August 17, 2008 7:52 pm

Signal gripes mount over new iPhone

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The ranks of unhappy iPhone users continued to swell at the weekend as Apple customers complained about problems maintaining a signal on the company’s new 3G handset.

Over the past few weeks, customers have flocked to Apple’s online support forums to complain about weak or fluctuating signals leading to dropped calls and long download times.

“I have had my iPhone since this past Sunday,” wrote one iPhone customer on an Apple support forum last week.

“The reception issues began immediately with 3G flip-flopping between ‘no signal’ and up to four bars – but usually hovering between none and two.”

Not all iPhone users are reporting problems but a growing number of anecdotal reports from around the world indicates that the phenomenon may be widespread.

Apple has yet to publicly acknowledge the problem, compounding the frustration for some users.

“It amazes me how widespread this problem obviously is, and how little AT&T, and especially Apple, has done in acknowledging and addressing this issue,” said another user on an Apple forum.

Speculation about the cause of the poor reception thus far has centred on the iPhone’s Infineon chipset.

“We believe that these issues are typical of an immature chipset and radio protocol stack where we are almost certain Infineon is the 3G supplier,” wrote Richard Windsor, an analyst at Nomura.

“This is not surprising as the Infineon 3G chipset solution has never really been tested in the hands of users,” he said.

“Some people will not experience these problems as it is only in areas where the radio signal weakens that the immaturity of the stack really shows.”

If Mr Windsor is correct, that means Apple may not be able to fix the problem with a simple software update.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple was working on a fix for the problem. Apple and AT&T both declined to comment. Infineon did not return calls.

Apple claimed that it sold more than 1m 3G iPhones in the first three days after the much-hyped mobile handset launched last month.

It has set a goal of selling 10m iPhones, including its older first-generation model, by the end of this year.

Queues at Apple’s downtown San Francisco Apple store have regularly stretched outside the door since, indicating brisk sales.

The problems with 3G iPhone reception come on the heels of the botched launch of MobileMe, a re-vamped version of Apple’s subscription service, which allows users to store files, check e-mail and upload photos online.

Customers reported problems accessing that service after its launch last month.

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