Apple’s IPhone Suffers More Signal Problems

Apple’s problems, like history, seem to have a way of repeating themself.  The iPhone 3G S launch, like the 3G launch of a year before brought more crashed servers and more unhappy customers.  And just this last week Mac Pro users began to experience display problems with their new computers, echoing problems that have been reported for a couple years in various models.  Now iPhone users are reporting reception and signal problems that echo the iPhone 3G’s problems last year that were eventually traced to/blamed on faulty chipset firmware.

MacWorld‘s Ted Landau reports that his own research with his 3G and 3G S phones revealed that the 3G S is perplexing switching to the slower EDGE networks, while the iPhone 3G shows no problems accessing the faster 3G networks.

Apple claims that this actually shows that its hardware is working better.  Writes Mr. Landau, “Checking online, I found others reporting a similar situation. So I contacted Apple Support for an explanation. They said they were familiar with this matter and that there was nothing wrong. At least not with my iPhone 3GS. According to Apple, the software behind the status bar on an iPhone 3GS does a better job of showing when a switch from 3G to EDGE has occurred than does the comparable software on an iPhone 3G.”

Apple Support claims that increased traffic is to blame for the 3G S switching to EDGE when the 3G has a high (four or five bar) signal strength.  Apple also claims that it switches users to EDGE first who have been connected to 3G for the longest.

However, this explanation doesn’t match real world testing.  Writes Mr. Landau, “To test this out, I went to Settings -> General -> Network and turned off Enable 3G. After waiting a few seconds, I turned it back on. This typically had an effect, but not a predictable one. The iPhone sometimes succeeded in shifting from an EDGE to 3G connection. At other times, it shifted to No Service! No matter what happened, the connection returned to its prior EDGE state within a few minutes. Powering off and turning the iPhone back on led to similar results. As a result, I am skeptical of Apple’s explanation on this point.”

For now there is no clear solution or explanation of these problems.  Their scope also remains unknown — they may be limited to a handful of users, or be relatively common.  While just an inconvenience, it’s another troubling sign that Apple still has not worked out the trouble spots with the iPhone.