Apple: No Death Grip, Bars Displayed Wrong
Apple is finally
acknowledging the Death Grip, but saying it's - in effect - an optical illusion: a bug in how the software displays signal-strength bars on the screen. In a "Letter From Apple" posted on their website this morning
, the manufacturer claims that the iPhone 4 "mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should" and that people who see drops of 4 or more bars must just be in a weak signal area. Though Apple says a software fix will be forthcoming in "a few weeks," it will only incorporate a formula recommended by AT&T for calculating bars while "[t]he real signal strength remains the same."
After a week during which Apple steadfastly denied the very existence of the so-called Death Grip, today's "Letter" is the first admission from the company that "iPhone 4 can drop 4 or 5 bars when tightly held in a way which covers the black strip in the lower left corner of the metal band." The letter goes on to say that "[a]t the same time, we continue to read articles and receive hundreds of emails from users saying that iPhone 4 reception is better than the iPhone 3GS" (as if this is somehow in contradiction to the prior statement), and asks rhetorically "What can explain all of this?" The answer, Apple says, is software, claiming that they were "stunned" to find that the formula that calculates bars is "totally wrong," that it causes the iPhone 4 to "display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars," and concludes that people who report reception problems "most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don't know it… their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place."
This response stinks in a number of ways. In the first place, the so-called "formula" is no more than a mapping of signal strength readings to bars. Anandtech noticed in their testing earlier this week
that the fifth bar has an absurdly broad range, from -91 dBm up to -51 dBm, so that you can lose as much as 40 dBm and still show five bars. So that may be the "formula" they are talking about changing, but what about people (including this writer) who have noticed real loss of sound quality and dropped calls due to the Death Grip? What about Anandtech's
testing showing an average 20 dBm drop in signal? Apple is silent on these points.
Perhaps they are hoping the complaints go away when people see more bars (and bigger ones - the first three will apparently be taller) on their screen. Or perhaps there's another fix in this software rev that they're not talking about. After all, why should it take "a few weeks" to implement and test a change to one formula
? There seems to be a lot we're not being told here, but we'll most likely have to wait for the update to find out what.
Thanks to everyone who sent this in.