Apple's iPhone Mea Culpa: We're 'Totally Wrong'

Company admits it uses the wrong formula to compute iPhone signal strength

By Josh Kleinbaum
|  Friday, Jul 2, 2010  |  Updated 8:44 AM PDT
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AFP/Getty Images

A man holds his iPhone 4 in front of a mobile phone store in Tokyo on June 24, 2010. Hundreds of Apple fans braved sweltering humidity to form giant queues in an upscale Tokyo district in a race to be among the first in the world to get their hands on the latest iPhone. AFP PHOTO/Toru YAMANAKA (Photo credit should read TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)

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For two weeks, Apple dismissed rumors of a faulty antenna in the new iPhone 4 as nothing more than scuttlebutt. Any phone has these problems, Apple officials said. Buy a case to fix it.

Friday, Apple came clean: The antenna works just fine. But the software that displays signal strenth doesn't. The company has been using a faulty formula to determine signal strength in its phones for years.

"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," Apple said in a letter from two executives posted on its website Friday morning.

The letter went on to explain that there are no problems with the iPhone's antenna -- the only problem is with software that calculates how many bars should be showing. And the software hasn't worked properly since the original iPhone was released three years ago.

Now, the frustrating dropped calls that every iPhone user has experienced makes so much sense.

We've all been there: We need to make a call and see four bars on our phone, yet when we try to connect, it inexplicably doesn't go through. Or drops after 30 seconds. The problem: We never actually had good reception.

So that iPhone 4 bug where reception diminshes if you hold the phone a certain way? Turns out you weren't hurting reception at all -- the phone was just showing the proper reception. Finally.

Apple promises a fix "in the next few weeks." In the meantime, the message is clear: You can use your phone, just don't trust those little bars.

For a company famous for its perfectionist attitude, this is a shocking slip.

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