Apple finds iPhone 4 flaw; iTunes TV hits headlines

Apple this morning published its own response to the much-publicized signal strength problems which have been impacting the incredibly successful launch of the iPhone 4.

At the same time a huge host of information has broken out which seemingly confirms Apple's next adventures will be in television and music in the cloud.

Getting the signal

On the iPhone. In a rare display of humility, the company stunned us all this morning with the confession the company got somethig "totally wrong".

In full, the most important note in the letter is as follows:

"Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don't know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place."

Apple is adopting a new formula for showing signal strength and promises "a free software update within a few weeks that incorporates the corrected formula."

Apple also said the faulty formula has been used in iPhones since the 3G. This means updates will be made available for the iPhone 3G, 3GS and 4.

The company also admits that -- in terms of signal strength display at least -- reception decays hugely if the iPhone is held in a certain way, which has led some to say the iPhone has a faulty antenna.

A previous Apple statement had said:

"Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases."

While the new formula comes from AT&T, Apple's new plan may reinforce criticism of its network partner -- the iPhone will in future display more accurate renderings of signal strength. Conversely, it may even improve ATT's rep -- after all, perhaps those dropped calls were in low signal areas? (There's an excellent explanation of all this right here).

Cloudy future

This morning news is breaking that Disney has acquired Tapulous.

That's significant because Tapulous is one of the most successful developers for the iPhone, with a string of games successes.

The Tapulous people will now organise Disney's entire mobile strategy. We can see this including apps-based versions of hit Disney titles for playback on Apple's next-gen TV devices.

Next-gen TVs?

Sure, we've discussed this before. Take a look at this report on the New York Times. This story is breaking cover right before our eyes this weekend.

That report tells us Apple has people working to update its TV software, and is developing a completely new interface for it. As I've suspected for ages, there is a chance Apple "will base a new TV design on its iOS operating system".

That's a move that makes absolute sense as the company can then persuade developers to build apps in larger resolution for playback on an HDTV.

And that makes sense because, in battle with Google, Apple will be able to serve iAds straight into people's front rooms, while gathering critical personal data for better future ads targeting as it does.

(I suspect regulators worldwide should probably wake up and smell the data protection coffee as the mobile and stay at home worlds merge in this way, while all the while gathering new user data).

The New York Times report states that development is not taking place "within the Apple TV group, but within another design group in the company," adding,  "this could signal an entirely new product."

Could this new product be an Apple-branded all in one Internet-connected television?

Piper Jaffray analyst, Gene Munster, sure thinks it will be, telling Fortune he thinks Apple "may in fact be preparing a stand-alone, Internet-connected TV for release within the next two to four years."

Munster notes the HDMI slots on the recently-released Mac mini as slight evidence Apple plans to continue its front room push.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs told D: All things Digital this year that,

"The television industry fundamentally has a subsidized business model that gives everyone a set-top box, and that pretty much undermines innovation in the sector. Ask TiVo, ask Roku, ask Google in a few months. The only way this is going to change is if you start from scratch, tear up the box, redesign and get it to the consumer in a way that they want to buy it. But right now, there's no way to do that."

It seems highly likely now that Apple will tear up that box, and introduce a television which can act as a normal TV (for linear, more traditional, broadcasting), while also offering access to iTunes content and, potentially, the realisation at last of a long-held promise for iOS apps for the TV.

After all, the move to adopt the iOS name is widely seen as opening the scene up for business expansion.

If nothing else, Steve Jobs won't be short of conversation as he heads to Sun Valley, Idaho, later this month to rub shoulders with the world's biggest media moguls at the exclusive Allen & Co. media conference

So, Apple has the TV and the apps, what will we see on it?

How about an iTunes Pass which gives you all-you-can eat access to everything in the iTunes catalogue for a monthly fee?

All the video and music and film?

How about some music television?

How about if it was based on your own preferences as expressed by your own music library? A succession of music videos from artists you might like all figured out by the Genius feature.

All via any network and held in the cloud.

What will you be watching?

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