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iPhone exaggerates the signal strength of AT&T's network

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July 3, 2010

Apple has admitted that it has been using a totally wrong formula to calculate the number of bars of signal strength on AT&T's network on the iPhone since 2007, when it first launched the smartphone.

The iPhone actually overstates the real signal strength by displaying two more bars than it should, Apple said. This comes as a shock to some iPhone lovers, who always strongly believed in the accurary of their devices.

For example, the iPhone may mistakenly display four bars when it should be displaying as few as one or two bars.

The announcement came after Apple investigated some complaints that the iPhone 4 lost all wireless connectivity when the bottom left portion of the device's external steel antenna contacted skin.

"Users observing a drop of several bars when they hold their iPhone in their hands in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don't know it because they were erroneously displaying four or five bars," Apple said in a statement.

"Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place," Apple admitted.

The company plans to bring the iPhone's signal strength bars in line with AT&T's other wireless devices by adopting the carrier's recommended formula in a software update issued within a few weeks.

Addressing complaints about the iPhone 4, Apple said gripping almost any handset in certain ways will reduce its reception by one or more bars. It maintains that the iPhone 4's wireless performance is the "best we have ever shipped," however.

The software update, which also makes the iPhone's first three signal bars appear taller, affects the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G because Apple has been using the wrong formula since the device was first launched.

Apple said the software update would only make the bars on the phone more accurate but did not say the update would improve wireless reception on the device.

On June 17, AT&T said it had halted all pre-orders and sales for Apple's new iPhone 4 devices.

It looks like the overall demand for the new devices is greatly surpassing supply, much like it did with the iPhone 3 and the iPhone 3GS.

A few issues also happened when the first iPhone was first introduced three years ago and AT&T and Apple servers couldn't keep up with the huge amount of new orders.

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Apple's launch of its new 3G iPhone in July 2008 got off to a rocky start when customers buying the new wireless handset were having trouble synching their new phone to Apple's iTunes service in retail stores.

When both AT&T and Apple began selling the 2G version of the iPhone, which let people activate the device at home, as many as 4 million handsets were believed to have gone overseas.

Because the phone was only available in the U.S. at the time, the 2 companies changed the activation process to try to thwart international sales.

On its website, AT&T says pre-orders to the iPhone 4 are temporarily suspended but gives no indication on when they will resume.

On the Apple website, people trying to pre-order the device are told the shipping date will be July 2nd, which is exactly 8 days after the device is expected to be available at retail stores on June 24th.

AT&T later said that pre-orders were ten times higher than they were the first day pre-orders could be taken for the 3G iPhone so the wireless carrier stopped taking orders so it can fill the orders it already has.

"Déja vu" you say? Yes, it is.

It will be interesting to see how fast and just how efficiently Apple and AT&T can respond to such a huge demand for the new iPhone 4.

One thing is almost certain: With the iPhone 4, Apple appears to have hit the nail right on its head, one more time.

So the next question is: When will Apple come out with the iPhone 5?

In July of 2008 when Apple launched its new iPhone 3G, the waiting lines grew longer when stock ran out at an AT&T store upstairs. Most customers in the queue were 30 to 50 years old and several were using their current iPhones and laptops to stay in touch with their jobs through various Wi-Fi networks in the mall.

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Source: Apple.

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