iPhone 3G reception kerfuffle: Carriers rage, Apple silently bides its time

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Apple is notoriously secretive and loath to cooperate with other companies, not least because taking such an attitude allows them to control press and keep a lid on problems. For instance, if the company had magically been able to create not just a gorgeous, lust-inducing smartphone but an entire worldwide wireless infrastructure to provide service to it, grumbles of slow broadcast speed and dropped calls would probably be restricted to grumbling on message boards.

But as it is, the company had to deal with a number of mobile carriers all over the world, and it's those carriers that are fielding the complaints from customers dissatisfied with the iPhone 3G's reception speed and quality. Many have been more than happy to shift the blame to Apple. T-Mobile in the Netherlands "suspect[s] that it is a hardware / software specific issue of the iPhone itself," and an Australian telco source said (anonymously) that Apple's secrecy meant that they had little time to test the phone with their network.

This could just be more of a rotating blame game, but a Swedish engineering journal claims to have tracked the problem to its source: poor adjustments between an antenna and an amplifier that helps boost weak signals. This gives credence to reports that the reception problems are particularly bad in areas with somewhat marginal signal.

Apple, as is its custom, has been stubbornly and eerily silent on the matter -- at least officially. But "well-placed sources" are telling Business Week that Apple is aware of the issue and cooking up a fix -- which will be via a software update, and not some insanely disruptive recall. "This is a problem, but it's not a catastrophe," says one of these anonymous persons. We shall see, based on the eventual fix.

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