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back to article iPhone 4 fix to centre on software, negate need for recall

The likelihood that tonight's hastily convened Apple iPhone 4 press conference will centre on a product recall appears to be diminishing. Numerous company moles have told major US newspapers that CEO Steve Jobs won't ask the two million or so who have bought an iPhone 4 to send their phones back. Equally, some insiders are also …

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Software fix for hardware problem.

You can 'fix' a hardware problem with software, but it would be a different sort of fix. If you artificially understate the normal signal strength and then, when the signal drops, because the iPunter is fondling their phone in the wrong place, give an accurate and consequently less visibly decreased signal strength, you mask the extent of the drop caused by the squeeze (or by suddenly getting a reduced signal). It then looks like you fixed a hardware design flaw with software.

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Now it all makes sense.....

When my Son wanted a White iPhone on launch day the sales droid in Phones 4 U told him they weren't available because apple had held them back due to a software fault!

I thought "Yeah right, more likley Apple have held them back in order to create a second feeding frenzy when they release the white one"

Maybe that sales man was just being honest and not the complete fuckwit I thought he was :-)

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Depends on the nature of the problem

The N97 had reception problems at firmware V10 that were fixed at v11, so I guess it depends on the nature of the problem and the hardware itself.

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Jobs Horns

Jobs!

what a ....you know the rest.

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WTF?

Software Able To Fix Hardware Faults?

Apple software can fix hardware faults?

Jobs really can perform miracles.

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Jobs Halo

Miracle

St Jobs might not be able to turn water into wine, but he has managed to turn an otherwise useless lump of glass and stainless steel into gold!

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Nice spinning

"Said source claims the problem has been in the iPhone since day one"

So it's not that there is a problem with the iPhone 4, more that iPhone's have always been crap

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FAIL

phone condom

they sell you a prophylactic to allow phone usage and they charge you 29 clams? genius.

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This is totally getting out of hand

Apple deserves some spanking about their handling of this, but to see how people go into a hate and derision frenzy now makes me feel ashamed about my fellow humans. It almost looks like a witchhunt meanwhile.

Just trying to be the lone voice of reason, you know. You can go on now.

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Flame

Purely Perception

on your part I fear, go re-read what has been written.

On the other hand I dont hear you complaining that the great fashion house that was burberry has been abused by the 'chav' moniker. I think you will find that status symbol 'must haves' are always derrided by those who are not drawn to them like a moth to a flame.

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Jobs Horns

Good phrase: "looks like a witch-hunt",

This is the expression that better describes Jobs suborning of a police department to raid a journalists house in his absence to recover a handset left in a bar by an Apple employee.

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Jobs Horns

Denial

Is the single most powerful device in the Apple marketing scheme. Sadly, history will only record the millions of glossy steel gadgets and gizmos that people paid exorbitant amounts of money for and they will also no doubt be accredited with a wide number of innovations for which they (of course) are not actually responsible for.

Ho hum, 21st Century fun.

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Jobs Horns

The Money-back conn

Apple stated refunds would be made for all iCrap 4 devices returned in working order within 30 days.

Then Jobs got stunned and promised a software fix. Presumably a lot of the Apple faithful retained their handsets after being told by Him that they had the fix.

Now that The Fix has found to be an abysmal failure, a simple ruse to fool customers, what if iCrap 4 owners who hung in over 30 days awaiting The Fix now want a refund?

Can they get the refund?

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30 days

They're not over now even for first-day buyers, you know. Even those still have a full week to return the thing.

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The bumper doesn't fix the REAL problem

Apple better hope the solution lies in software, because the bumper isn't going to help. Yes it fixes the dropped signal issue - but the real problem for Apple is the growing perception that the company has produced a lemon.

Apple can continue to advertise the phone *as a phone* without bumpers - in which case they're possibly guilty of misleading advertising; or they can run adverts with the phone + bumper showing one of the f'ugliest things I've seen in a long time. Every time you see an iPhone + bumper you're going to think 'ah yes, that's the phone you can't talk on.' And Apple's rivals won't have to try too hard to find their advertising pitches.

If Apple thinks the 'solution' is to cover up their design it's a reasonable question to ask 'why do you pay Jonathan Ive?' There's little point in going to the expense of designing beautiful hardware if it only works when covered up.

The only long term solution is a fix that means the bumper is optional - even if you want to make telephone calls; rather than a necessary piece of the kit.

This problem is probably even more serious than Microsoft's 360 failures. Microsoft could at least claim the RRoDs only appeared after prolonged use and that it hadn't appeared in testing. If the WSJ's sources are correct, then Apple had been made aware of shortcomings in the design but chose to ship anyway.

The iPhone 4 - it's a great iPod but a terrible phone.

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FAIL

Title Title Title

"Apple had been made aware of shortcomings in the design but chose to ship anyway."

Not exactly... they were made aware of the issue early in the design phase. So they were aware of the problem, chose not to fix it, continued designing it, testing it, producing it, marketing it and shipping it, ALL the while knowing it was flawed.

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Anonymous Coward

hmmm

I'll watch developments of this with interest.... if it turns out that it can be rectified with some corrective coding there is gonna be quite a few red faces on here!

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No, there will be no red faces here.

This has gone past deserved criticism and into full blown Conspiracy Theory territory. With a hefty assist from Jobs himself, of course.

Where's the Jobs with horns icon?

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Jobs Horns

Re: Where's the Jobs with horns icon?

<<< Are you f*cking blind?

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Jobs Horns

No recall

Why would Apple recall the phone when that will cost them money?

Just label the fixed phone the iPhone 5G, put a go-faster stripe on the back, and the fanbois will be falling over themselves to /buy/ the fix from Apple.

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Happy

Job Opportunity

Your post shows that you are a candidate with a laudable thought process suitable for Apple's PR department. Please submit your CV and anticipated salary.

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@Tron

Actually, they could fix a hardware problem with software.

The article talked about signal processing and signal to noise ratios.

Fundamentally, the issue is one of the signal strength being reduced, and yes, you can't change that by software.

But, what they could do is change their algorithms for demodulation and decoding the signal to give a better signal noise ratio and enable the signal to be recovered whereas hithertoo the SNR was too low because the signal was too weak.

Putting in some noise reduction algorithms, or implementing some digital filters may help.

I'm interested to see how effective this might be.

It could turn out to be nothing, it depends on what the noise level and signal levels really are.

It could be that the signal level is way above the noise level, and holding the aerial simply reduces the signal level by a few dB and the signal is still above the noise.

In which case, adding noise reduction probably isn't going to help.

If when holding the antenna the signal drops below the noise floor then noise reduction and techniques to extract the signal from the noise will help.

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Re:TkH11

My Electrical Engineering degree says you have a point here. It certainly is a hardware design flaw, but conceptually it is conceivable that they could lessen the problem with code.

And really, given the incredible lack of intelligence the average iPhone user has, if they can remove the "dropped call" issue, it probably will "work" for fooling most people.

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Who has actually seen the problem in real life?

So who has seen the problem this side of the pond? What are the numbers (in dB loss, please)?

I've got one, and it works fine - great phone, and very happy with it.

The anandtech review of 4.0.1:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/3821/iphone-4-redux-analyzing-apples-ios-41-signal-fix/1

suggests that the iPhone 4 can operate with a significantly lower signal strength than previous models. Perhaps the reason for this is the exposed antenna. When you need to work with a poor signal, there is a way of holding it which allows you to do so. When you have a good signal, it works fine. Sounds like a bonus to me!

I would rather have the better performance with a higher attenuation in some situations, than a consistant but lower performance under all conditions.

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FAIL

Hardware faults will remain hardware faults

It's all very well saying that you could reduce the problem by ammending the code to process the signal better when attenuated but what you're basically saying is that they can change the code so that it receives a better signal than previously when the aerial is shorted/covered?

You are expecting them to change the code so that it gets a better signal with a crappy aerial reception than previously. Wouldn't they have already optimised the code to get the best signal irrespective of the aerial? I.e. if they could have gotten a better signal with what they thought was a perfect aerial then wouldn't they already have done so?

You can't fix physical hardware faults with software, only mask things...

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Hardware Issue, is it?

Look, it's simple. If this was a hardware design fault, there wouldn't be so many people who, like me and many friends, have absolutely no problem with their iPhone 4. Everyone would experience this issue at some point, unless you think I have a different hardware design to someone with the problem? Most likely is that there's something different in these people's phone configurations, possibly even due to their previous phone settings. Has anyone looked at whether there's any correlation between a user's previous device (if any) and whether they have an issue with their iPhone 4 reception?

Give it a rest - I've owned the first gen, 3G and 3GS - none of them were 'Jesus phones' to me and I don't think the 4 is a "judas phone".

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30 days

The 30 day limit isn't a limit. Apple might like to think they're imposing a time limit in which to return the phone, but we in the UK have consumer legislation which over rules this.

In the UK, the purchase contract is between the purchaser and the retailer (not the manufacturer Apple). And the purchaser has a right to expect the phone be fit for purpose.

If I spend several hundred quid on a phone then I have the right to expect it to work as a phone!

If I happen to live in a weak signal area and I experience difficulties because of this defect, then consumer law may protect me. The sales of goods act requires that the phone be of merchantible quality, a phone which is clearly defective is not.

And goods are expected to last a reasonable length of time too. If I spend £400 on a washing machine, then most people would expect that machine to last several years. If it goes wrong after 14 months, even though the manufacturer has provided a 12 month warranty, the consumer laws protect me, I have the right to demand that the unit is fixed/replaced at the retailers expense.

That is, you can still have items fixed or replaced outside the warranty period. This is definitely true under UK law.

So Apple can kiss their 30 day limit good bye.

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@AC Hardware Faults.

"That's all very well saying that you could reduce the problem by ammending the code to process the signal better when attenuated but what you're basically saying is that they can change the code so that it receives a better signal than previously when the aerial is shorted/covered?"

No, AC, that is not what I am saying. My post didn't state that. I think the issue is that you didn't fully understand what I said, and that might be because you don't come from an electronics/communications background.

I'll try an explain further. A weak signal is a weak signal and you can't fix that by a software mod.

Your assumption is that that you can only deal with this particular defect by a hardware modification. This assumption is wrong.

The weak signal comprises two elements: the signal of interest and noise. Usually what happens is the signal is received by the antenna, amplified and down converted to a lower frequency, often referred to as an IF frequency (internediate frequency).

The goal is to extract the information carrying signal, decode it and obtain a digital data stream from the analogue signal.

The noise is the problem, too much noise on the modulated information carrying signal and the decoded signal will contain too many errors.

What appears to be happening in Apple's case, is that holding the antenna reduces the signal strength which the antenna receives, a weaker signal usually means that the signal is becoming lower in signal strength relative to the noise. If the signal becomes too weak, the noise can dominate and when the analogue signal is demodulated/decoded into digital form, errors result.

So yes, the fundamental cause is a weaker signal from the aerial, but it can be dealt with in software by algorithms intended to reduce the noise and make the extraction of the data from the analogue signal better, with fewer errors.

In fact, there are actually two scenarios.

1)The signal is just too weak in absolute terms to be give a decent output from the RF radio receiver

2)The signal to noise ratio of the RF signal is too low because the signal has become weaker, and this results in errors when decoding/demodulating the data from the analogue signal.

If the IPhone suffers from the first scenario then there won't be much Apple can do about it, other than make some hardware design mods to the antenna and RF circuitry.

If the problem is in number 2, then there is a moderately good chance they can do something about it in software, if they can a) come up with some suitable algorithms, b)if they have enough processing power and capability in the phone. I suspect they're employing some DSPs in the hardware design integrated onto a chip, so they probably can implement some noise reduction techniques.

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Personal Observations

This is purely anecdotal, but I had the original iPhone for 2.5 years with a minimum number of dropped calls. In fact, I can't think of one dropped call in the past year. I got my iPhone 4 on Wednesday, and I've already had 10 dropped calls. I don't have a death grip, my hands don't sweat profusely, etc. It's bad enough I may actually buy the bumper.

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Dropped Calls

The problem with dropped calls and the IPhone 4 is that can't be sure why the call was dropped, was it because the phone wasn't being held in the 'correct' way, or would the call drop have happened anyway because you're in an area of low signal strength?

It's difficult to attribute the dropped call to the design fault.

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Boffin

Workaround

Simple workaround: Most new phones have the ability to adjust the gain of the receiver amp to save on power. Apple could leverage on that: Detect if signal drops below levels Apple deem acceptable, and if yes and Wifi/Bluetooth is on but idle, shut them off temporarily. Alternatively, increase power to the GSM AMP and reduce power to the BT/Wifi amp. Just like that. You don't need that much power to bluetooth if you're holding the phone in your hands and the handsfree earpiece is just at most a meter away.

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