Dave Miller, a very smart electrical engineer from New Zealand who is lucky enough to spend his days doing private research on gravity, has a theory about how Apple is handling the antenna problems on its iPhone 4 that have been getting so much attention in the blogosphere and even in the general press. You can read Dave’s thoughts here. For those who don’t want to go all the way to New Zealand, the gist of Dave’s argument is that Apple has a serious problem that it will try to allay by adopting AT&T’s recommended algorithm for assigning numbers of signal bars on the phone display, which Apple admits not having used to date.

Neither Dave nor I know anything about this AT&T algorithm but he supposes it might change the game a bit by representing absolute signal strength instead of Apple’s present algorithm, which appears to represent the strength of a signal within a Reality Distortion Field.

By going back to basics Dave thinks Apple can regain the upper hand in this public relations tussle.

It’s a well-reasoned argument, but the problem I see with it is that Dave is in New Zealand and AT&T isn’t. Dave thinks AT&T is a phone company, while I think it is a marketer of voice and data services with the emphasis on marketer.

As a marketer, AT&T’s longtime slogan was “more bars in more places,” which seems to me would work equally well (perhaps even better) for Hooters, but that’s for another column.

How do they get those “more bars in more places?” Did AT&T spend more than Verizon did building their wireless network? No. Do their cell towers transmit at higher power than those of other companies? No. Or do they simply make their phones — with the exception of the iPhone, the same phones used by the other networks — show more bars for the same signal?


I’ve been told by a couple of mobile phone manufacturers that AT&T is guilty of a little bar inflation, so to speak. It’s the most reliable way to get “more bars in more places.”

Now this is just something I’ve been told. I haven’t bought or borrowed a mess of comparable mobile phones and measured it myself. But these people had no reason to lie to me, either. So I’ll just throw this out as an idea why Apple adopting AT&T’s signal bar algorithm to somehow effectively reduce the number of bars might not be such a plausible idea.

As for Apple’s antenna problem, maybe that’s why my wife’s iPhone 4 sounds so tinny and why it drops so many calls. It’s a stunning handheld computer, but not a good phone.