LONDON Apple Inc. acknowledged Wednesday (April 7) that the iPad tablet could experience technical difficulties connecting to Wi-Fi networks after some users complained about the issues on the company's technical forum.
Apple (Cupertino, Calif.) said on its technical support site that, under certain conditions, iPad may not automatically rejoin a known Wi-Fi network after restart or waking from sleep. The issue can occur with some third-party Wi-Fi routers supporting multiple bands when users use the same network name for each network or use different security settings for each network, Apple said.
The support site offers some suggested fixes for the issue, including creating separate Wi-Fi network names to identify each band and ensuring that both networks use the same security type.
The issue first surfaced on Apple's technical support forum, which by Wednesday morning had more than 20 pages of comments under the topic "Weak Wi-Fi," first posted April 3. The main complaint is that the iPad wireless connection varies in signal strength and frequently drops out altogether. Some comments compare the iPad's wireless connection strength unfavorably with that of other Apple devices connecting to the same wireless router.
It remains unclear whether the reported performance problems are general across all iPads, which would suggest a design issue, or whether they only occur in some products, which would suggest a manufacturing cause. Based on Apple's suggested fix, it appears the problem is hardware related, and thus not curable by a downloaded patch.
The iPad, which hit U.S. stores April 3, was one of the most highly anticipated products in recent memory. According to Apple, the company sold more than 300,000 units on the first day of its availability.
Broadcom supplied the BCM4329 combination Wi-Fi/Bluetooth chip used in the iPad (see "Inside the iPad: Samsung, Broadcom snag multiple wins").
Other forum users stated that signal strength is a problem when the iPad is resting on certain surfaces, leading to speculation that the positioning or size of the Wi-Fi antenna within the iPad's casing is the reason for the reportedly poor performance.
"My signal keeps fluctuating from strong to weak, while my MacBook and iPhone show a consistent signal at the same location," said one forum user.
"Bear in mind that the all-metal enclosure of the iPad may be what's blocking the signal. There's a reason that the iPod Touch has a plastic window in the back for the Wi-Fi antenna, and the MBP's [MacBook Pro's] antenna is housed within the plastic portion of the hinge," wrote another forum contributor.
David Carey, a vice president at EE Times sister company UBM Techinsights, confirmed that the iPad has an aluminum casing, with one antenna centered on an aperture in the case that houses the Apple logo. A second antenna is located in the lower left corner of the casing, which probably includes a main propagation mode through the front display face of the iPad, Carey said.
Carey declined to comment on whether the antenna location, the casing or 5-GHz-band vs. 2.4-GHz-band WLAN operation might be contributing to the connection problems reported on the Apple Web site.
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