Got a tip for us? Share it...

New in OS X: Get MacRumors Push Notifications on your Mac

Resubscribe Now Close

Apple on iPhone 4 Reception: Signal Strength Display Issue Only, Software Update Coming


Apple today released a public statement regarding user complaints of reception issues on iPhone 4, noting that the issue is simply a software one relating to how the number of bars of signal strength displayed is calculated. The apparent significant drop in signal while touching the lower left corner is actually a result of the phone reporting too many bars while not being held.

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.

To address the issue, Apple will be issuing a software update "within a few weeks" that will adjust how signal strength bars are calculated and displayed. The change will adopt a recently recommended formula from AT&T that will more accurately display actual signal strength at any given time. The update will also increase the size of the smaller bars (1, 2, and 3) to make them easier to see.

The update will also be available for the iPhone 3GS and 3G, which are also affected by the miscalculated signal strength indicators.

We have gone back to our labs and retested everything, and the results are the same - the iPhone 4's wireless performance is the best we have ever shipped. For the vast majority of users who have not been troubled by this issue, this software update will only make your bars more accurate. For those who have had concerns, we apologize for any anxiety we may have caused.

Finally, the company notes that it is allowing customers still unsatisfied with iPhone to return their device for a full refund within 30 days of purchase, provided that the phone is undamaged.

Related roundup: iPhone 6