Friday, July 2, 2010

Apple is culpable

If you cannot stand behind your product, get out of the business.

"Apple Acknowledges Flaw in iPhone Signal Meter"


Miguel Helft

July 2nd, 2010

The New York Times

Apple customers love to complain about the reception on their iPhones. It turns out it may be worse than it looks.

Apple on Friday promised to offer a fix for the problems that have plagued some users of its new iPhone 4, who said they saw a dramatic decline in the reception bars when they held the phone a certain way. The company said the iPhone 4’s antenna works just fine. The problem, Apple said, is with how the phone displays the bars.

And, astonishingly, for a company that obsesses over every detail of its products, Apple said this problem existed with older versions of the iPhone and had gone undetected for at least two years if not more.

Apple’s announcement, made in an open letter on its Web site to its customers, came after its initial response to the problems was greeted with derision by some users and snarky barbs by rivals. Apple said last week that users who saw their reception bars drop when they held the phone a certain way should simply hold it differently. That comment sparked scores of Web videos on how to avoid the so-called "death grip" on the iPhone 4. Motorola ran ads for its new Droid X saying one of its great features was that users could hold it any way they want.

Now Apple is saying that the bigger than normal drop in bars when users cover a small black strip on the lower left side of the device with their hand is the result of a software problem. And the problem, it said, is that sometimes the iPhone 4 shows more reception than users are actually enjoying.

“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,” Apple said in the letter. “Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength.”

The company explained that sometimes the phone shows four bars when it should show only two. It acknowledged in the letter that people who see a drop of a few bars are most likely somewhere with a weak signal. But, the letter said, they are not aware of that “because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars.” The letter adds, “Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.”

Apple said that within a few weeks it will deploy new software that uses a new formula, devised by its often maligned partner, AT&T, for displaying bars. "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," Apple said. The fix will also be offered for older iPhones, the 3G and 3GS models, which suffer from the same problem, it said.

Apple also said the iPhone 4 enjoys better reception than any of its earlier models, and apologized to users "for any anxiety we may have caused." And it said that users who are not satisfied with their iPhone 4 can return it for a full refund within 30 days of purchase.

Apple strongly suggested that it had been caught off guard by the problem. The company, in fact, may not have caught it in its own testing.

Power to the people in iPhone 4 debacle

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