Is this the solution to the antenna-related woes of the iPhone 4? Less than a month since its introduction, Apple has already released an initial version of a software update to iOS 4. iOS 4.1 was made available to developers on Wednesday.
iOS 4 installed on an iPhone 4 (left), the beta version of iOS 4 (right), on the same device. (Credit: CNET)
On top, the original iPhone signal bars. On the bottom, the newer, taller ones.(Credit: CNET)
It's likely this is the update Apple promised two weeks ago. In an open letter, Apple said that the problem some people are having with reception and bandwidth dropping off when gripping the iPhone 4 in a certain way is linked to software that incorrectly displays the phone's signal bars. The update was promised to make the signal bars display more accurately and more clearly. In the example above and to the right, it does appear that our iPhone 4 with iOS 4.1 installed does have slightly taller signal bars.
It's not clear, however, that the signal bar display has anything to do with the antenna "death grip" issue. The antenna problem appears to be hardware-related (the antenna is integrated into the metal strip running around the exterior of the phone), and whether the signal bars are displaying incorrectly wouldn't affect whether a call is actually dropped or a signal is lost.
Though we'll be doing more rigorous testing, we did an initial trial of the new software. On the same phone with iOS 4 where we experienced dropped calls while covering the lower left part of the iPhone 4, we still had dropped calls with iOS 4.1. But this time, the calls were dropping with two signal bars still showing. Previously, they would drop with zero signal bars showing. As we wrote before, the antenna issue seems to vary from phone to phone and in different locations.