Daring Fireball: Translation From Apple’s Unique Dialect of PR-Speak to English of the ‘Letter From Apple Regarding iPhone 4’.

We decided from the outset to set the formula for our bars-of-signal strength indicator to make the iPhone look good — to make it look as if it “gets more bars”. That decision has now bitten us on our ass.

It’s a funny read, more in the vein of Fake Steve Jobs. The signal bar thing explains why I would suddenly swing between 2 and 5 bars on Softbank.  More importantly, however, is that perception is everything. By that, I mean a person’s perception of what’s going on is more important than the reality.  How many bars of reception they get, even if it doesn’t accurately represent the signal strength will grossly affect how people perceive their phone and carrier. Gruber rightly points out later that, with the more realistic presentation of the iPhone’s reception, people might perceive things as the iPhone getting a worse signal than before, as it reduces the number of bars shown in some situations. This even though nothing has changed in performance.

I have seen a similar thing on Head-fi, where people will buy an amplifier, and, because they have to turn the volume knob up to or past the 12 o’clock position, will perceive the amp as lacking in power.  Likewise, if they turn the volume knob up only a little and quickly get a loud volume, they will perceive the amp as having a lot of power, even though this has nothing to do with the power of an amp, but the gain setting.  I’m sure I could find examples from many different types of products where the perceived ability of something is related to a single factor, and not truly representative of it’s capabilities.