Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Largest, most un-reliable 3G network

OK, firstly, I stole the cool death star image from wired.

The point of this post though is to pontificate on AT&T's 3G network. I am truly baffled by the behavior I have seen with my iPhone. Of course, being completely in love with the iPhone, I blame all the problems on AT&T, and will continue to do so until proven otherwise.

Problem 1: Phantom incoming call

This issue has to do with a scenario which keeps happening lately. I will have my phone sitting on my desk, mere inches from my hand. If I glance at it at any particular moment in time, it will show me somewhere between 2 and 5 bars of 3G connectivity. However, said phone will all of a sudden play the standard iPhone voicemail sound seemingly for no reason. I think to myself, "What? I can't have new voicemail, my phone didn't ring." I look at it and low and behold, I have new voicemail. I think, "wait, how can this be possible, I didn't miss a call did I?" Looking in the recent calls list confirms that no, I didn't miss a call. My phone had no idea that someone was trying to call me. So for whatever reason, the network didn't have my phone registered for the exact moment of that call.

Problem 2: Network strength all over the place

Possibly the cause of problem #1 is that the signal strength will vary greatly, even without moving the phone. Let me emphasize that the phone is 100% stationary, but I can watch the signal strength go from 5 bars of 3G, to 4 bars of edge, to 2 bars of 3G, to no signal, to 5 bars of get the picture. Now, how can the signal possibly be changing like that when the phone isn't even moving? I'm guessing that the "no signal" times are what are making me miss calls.

Problem 3: 3G data not working

There are times when my signal changes from edge to 3G where the data doesn't work. The phone will say it has plenty of 3G chocolately goodness, but any data app I try to use returns an error. If I change the settings to NOT use 3G, then things work. However, if I want 3G speed I have to cycle the power on the phone and then 3G works again. What the heck is the deal with that?

Solution: I found that if I leave my phone on edge all the time, I don't miss calls, the signal doesn't go up and down like a yo-yo, and I can consistently receive data (VERY slowly). Obviously this is not ideal, as edge speeds really suck.

So, the real solution is that AT&T needs to clean up their "largest, most reliable 3G network" to actually be reliable. Come on AT&T, I know you're not motivated to do squat for me considering that I have no other choice than to use you if I want my iPhone, but don't you still want your customers to be happy?

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