Apple Blames Software for iPhone 4 Signal Problems -- Fix on the Way

Apple has finally gone “on the record” about iPhone 4’s reception issue issuing a press release and saying a software fix is on the way. 

Wait a minute, it was a software issue all along? That’s what Apple's claiming, at least.

“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," a statement the company released said. "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.”

That’s right it’s not a hardware design flaw as most people have assumed.

I spoke to Apple spokesman Steve Dowling about the issue. Dowling said that any suggestion that this is a hardware design flaw is wrong -- it was simply a software “mistake.” Apple says it has tested and retested the phones to confirm the problem. Dowling said overall reception in iPhone 4 is better than in any previous phone they’ve shipped. And my own experience confirms this: I have yet to drop a call.

Plenty of videos have surfaced showing users dropping multiple bars while their left hands are gripped tightly around their iPhone. According to Apple those users aren’t really dropping that many bars. Steve Dowling says the effect is “amplified” by the poorly written software.

Some critics have suggested that Apple knowingly put the wrong software in the new phone to give the appearance of strong reception. 

“That’s not case. It was a mistake,” Dowling said. To be clear this fix won’t improve the iPhone 4′s signal strength, just how it displays it on the phone.

What about reports that some people are not just losing signal strength but are dropping calls altogether? Dowling told me that anyone who holds a cellphone will experience some attenuation of the signal strength -- especially in areas with weaker coverage. So would someone with only one bar of service potentially experience a dropped call if they gripped the iPhone 4 a certain way? “Yes,” according to Dowling. To my mind that falls into the category of Obvious.

And what about the rumor that Apple was going to start handing out "bumper" cases for free, which may fix the issue? Nope. Apple told me that it has no plans to do that and that software fix should be here in a few weeks.

I guess in the meantime, just listen to Steve Jobs and “don’t hold it that way.”

Clayton Morris is a Fox and Friends host and the tech godfather behind the Gadgets and Games show. Follow Clayton's adventures online on Twitter @ClaytonMorris and by reading his daily updates at his blog