Do fewer bars on the iPhone 4 lead to dropped calls?

If you have an iPhone 4 and hold it the wrong way, will you drop a call? Or was that just a dead zone? We look at this issue in today’s App Industy Roundup, and also note the launch of Border’s new ebookstore. Will it help you read faster?

Does the iPhone 4 drop calls?

While Apple acknowledged that the iPhone 4 has antenna issues (perhaps the explanation makes sense to you. Me? no.), and that a software fix will resolve the problem (do I get fewer bars but a better signal?), many people remain puzzled.

But one issue remains fuzzy among all of this hoopla — how important is signal strength? Are your calls going through? Apple claims that it has countless customers who are getting better reception with the new iPhone 4 than they have with other models of the iPhone. Yet there remain several stories about the problem, and seemingly all of them don’t hit on this key point: Are calls going through?

Well, yes. In a blog post about the new iPhone 4, antenna design consultant Spencer Webb used the “grip of death” to make several calls, watching the bars drop to one from five, and reported no loss in call quality.

“You cannot tell the difference between a ‘one-bar’ conversation with your mother, and a ‘five-bar’ conversation. (This is not be confused with having a conversation with your mother FROM a bar, which I don’t recommend.),” Webb writes. “If you have a routine that has you driving/walking/riding the same route every weekday, you probably know where your ‘holes’ are.”

Of course, your tests may very, but it’s good advice to realize where you’ve had calling issues in the past. On the other hand, the wise Harry McCracken notes that there are so many instances of weak signal strength when the iPhone 4 is held in a non-Apple approved manner that Apple has more explaining to do.

He uses the app to test signal strength (get the free app if you don’t have it) and finds that results vary. And where there is a real impact, it is likely when it comes to using the iPhone’s data connection. Hold the phone in an Apple-approved manner, it’s zippy. Otherwise, there could be slowdowns in data transfers. He didn’t report on dropped calls.

Readers savor e-books

Here’s an e-reading result you may have not expected: People read books more slowly on an iPad or other electronic devices than with print. At least when it comes to reading Hemingway, anyway.

A study from the the Nielsen Norman Group, as reported by Information Week, found that “reading on the iPad was 6.2% slower than the printed book, while reading on the Kindle 2 was 10.7% slower. The study participants read a short story by Ernest Hemingway, who was chosen because his work is engaging, but not so complicated as to be over the heads of users, according to the study.”

According to Nielson, “(Overall,) users felt that reading the printed book was more relaxing than using electronic devices.”

But don’t fret, slow e-readers. The survey also found that as screen resolutions improved, the experience of reading on an electronic device is more enjoyable. And as prices drop, that will increase adoption of the devices.

That won’t please Evelyn Wood disciples, but it is slightly encouraging for Borders, which is finally getting into the e-reader business. It announced earlier today plans for an e-bookstore as well as an array of reading apps designed for various mobile devices.

Borders previously introduced reading apps for the iPhone and iPad, but will soon add apps for BlackBerries and Android phones. The Borders e-bookstore will sell 1.5 million titles in a variety of formats.

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