UPDATED! Steve Speaks: 3G Bug Affects 2%, Firmware Fix Soon

UPDATE: Former Apple employee Chuq Von Rospach has just blogged about a meeting with an unnamed current Apple insider who let slip that:

90% of the disconnects are initiated inside the phone, which would exonerate AT&T. Most of the disconnects are being generated by crashes in the driver code for the 3G chip, which comes from the chip vendor, not something Apple written and outside of Apple's direct control. Complicating this -- even though Apple is handing over "here is the bug, here is the fix, update the driver", the turnaround from the vendor on driver updates is on the order of 2-3 months. Said, um, lack of urgency not exactly making people inside the projects happy.

Understated much? If he's not, as he says, being lied to, Chuq thinks this lack of responsiveness may be why Apple went ahead and bought PA Semi a few months back: to bring the chipset in house and more fully under their own control.

Remember that 3G network connection glitch we mentioned a few days back? The one that might be a hardware problem with a software fix? (Apple Insider weighs in today that this could, in fact, be likely). MacRumors is reporting that Steve Jobs, as he or someone acting on his behalf is sometimes want to do, has responded to an email inquiry about it, and provided the following:

We are working on some bugs which affect around 2% of the iPhones shipped, and hope to have a software update soon.

If this is authentic, and 2% is a solid number, given that the iPhone 3G sold 1 million units its first weekend, and may be over 3 million units now, that's a staggering 60,000+ users potentially affected, -- never mind 20 more countries set to launch later this week.

Unless Apple pushes out a 2.0.2 hotfix, firmware 2.1 has been in beta for a while already, and in general rumored to be heading towards a September-ish release (probably to coincide or follow up Apple's tradition fall iPod and Mac product Special Event, which last year introduced both the iPod Touch and the WiFi Music Store).

Casey recently posted that the current 2.1 beta removed support for the Push Notification services (Apple's conceptual replacement for multitasking functionality) to allow for more internal development, but perhaps also to fast-track the 3G fix?

That could leave the 2% in the slow lane for a while still...

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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UPDATED! Steve Speaks: 3G Bug Affects 2%, Firmware Fix Soon


The San Jose Mercury News summarized a Swedish engineering magazine whose tests indicated
"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. This could lead to poor 3G connectivity and slower data speeds."
Another analyst suggested such a problem would contribute to drastically lower battery life. If true, this sort of problem would have been introduced in mass production, so it would not affect every phone, but, again if true, this would mean a hardware, not a firmware, fix is required.
Original article in San Jose Mercury News

2%? Seems odd that out of our 2 3G iPhone's, and my co-worker's 3G iPhone, and other peopel I know with 3G iPhones, all have problems with 3G. It seems like 2% of 3G iPhone users are complaining, which means way more than 2% have this problem. If you hear from thousands of people, that means there are 10-100 times as many people with the same problem that either haven't complained, or are too dumb to notice.

There is no way it is 2%. My first phone and my second phone had this problem (haven't tried a 3rd yet as I assume it will have the same problem). Every time I have been at the Apple store there has been at least 3-4 people complaining about this problem (out of the 10 people in our tiny Apple store). I think those with consistent 3G service in their area don't notice the problem but those in areas with a combo of 2G and 3G service (where 3G doesn't cover all areas) trigger this problem more often. Come to think of it, I think Jobs needs to re-take his statistics class. Wasn't there just 1% of Mobile Me users that had a problem?

December 28, 2008
Re: Fewer bars in more places
Dear Customer Service,
From the day I purchased my Apple iPhone via AT&T wireless I have had constant problems making phone calls, if not making them having countless calls dropped. I have now abandoned the thought of using my phone from home, which incidentally is only two miles from the nearest AT&T cell tower. I am currently on my forth iPhone. Is it the hardware/firmware that Apple provides or the alleged service provided by AT&T?
I have started making journals during the long and tedious conversations I now have with your customer service departments. At least AT&T admits that I have been bounced around (their words) from department to department of course it is immediately followed by many apologies and many many extra minutes to assuage my frustrations. I really have one simple request and that is you provide a mobile devise and some semblance of wireless service that I was once so accustomed to as a former Verizon customer.
I honestly now don’t remember why I left Verizon. No one in his or her right mind would leave. I feel like the prodigal son sloping with the livestock during the evening meal when memories come back reminding me of all those uninterrupted phone calls I use to have as a Verizon customer. Oh How I long to have a conversation on a stable platform with solid hardware that Motorola provides so effortlessly. I guess I was lured away by those more bars in more places slogan and that cleverly designed iPhone, all the possibilities I mused.
Then ugly reality struck me down, now tethered to a landline on hold with Apple and AT&T is the life I must endure for the balance of my service agreement… I ask you where is the service?
To be continued…