Apple hadn’t officially talked about the iPhone antenna issue until today. Steve Jobs had had a few email exchanges with angry customer, but the company’s position on the matter hadn’t been made official, until this open letter was published on Apple’s website  this morning.

While I read this open letter for the first time, I couldn’t help thinking an intern had written it. It’s indeed poorly written and gives an explanation of the issue that is barely believable:

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.

Dude, the formula was “totally wrong”! That sure sounds like some surf bro from the North Shore typed this is. Besides, Apple seemed to have the formula totally right in the past, so why this sudden change?

The rest of the open letter reads:

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.

So let me decipher this for you. Apple is going to release a software update that will display the accurate number of bars on your iPhone. You might have never had any issue with the old iPhones (3GS, 3G amd 2G), but now, you will have even less problems.

When you do performance tests after the update, results will be the same, but at least your iPhone will display the correct amount of bars.

Like I foresaw last week, Apple will not fix the antenna issue, it will just hide it with a software update.

  • thefallen


  • Eric

    sounds like a bunch of crap to me…

  • kirk

    well they can’t “hide” dropped calls, so lets wait and see…

  • AudreyGossett

    The whole discussion of “holding the phone correctly/incorrectly” blew my mind. But now this? You’d think the prototypes they give to select employees well before release would bring up all these issues so the customer wouldn’t have to deal with this BS. Obviously not. I love Apple products and promote them but this letter they released is no fix at all. Take full blame instead of sorry excuses and make it right! It’s bad enough that if you are a customer that’s using AT&T (you haven’t jailbroken your phone), then you’re getting spotty coverage and paying a ridculous amount of money for that spotty coverage! Come on Apple!

  • Zenin

    WHAT! – i don’t want bars 1 2 and 3 a little taller will look strange.

    they cant fix this its a hardware issue, theres nothing they can do now iPhones out, no way they can recall them, and it costs to much to redesign a new antena solution. best thing they can do is hand out free bumpers (like nintendo gave out wii straps) and try to help people.

    i hope some clever hacker proves apple wrong and can give evidence that this formula stuff is rubbish.

  • spugbrap

    My iPhone 3G was jailbroken and I had the options toggled to show numeric signal strength for 3G and wifi, and when I restored my 3G backup to my new iPhone 4, those settings actually took effect on the new phone. Numeric signal strength would bypass the formula for calculating bars, and I do seem to [sometimes?] have signal issues when I “hold it wrong.” I’ll see if I can take some screenshots showing degraded signal strength numerically.

  • This blog is a great resource for jailbreaking and unlocking. The rhetoric and anger expressed seriously detracts from the site.

    Saying that Apple’s explanation is “Phoney” (fake, fraudulent) is actually slanderous unless you can back it up. I would welcome a posting showing statistics on signal strength. Or even a posting saying that you doubt the sincerity of Apple’s letter and ask that people post or send you statistics about their signal strengths when they can and cannot reproduce the antenna bridging problem.

    But declaring Apple’s statement to be fraudulent without anything to back up that assertion is irresponsible.

  • Wow! I am contemplating whether I want to take this software update. My 3GS if perfectly fine. However, I know there is no escaping it.

  • brent

    What a load of crap. Too bad for Apple that we are not all as stupid as they would like to think we are.

    I’m at my office right now. We get a great AT&T signal, never a dropped call. I look at my workmate’s iPhone 4, hold it the “wrong way”, and the signal drops from 5 to 1 bar. Based on what they’re saying when it shows 5 bars it is inaccurately displayed. So when I hold it the “wrong way” the software is magically able to detect that and adjusts the display to “correctly” show only one bar. Absolutely ridiculous.

  • Luke

    If it’s just simply a case of wrong formula used, why does it take weeks to change it?

  • Brent,

    They are saying that when your co-worker’s iPhone 4 shows 5 bars perhaps it should only be showing 3.
    They acknowledge that when you hold it the wrong way, the signal does indeed drop by 1 or 2 bars.
    They imply that after the update, that particular iPhone 4 in that particular location would only show 3 bars of signals when you’re not trying to impede the signal, but that it will still drop to 1 when you are.
    They have asserted that other phones made by other manufacturers suffer from the same signal degradation when held in their own unique wrong ways. That if you spent the amount of effort analyzing another phone as everyone has analyzing the iPhone 4 (thousands of man-hours already, I’m sure), then you would find a way to hold it which also impeded signal strength, perhaps less, perhaps more than palm on the lower left corner of the iPhone 4.

  • Lok

    the email about stevejob telling a customer to hold it differently is fake so apple is not responsible for that
    apple can’t admit that it is an antenna issue especially because of the lawsuit happening
    u don’t know yet the software update is not going to work because software can compensate for hardware problem a lot of times
    lastly the official statement clearly says that u can return the phone if u are not satisfy
    many of u are not returning he phone because despite the signal loss u know iPhone4 is a great phone

  • Vader

    Ryan: a pedantic streak obviously leads you to misunderstand “Phoney”: it actually means “related to a phone”. Get a sense of humor.

  • @LappyGirl

    I agree Sebastien. I can’t make calls with my iPhone 4 in places that I COULD with my 3GS. Showing that I only have 1 or zero bars in these locations won’t change the fact that the phone is un-usable there.

    For example, at the doctors office I work, I had full bars with my 3GS. All calls came in & were perfectly. With my 4, it already shows only 1-2 bars and any call, incoming or outgoing either falls before or shortly after connecting.

    The iPhone 4 is gorgeous. The retina display is amazing. But the “phone” part is almost completely useless unless you live very near a tower.

    P.S. I have my phone in a TPU case, so it’s not the “holding it wrong” issue.


    I live in Gainesville, Fl and my phone doesn’t have the signal issue. So that leads me to believe it’s a hardware problem. Also everyone I know in my area doesn’t have the signal problem. So what will a software update do to the phones that’s not affected?

  • Vader: I considered that, but then considered the article and recent articles from Sebastien and decided that he’s still angry, not humorous. Phone-y would have been punny, but Phoney is not funny.

  • @LappyGirl: most people are raving about the improved reception with the new iPhone 4. It sounds like you should take yours to an Apple Store for a fix, exchange or refund.

    ESLEHZ: from the letter, it sounds like the update won’t change your signal strength, just the graphical representation on the screen.

  • CPAmember

  • CPAmember

    Sorry, I posted that like here by mistake.

  • Appletiser

    “Since this mistake has been present since the original iPhone, this software update will also be available for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G.”

    soooo…. is that just a reference to iPhones carried by AT&T or worldwide? if worldwide then how confident are apple to think other carriers use the same ‘formula’?

  • Kumpu

    This really looks like a fake..

  • Z

    Sebastien, I think you should apply for a position of Steve Jobs’ personal typist. Your articles are waaaaay more professionally constructed than that letter. And the language – sounds like a highschool drop out wrote that “informative” letter.

  • Kev

    It doesn’t really take a genius or scientific research to actually prove the signal is reduced. I could quite happily produce a video of me bridging the band and showing the bars reducing, 3G disappearing and either edge or the other one appearing and web pages becoming slower to load. But the fact that I never hold my phone like that naturally anyway means I don’t really give a fuck.

  • Kev,

    No, indeed not. But it would take some effort to disprove Apple’s recent assertions about their algorithm for reception bars, or about similar problems affecting other phones.

    I’m just happy to have my 3G finally unlocked, so I won’t be testing iP4 signal strength either.

  • luis

    Like I foresaw last week, Apple will not fix the antenna issue, it will just hide it with a software update.
    -half a year later, u foresaw wrong…