Apple Releases iOS 4.1 Beta to Developers as Antenna Problem Looms

Many industry watchers have been waiting to see how Apple would respond to the latest charges against its iPhone 4 antenna design. Now, they may have their answer.

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) began seeding a beta version of iOS 4.1 to developers late on Wednesday and sent out invitations to some members of the media to a press conference on Friday at its Cupertino campus. The company did not say what the subject of the media event would be, but observers are betting that both it and the iOS 4.1 beta are centered around efforts to address the problems surrounding the iPhone 4.

Since its release, the iPhone 4 has been dogged with claims it loses signal strength and drops calls when held a certain way -- the so-called "death grip."

Early predictions on Apple fan sites was that the beta is supposed to be the fix Apple promised for the iPhone problems, which it recently described as being related to its signal-strength display software -- and thus, fixable with an upcoming update. (Others, like product testing publication Consumer Reports, have described the iPhone 4's signal issues as being chiefly due to a hardware design flaw, not a software glitch that affects how signal strength is displayed.)

However, beta developers report to MacRumors and MobileCrunch that the updated firmware does nothing to alleviate the problem. The one signal-related fix that early testers have noted is that the signal strength bars are taller, a visual change Apple said it would change in the upcoming revision.

In addition to the new OS, there is a firmware update for the iPhone as well. The beta requires an iPhone Developer account and a Mac running Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.4. The 4.1 beta is for the iPhone and iPod Touch; there is still no iOS 4 for iPad, which uses iOS 3.2.

Users picking through the beta so far have found the biggest change beyond the signal bar cosmetics to be the introduction of Game Center, an interface to online iPhone games similar to Xbox Live for Microsoft's game console.

After that, they are seeing small changes, like being able to add FaceTime calls to the Favorites calling list in addition to voice calls. FaceTime is the video chat feature of the iPhone 4 that requires a Wi-Fi connection, as it does not use AT&T's network.

Additionally, Apple released the iPhone Configuration Utility 3.0, a troubleshooting tool for developers to chase down problem apps or bad configurations. It also allows administrators to install configuration profiles, track and install provisioning profiles and authorized applications on the device.

iPhone 4 recall after all?

Speculation on gadget, mobile and Apple boards, not to mention Twitter, is that Apple might announce a recall for the iPhone 4. That talk kicked into high gear when Consumer Reports said it couldn't recommend the iPhone 4 to readers due to its antenna signal problems, despite high marks otherwise.

Now, industry observers will be waiting to see whether Apple announces a recall at its press event tomorrow.

If so, the announcement might already be coming after the fact: Gizmodo suggests that a recall might already be taking place, with a number of readers having written in to say that on taking their phone in to an Apple Store, they were given a new one. They also noted physical changes in the phone and new serial numbers as well.

Apple did not return requests for comment.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

TAGS:

iPhone, Apple, iPhone 4, IOS, iPhone 4 antenna

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