Apple’s iPhone 2.1 software: Lipstick on a pig

Among the myriad problems the 2.1 firmware was supposed to solve was poor 3G reception. How did Apple achieve this? Apparently by simply artificially displaying more bars, at least in part: In their release notes for the update, they list “improved accuracy of the 3G signal strength display.” That’s just corporate speak for “we can’t fix these pieces of junk, but we don’t want to pay for a recall, so we’re going to just fool you into thinking your phone is working properly.”

Sure enough, I now get five bars of 3G signal in my office, where I used to get one or two! However, when I try to make a 3G call, the audio is warbled (is if packets are being constantly dropped) and it eventually either drops the call entirely, or switches back to standard GSM. All while showing five bars of 3G signal until it dies! Five bars of lies and deceit.

Update: Using my wife’s 2.0.2 iPhone 3G, I can confirm that Apple has, in fact, done little to nothing to improve the 3G reception beyond the psychological bromide of increasing the number of bars displayed. Holding the phones side by side, she gets one bar and I get five. However, download times for web pages are virtually identical (i.e. slow).

More news from the iPhone public beta: Don’t count on the alarm!

I had plenty of time to write this, because I missed class today. The reason I missed class was that my iPhone’s alarm never went off.

When I woke up this morning, my first thought was “You know, I feel way too good for a guy who’s only gotten four hours of sleep.” I then clicked the home button on my iPhone to check what time it was. I was not happy, not happy at all, to find that it was thirty minutes past the start of class and two hours after the alarm was supposed to go off.

As if to mock me, the alarm then finally starts to go off!

I checked online, and this is happening to other people, too. Apparently, if anything else triggers a notification (like a text message or calendar notification) the alarm will not fire until those notifications are seen. I’m not sure if this is what happened to me (I was pretty groggy) but it fits the observations of others that when an alarm is missed, it suddenly goes off when you wake up the iPhone.

So, we can add one more bug to the list of reception problems, crashing apps, crashing browser, etc. in the Apple public beta test that is the iPhone 3G.

Text messages cost more than sending postcards!

The going rate for a text message is now $0.20, up from $0.05 a year or so ago, a puzzling increase given that every underlying component of communications technology has become cheaper over that time. Given that a text message is billed both for sending and receiving (which should be criminal) this means that it costs a total of $0.40 to complete a text message between parties. It would be cheaper to buy a postcard, print out that message on the postcard, and then have the USPS physically carry that postcard 3000 miles across the country and deliver it right to somebody’s doorstep.