and moisture varies quite a bit.
I would think in the Frozen North or very dry area you would never notice this problem.
Alabama or Washington DC in summer? Marine environment? Yikes!
Bumper solves it.
But story not going away. The days when Apple gets a free pass from the truth are over.
The tone of the posters on this blog was already souring before this and now, except for a few juvenile die-hards, has almost turned poisonous. I've even noticed a change in Rene. His last gushing post was half hearted, and he appears reluctantly coming to the realization that his 100% Apple worship and trust was betrayed. Every negative article he reluctantly posted and then poo-poo-ed has come true. Every Apple Denial he trumpeted has proved false.
The iPhone 4 is a good phone, with a couple of flaws. Apple is proving to be a bad company with a couple good products.

@icebike "Alabama or Washington DC in summer? Marine environment? Yikes!"
I live in Houston.
"The iPhone 4 is a good phone, with a couple of flaws. Apple is proving to be a bad company with a couple good products."
This is your opinion. However, on aggregate, the iPhone 4 is considered the best phone in the market. And Apple has the second highest market valuation in the USA. That tells you what people with money think.
You can make an argument that they are a bad investment now as they are at the top and there isn't much for growth in the stock left, maybe. You can say you don't like their approach to business (premium products with targeted uses and experiences), but you probably can't just say they are a "bad company".
That's just haterade. Ideological blindness.
They are going to continue to be a good performing company for the foreseeable future. When there is a management change, maybe things will change for the worse, but not today.

I said they were a bad company. Not a bad investment.
Dishonest, lying, defrauding their stock holders, paranoid, use other people's patents without paying, sue everybody in site, claim to be the "best Smartphone" with no proof, ballyhoo every trivial thing as Amazing, arbitrary and capricious iTunes store rules, send swat teams into reporters homes, lie to the press, then prove themselves to be liers the very next day.
These guys are way worse than microsoft ever thought of being.
But they make money, so its ok, right?

Hey that's your opinion and you are free to it. But obviously I don't agree with you, and I think you are misinformed and ideologically blind.
Where do we go from here?

"Be it 1 per 100 calls are dropped or 2 per 100 calls are dropped, a difference of 1 call is not human discernible. Even if it was 1000 calls and the iPhone 4 had 20 dropped calls and an iPhone 3GS had 10 dropped calls, that kind of thing isn’t human discernible."
this assumes that the additional dropped calls are distributed evenly across all iPhone owners.
if the "new" dropped calls are all concentrated in below average signal areas, people in those areas could be getting absolutely clobbered compared to using another phone or 3G/3GS, while other people have better call drop rates, status quo, or very very slight diminishment.

In the greenhouse of Birmingham, AL, I am unable to create the death grip, the FOD, or whatever we're calling it. I will, however, partake in a free bumper as our sweaty mits could stand something that could make the phone a little less slippery.
Off to towel off now... Oh, and ATT's reception wasn't great in the swamp...thanks to the software upgrade we can see it for how it really is.

One more dropped call per 100 does not mean the reception is worse. It means that the phone drops one more call per 100 call attempts.
'reception' is a collection of different statistics, and dropped calls is only one of the numbers that make up that collection. It happens to be the cellular phone version of 'died', i.e 'got better' 'no change' 'got worse' 'died', but that doesn't mean it's the only useful metric.
For example, several people have noticed that while the phone will drop slightly more calls in one particular situation, it otherwise has better overall reception. This isn't simple so a lot of people might get confused.
I work in technical support, and the reality is that if you have 1 million customers and 1% of them have a problem, that's still 10,000 people. 1% isn't a very large percentage, it's just that there are so many people that you're inevitably going to stir something up as those people communicate amongst themselves.

@striatic "this assumes that the additional dropped calls are distributed evenly across all iPhone owners.
if the “new” dropped calls are all concentrated in below average signal areas, people in those areas could be getting absolutely clobbered compared to using another phone or 3G/3GS, while other people have better call drop rates, status quo, or very very slight diminishment."
Yes. Very much agree. I said as much in post 32: "You can argue that the normalization hides divergent populations like a large segment is having lots of dropped calls, and another large segment is having no dropped calls"
If it is, the population of poor performance (people that always drop calls) shrinks further.
You can probably do some first order estimates of how many people. Say, ATT about has 1m iPhone 4 devices in use over the last 3 weeks (700k first week, 1.4m by the 3rd week). Estimate the number of calls people make per month such as 100 (a little more than 3 calls a day) or 25 calls a week. So in the past 3 weeks, there could have been 25m iPhone 4 calls.
If we assume a 3% number, that's a hefty 750,000 dropped calls over the last 3 weeks. Wow, cell phones suck. (I hear 2% to 4% is the typical number, with Verizon/Sprint the best and ATT/T-Mobile the worst). 4% is 1,000,000 dropped calls. For a 20,000 iPhone 4 user population (2% of the 1m) to increase it 3% to 4%, another 250,000 dropped calls, they would have a dropped call rate of (20k * 3 calls/day * 21 days) / 250000 = 5%!
Um, actually I thought it would have been worse. It would be worse as I assumed everyone else had the same dropped call rate. Ignoring the 60k dropped calls within the 3% seems ok. It'll get worse if say 50,000 people had no dropped calls.
In reality, you need to see some fancy population histograms with geographical locations factored in somehow. Reducing things down to 1 statistic on delivers broad trends at best.

I think this issue is just getting blown out of proportion. I dont think it is as bad as some of the reports suggest.

I recently switched from Sprint to At&t just for the iphone4 as my primary reason. I'm supposed to be in a coverage area of great but yet I have some seriously crappy signal from the iphone4. I've had the phone replaced once already and it still has the same issues with not only dropped calls but poor call quailty (the other people hear me crackling or nothing at all). Apple says it drops 1 out of every 100 calls is crap, try about every call is "breaking up" or 2 of 10 calls drop. I love everything else about the iphone except it's phone feature which is ironic because it's called an i-phone! Apple sent me a bumper to fix the antenna issue and guess what....it's made no difference what so ever. Others say hold it differently, and not knowing where exactly the antenna problem is makes it hard. I've tried holding it many ways even with two fingers and still no difference. It's not like adjusting settings to your car...a car still drives the same if you adjust your seat or steering wheel etc... Holding your phone should not be uncomfortable, the phone should work. I started buying apple products since Nov 2009 and have been extremely satisfied with their products and loved how they backed their products up. I've got a 21" mac, 2 itouch's, and and ipad and I'm still happy with those purchases but I can't say the same for the iphone4. I am disappointed with apple to release a product with such a major flaw. Apple should be ashamed of themselves for not making this a priority to fix.