By Barry Levine / Top Tech News. Updated April 05, 2012.
A newly leaked document, purporting to be an Apple internal memo, indicates that the technology giant is actively investigating possible Wi-Fi reception issues with its new iPad. The tablet has been the subject of a variety of complaints from users who have reported connectivity problems.
In the memo, being circulated across the Web, Apple instructs contact centers and retail stores to "capture" third-generation iPad Wi-Fi only devices "if they exhibit any issue related to Wi-Fi." Symptoms, according to the alleged memo, can include intermittent connectivity, slow Wi-Fi speeds, or the Wi-Fi network not showing up on the tablet.
Complaints by Users
"Capturing," in Apple's parlance, means for the devices to be packed and shipped, along with the charging adapter and USB cable, to one of Apple's technical centers for examination. If there is a hardware issue, Apple is expected to replace those units.
The report follows postings by hundreds of users in Apple support forums and elsewhere, complaining about a loss of connectivity, slow transfer speeds and other transmission issues. The issue appears to affect Wi-Fi only models, not the ones that also have 4G LTE capability, apparently because of additional reception capability in the 4G models.
For instance, in the Apple Support Communities forum, a user named stlsteve noted last month that his laptop got good reception in a hotel he is in, "but the iPad only registers a weak signal."
Another user, named It_caveman, responds that the iPad 2 "has twice the wifi range with the same settings" as the new iPad. And a user called Sully 2003 noted that two MacBooks and an iPhone worked fine from the same router, but the new iPad "will not hold WIFI for more than a few minutes."
The iPad 2 also had some reported connectivity problems, but software updates addressed those issues.
'Built Up So Much Goodwill'
We asked Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Corp., if this newest issue could affect the reception of the new iPad among consumers and businesses.
"Apple has built up so much good will over the past 30 years," DiDio said, "that it would take a technical problem of cataclysmic proportions to erode that confidence." She added that Apple users will want to know, simply, "What is Apple doing to fix this?"
The apparent Apple confirmation of Wi-Fi issues comes on the heels of a Consumer Reports recommendation earlier this week that a previously reported heating problem on the new iPad was not "a cause for concern." The non-profit testing organization and publication gave its top ranking of "recommended" to the tablet, and, in doing so, praised the speed of the device's 4G connectivity, among other features.
A few weeks after the iPhone 4's launch in the summer of 2010, CR announced that it could not recommend that device because it had confirmed a problem with the reception, a problem about which users had been complaining.
Apple had originally suggested that the signal-strength issue on the iPhone 4, which occurred when a user placed a hand or finger near the antenna on the lower left side of the device, was largely an optical illusion caused by faulty software that mistakenly showed more bars "than it should for a given signal strength."
But Consumer Reports wrote in its non-recommending review that "it's the company's responsibility to provide the fix -- at no extra cost to consumers." In a hastily called press conference following the Consumer Reports evaluation, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said it would offer a free bumper case to every iPhone 4 customer, a refund for any case already purchased, or a full refund for the return of an undamaged iPhone 4.