Apple: iPhones all the way back to the 3G have been incorrectly displaying signal strength
Apple has been in the habit of issuing very short press releases that simply and clearly address concerns of the public without much in the way of formalities. Today, in an unusually long and formal message, Apple says it has found the cause of the iPhone 4's poor reception when it is held in a "death grip."
According to the company, it's not a reception issue at all, but a problem with the way iPhones all the way back to the iPhone 3G have calculated signal strength.
In short, they've been exaggerating how many bars you have.
"We were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong," a note from the company said today. "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," Apple said.
So in the next few weeks, the updated formula will be rolled out in a software update to the iPhone 3G, 3GS and 4.