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7/6/2010
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iPhone Signal Bars 'Totally Wrong,' Apple Admits

Company insists there's no antenna defect and that perceived signal loss is due to a software error.

In a bizarre and lengthy statement on the iPhone 4's supposed antenna glitch, Apple claimed over the weekend that it was "stunned" to learn of the bug said to be afflicting its buzzworthy new smartphone.

The company also offered this jaw-dropper: the problem's underlying cause affects all iPhones—not just iPhone 4.

Many iPhone 4 buyers have reported that the device's signal drops dramatically if its bottom left corner is covered by the palm of the user's hand—a situation common when it's wielded by lefties. Reports have suggested the problem arises because grasping the phone in such a manner covers a particularly sensitive part of the antenna.

But Apple claimed the issue has nothing to do with the antenna, but is in fact a malfunction in the way the IPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and all other iPhones display signal strength.

"Upon investigation, we were stunned to learn that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong," Apple said in a statement. "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," the company said.

In other words, users have experienced an apparent, sudden dramatic drop in reception "because their high bars were never real in the first place," Apple said. "This mistake has been present since the original iPhone," it added.

Apple said it plans to remedy the situation through a patch that adds an AT&T-recommended formula for checking signal strength. "The real signal strength remains the same, but the iPhone's bars will report it far more accurately," Apple said.

Apple said the patch will be available as a free software update "within a few weeks." The update will work on the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 3G. iPhone 4 went on sale last week. The 16GB version is priced at $199, while its 32GB cousin goes for $299. A two-year AT&T contract is required.

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