Need more iPhone 4 signal? There's no app for that

iPhone 4 signal problems
How can a software update fix a hardware problem?

I think the iPhone 4 signal issues have been blown out of all proportion - but I also reckon Apple PR has gone completely crazy.

Instead of putting their hands up and saying "hey, it's possible to bridge the antennas at one particular point and that can make the signal drop, but that's the price you pay for the BEST RECEPTION ON AN IPHONE EVER!" they've said that the reason for disappearing bars is "both simple and surprising".

Presumably it's simple as in "let's make something up! Simple!" and surprising as in "we'll be surprised if anyone believes this". In Apple PR land an issue that can be fixed with nail polish, a rubber band or a different grip can also be fixed with… software!

I slept or daydreamed through science classes at school, but even I know that you can't fix software with a hammer and you can't fix hardware with software.

Sure, you can change how the hardware behaves with software - you can change its settings, turn features on and off and so on - but if your PC is on fire you can't put out the flames by typing WATER WATER WATER or recalibrating your How Flamey Is My PC readout.

And yet Apple is expecting us to believe that the iPhone signal problem, a problem that despite Apple's claims doesn't really occur on other people's phones or even other iPhones, a problem that only happens when you change how you physically hold the phone, is fixable with a formula.

Never mind the Reality Distortion Field. That's a Very Fabric Of The Universe Distortion Field.

Incorrect formula

As one bemused iPhone owner wrote to Apple (TechRadar was sent a copy too): "According to your findings the formula for the iPhone is incorrect, and displays too many signal bars. If this were correct then I must live in an area where there is no O2 reception at all, as my iPhone 4 loses all signal if held long enough (if not held I get full reception)."

I'm in the same boat: if Apple's formula shows two more bars than it should, my iPhone hasn't had a signal in two years and I've been imagining every phone call or email I've received since I unwrapped my 3G. Maybe the formula is wrong, but it's not what's making iPhone 4 signal bars drop.

What's particularly crazy about all of this is that it clearly can't be that big a problem or Apple Stores, O2 Shops and Carphone Warehouses would be packed with people returning their iPhones. They aren't.

But by dismissing the concerns of people who do have the problem - and worse, telling them to shell out an extra twenty-odd quid for an Apple-made case that fixes the problem - they're fanning the flames and ruining the iPhone's image.

Apple needs to 'fess up and offer a fix - if Apple hasn't got an alternative way to solve the problem, free bumpers wouldn't cost that much - and move on, because the reception issues are damaging the reputation of an incredibly clever bit of kit.

Even worse, if the public perception of the iPhone 4 is that it doesn't work properly, then it takes some of the cool factor away from being an iPhone owner - and the cool factor is one of the things that makes people buy iPhones over HTC Desires.

The original iPhone was dubbed the Jesus Phone. Apple can't afford version 4 to be seen as the Jesus, What A Crappy Phone.


Liked this? Then check out iPhone 5: 10 things Apple should fix

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.