Apple today released the much anticipated first update to the fourth iteration of its mobile operating system iOS 4.0.1. iPhone users everywhere have been eagerly awaiting the new update ever since Apple revealed last month that there was a problem with the way the system was calculating the strength of cellular signals from ATT, incorrectly displaying more bars than appropriate.
It’s worth mentioning that this revelation came in the midst of rampant speculation on the part of many new IPhone 4 owners who were noticing unusual behavior whenever they touched “The Spot” on the new phone’s magical external antenna.
Essentially, Apple admitted that the formula it were using to calculate the little bars that show up in the top left hand corner of your phone’s screen was all wrong. AnnandTech did a fabulous job of laying out the problem by altering their phone to report signal strength as an actual dB value rather than just showing bars. What they learned was that the dynamic range used by iOS reports more than half of the possible signal strengths -51 dB to -91 dB as 5 bars. They also measured the associated drop in signal that comes from touching “The Spot” on the iPhone 4 (24 dB), holding the phone open in your palm (9.2 dB), and holding the phone naturally inside a case (7.2 dB). This explains why new owners seeing five bars with a signal strength of only -91 dB would see it drop to nothing when touching “The Spot.” This extreme unintended attenuation would drop another 24 dB off the signal bringing it to a whopping -115 or 0 bars.
While this update rightsizes the dynamic range used by the phone to display signal strength, it obviously won’t do anything to fix the unusually strong amount of attenuation that happens when touching “The Spot.” There won’t be any software update that helps with that. Will there ever be a fix for “The Spot” beyond just not holding it wrong or putting some tape or a case on it? Maybe we’ll find out at the press conference Apple has scheduled for tomorrow. Personally I suspect Steve will get up and just tell everyone to deal with it. Return the phone if you like but “The Spot” is here to stay. If you like it then you need to put a case on it.