Home opinion-and-analysis Core Dump iPhone 4 dropouts caused by low signal: Apple

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Apple has issued an open letter asserting that the so-called 'death grip' problem experienced by some iPhone 4 owners stems from a software issue that exaggerates the signal strength, and that dropouts are occurring in low signal areas.


Apple says that the way the iPhone 4 calculates the number of bars to display for a given signal is "totally wrong" to the extent that it can overstate its strength by two bars.

There's never been any real argument about the fact that there are ways of holding practically any mobile phone that will result in a reduction of signal strength. My own small-scale experiment showed a reduction of one or two bars when holding any of my household's mobiles in what I regard as a normal grip.

Someone getting five bars of signal and losing one due to the way they hold the phone probably won't notice it. But if the phone was showing four bars when it should only have been showing two, then a loss of one or two bars of signal could well result in reception problems and dropped calls. It also makes it look as if the grip had a bigger effect than it really did.

So Apple officials have announced that "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."

This fix will be delivered in a software update to be released "within a few weeks". It will also be available for the 3G and 3GS, as the miscalculation has been in the iPhone software right from the start.

But is that the whole story? Please read on.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences, a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies, and is a senior member of the Australian Computer Society.

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