Does Apple's iPad Really Have a WiFi Problem?

By Tony Rizzo, Editor in Chief — April 12, 2012

When the iPhone 4 first launched there was a great deal of chatter in the media about the iPhone 4's new antenna design having a problem - with lots of calls being dropped, lots of signal loss, and an issue concerning how a user needed to hold the iPhone while on a call. This in turn prompted Apple to launch an offensive - complete with a Steve Jobs press conference - in which the company went to great lengths to demonstrate that there was no real problem, and that competitors had similar problems of the sort being attributed to the new iPhone.
 
Our perspective on this was that it was the typical media rush to latch on to a good headline, and as with all such scenarios the issue grew from one of modest proportions to one of every media outlet having to outdo its rivals. The endgame on the iPhone antenna issue was one of much ado about nothing, and the matter eventually died a quiet death - although not before Apple's rivals - most notably Research in Motion - went to fairly substantial lengths to counter Apple's argument that the purported antenna problem was one that existed among all smartphone device makers.
 
We can't help but think that the same scenario is now re-occurring. A quick and very informal phone survey an admittedly very small sample size of 20 people who have the new iPad in hand suggests that the WiFi issue - if it exists - is not widespread: no one we surveyed had a WiFi issue at all. In fact, no one we surveyed had a heat-related problem either (another issue that has been making the rounds).
 
We have noted that some "independent" labs (the usual technology media suspects) have categorically stated that there is a Wi-Fi issue. As well, a supposedly leaked memo from Apple itself has confirmed that a small percentage of iPads have the WiFi affliction, so to speak. In addition Apple's support forum had over 700 complaints from users at the time of this writing. Complaints include "intermittent connectivity, slow WiFi speeds, and WiFi network not seen" issues. Apparently, LTE models do not suffer from the issue - only WiFi-only new iPads seem to be affected.
 
Apple, meanwhile, has instructed its field service folks to "capture" any iPads either actually exhibiting the problem or that users believe have such a problem, in order to tear them down and examine the hardware itself. That's because the nature of the problem appears to be hardware, not software related.
 
Never Let a Good Headline Pass
 
So what is one to make of this? Our perspective is exactly the same as it was with the iPhone 4 antenna issue - much ado about nothing. We ourselves are now in fact guilty of never letting a good headline pass - but our motivation is to assure "new iPad" users that the problem is likely one that is of the "far and few between" sort - and in any case Apple will immediately replace any iPad suspected of having the defect essentially without question. The odds are very high that the replacement iPad will be fine - itself an indication that the issue is not widespread or otherwise pervasive in any sense of the word.
 
700 complaints amongst a total of over 5 million new iPads sold over the last month suggests that while the problem is indeed real, the overall issue is yet again much ado about nothing. We stand by that viewpoint. That said, if any of our readers have suffered from the WiFi problem we really would like to hear from you. Please email us at editor@mobileenterprisemag.com and let us know. We'd like to talk to you first hand and add your views to our informal survey.

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