In an open letter late to iPhone 4 owners the company proclaimed:
"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. 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."
Yes, only Apple could answer furious cries from its customers by declaring it is because they were giving them more than they were entitled to. Sarcasm aside Apple proposes:
"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."
Given AT&T's notorious record as the carrier with the worst reception in the US adopting its formula for calculating reception and making bars one, two and three a bit taller seems a flaky fix. Numerous videos have shown you can make the iPhone 4 drop calls at times simply by using the infamous "Death Grip" and we have been able to replicate this, so I don't see how these measures will correct that. Furthermore, Apple says this problem afflicts the iPhone 3G and 3GS which a) means Apple has been exaggerating signal strengths for years and yet b) how come we've not run into these grip issues before?
Apple does deserve great credit for making the iPhone 4 its best handset to date. I've bought one and, in general, my experience is call quality and reception is much improved over previous generations. That said sometimes it would be nice for Apple to show some humility and admit even its much lauded designs can occasionally have defects...
In related news there are widespread reports that iTunes' accounts have been hacked. According to MacRumors threads both developers and users have been affected, though the scale of the attack is unknown. Initial talk is of the hack being by a single iPhone developer since many of their apps were pushed up the charts following the attack - not exactly the most subtle way of covering your tracks.
Be interesting to see how Apple explains we got more than we were entitled to here.