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iPhone 4 fix to centre on software, negate need for recall

Spinning begins

Apple iPhone 4 pre-order

The likelihood that tonight's hastily convened Apple iPhone 4 press conference will centre on a product recall appears to be diminishing.

Numerous company moles have told major US newspapers that CEO Steve Jobs won't ask the two million or so who have bought an iPhone 4 to send their phones back.

Equally, some insiders are also telling the papers that the problem may centre on software rather than hardware, allowing Apple to claim updated modem code will put an end to the 'grip of death'.

The latter point comes from the New York Times, which quotes "a person with direct knowledge of Apple’s plans", which suggests to us that this is a sanctioned leak.

Said source claims the problem has been in the iPhone since day one - a claim reminiscent of Apple's 'it's the signal strength algorithm at fault' announcement of last week - and lies within the baseband software. Essentially, that code could do its signal processing job better than it does which, in turn, would allow it to mitigate whatever limitations the iPhone 4's antenna design has.

All phones have to do work separating signal from noise, especially once they lost consumer-unfriendly external aerials. It may well be that the iPhone 4's antenna is the first to expose the inefficiencies in Apple's code.

If that's the case, Apple will be pinning its hopes on iOS 4.1 to solve the problem. The new version of the iPhone operating system, currently out with app developers in beta form, includes modem code release 02.07.01 - the iPhone 4's is 1.59.00, unchanged with the iOS 4.0.1 release.

So, no recall then, a notion backed by the Wall Street Journal, again citing an unnamed 'familiar with the situation' source and so quite possible an official pre-conference leak.

We think it's telling that Apple delayed the introduction of the white iPhone until late July, suggesting that this version will contain a fix, whether in software, hardware or both. Apple blamed the delay - the white iPhone 4 was originally intended to ship alongside the black model, though it quickly became clear it wasn't going to do so - on unspecified "production problems".

Given what's been taking place in the meantime, it's hard not to conclude that the white iPhone was held over either to await the fix, or because it somehow exhibited the problem more starkly. It's certainly hard to imagine that the delay has just been a result of the colour - though not impossible.

We can see Jobs saying that the company is so darn pleased with the white iPhone 4, it's going to give one to every iPhone 4 owner who wants to do a swap. Rather than recall the handset, it'll put the onus on users to take action.

Those who don't want a white iPhone will probably get a free "bumper" - the wraparound cover Apple sells for £29. ®

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