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A controversy bar (n)one

While we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear what Apple has to say about the iPhone 4 antenna reception issue, the company has now acted to fix its wrongly calculated bars.

If you recall, this is the issue where iOS devices were incorrectly reporting levels of signal strength. Fixing the calculation means that the larger bars are likely to go dark more often leaving just the smaller bars lit, like on most other phones. As part of the fix, Apple has made the smallest bar larger, it’s now about 40% the size of the largest bar at a glance.

You might be forgiven for thinking this is misleading, after all one bar means your phone can’t do much, right? Well here’s the thing about digital cellphones…if a good phone has one bar, that means it has locked into a digital signal. That in turn means that it can probably make a call. I’ve encountered many situations where one bar on my BlackBerry is fine for calls and data, as long as that low signal level is consistent.

The consistency is the crux of the issue. Imagine you’re at a WiFi hotspot; if your laptop only reports a connection speed of 11MBps, that’s probably fine for most needs as long as the link quality is upwards of 75%. Likewise if you have one bar, you’re probably doing ok as long as that low signal level is being received consistently. A single bar that sporadically flashes on and off is the one you really need to worry about because it means the signal is fading in and out.

So I’m cool with Apple making that smallest bar bigger. I actually think it’s the most important bar of the five since it’s the digital on/off indicator for your phone’s reception, so it needs to be easily visible. In fact now I think about it the small bar on my BlackBerry is too small to be easily seen at distance so I would be happy for RIM to follow Apple’s lead on this.

Neil Berman


Jul 15, 2010 - Posted by | Apple | , , , ,

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