Apple has been hiring antenna engineers, leading blogs and online pundits to suggest the company is trying to fix widely reported issues with its antenna's reception. However, Apple insists that issue is software-related, not hardware.
Apple has been hiring antenna engineers, possibly in an
attempt to address the reception issues that have been plaguing the company's
newly released iPhone 4. Although Apple issued a July 2 statement suggesting
that customers' reception issues have been software-related, the investigation
into the matter-or else the need to ensure such a thing never happens again-may
well have necessitated the extra manpower.
Within hours of the first customers receiving their iPhone 4
June 24, the first day of general release, reports began to emerge of a
technical issue: touching the device's metal antenna band, which runs along the
outer rim, seemed to reduce certain users' reception to zero. Limited in-office
tests by eWEEK were able to consistently replicate the phenomenon, and tech
blogs such as Gizmodo quickly began posting video of users touching the
smartphone's rim and making its on-screen reception bars disappear.
corporate site posted three job postings for antenna engineers on June 23
openings for related positions, such as iPhone OTA Wireless Systems Engineer,
have appeared during the same timeframe.
According to the Apple job posting, an iPhone antenna
engineer must "define and implement antenna system architecture to optimize the
radiation performance for wireless portable devices." The company is looking
for engineers with "strong problem solving skills," and prefers those with a
Despite those job postings' appearance on the Apple Website
a full 24 hours before reports of iPhone 4 reception issues, numerous tech
blogs and online pundits have been trying to draw a connection between Apple's
need for antenna engineers and those reports. Why hire those workers, they ask,
if not to address what threatens to turn into a public-relations fiasco for
But Apple has started insisting that the problem is
software-related, not hardware.
"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 wrote in a July 2 statement posted on its corporate
Website. "Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than
it should for a given signal strength." In the company's offered example, that
means an iPhone is liable to display four bars' worth of signal strength when
it should be displaying as few as two bars.
Apple's statement then focused on the recent iPhone 4
issues: "Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in
a certain way are most likely in an area with weak signal strength, but they
don't know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars." The bar-drop,
then, is "because their high bars were never real in the first place."
Apple plans on issuing a software update within "a few
weeks" that will correct the supposedly erroneous formula. "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." The update will also be somewhat cosmetic, with taller
The iPhone 4 enjoyed sales of 1.7 million units during its
first three days of release, but subsequent issues have threatened to tarnish
that success. In addition to the reports of bad reception, massive customer
demand led to a meltdown of Apple's and AT&T's ordering systems on the
iPhone 4's first day of presales, and preorder shipment dates have been pushed
back to July 14.
"While the channel supply issue might not impact total
iPhone sales for the entire year, what is happening now certainly has done some
damage to the Apple brand," Tina Tend, an analyst with iSuppli, wrote in a June
29 research note. "Consumers, questioning Apple's supply chain management
capability, have started looking for alternate devices. In particular,
customers not satisfied with Apple's response to the antenna issue causing poor
reception and dropped calls."
predicts that iPhone 4 shipments in 2010 of 21.7 million units,
percent of total iPhone shipments for the year. Apple's own top-line forecast
predicts overall iPhone shipments of 42.6 million units in 2010, followed by
53.5 million units in 2011, and 77.5 million units by 2014. Perhaps those
engineers have been hired to tweak subsequent versions of the iPhone, and spare
those future customers any reception problems.