Translating the Apple iPhone 4 antenna "apology"

Apple raises the bar on deflecting blame

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Apple has an official response to all the iPhone 4 antenna

haters complainers

concerned users out there. We opened up our Apple-speak translator program (“there’s an app for that!”) and now have an official translation of the apology letter:

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.

“Dear all you people who once again waited in long lines or tried to pre-order this phone, because of you we have succeeded in overhyping another device. All of the reviewers who we grant special access to and limited review units absolutely loved the phone, because if they didn’t we would take them off our special VIP lists. When we read reports of reception problems, we immediately started to call them kooks, hoping their complaints would go away.”

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.

“Everyone else has problems, so why should we be held to a higher standard? Also, users must be holding the phone incorrectly, because covering the bottom left hand corner with your hand is only comfortable for left-handed users, and there aren’t really that many lefties in the world, right? And if you didn’t hold the phone so tightly, you wouldn’t have this problem.”

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 can’t show you all of the hundreds of e-mails from users, because someone might actually track them down and discover that is not a real person, or they work at an Apple Store.”

We have discovered the cause of this dramatic drop in bars, and it is both simple and surprising.

“Grudgingly, we decided to figure out what was going on and come up with a better excuse.”

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.

“Somebody forgot to carry the 2 in their math equation. We think the person responsible was out at a bar in Redwood City.”

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.

“This is really AT&T’s fault. We’re sure that whenever we launch the Verizon iPhone (oops, not supposed to reveal that), these problems won’t continue. Curse that exclusive contract we signed in 2007! Also, users who live in areas with poor signal strength should sell their homes and move to houses that are directly under cell phone towers. Sure, their hair might fall out, but they won’t have a problem with their iPhone 4 antenna.”

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’re really surprised that people didn’t notice this in 2007 when all of our other iPhones came out.”

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.

“It’s still not our fault, but if you think it is, we apologize.”

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.


“We’re pretty sure that you’re not going to ask for a refund, and that you’ll put up with this issue until we come out with the iPhone 4G (oops, again, you didn’t hear it from us.) Love and kisses, Apple.”

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