Apple to replace false iPhone reception reading with another clever exaggeration


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Months after an Apple employee left a pre-release iPhone in a pub, a different kind of bar is giving Apple headaches.

The fix for that first bar incident, when Gizmodo got its hands on the never-before-seen breed of iPhone, brought in the lawyers and a police task force.


For this new issue, which had Apple on the legal defensive, the smart phone maker admitted Friday -- a good time to get things off your chest before the long holiday weekend -- that every iPhone sold in the last three years has been overstating signal strength. Those bars in the top left corner? Liars.

The repair this time is to issue a software update in the next few weeks that corrects the signal-strength reading.

While that software update reduces the reading to an accurate level, Apple will employ a sneaky design trick to distract users who may be frustrated when seeing fewer bars at any given time. The shortest three bars will experience a bit of a growth spurt, Apple said in a statement, ‘so they will be easier to see.’ Because we probably won’t be seeing their big brothers as often.

As it turns out, companies really aren’t supposed to lie about measurable statistics, like cell strength, but doing a little visual magic on how tall the bars look is probably in bounds. It’s somewhat furtive but not outright mendacity.

‘This could be considered a design defect if the phone doesn’t live up to a minimum standard of what’s presented,’ said Thomas Glynn, an attorney who is the Glenn Law Group’s managing partner in San Diego. ‘There’s going to be a lot of people coming out of the woodwork to pursue this [legally].’

A lawsuit has already been filed over the iPhone 4’s antenna ‘death grip’ issue.


Apple says it has miscalculated signal strength all along and ‘in many instances’ mistakenly displays two more bars than it should. ‘I would think that that’s a basic feature of the phone that you would want to know -- if you have coverage in a certain area,’ Glynn said.

As bad as Apple looks for presenting inaccurate signal indicators for three years and then sort of fudging its correction in a different way, the underlying reality in Apple’s statement is that AT&T’s network is as bad as we presumed, despite what the bars said. An AT&T spokeswoman deflected The Times’ inquiries for comment to Apple.

-- Mark Milian