Monday, April 09, 2012

'new iPad' wi-fi issues the result of power management 'run amok?'

Owners of new wi-fi only iPads (we mean the third generation iPads, to be specific) have been complaining about wi-fi connectivity issues since Day One. While Apple has yet to comment on the issue, a hardware expert believes that the problems are the result of power management issues.

Aaron Vronko, CEO of Michigan-based Rapid Repair, a repair shop specializing in iDevices. He said, "It's unlikely that hardware is the primary cause of the [problem]. This is probably a software problem, or a hardware quirk that software must negotiate."

In addition, the fact that the wi-fi failures are intermittent, not absolute, also points to the problem being software-related. He said, “If this was hardware related, it would almost certainly have to be an error in assembly or failure in the chip itself. However, chip-related failure would likely be more absolute in its effects.”

Vronko believes it might be a power management issue. "The fact that a network settings reset can sometimes resolve the issue points strongly to a power-saving feature run amok." Apple itself has suggested to customers to attempt a network settings reset in the case of such wi-fi issues.

Power-saving run amok? Well, wi-fi technology can really drain battery power. The new iPad shipped with the new-to-the-iPad Broadcom BCM4330 chip, which supplies both wi-fi and Bluetooth. Vronko said,

"[The Broadcom BCM4330 chip] boasts a new design including several new power-saving features. Wi-fi can be a hungry customer in mobile devices and Apple knew that the new LCD and its requisite monster truck GPU would be guzzling battery juice. They had to go aggressive on performance per milliwatt on every other component."

In other words, Apple has pushed power savings in its wi-fi unit to the max. A change to the software could provide more juice to the BCM4330, possibly fixing the issues.

Of course, this is all speculation. Apple has not publicly acknowledged a wi-fi issue in the new iPad, or announced that a fix was in the works.

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