Now that I’ve been using the new iPhone 3G for nearly a month, its capabilities and deficiencies are becoming clearer. The newer design makes it sleeker, easier to grip and a joy to look at. And the GPS chip has made the device infinitely useful, though it doesn’t appear that the developer community has started to leverage the technology very effectively.
What’s bad about it? There are a few things (the battery, for instance), but nothing compares to the disappointing 3G wireless connections from AT&T. As I pointed out earlier, there were some issues with AT&T 3G network, though company officials vociferously denied that was the case.
Thirty days later, I can safely say that there are definitely problems with the connection. The speeds are marginally better than the old EDGE network, and videos on apps like MLB At Bat are of poor quality. The signal strength rarely exceeds two bars in most places (except my living room, where it’s at full strength.)
I’m not sure if this is a Bay Area problem or a nationwide problem, nor do I know the cause — the network or the iPhone. One thing is for sure, the new device is pushing Internet data usage and revenues for AT&T in a big way. What is your experience? Share it with rest of us.
CNet News.com reports that there have been widespread complaints but that AT&T isn’t making any statements just yet. “What we’re seeing is that the iPhone 3G is performing very well,” Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T, told News.com. “I’m not denying that people are having problems. But we have to deal with these on a case-by-case basis.”
58 thoughts on “Is iPhone's 3G Connection a Disappointment?”
I have to say that I love the device, but the network is horrible. I never had a dropped call on the old iPhone, but I’ve had tons of dropped calls on the new one. I switched the 3G service off and “poof”: no more dropped calls.
yes – the 3G throughput is the biggest disappointment. mine (3G) fails to connect repeatedly when sending/receiving text emails which cant be more than a few kbytes. the device via wifi works great.
palo alto sucks for 3G/ATT
the 3G speeds seem fine to me but I do randomly drop calls is full bar coverage areas for no apparent reason, which is a little disappointing. so far it hasn’t been a deal breaker but it happens regularly.
AT&T’s network suck balls to put it bluntly….they would be just another bit player in the cellular market if it wasn’t for them being the only vendor desperate enough to succumb to the restrictions forced on them by Apple (taking an arrow out of the MS quiver, IMHO). In Orlando I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been somewhere with my Verizon Network-Samsung i760 happily surfing the internet while some poor chap’s been struggling trying to get a signal on his IPhone, only to give up in frustration. Mind you, I think the Iphone’s a great product and has made much needed strides in the interface aspects of cellular phones. The phone itself blows the competitors (be it Window Mobile, BlackBerry, or Palm OS) out of the water. With the implementation of the Exchange Push support, the only things it needs at this point for me to adopt is voice commands (I haven’t dialed a contact or a phone # via the keypad in a year now, Voice Commands rock!) and a decent cellular network. I can’t comment on the battery life as I’ve not worked with one consistently enough to get a feel for it, I just set them up for clients and help them with issues that they’re having.
I’ve used over 186mb of data since I got mine on opening weekend and the speeds over the 3G network have been great. Now granted 3G’s not everywhere and it chews through battery life, but when it’s on I get great performance.
My iPhone Review from a few days ago: http://www.wishon.org/2008/07/23/my-iphone-review/
I live just north of Atlanta. A week ago I turned off 3G because of how disappointing it was. Not because the speed of the data connection was slow, but because my calls were constantly dropping or breaking up. The signal strength indicator almost never went above one bar. Upon turning off 3G I was relieved to discover that the iPhone didn’t have terrible reception, but rather that AT&T’s 3G network is just very weak. I get great reception on AT&T’s EDGE network.
I bought the 3G last weekend after seesawing for awhile to buy or not to buy. I had been a T-mobile customer for 4 years. Even though T-Mobile connection network is not the best, they had been improving it every year. I liked T-Mobiles customer service, which I feel is the best. AT&T customer service is like T-Mobile’s network connection, not a pleasant one.
I had problem porting number from T-Mobile to AT&T network at Apple store when I bought, so they gave me a temporary number. I took it to the AT&T store immediately and they could not help either to port my old number. Next day I took it to the AT&T store near my home, and they pointed me to a phone and asked me to call their customer service. I had to remind them that they are paid for doing that kind of service for their customers and made him call the customer service and get the number ported to AT&T after two hours of waiting.
I tried to use the map using 3G within the city, while driving the car. The experience made me to hold it from placing an ad in craigslist for the Garmin which I thought can be replaced with 3G. 3G can NOT replace any car GPS, if someone has such idea.
But still there are many cool features make me not to regret me buying 3G and hope they get fixed sooner. I am having faith on Apple if not AT&T.
Clearly not just your problem, check out this CNET post on exactly the same problem experienced worldwide
I commute every day from Willow Glen to Sunnyvale on the VTA light rail, and the 3G coverage in the 11th largest city in the US (and the center of Silicon Valley) is horrid. There is at least one area near the Diridon Caltrain station where there is NO coverage. No EDGE, no 3G, no voice.
Going north along 1st street, the coverage switches from 3G to EDGE multiple times, despite this being the heaviest concentration of tech companies just about anywhere. There’s not even decent 3G coverage around all of the Cisco campus at Tasman and 1st Street.
When 3G is on, it’s speedy, provided you’re not moving.
The push Exchange functionality doesn’t work well. We have multiple people who have problems with this, and I personally attribute it to the constant moving in and out of 3G/Edge/Wifi networks. I’ve found that fetching mail, instead of push, is the only reliable way for Exchange email to work. (I note that Blackberry users at my company complain of the same isses, so this is not an iPhone-only problem).
Our Blackberry users on the AT&T network also complain about the 3G coverage.
I’ve started missing more calls on mine when I don’t get coverage which is annoying. One nice surprise, though, is I can often make calls when I have no bars (which seems to be waaaaay too often) and the audio quality with no bars so far has been pretty ok.
@Roger Weeks – San Jose is the 10th largest City in the US (we passed Detroit last year).
Yeah, the coverage of 3G in the Bay Area is not good at all AND the battery bites (tho it does recharge very quickly).
I’ve noticed the 3G when its there to be pretty fast but I don’t have empirical data on that. I just know its coverage (3G) is pretty poor (and from what I understand, SJ/SF Bay Area is a “good” 3G zone in AT&T eyes – which says alot for the rest of the iPhone nation).
I am an SF user and experience horrendous connectivity throughout the city (downtown, Mission, etc.). I just spent 4 days in New York city with the same phone and the 3G connectivity was impeccable and I didn’t have any of the problems I have here. Boo AT&T’s SF network.
Hah, Joel, I must have missed that.
Also, the page here:
Is a complete and total fabrication. AT&T shows 3G coverage “everywhere” in San Jose to Sunnyvale along my commute route, and this is simply not true. Can we make them change this map to reflect reality? As far as I’m concerned this is false advertising.
Here in the Washington D.C. area, I rarely receive more than two bars whenever I’m indoors. Usually it’s about half a bar, and the phone shifts between 3G and EDGE.
Outside, I usually have excellent signal strength – four or five bars. When the signal strength is strong, 3G speeds are pretty decent. When the signal strength is weak, 3G seems more like EDGE, which is what a lot of readers here seem to be reporting.
Despite these issues, I haven’t had many calls drop or fail. Overall, voice quality has been very good. It’s data quality — which now costs $10 more per month — that’s less than impressive, IMHO.
When the iPhone was first introduced I received a couple of surveys from AT&T about the device, the wireless service, AT&T customer support. I appreciated these because it appeared that AT&T was genuinely interested in customers’ comments and concerns. I wish they would send out another survey soon so I could offer feedback about the iPhone 3G upgrade I purchased.
Overall, I love the device, but the 3G service could be better. I get the sense that AT&T is still tuning the 3G network, but they shouldn’t be making us pay considerably more (on a percentage basis) for service that isn’t much of an improvement or which remains inconsistent.
AT&T would make me happy if they would just acknowledge the problem and provide a timeline and plans for how they’ll tackle the problems and improve the 3G service.
How about it AT&T?
I love my new iPhone 3G, except it might as well not have 3G. I am in Cincinnati and I work downtown, very rarely does it keep connecting to 3G when I move from building to building. I am going to blame this issue on AT&T until it is proven that the phone has problems.
Maybe in the US the main problem is AT&T coverage but in Italy, where we have excellent 3G/HSDPA networks, iPhone 3G’s reception behaves differently from place to place. Could it be a matter of cell dimension, that wouldn’t explain otherwise why I get great reception in one place and poor in another place where both have full 3G coverage. Hope they’ll fix it with the 2.1 software.
I have to agree with Roger, 3G signal strength around Cisco’s campus is horrible. I stay near Cisco’s offices and rarely get 3G connection, even when I am walking outside. When I do get a 3G signal, its very weak with just 1 bar and my iPhone keeps on switching between edge and 3G.
But near Auto Mall parkway at Fremont, I get very good 3G coverage with almost full strength. So I would also blame AT&T for iPhone’s poor 3G performance.
The 2.01 update bricked my 1.0 iPhone. While theoretically a shiny new 3G replacement would be nice, after hearing/reading all the horror stories, I’d rather stick with a refurbed 1.0 phone (that actually doesn’t get bricked by the 2.0 firmware).
I live in the Bay Area and have been using AT&T’s 3G on a Nokia E71. It’s most of the time close to 800kb/s fast (compared to EDGE’s 100 kb/s), never had an issue. It could be the phone and it’s antenna and not the network.
Speed is ok. Battery sucks though when on 3g. Need to charge once a day..
Here in Boston service is much of the same. I can be in my kichen and get half a bar EDGE, in bedroom a full bar of 3g, then go outside and full 3G.
Drop calls. Total sh*t.
I have read through these replies regarding the functionality of the iPhone and the reliability of AT&T’s network. Not only have I decided to hold onto my first gen phone, but the information given to me was very useful for me to make this decision. I have to travel, and I need reliability in my phone.
I suggest a web app which utilizes google map’s api that users can rate, comment and geocode their experience about the service? I think this would be a killer app to use if it had the user base!
Also last week I noticed on ebay that first gen iPhone’s were selling for as much as 550 bucks! That is probably because Apple decided to discontinue it though and use consumers were stuck with the only option that was given to us; 3G.
Om, I am so glad you are addressing the issue of the 3G network. Where I am in the Marina, 3G is unavailable most of the time. My Aircard from AT*T fails to work at all inside Starbucks on Buchanan St., both G and E service are non-existent, and the phone is essentially no bars. I’ve gone through stretches on 3G in San Francisco where the mail does not push through at all. Overall, I give 3G data a 2 out of 10. Horrendous bordering on criminal.
I have been VERY impressed with the 3G network… where it is strong. In my home and in downtown Ann Arbor, I always get 5 bars, and I have been amazed at how fast the web works. Nearly identical to wi-fi. Lets say… 80% of wifi speed.
HOWEVER… Anytime I have ventured even a bit outside of a strong signal range… it’s slow as can be. This has made me wonder… if people only had Edge all this time, why was the Iphone ever popular?
3G speeds are surprisingly good and consistent here in Baltimore, MD
I can’t tell you the last time I went from 3G to Edge and call quality has been solid as well. Ironically, my worst call came when I called AT&T Customer Service. I’m very pleased so far (coming from a Windows Mobile HTC phone/pocket PC). LOVING the iPhone 3G!
I live in San Antonio, where AT&T is HQ’d (for now) and I think the phone is cool, the apps are wonderful, but the 3G is disappointing in speed. I just expected something faster. I use the phone plenty, but find that I am still waiting for pages to load and / refresh.
The limitations of the 3G network were readily apparent at Boston’s Fenway Park during a Red Sox game last week. Signal was consistently 4 bars, but the data network was totally non-responsive. In many cases, it took 3-4 minutes to pull up a website on Safari, and the extraordinarily slow response on both MLB.com and SportsTap applications makes scoreboard-watching on the iPhone impossible.
Can it possibly be that some small percentage of 37,000 fans totally wipes out the AT&T network in that locale?
I have found the AT&T network consistently inferior to Verizon in the Boston suburbs, and coverage extremely spotty in New Hampshire.
The network is a true disappointment, though the wonderfulness of the device makes up for it.
I don’t have an iPhone, but I’m using a Nokia N95-3 on ATT GoPhone in the San Francisco Bay Area. With the Nokia, I have solid 3G coverage almost everywhere on my SF to Pleasanton commute and all over the city. I haven’t had any dropped calls either. 3G speed IS disappointing though, only 200 – 300 kbps down according to DSL Reports.
I just got back from a business trip to Aspen, CO and the 3G reception was absolutely perfect. I also discovered that good 3g reception = good battery life. I think the constant struggle for the iPhone to maintain or re-negotiate the 3g connection is what kills the battery.
I live on the Peninsula and work in downtown San Francisco and in both locations, I only see 2 bars max and half of the time it falls back to Edge. At this point I just leave it on Edge to save battery life. Even when I do have a 3G connection, it’s no faster than Edge and it drops connections and calls more often.
AT&T needs to stop lying to customers about 3g reception. They should be offering refunds of the premium they began charging with the introduction of the 3g iPhone. But they can keep charging all those billionaires in Aspen the new higher rate since they have great reception. 🙂
I cant agree with you more. These were the precisely two reasons why I returned my iPhone. I had just one bar almost everywhere on 3G, whereas EDGE would give me at least 3 to 4 bars in the same place. Also, 3G would drain my battery twice as fast as compared to EDGE even on a voice call. I think if Apple can come up with a way to connect voice calls on EDGE it would be useful. I went back to my Verizon phone after trying ATT for 10 days. Other than network issues I think iPhone is a great product. I think iPhone should have gone to VZW.
A dissatisfied ATT customer in SD/CA
If I enable 3G at my home in SF, it sometimes loses signal completely and displays “NO SERVICE”. When I switch off 3G, I get 4 bars. It’s important to me to always have service, so I just leave 3G off. I usually have WiFi anyway.
I find the AT&T coverage map very misleading. Diamond Heights Safeway should have good voice coverage and solid 3G, but I get no service at all there even with 3G turned off.
I bought a ATT Tilt, a 3G and GPS phone late last year – before the iPhone 3G was announced – and have had a chance to travel to about 15 US cities and get reasonable. not great ATT 3G coverage in most.
where I miss 3G most is I use MS Live Search as my Navigator and when you drive from 3G to Edge coverage the maps often go blank – as the downloads cannot keep up with the speed of the car. Fortunately the GPS signal does not drop and if you continue to follow its red line and beeps it eventually gets you back to spots with 3G coverage. But 10-15 miles outside every major metro – forget about 3G.
The other thing I like about 3G is if I cannot find free or any wi-fi I use the Tilt as the modem for my PC. Speeds on the 3G network in that mode appear faster than they were with my previous Edge PDA.
My Nokia N95 8GB and my wife has an iPhone 3G. Not sure it’s an iPhone problem. In both Santa Monica and Marina del Rey, terrible terrible network coverage. Most of the time the throughput is slow in 3.5G or only in EDGE. Never had any problems with Sprint’s 3G.
I have been a blackberry user for over 7 years now and my friend is crazy of his iPhone. I have had many dropped calls on AT&T network, but have never had a problem using the internet on my BB. I guess both BB and IPhone do not yet support flash directly, but other than that, I love the way BB works.
My friend is bent on the iPhone 3G now and I am sending this post to him to let him know about the issues people have referred about the 3G network. That might make him rethink his decision on going into iPhone or at least help him differ it for a few months (until a fix is released).
I wish iPhone came unlocked so that we could use it without having to depend on the AT&T network. I guess that, solution to global warming, etc will be possible in a ideal world. Lets hope for the best.
I live in Ithaca, NY about 5 miles away from Cornell University and AT&T coverage is absolutely awful. I have nearly 100 dropped calls in the last 2-3 months, that should be saying something to the company. I don’t have an iPhone 3G but my father has a Blackberry with 3G capabilities and his network speed is absolutely fine so my guess is the phones. People shouldn’t buy them cause they are hip and new, people I know that have them already are regretting it. Hoped this helps…
In AZ the 3g network has been very good for me. When my phone is set on 3g I can barely use it as a phone though, calls break up and drop. I can sit on my couch and use the 3g network to surf the web great, but if I try to call someone sitting in the same spot on the couch they cannot understand a word I am saying on the other end. Turn 3g off and the phone works perfect, I am hoping this is a bug that will get fixed and not a network issue.
I live in Hong Kong. Even though the wireless operator here that sells iPhone (3 HK) is terrible compared to Vodafone HK. I am still getting full 5 bars pretty much everywhere I go, even several floors down in a subway train traveling at 60kph. Although GPS is comparatively worse since there are so many highrise around town.
Another crappy thing about 3G is that the Bluetooth that comes with that is useless as it can recognize only another 3G. If you have a headset or your car has a Bluetooth, then chuck them all as you have 3G. The apple store or AT&T will not tell you about it. Also the apple.com help document is silent about it and they stopped selling the headsets from their site.
I live in the Boston area, the 3G here is spotty, and if I use the iphone in 3G mode I almost cannot make a call, dropped all the time. the 3G bars cycle from 1 to 3 without even moving. in the Edge mode the phone works fine and no dropped call issues. AT&T is blaming Apple and Apple points to them, either way they are both responsible to resolve the problem. Neither is doing a good job in owing up to the issue from what I can see from reading the comments above it really seems to be pointing to the network I have patience but it is really beginning to wear thin…..
You can get the new iphone 3g without a contract!!! This is where I got mine:
I just bought the 3G this past Sunday. The phone service is ok but he data service (email and web) is TERRIBLE, at least where I am – I live in Brooklyn and work in Soho. In fact, at one point, I was right outside the Apple store in Soho and I could not get on the web at all. Go figure. It takes forever to get to any website and even after it does, it drops out. The iphone itself and all its features are great.
Apparently there is a 2.0.2 version of the software which I haven’t downloaded yet. Could this be the cause of all the problems?
Have been using it for 3 weeks now it the Boston area and the network is AWFUL !! I can NOT get mails, I can NOT open websites and of course that I can NOT use the maps. One of the main reasons that I bought this was the GPS feature, well… according to the GPS I can drive through buildings, most of the time I can’t get the map, it never stops “loading…” – real disappointment!
I bought the iphone 3g, and I live in NYC. I experience many dropped calls per day. I’m disappointed.
I find that if I purchase an app. on the phone i cannot complete the download. The iTunes store seems to have to figure out the bill first. Another problem, when I see the update app store notice for a software I purchased, if I download it on the phone it will not complete, not even in a sync. There seems to be a disconnect between the network/ WiFi and the App. Store. Whats up with that? How can it be fixed. I have the latest frame-ware. Right now I’m disappointed. I need a solution or a suggestion, a work around.
Hi Om, I know this post is a year old now, but I had to add what I think may be very interesting info to you all…
I just got an iPhone 3GS here in the UK on Apple’s partner O2 network about 2 weeks ago, and had problems with only 1 bar or no GPRS signal, no Edge or 3G displayed on screen across a range of high coverage locations, and when 3G did briefly popup on screen speed tests (with speedtest.net – google’s top result for internet speed test) showed me download speeds varying from about 11kbps to 77kbps.
Here in the UK we’ve had 3G for a while, & all O2s 3G nationwide is HSDPA speeds, capable of 7.2Mbps for laptops, but capped at 3.5Mbps for the iPhone – which basically means I was getting 2% or less of the speeds I should’ve been.
After following all O2’s and Apple’s troubleshooting steps, including exchanging for a new SIM, they advised me to swap the handset. Since then I’ve been through 3 handsets, and this 4th one finally gave me 3500kbps when connected to 3G in the store.
However, (& this is the bit you may be particularly interested in), I’ve been with O2 for almost 10 years, and their signal & coverage has always been flawless – but with this 4th iPhone, I’m still getting mostly 2 out of 5 bars GPRS signal, and often no signal, in areas (including my home) where I used to get a full 5 bars on my on all of my various Nokia & Sony Ericsson handset over the years…and everyone around me is getting a full 5 bars at all times on their various other (non iPhone) handsets and networks.
Not only that, but 3G or Edge, rarely if ever actually appears on screen. AND (yeah I know, but there’s more), the GPRS connection fluctuates on the phone, sitting in the same location. By that I mean, I put my iPhone down on my desk and notice it has 3 bars reception…then I look over at it, say 10 mins later, and it shows no signal…I look again 10 mins after that, & it shows 1 bar.
I’m in a high coverage area, which I’ve had confirmed by O2, and as I said over the lat 10 years or so & 6 different handsets from NEC, Nokia, & Sony Ericsson – I’ve had flawless reception all over the UK.
Sooooo…..the point is – in the states you’re all pretty much putting your connection problems down to AT&T – but maybe it’s not all them….maybe the problem is a combination of that AND generally poor reception capabilities in the iPhone?
I must say, it’s very frustrating for me – right now I’m pretty much feeling that I’d be better off saving my money & just getting an iPod Touch instead & keeping a separate phone to do that job properly (i.e. calls & text messages). The day Sony Erisccon make an Android phone, I reckon I’ll jump on it.
I think such problems impact many people and in many parts of the world so I am not surprised that you are experiencing those as well. In the US, we have seen that as well – some AT&T phones have full strength and the iPhone right next to it has two bars or so. But I have seen these problems with other devices too. For instance a Blackberry would have no 3G while an iPhone does.
Thanks for the input on the devices. I would like to look into this and thanks for the tip-off.
I had facing drop call in Malaysia. My service providor is Celcom. After I swap to Maxis the drop call problem automatic solve. Now My iPhone 3GS with 3G enable without any problem. Maybe for who is facing same problem, can try to change SIM card, if still having problem then change service providor.
All this carping about the iPhone connections. One needs to check the other hand set makers forums to see the same thing. One also needs to not buy the Verizon advertisement about their sudo 3G network which does not allow data and voice on the same connection simultaneously. Common people time for a reality check! There is no free lunch.