Apple has recently put out an open letter explaining that they have made a mistake in calculating the signal strength bars on their hit product, the iPhone (all versions up to the latest iPhone 4). I am glad that they Apple code developers have stumbled on this bug and are producing a fix. We all know that there are a few more software bugs in every product, so it is no surprise that Apple has a bug in this portion of their code.
But, is that really the fix? No.
All wireless devices need antennas. If you are as old as I am, there is a chance that your first mobile phone was a “bag phone” or a “car installed phone”. These phones were massive and required a car or, at least, a briefcase to carry them around. The towers were so far dispersed that you needed a BIG antenna that was putting out mega-wattage to reach them. Putting that antenna up to your head would almost certainly turn your brain to scrambled eggs in a couple of weeks or so. These monsters were also analog and all you could do was talk on them (no texting – how in the world did we survive?).
Technology continued and the infrastructure improved. More towers and better communication technology developed. Analog turned to digital and everything got smaller. Also, people got tired of that stupid stick coming out of the top of their phone so the designers put the stick inside the phone (and not on top). However, there is one thing that didn’t change – the physics of transmitting energy through the air still requires an antenna. The unfortunate thing is that the bigger the antenna (within reason) the better reception that you get. So Apple did good by putting the antenna into a metal strip that surrounds the phone.
If you are old enough, you may remember “rabbit ears” on your TV set. My job as a young brother was to stand beside the TV and hold the rabbit ears in the perfect pose so that my big brother (who would beat me up if I didn’t comply) could watch ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”. My body touching the antenna improved or hurt the reception of the TV based on where I touched it and how I stood. I stood in some pretty awkward positions in order to avoid my brother’s wrath.
So, when you hold any mobile phone with the antenna carefully hidden inside, your sweaty hands and your big old head are affecting that antenna to some degree. With the iPhone 4, you are making physical contact with that antenna so you are more likely to affect the signal – that is simply physics.
Apple is changing their software so you will be less aware of the issue and stop your damn complaining. They aren’t fixing the root cause; they just don’t want you to be aware of the problem anymore. This is the nature of spin – nothing really changes but your “perception” of the problem is different. If you don’t like it, take the phone back and buy an Android (which has the same problem just not as noticeable).
The issue is even more aggravated because the iPhone is only available on AT&T’s lousy network. Any time you screw with that signal, you will have problems. Since you so rarely have a good signal from AT&T, losing a little bit because you have sweaty hands and are touching the phone in it’s “special parts” just adds frustration. Apple would solve a lot of these problems by just signing a deal with Verizon.