Updated: iPhone 3G Connection Issues: Can Apple Software Fix Infineon Hardware Problem?

Update: Daring Fireball points out that: "The 3G networking glitches may well be real, but it’s worth pointing out that Richard Windsor is the same jackass who issued a report a year ago about the supposedly faulty “film” on the iPhone touchscreen, when in fact there was no such film."

So add that to the "grain of salt" heap...

Yesterday we asked you if you were having any iPhone 3G network connection problems, and while some of you were fine, many of you were suffering. Well, MacRumors has jumped on the story, providing an interesting perspective (via MSNBC -- and yes, the MS stands for Microsoft) on what might be going wrong:

The report said the most likely cause of the 3G problems is defective adjustments between the antenna and an amplifier that captures very weak signals from the antenna.

Hardware would be bad news for Apple and for chipset supplier Infineon whose 3G chipset is now getting a real-world pounding beyond anything they could have given it in the lab. It's also bad news, of course, for users who'll be considerably more inconvenienced even if some type of fix is eventually offered. However, Business Week has others sources sticking with the software angle for now:

Apple programmed the Infineon chip to demand a more powerful 3G signal than the iPhone really requires. So if too many people try to make a call or go on the Internet in a given area, some of the devices will decide there's insufficient power and switch to the slower network.

They go on to say Apple and Infineon are already testing a firmware fix that should be rolled up into a larger update sometime in September (sounds like 2.1 to us). But here's the question, can 2.1 patches fix flaky chipsets? Can good software overcome bad hardware?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter, App.net, Google+.

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There are 12 comments. Add yours.

computerjeff05 says:

Haven't had any 3g issues in Detroit suburbs. But the GPS is a piece of crap. How can they advertise that it has GPS when it's really just an A-GPS? It's not very accurate at all.

Billy says:

To the Dummy Jeff. A-GPS is better than regular GPS. Its faster and more accurate. It uses the Cell tower to get the general location quickly, then uses the GPS to hone in on the postions. A-GPS is considered an upgrade over regular GPS so settle down there buddy.

AnteL0pe says:

To the "new to the scene" Billy. A-GPS is the term being used exactly as you described it with the iPhone, but that isn't what the term A-GPS was always used for. I thik it was Verizon, may have been Sprint, that was using the "old skool" A GPS which was basically tower triangulation. I believe it was originally designed to be used with E911 systems for caller location.

jeff says:

if A-GPS is better why does it show me on the wrong road sometimes? My garmin is much more accurate

firesign3000 says:

i always find it amazing how all the tech blogs will be all over something like this, and then a few days later it's like "oh, well, the guy who broke this on his blog is some idiot who was wrong the first three dozen times". by then, though, the wire services have picked it up and everybody already considers it factual.
@jeff: your garmin is more accurate because it only uses the gps satellites. when it can't see them it tells you there is no service (i have a nuvi 660). when the a-gps in the iphone can't see the satellites for whatever, it uses cell tower triangulation which is less accurate for obvious reasons.

pyroguysf says:

From all I've read on the various articles about the problem-
-Infineon says their same chipsets have been used in other phones such as Samsung's, and they work fine.
-Apple programmed the chips to ask for more 3G bandwidth than they actually need, so there's probably alot of unused bandwidth.
-AT&T (and the other carriers)probably had a spike of new 3G users that their towers might not have been ready for, or might not be able to handle.
-Honestly, we're talking about THE Apple iPhone, not some random phone, so go figure, when something goes wrong, it's going to get more publicity. One comment I read from AT&T said they around 2% of people were complaining, as opposed to 1% on average of similar problems with other phones.

pyroguysf says:

Oh and while I'm not putting my trust 100% in those statements, it's just something you have to consider, mainly my fourth point about publicity. I also apologize for any spelling/grammatical errors I may have as I'm typing on my partly broken laptop keyboard.

iPhoneDev says:

I have no problems with the 3g reception on the iPhone I can use it everywhere there is available 3g coverage at top speed.

iPhoneDev says:

The A-GPS on the iPhone is one of the mostbaccurate and fayest gps I have ever seen j acellpuone and if they add new gps features to the 2.1 update, it can compete with leading manufacturers like garmin and tomtom.

Martin says:

Sorry to say the truth, Apple did a programming fault swithing longitude and latitude. Shows up easy if you geotag a picture with positioning and open it up on desktop or send it to picasa. Do it - it's true. At least those iphones here in Europe has this bug.
This is one of several bugs with the so called gps that isn't a gps as it's too limited for that function.

Rodney Bieberle says:

Thanks for the post, I came across it when I was searching adive on how to repair my broken iphone. It’s not exactly what I was looking for but I picked some interesting things, Thanks.