Apple admits it boosted bars on iPhone

Bob Moon Jul 2, 2010

Apple admits it boosted bars on iPhone

Bob Moon Jul 2, 2010


Tess Vigeland: Now, I’m not generally one to steal other people’s material, but this one from the folks over at the Motley Fool is so good, it bears repeating. It’s the opening line of their story about the new iPhone and its signal issues: “What do Apple and a drunk pulled over by the cops have in common? They’re both lying about bars.”

Turns out the real problem with the new phone is that its software tells you you have a strong signal — four bars! When actually, it’s a weaker — and, um, more typical — one or two.

Marketplace’s Bob Moon has the latest.

Bob Moon: The sleek and user-friendly design of the iPhone has gotten rave reviews from the start — never mind regular complaints about dropped calls. The blame for that has fallen mostly on the gadget’s overloaded service provider, AT&T.

Last month, when an embarrassed Steve Jobs couldn’t get the new iPhone 4 to connect to the Internet during his debut demonstration, one audience member shouted snidely that Jobs should try using AT&T’s biggest rival.

STEVE JOBS: Well, jeez, I don’t like this. Scott, you have any suggestions?


Audience laughing

It turns out Verizon might not have helped, either. Apple now admits its exalted iPhone has been overstating its own strength — signal strength, that is. But as NPD Group analyst Ross Rubin points out, that doesn’t necessarily take the heat off AT&T.

Ross RUBIN: That’s the bad news, that, you know, the signal strength has been even worse than you thought it has been.

Apple says it will send out a software fix soon to give customers a more accurate, or less misleading, display of signal bars. But some customers complained immediately that won’t do anything to fix the real problem — serious signal dropouts that plague the new iPhone 4.

Wired Magazine’s Eliot Van Buskirk says the design puts users in contact with the phone’s wraparound antenna.

ELIOT VAN BUSKIRK: They’ve been doing tests on the actual signal strength, not the perceived one that Apple’s talking about. But the actual signal strength appears to be degraded significantly when you hold the phone in a completely normal way.

A few customers are already suing the company for failing to fix a faulty design. Van Buskirk finds that ironic for a company like Apple.

VAN BUSKIRK: You know, really they are perfectionists. And that’s not just marketing; that’s the truth. You know, I’ve been covering this company for years, and they obsess over the most minor details.

Apple says unhappy users are free to return the iPhone for a refund — within 30 days.

I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.

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