iPhone 4 launch day has come and gone so let’s discuss how it all went down. At WWDC ’10Apple CEO Steve Jobs called iPhone 4 “the biggest leap since the original iPhone”, piquing the interest of his most devout followers, so much so that they lined up in droves to preorder and purchase the latest gadget to come out of Cupertino. On June 15, Apple, AT&T, and other authorized Apple retailers begain taking preorders for iPhone 4. On that single day, iPhone 4 preorders maxed out at 600,000. According to AT&T, that’s ten times as many orders as it took for last year’s iPhone 3GS. Due to this insanely high number of preorders, Apple and AT&T were forced to halt all preorders until the phone hit store shelves one week and two days later. And that brings us to launch day. On June 24 iPhone 4 launched nationwide and in the UK, France, Germany and Japan to an excitable population ready to get their hands on the shiny, sleek new handset. At Apple Retail Stores those who preordered waited in line to nab their guaranteed iPhone while overnight campers tried their luck at receiving the leftovers. The latest tallies reveal that Apple sold 1.7 million iPhone 4s through June 26 (that’s just three days on the market!). In an official PR, Jobs stated, “This is the most successful product launch in Apple’s history. Even so, we apologize to those customers who were turned away because we did not have enough supply.” According to the Apple Online Store, more iPhone 4 units will ship in about three weeks. Soon enough, Apple Stores will be chock full of new iPhones for everyone who missed out on the initial launch supply.
What began as a cheery launch quickly turned into a melancholy situation when iPhone 4 users started to cry foul about reception and screen issues. Let’s start with the latter issue that has seemed to disapate as of late. A number of iPhone 4 users are discovering slight yellow spots at the bottom right-hand corner of their retina displays. An AppleInsider forum poster has come up with the best explanation for this:
Apple is using a bonding agent called Organofunctional Silane Z-6011 to bond the layers of glass. Apparently, Apple (or more likely Foxconn) is shipping these products so quickly that the evaporation process is not complete. However, after one or two days of use, especially with the screen on, will complete the evaporation process and the yellow “blotches” will disappear. How do I know? I was involved in pitching Z-6011 to Apple.
Since the time this explanation was outed (just a couple hours after the launch on the 24th) the desperate cry for help has waned. It appears that those affected with the yellow spots will notice them disappear after a day or two of use.
The same cannot go for the next (and more dire) iPhone 4 problem: the tale of reception woes. iPhone 4 users first noticed this problem when they gripped the phone in a certain way (in a very common way, mind you). On the affected devices, if you hold the phone in any way that covers the lower left-hand side where the black strip is located (pictured above) you will notice your signal drop almost immediately from five to zero bars. Preposterous!, you’re thinking. But it’s true, so let’s dive into this a bit more. At WWDC ’10, Jobs announced that the new iPhone packs a new antenna system that actually wraps around the outside phone so as to provide better signal strength. The metallic band that wraps around the phone contains one piece for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS and the other for UMTS & GSM. When you cover the bottom left-hand side of the phone where the GSM band wraps the phone all signal is lost. What’s rather ironic is that what Jobs called “brilliant engineering” has turned into an engineering EPIC FAIL in the minds of many iPhone 4 users.
So what’s the fix? Is the problem software or hardware-based? A number of customer emails between users and Jobs himself have surfaced, but there’s one that ignited the flame that turned this mess into an nightmare. In a simple and straightforward letter, a customer complained to Jobs that when he “put [his] hands on the steel bands [he] lose[s] all reception.” Jobs gave a terse reply: “Just avoid holding it in that way.” UH…WHAT!? At this point in the saga customers were informed that the antenna problem was not a design flaw nor a reception issue; it was a matter of where you physically placed your hand when holding the device. How absurd! Shortly after Jobs’ reply was made public Apple released the following statement:
Gripping any mobile phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases.
So what they’re saying here is either hold your phone differently or go out and purchase our $29.99 Bumper case if you want this problem to go away. Man, this is getting rough isn’t it? And that brings us to the most recent chapter in this troubling story. On July 2, Apple released another official statement, this time saying that the antenna problem is software-based and will be fixed with a forthcoming firmware update via iTunes. In the “Letter from Apple Regarding iPhone 4″, they blame the problem on a faulty “formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display”:
Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.
To fix this, we are adopting AT&T’s recently recommended formula for calculating how many bars to display for a given signal strength. The real signal strength remains the same, but the iPhone’s bars will report it far more accurately, providing users a much better indication of the reception they will get in a given area. [Look after the break for the full statement.]
So if you’re affected with the reception problem you have two options until this supposed software fixes drops “within a few weeks.” You can hold your phone differently or you can purchase a Bumper (or some other phone case) that hides the lower left-hand corner from being touched. It’s hard to place blame on the proper party in this sticky situation. I’d like to come out and say, “Apple, brilliant engineering my ass.” But then you have to consider Apple placing the blame on bad reception–and we all know how hard AT&T sucks. So I’ll leave it up to you to decide. I just want a free Bumper and call it a day.
Update: After further investigation I’ve come to understand that the impending software update will not fix the anntenna problem, it will soley change the way the phone displays the AT&T bars on the screen. So beyond purchasing a bumper or a case that covers the lower left-hand corner of the phone, the only fix is to hold your phone differently. Well this sucks.
Dear iPhone 4 Users,
The iPhone 4 has been the most successful product launch in Apple’s history. It has been judged by reviewers around the world to be the best smartphone ever, and users have told us that they love it. So we were surprised when we read reports of reception problems, and we immediately began investigating them. Here is what we have learned.
To start with, gripping almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by 1 or more bars. This is true of iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, as well as many Droid, Nokia and RIM phones. But some users have reported 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. This is a far bigger drop than normal, and as a result some have accused the iPhone 4 of having a faulty antenna design.
At 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. They are delighted. This matches our own experience and testing. What can explain all of this?
We have discovered the cause of this dramatic drop in bars, and it is both simple and surprising.
Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.
To fix this, we are adopting AT&T’s recently recommended formula for calculating how many bars to display for a given signal strength. The real signal strength remains the same, but the iPhone’s bars will report it far more accurately, providing users a much better indication of the reception they will get in a given area. We are also making bars 1, 2 and 3 a bit taller so they will be easier to see.
We will issue a free software update within a few weeks that incorporates the corrected formula. Since this mistake has been present since the original iPhone, this software update will also be available for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G.
We have gone back to our labs and retested everything, and the results are the same- the iPhone 4′s wireless performance is the best we have ever shipped. For the vast majority of users who have not been troubled by this issue, this software update will only make your bars more accurate. For those who have had concerns, we apologize for any anxiety we may have caused.
As a reminder, if you are not fully satisfied, you can return your undamaged iPhone to any Apple Retail Store or the online Apple Store within 30 days of purchase for a full refund.
We hope you love the iPhone 4 as much as we do.
Thank you for your patience and support.