Jason and I had been working on our most recent comic – centered on the uproar over reception issues on the iPhone4 – for a few days before we published it on July 1st.  On July 2nd, Apple released a statement regarding the same reception issues and made claims that are eerily similar to the preposterous statement the fake Steve Jobs made in our comic: blame The Bars.  Apple’s fix is little better than our made-up-for-the-sake-of-humor fix:

“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…

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.”

Really? Really.

In the first place, I question the truthfulness of their statement “we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong”. Surely, the detail-obsessed Apple would not let such a simple and obvious flaw into their flagship product for three and a half years?  Is there any question they knew they were inflating the appearance of signal strength on their phones and that they are just perpetuating the lie now?  I don’t see how this revelation is putting them in a better spot in the public mind than they were before.

On the other hand, perhaps it really was a software mistake and Apple are simply not  infallible after all (well, there’s no question there – it’s got to be either the hardware or software that’s messed up here, regardless).  This is one hell of a fallibility.

I’m surprised at how ham-fisted Apple has been since the launch of the iPhone4.  Between easily scratched/shattered glass (seemingly more so than other smartphones or even previous iPhones), yellowed displays, and this reception issue, the whole launch has been a disaster – in spite of extremely impressive sales numbers.   Additionally, I wonder at what point Steve Jobs thought replying to emails from customers was a good form of P.R.?  And this “fix” is really just letting customers know what sucky reception they’ve been getting all along: lowering customer expectations isn’t an actual fix in any circumstance.

Ultimately, this software update isn’t going to fix the problem.  If your signal is exaggerated by two bars, and you go from five bars displayed to zero bars displayed, your actual signal is still zero.  People will not be getting any better of a signal than they ever were, so the reports of dropped calls will continue just as they are now.

Stay tuned for more anti-iPhone rants.  But in the meantime, /offsoapbox.


Update: Wired.com feels about as skeptical towards this fix as I do.