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Sprint, Apple said to be cooking up iPhone 4S 3G speed fix

New report suggests Apple and Sprint are working on a possible software fix for iPhone 4S owners on Sprint's network experiencing slow 3G speeds.

Apple's iPhone 4S on Sprint.
Apple's iPhone 4S on Sprint.
Josh Miller/CNET

Sprint and Apple are said to be working on a possible software fix for slower-than-expected wireless networking speeds affecting some users of Apple's latest iPhone.

The issue has been the topic of a now 60-page support discussion thread on Sprint's site that began the day the phone was launched. There, users have been complaining of slow 3G speeds and posting photos of speed tests, including ones showing differing handsets to suggest the problem is limited to Apple's recently launched iPhone 4S hardware.

The Next Web today points to an alleged internal memo making the rounds to Sprint representatives saying that both Sprint and Apple are both aware of, and working on, a fix, suggesting the problem could be software-related.

A Sprint spokeswoman sent the following statement to CNET, saying it's currently the only response that is accurate and approved for Sprint associates to provide (emphasis mine):

Overall, iPhone performance on the Sprint network is consistent with our expectations and the rest of our high-end portfolio. Sprint also did bench-marking of Sprint's iPhone against competitor's iPhones and the testing showed little to no performance difference. We are seeing a very low return rate for this device but we are watching the reports of speed issues very closely.

We do see opportunities to optimize performance, specifically in high network capacity areas. We see this as typical optimization work and do not have any specific area of concern. Sprint is committed to providing the best possible experience for our customers. We are listening to our customers and working closely with our partners at Apple to ensure optimal performance of iPhone devices on our network.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

The matter harks back to the launch of the iPhone 4, which was targeted over networking issues with its new antenna design. Users complained of a weakening signal when holding the device tightly and directly where the stainless steel antenna bands met. The issue was dubbed Antennagate after Apple failed to acknowledge it.

Apple responded by holding a press conference showing it had done extensive testing to compare the iPhone 4's performance with that of rivals, suggesting that holding a phone in such a way also affected the signal on other phones, and that Apple was thus not alone. The company also offered users free bumpers to alleviate the problem, a program it kept going for several months, and pushed out a software update that would change "the formula to determine how many bars of signal strength to display."

The Next Web suggests a similar software patch could be headed to Sprint devices in the form of a carrier settings file that would affect how the phone connects to its network.