In a response to queries from tech blog Gizmodo, AppleCare technicians conceded that palming iPhone 4 in the left hand blocks a particularly sensitive part of the antenna, a fact that can't be changed by a software patch.
"We called AppleCare three times today to confirm it," Gizmodo said in a post earlier this week. "Their response was immediate and unequivocal, the same in the three cases," the blog reported. AppleCare is telling iPhone 4 buyers who encounter the problem to "hold the phone differently," Gizmodo said.
Apple's corporate PR department last week released a note that claimed iPhone 4 is not plagued with reception woes and that a software bug was merely tricking users into believing their signal was stronger than it really was.
"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.
But numerous reports since indicate that the signal bar issue, while real, has nothing to do with the so-called "grip of death" glitch, and that the problem will continue to afflict iPhone 4 even after the patch is released.
The problem appears to be so widespread that iPhone 4 users have started a petition demanding that Apple either develop a proper fix or issue free rubber cases that insulate the antenna from human contact. So far, Apple has not responded to the demands.
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