Ever since the Nintendo Switch launched, there have been issues reported with its left Joy-Con controller. Teardowns and analysis confirmed the source of the problem. Unlike the right Joy-Con, which had its own separate antenna, the left Joy-Con’s antenna was part of the circuit board and partly shielded by the player’s hand.
Nintendo has fixed the problem with the left Joy-Con by implementing a small piece of conductive foam at the corner of the Joy-Con, as shown in the image below:
That small bit of conducting foam is apparently resolving the problems with connectivity for just about everyone, as reported by Cnet. But Nintendo doesn’t want to call it a design issue, preferring the label “manufacturing variation,” instead:
There is no design issue with the Joy-Con controllers, and no widespread proactive repair or replacement effort is underway. A manufacturing variation has resulted in wireless interference with a small number of the left Joy-Con. Moving forward this will not be an issue, as the manufacturing variation has been addressed and corrected at the factory level. We have determined a simple fix can be made to any affected Joy-Con to improve connectivity…
We are asking consumers to contact our customer support team so we can help them determine if a repair is necessary. If it is, consumers can send their controller directly to Nintendo for the adjustment, free of charge, with an anticipated quick return of less than a week. Repair timing may vary by region. For help with any hardware or software questions, please visit http://support.nintendo.com.
Manufacturing variation is a much nicer sounding word than “defect,” which is undoubtedly what Nintendo is trying to avoid. Nonetheless, that’s what it shipped. A product that doesn’t work properly, that has to be shielded from other Bluetooth-using products, that can’t manage to get a signal through small bits of the human body when the receiving device is mere feet away, is a defective product. It may be defective in a small way that’s easy for the company to fix, which appears to be exactly what’s going on here, but it’s still a product defect. And it speaks to just how much Nintendo rushed the Switch out the door. In this case, that gamble seems to have paid off, with the Switch selling extremely well, Zelda: Breath of the Wild enjoying a great attach rate, and generally positive reviews for the hybrid handheld system.
The good news is, this problem is 1) Apparently easily fixed and 2) Something Nintendo intends to fix, rather than simply telling everyone to run out and buy new Joy-Cons. As such, it shouldn’t be an issue for much longer.