iPhone 4 Reception Issue: Signal Formula Error?

Apple on the iPhone 4 reception issue relayed by Engadget:

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. 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.

Aw shucks! That’s it? Apple was just using the wrong formula to display how many bars of signal strength! And here I was rambling on about how it is a manufacturing defect, how Apple didn’t do enough real world testing, etc. (read Not Getting An iPhone 4, Yet).

I call BS. There is no way for sure to figure out whether or not there is a flaw in the antenna design, but I say there is. How does this explanation account for calls that connect and then disconnecting when the spot (read The iPhone 4 Spot) is touched? Is it also a coincidence that Apple has openings for eight antenna engineers? On June 23rd, Apple posted five jobs: three Antenna Engineer – iPad/iPhone and two iPhone OTA Wireless Systems Engineer positions. That’s about when reception issues on the iPhone 4 started snowballing. I’m skeptical that Apple would succumb to pressure like that, but I’m sure Apple new about the reception issue but couldn’t do anything about it since millions were already made and being shipped all over the US to Apple Stores and AT&T. That accounts for the three RF Systems Validation Engineer iPhone jobs posted on June 16th, before the iPhone 4 got into the hands of regular folks who then started to hold the iPhone 4 the wrong way (read Apple: You’re Holding The iPhone 4 The Wrong Way). These engineers would be focused on optimizing radiation performance for wireless portable devices, like the iPhone 4, which certainly needs it.

Let’s say folks with the iPhone 4 get this software update within a few weeks. The signal bars will be more accurate then, I guess. In other words the four bars you used to get will now be one or two. Great. With one or two bars these guys will get a voice or data connection and then the two bars will disappear after you hold the iPhone 4 the wrong way for a little while. The problem is still here. I understand that attenuation of antenna performance exist for almost all wireless phones but what we are seeing on many iPhone 4’s is too much attenuation. Should have adopted a dual-antenna design like the folks over at Motorola (read Droid X Pokes iPhone 4).