…You’re just holding it wrong, no wait that’s not it either, it’s because it’s how we calculate signal bars..umm… so which is it? Is there a problem? DO you know what the problem is? Are we just making things up now?!

Here’s the letter Apple just released:

The iPhone 4 has been the most successful product launch in Apple’s history. It has been judged by reviewers around the world to be the best smartphone ever, and users have told us that they love it. So we were surprised when we read reports of reception problems, and we immediately began investigating them. Here is what we have learned.

To start with, gripping almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by 1 or more bars. This is true of iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, as well as many Droid, Nokia and RIM phones. But some users have reported that iPhone 4 can drop 4 or 5 bars when tightly held in a way which covers the black strip in the lower left corner of the metal band. This is a far bigger drop than normal, and as a result some have accused the iPhone 4 of having a faulty antenna design.

At the same time, we continue to read articles and receive hundreds of emails from users saying that iPhone 4 reception is better than the iPhone 3GS. They are delighted. This matches our own experience and testing. What can explain all of this?

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 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.

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.

As a reminder, if you are not fully satisfied, you can return your undamaged iPhone to any Apple Retail Store or the online Apple Store within 30 days of purchase for a full refund.

We hope you love the iPhone 4 as much as we do. Thank you for your patience and support. Apple

Web Site: http://www.apple.com/


  1. Don’t they realize this makes it worse? Ok so calls drop regardless of what the stupid bars are at but now people are always going to see that they have shitty reception. At some point it makes the phone look rediculous when you hold it next to any other phone that has 5 real bars legit and the iphone has 3 then you stop blaming the carrier…

  2. Makes me think of all the comparisons people have done over the years, reporting how many bars phone A has vs. phone B. Bars are bullshit. Figured that out after watching Microsoft file transfer bars for the greater majority of my life. Unless there is a definite number (and sometimes not even then) you really have no idea where you are at. For some reason this also makes me remember all those ridiculous cell phone holders you can strap iphones in and wear on your head “hands-free”.

  3. Hmm…I only look at the number of bars whenI am having reception problems. How does that explain the high number of dropped calls that I DIDN’T have on my 3g with the same software flaw???? Go figure….

  4. i like how HTC was not mentioned in the list of phones that also drop bars when holding the phone :)

  5. I don’t bother looking at the bars. I just ask my phone, using Voice Command, wnat my signal strength is. The two are usually not the same.

Comments are closed.