/ apple

Steve Jobs and the Signal Bar Disappearing Act

[![Full Bars! Illustration](http://static.squarespace.com/static/507ba2f9c4aa45dec4f03316/507ba4cee4b044d779f49a4b/507ba51be4b044d779f49f36/1350280475772/?format=original "Full Bars!")](http://gizmodo.com/5577316/steve-jobs-to-angry-iphone-4-user-relax-its-just-a-phone)
Photo Credit: Jesus Diaz of Gizmodo
There has been much talk recently of the issues with signal reception in Apple’s new golden child, the iPhone 4. Ever since the first I heard about it [from Gizmodo](http://gizmodo.com/5571171/iphone-4-loses-reception-when-you-hold-it-by-the-antenna-band) – I feel as though I’ve been hearing about it from everywhere. I hate to be that guy in the back of the room saying “I called it,” but… well, I can’t say it really surprises me considering the fact that they put [super-duper-invincible-but-not-really glass](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7-OBoDFeDY) on either side of it.

It’s not that it’s a bad idea in terms of making something look really cool… I just hope that if I were in that product development meeting I would have had enough sense to ask everyone in there how often they drop their phones… but that’s neither here nor there. It does not surprise me at all that, in their ambition to get the product out the door, they might have overlooked some practicality issues.

What am I talking about? Well, I saw an article on CNET today that got me started on this. They interviewed Ron Dicklin of Root Wireless, a company that evaluates wireless network performance. The entire article was a Q&A session where Dicklin explains what the bars actually represent. Nothing he said really surprised me, but I’ve taken a class that discusses wireless networks (yay Computer Science!), so if you’re not familiar with it I recommend that you scan over the Q&A before reading what I’m about to discuss after the jump.

Both Gizmodo and CNET reported today on Apple’s explanation of their software glitch at length (here and here for Gizmodo and here for CNET). The party line on the issue is, in fact, that this is a design related problem with the way Apple organized the guts of their phone. Well except for that goof Spencer Webb in one of the CNET articles who is quoted as saying “This design appears to be more sensitive to the human hand contact than other designs, but I wouldn’t necessarily call this a design flaw.” However, that leads more to a discussion of the meaning of flaw, so I’m just going to let him sit in the corner with his propellor hat and play with LEGOs or coat hangers or something. (If I can’t hold it like left-handers hold their phones, it’s a flaw.)

Anyway, my point is this: We know there is actual signal degradation when the iPhone 4 is held in a certain fashion. One of my classmates even demonstrated this to me first-hand using the SpeedTest app. But here’s the kick in the pants: Apple is maintaining that there is no flaw in their hardware. Even in the press release the only address the “drop [of] 4 or 5 bars when tightly held in a way which covers the black strip in the lower left corner of the metal band” and have promised a quick fix wherein AT&T’s formula for signal calculation will be used.

Follow this train of events with me for a second:

  1. Someone at Apple decided not to use AT&T’s formula for some reason. I have no idea why, but something as big as signal indication isn’t something you do accidentally. So, this was an intentional decision. The engineers Apple has are some of the best there are, so I’m lead to believe this was because they thought their formula was better.
  2. The new formula signaled to people that gripping their phone in a certain way resulted in a significant drop in signal. Picture a big red flashing light attached to the top of your iPhone caused by the low signal.
  3. Apple releases a press statement indicating that they are “stunned” to find that their formula is “totally wrong” and has decided to implement AT&T’s formula. Picture Steve Jobs ripping that flashing red light off the top of your iPhone and telling you to pretend it never existed.

Did you catch the slight of hand?

At no time during this exchange are the performance issues that Gizmodo talks about actually addressed! It’s almost as moronic as a fire alarm has going off and the fire department showing up to just silence the alarm without putting out the fire. What is this, Steve Jobs? A game of Nighttime-daytime or peek-a-boo? Out of sight, out of mind?

I don’t know about everyone else, but I find that just a little bit insulting to my intelligence.

I can’t speak for you, but I know that if I were an iPhone 4 owner I certainly wouldn’t care if the top of my screen consistently showed 1 bar as long as the darn thing actually worked. But maybe I’m just a little bit too demanding for Steve Jobs’s world where if everything looks okay, it means that it actually is okay. This seems to be a continuing trend with Apple in regard to the iPhone in the past few years (coughnon-disclosure agreement on app store rejectionscough), and it makes me glad I’m in the Android camp.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Update: Seems I’m not the only one singing this song. Good. Stick to the man.