What Is Really Up With the iPhone 4’s Antenna

Apple denied yesterday that something is physically wrong with the new iPhone 4’s antenna. Instead, the company claims that the real culprit is the mathematical formula used to calculate how many signal strength bars to display. The flawed formula apparently inflates the number of bars displayed, making it appear that users have a much better connection to the closest cellular tower than they really do. So, what really gives? Did you completely botch the new integrated antenna design or did they just go overboard fudging numbers?

According to Spencer Webb, President of AntennaSys, a consulting firm that assists with the design and integration of antenna systems, Apple is right. He performed some short (and admittedly less than scientific tests) of the iPhone 4’s antenna and concluded that, “all the hype has just been hype.” Furthermore, he says that the new phone is no more sensitive to the way it is held than even the first-generation iPhone model released back in 2007. While the tests were not “scientific,” I am inclined to believe an electrical engineer who deals with antennas for a living quite a bit more than I am inclined to believe all the negative hype floating around the internet.

While it is true that depending on how the new phone is held does affect reception, this is true for all phones. Apple’s botched formula just makes it more apparent. Combine that with the fact that the iPhone 4’s launch was by far the biggest smartphone launch in history, and you have the current storm of bad publicity Apple has been getting. Everyone is just looking for anything they can to take shots at Apple.

The fix? AT&T has suggested a new standard for correlating displayed signal strength bars to some metric of actual reception and Apple will create a patch to fix its botched formula to match up.

With all of the “outrage” everywhere, I am surprised that our lawmakers have not subpoenaed Apple CEO Steve Jobs already and started holding Congressional hearings. Kidding. But it sure would make for some entertaining CSPAN.

Have you been experiencing dropped calls with your new iPhone 4? Think the antenna really is screwed up? If you use a phone other than a new iPhone, can you get it to drop signal strength bars depending on how you hold it? Let me know.

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