Apple moves to fix iPhone 4 antenna-gate
Sometimes it’s good to be second.
Last week, American critics raved about Apple’s new iPhone, released in the US on Friday NZ time (and due here in a few months).
But some in the first wave of buyers (1.5 million on the first day) complained about reception issues – including calls that cut out completely. (Real-life tests found problems sometimes, but not always.)
Many pinned the blame on the iPhone 4’s radical new antenna, which is built into the designer metal strip that runs around the edge of the handset.
They were right. Over the weekend, no less than Apple chief executive Steve Jobs conceded that if people held an iPhone 4 with their hand obscuring a notch on the lower left of its case - that is, the way most people hold an iPhone 3GS, or any phone – they block reception.
Mr Jobs' proposed solution, emailed to Engadget, was "Just avoid holding it that way".
Most users railed against Apple’s other suggested remedy: buying a $29 iPhone 4 case that negates the need to daintily hold the handset on the end of your fingers.
But now, according to Apple support forum chatter picked up by pcworld.com, a software fix is on the way that should address the reception 4 problem [UPDATE: the relevant support message has now been pulled from Apple's site].
The fix will apparently be included in a rush-released update of Apple’s iPhone operation system (OS) software, iOS 4.1, to be made available in about a week.
How can a software update fix a hardware design issue? Apparently (deals are still murky) it will help an iPhone 4 “baseband calibration problem”.
PC Magazine's take is that, "Hands close to the device's antenna disrupts the signal to the extent that the iPhone's software can't identify the connection. A new firmware fix would allow iPhones to better recognise and adapt to these wireless fluctuations, ultimately benefiting one's signal regardless of hardware interference."
Whatever the cause, hopefully a solution will be in place by the time iPhone 4 makes it to New Zealand around September.
As we said, sometimes it’s good to let early buyers suffer the teething issues with a new gadget.