By Harry McCracken | Friday, July 2, 2010 at 9:39 am
So Apple has finally issued an official response to all the chatter about the iPhone 4 seeming to lose signal strength when you hold it by the lower left-hand corner. The gist of Apple’s letter to iPhone 4 users: There is no reception problem. Instead, the iPhone 4–all iPhones, actually–sometimes displays more bars than it should, leading users in areas with poor coverage to think that reception is better than it really is. The company will fix this in a software update.
Well, okay, except…I think this will do little or nothing to end the controversy. There are numerous bits of data on the Web that involve the iPhone 4 dropping calls or suffering dramatic slowdowns when held by the lower left-hand corner, not simply displaying a signal meter indicator that may be overoptimistic.
In three of my testing locations, connection speeds dropped to zero or near zero when I held the phone against my left palm. The number of connection bars showing dropped from five out of five to just one or two out of five.
Me, I ran SpeedTest.net’s iPhone app a few days ago and got much slower results when I held the phone by the lower left-hand corner. I tried to replicate these results just now, and the phone’s speed numbers wildly varied from test pass to test pass no matter how I held it–which goes to show that there are a zillion factors which impact how well any phone will work.
Apple says that its tests show that the iPhone 4 has the best reception of any phone it’s made, and that all phones can suffer from reception issues depending on how they’re grasped. Brian Krug and Anand Lai Shimpi of AnandTech ran some ambitious tests of their own and they were impressed with the phone’s overall performance (while also concluding that lower left-hand corner issues are real). The phone is capable of uploading data massively faster than the 3GS.
But unless a lot of smart people are suffering from mass hallucination, I don’t see how the software glitch Apple detected (completely) explains what’s going on here. And Apple, being full of smart people itself, understands that. Right?