Death Grip. New York Times

iPhone 4: The body shape algorithm

July 16, 2010: 10:21 AM ET

Apple engineers are reported to be "furiously working" on a Death Grip software fix

Two reports issued in advance of Apple's (AAPL) scheduled 10 a.m. PT press conference offer hope of a software fix for what has been widely assumed to be a hardware flaw in the iPhone 4's antenna design.

The first comes from Michael Helft in Friday's New York Times, who quotes an Apple source "not authorized to discuss the matter":

One person with direct knowledge of the phone's design said Thursday that the iPhone 4 exposed a longstanding weakness in the basic communications software inside Apple's phones and that the reception problems were not caused by an isolated hardware flaw.

"Instead, the problems emerged in the complex interaction between specialized communications software and the antenna, said the person."

The second comes from Kaufman Bros.' Shaw Wu in a report to clients issued Friday morning:

"On the software side, we are picking up that AAPL engineers have been furiously working on better antenna algorithms to account for different human body shapes and sizes and water levels to "smooth out" cellular reception across different operating scenarios. Sources tell us that the math here is complex but not insurmountable but may take some time to write."

Clearly both sources are talking about something beyond the iOS 4.0.1 update released Thursday that changed the way the phone displays its signal bars.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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