Google Nexus One 3G Issues Still Lurking

37 Comments

I’m writing from Phoenix, where a trip home met an abrupt end today. After one canceled flight from San Francisco to Philadelphia, I hopped over to the Valley of the Sun in hopes of a different flight home, but Mother Nature had other ideas. Since so many travelers are in a similar bind, all flights home are booked through Monday. I’ll be attempting a trip to JFK tomorrow and will mostly likely miss the first Super Bowl of my adult life. What the heck does that all that have to do with Google’s Nexus One (s goog)? Well, this travel challenge has offered me a great way to test the recent 3G fix in a number of T-Mobile coverage areas. As bad as my travel woes are, the radio in my Nexus One just might be worse off than me.

Not long after the Nexus One first arrived in early January, users reported 3G issues here in the U.S. Since the phone only supports T-Mobile’s frequencies here, AT&T’s network was a non-factor in the situation. I had my phone shipped to me in Las Vegas since I was there for the Consumer Electronics Show and really didn’t notice any issues. And when I returned home to Philadelphia, all was well at first. In fact, I was testing the 3G immediately after we landed — as we were taxing to the gate, I saw 2.1 Mbps down and 1.2 Mbps up. But once I recovered from the CES and started looking closer at the Nexus One, I saw issues. In the same location, an evaluation Nokia N900 handset with my T-Mobile SIM card offered speeds similar to my first test. But after a quick SIM swap to the Nexus One, the best my Android handset could do was lowly EDGE speeds. Clearly, something appeared to be wrong.

Sure enough, reports of the same 3G issues flooded the official Google Nexus One support forums. There were a few different configuration workarounds offered, but they didn’t work for everyone. Finally, Google indicated that it was working with T-Mobile and HTC, the handset maker, to address the problems. After a few weeks of waiting, a software solution arrived in the form of an over-the-air update for all Nexus One handsets. In addition to the 3G fix, Google added other welcome features — the most prominent being pinch-to-zoom functionality in the native Gallery, Browser and Maps software. But did the firmware actually fix the 3G problem?

I upgraded my handset firmware just prior to my current travel excursion. I was more enamored by the multitouch features and didn’t pay too much attention to my 3G signal, even though I live in a T-Mobile data coverage area. So while waiting for my flight to San Francisco, I refocused my attention on the radio issue. What a perfect time and place to do just that, I thought. After all, Philadelphia International Airport is where I first saw fast bandwidth speeds on the phone. Too bad, I never saw them again in that very location. I ran various speed tests over the course of three hours, but never even saw half of the throughput I had seen a few weeks prior in the same place.

While there are a number of factors that affect 3G performance — location, other users, backhaul — the results weren’t sitting right with me. On Twitter, I asked if anyone else was still having problems. A few minutes later Michael Gartenberg, a Technology Analyst at Insight and columnist at Engdget, replied via Twitter: “yep. 3g actually worse. I used to get 3g at home. No more. But I do have multi touch.” Again, data throughput testing isn’t an exact science, but I can’t think of a single reason why Michael couldn’t get 3G at home using the same phone — especially after the software update.

So over the span of the last three days, I’ve been testing my handset using the SpeedTest application from Xtreme Labs — available for free in the Android Market — and also watching the data indicator on the phone. Aside from testing in Philadelphia, I’ve also tested in various San Francisco neighborhoods and in Phoenix. Every single testing location used was squarely in a solid T-Mobile 3G coverage area — no fringe areas, for example.

And in every location, I saw either miserable 3G speeds, signals bouncing between 3G and EDGE, or — even worse –both. I’m calling the last situation “worse” for a specific reason — signal bouncing like that can hit your handset battery hard. In fact, I barely used my Nexus One this morning in San Francisco and in the three hours I waited for my flight, the Nexus One battery dropped from 100% to 65%. I’d expect that kind of drain in three hours when actually using the phone, but not when it was basically dormant. The bouncing back-and-forth is really maddening. Sitting with the GigaOm team yesterday, for example, the phone was stationary but showed every possible combination of bars and signals. I saw GPRS, EDGE and 3G plus everything from no bars of service to four full bars, and everything in between. This was over the course of two hours in the exact same location.

Since my travel woes have stranded me in a Phoenix hotel, I now have some time to check in on the very same Google Nexus One support forum that I originally used to track the issue. As of now, there are 977 posts in the thread, spanning 25 pages. While I don’t know the location and coverage specifics for each individual user, there’s a fair number of posts indicating that handset owners are still seeing the same issues I am, even after the firmware update. There are some that say the issue is fixed for them, which is great. But either my testing is bad in three different cities, or there’s still an issue for quite a few people.

Is it hardware or software? Perhaps it’s both, or maybe there are some coverage issues that are affecting results. It’s to the point that I don’t really know. It could be any and all of the above. But what I do know is that something is still wrong with the 3G signal on my Nexus One — and I’m not alone.

If you have a Nexus One and use a T-Mobile SIM, I invite you to chime in on the comments, but more importantly, to participate in a poll. I’d like to see how isolated or widespread this is, for starters. And it just might help bring more attention to whatever the issue is. When I return home, I’ll do some additional testing. If I still see the issue, I’ll be testing the support channels for my Google Nexus One.

[polldaddy poll=2660401]

37 Comments

Michael

I found a weird issue in this respect with my Nexus One in the netherlands. I used to have a Vodafone SIM card in there and it works great with 3g continuously and low power consumption. Then I changed my SIM card to KPN (incumbent telecom provider) and it switches between G and 3G and battery life goes down the drain.

Does this have anything to do with the telecom provider?

Kevin C. Tofel

It certainly could have something to do with the provider’s network. You might have been in good Vodafone coverage areas but those same areas offer marginal KPM coverage. In that case, the phone could be constantly seeking the 3G signal and all of that bouncing / searching will hurt the battery noticeably.

Of course, I’m assuming that the two carriers don’t share network coverage, but I could be wrong – do they both have independent networks?

Eval Blog

Excited to get the NEXUS one. However, there is a glitch for anyone on a TMobile Family Plan. Nexus One only will let you upgrade a line if it is an “individual plan”. That being said, if you try to call Tmobile and pull a line out to individualize it, that negates your eligibility, because then you start a “new 2 yr.” contract, thus still making your phone line not eligible for the Nexus One through Google. After calling both Tmobile and Google customer care (18888-216-4736), I was disappointed to hear the only way around this “family plan” issue is to buy the NEXUS at full price! I don’t want the phone enough to pay almost $600 for it. So no thanks.

Chris

My N1 is a beautiful phone. i got mine at the beginning of march. i live in san antonio, tx zip code 78232 and my reception is horrible. when im outside its a little better but indoors forget about it. i have to hold it a certain way just to get egde and sometimes 3G. i know i got the update cause i have the pinch zoom, woopee!!!. but now its getting to the point where i’ll miss out on important emails and what not. if anyone knows if i should send it back or just wait for another ota let me know. i gave my girlfriend my G1 and i’ll hold em next to eachother and she has great service but mine is barely getting edge. any info on this please shoot me an email. mynightmare17@gmail.com

william

Well to start off I would think that for a phone that cost me almost 600. Bucks it would be perfect but no after the upgrade my 3g comes n goes I hate it, I really hope they fix this….by the way I live in Houston good coverage area so is not T-Mobile.

Shantanu

Did you reboot your phone? All modern electronic devices of all types seem to have what I call the Microsoft disease: exit the application/computer/room/house/country/etc. and log back it and voila! it works.

josesxi

I do have a super fast connection(TW Cable’s Road Runner Turbo). And i’ve never gotten speeds over 6Mbp/s with any of my phones, including the 3GS.

josesxi

@ECB who doubts I got those speeds on 3G:
Thats because to take a screenshot with the Nexus you HAVE TO do it on the PC. SO I did the test outside my building then went inside to take the screenshot and naturally the phone automatically connected to my WIFI network. Don’t you think I would know the difference?

[IMG]http://i252.photobucket.com/albums/hh3/josesxi/MyT-Mobile3G-1.png[/IMG]

Carrie

I’m seeing the bouncing around of the, what I’m told is the voice signal, but 3G seems to be pretty steady. I’m told the average speed for d/l in Austin, TX (where I live) is ~600kpbs. I get anywhere between 500-900kpbs d/l. Upload is a paltry 50kpbs all the way up to 400kpbs. This seems to depend on the time of day. Midday I get the worst speeds. But at 2am I’ll get the highest speeds on everything. It also depends on the server I’m connected to. I’ve tried a whole bunch of them on speedtest and sometimes one server does better than the other.

I’ve heard that T-Mobile 3G just does worse inside than outside and that seems to be part of my problem. The further I get away from windows whether at home, or work or shopping at a big box store, the worse the signal gets–when I have 3G enabled that is. When I switch over to 2G only, the voice signal shoots up to 4 bars and is steady with no fluctuations no matter where I’m at.

I don’t really know that much about how these signals work, but it almost seems that somehow a lower 3G signal interferes with the voice signal causing fluctuations. When I’m outside or near windows, the 3G signal and voice signal seems to be steady and very strong.

I don’t know if this makes much sense, but this has been what I’ve observed on my phone.

Other than that I love this thing. I won’t return it, and am hoping beyond all hopes these fluctuations can be corrected quickly and easily an OTA update.

distortedloop

I didn’t get the OTA update soon enough, so I actually went to Google’s code site and downloaded the update myself. Installed it manually.

Anyways, I was ready to send the Nexus One back to Google after two weeks of testing (California residents get 30 days) due to the horrible signal in my home and a few other places. In the house, I pretty much got zero service on voice or data

After applying the update, I have significantly improved signal strength inside my home – no 3G here, but I don’t need it with WiFi as long as I get voice.

Battery life is increase dramatically as well, indicating I’m not burning up the battery looking for a signal.

The only anomaly I am noticing now is that in several places (like my office) that were always 3G before, I sometimes now just get EDGE until I go into settings and open the Mobile Networks page. 3G comes on immediately at the point.

Overall, I am happy, and plan on keeping the phone & T-Mo service (I am coming from an iPhone 3G[s] & AT&T), but it’s clear there is still some sort of issue with the radios on the device.

(I’ve also noticed an issue with bluetooth audio dropping out for 30 seconds when the N1 switches from mobile networks to WiFi – I need to report that as a bug).

Daniel

I haven’t had any problems, either before or after the update. I live in central Chicago, but have also travelled to Urbana, IL a few hours south of Chicago. In neither city did I see any problem.

I did go into the preferences and tell it to auto-select the network, but I also didn’t see much problem with it before that. I only see edge when I’m out of the city, or if I’m in a basement or some such.

Diablo

Couldn’t maintain a 3G signal before the update, and still can’t after. I live in Los Angeles, work in Hollywood. So unless tmobile coverage blows in the city, something is wrong (this is my first 3G tmobile phone). I also loose complete network signal often.

Dare I say, my iPhone’s 3G connection never gave me any issues whatsoever? It never switched from 3G to Edge and it never disconnected from AT&T completely.

Andy Abramson

Kevin,

Not only is speed an issue, it was discovered by one of my app developer focused clients that there are different versions of components inside various Nexus Ones. Mine could not work with an app that works on many other Nexus Ones.

Also, my back cover does not fit snug, impacting the camera lens.

Thankfully, HTC is sending a replacement.

3G–I get 3G solidly on TMO on my Nokia N900 but not on the Nexus One here at the house. On the MyTouch3 I have no issues either.

droidStory

The recent update has not fixed this issue, and I almost feel as if Google threw in multi-touch to distract from the actual problem while trying to figure out what to do next. At this point I’m almost convinced that this is due to a RF design flaw with the phone. The slightest RF interference in the 3G spectrum seems make it drop the connection and switch bands. The fix is trying to mask this by simply increasing the delay before the switch, in the hopes that the interference is temporary. Naturally, the problem is more likely to occur in weaker 3G coverage areas (e.g. inside buildings). You can test this yourself. If you have an average 3G signal, picking up the phone and holding it in your hand will most likely be enough to make it switch down to Edge. See also:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deCkjeHYT-g
and http://droidstory.com/2010/02/03/nexus-one-ota-update-fail/
I’m wondering why this issue has not been reported more widely. Yes, there are a few thousand posts on the support forum, but this only represents a few hundred people, yet I’ve heard that close to 80k N1 units have been sold so far.
Is this only affecting a certain production batch of the phone – I got mine the first day – or do most people not care or notice??? And, yes – battery life has gotten much worse after the update.

buckmemphis

I have a nexus one in houston texas and after the patch my speed has improved. im seeing +-900kbps throughout central houston texas

Scotty

I loaded the new radio code into my N1 and I have EDGE in my bedroom at home now. Used to be I had no coverage anywhere at home.

Note this radio firmware is beyond what Google has sent out so far and thus is only for the brave but it’s worked better for me.

I’m also disappointed no one has commented on how this “update” was basically a near total replacement of every app on the phone. All kinds of tweaks are showing up as a I explore. Even polar clock got a going over.

ecb

No real change after the update. I had 3G at home before and still do after. No improvement in speed, but no degradation in signal either. The one thing I did notice was that I jumped a bit from 3G to Edge when I was inside a restaurant that was on the outskirts of the 3G coverage map.

I’m hoping that the Nexus One does not just have a poorly designed radio. I would be surprised if that’s the case given that HTC has already built some solid Android 3G phones that run on the TMobile Network (G1, MyTouch)

paulied1

Here in Providence R.I. I have good 3G signal strength, however the mbps never went over 1.0. After the recent update I checked it and I recorded 2.0 up and 1.86 down. I’m sure one of the factors for this the fact that today is a Sunday and its 9 a.m. so there aren’t a lot of users right now. I was impressed .

Jerry

I almost never lost 3G signal on my Bold 9700 from T-Mobile. Calls and data were great.

However, even after the software fix on the Nexus, the problems remain.

It’s a great device but I think the radio was designed poor so much that even a software update cannot completely remedy.

T-Mobile’s 3G network may be smaller than their larger rivals, but for me this is a moot point since I already know it works great all over my area. I live in Southern California near Los Angeles BTW.

I also must point out that my HTC Droid Eris with Verizon also bounces around zero to 1 bar all over the place even though calls go through most of the time. Perhaps HTC just makes devices that although are beautiful tend to be weak in the RF area?

Kevin C. Tofel

I’d agree that’s a solid possibility except for one thing. Using different devices on the same network in the same location yield totally different results. For example, if it was the network, why would I get I consistently get 2 Mbps down on T-Mobile with the Nokia N900 and then 300 kbps down on the Nexus One in the same place — just by swapping the SIM from one device to another? That’s what isn’t making sense and leads to the device, not the network as the problem in my mind.

ecb

Sorry to disappoint you, but that pic you attached a link to shows a wifi connection, not a 3G connection.

josesxi

Thats because to take a screenshot with the Nexus you HAVE TO do it on the PC. SO I did the test outside my building then went inside to take the screenshot and naturally the phone automatically connected to my WIFI network.
Don’t you think I would know the difference?

Marco

I am more than angry that after the Ota update my phone is now 80% on edge in comparison to 70% on 3g before.

WU

Initially after the patch, i was getting really bad browser speed. But now everything is peachy. Always on 3G, speed always fast, everything loads up, no hickups anywhere.

dcboy

well, I dont have the Nexus, but did test in NYC and NJ. In NJ I am seeing 1500 kbps, in NYC about 1000 kbps it might be less in the city, but I have to say the T-mobile network has me covered

gshocker

I am having mixed results after the new patch. I am getting more areas where the phone can not seem to stay on 3G which is frustrating. If this were just an average device I would have given up on it long ago… though I must admit I am tempted by the N900 more and more.

I am also finding that in fringe areas I get a wonderful mixture of EDGE switching to GPRS switching to no signal. I am going to run a test to see if my N97 (only EDGE on Tmo) will get a signal in that same area. If it does the Nexus days may be numbered.

Best device I have owned so far except for the whole signal thing.. Seems like a phone should work as a phone.

jeremiah

Mine is/was bad before and after the patch. Really disappointed that on an otherwise great phone is having these issues.

seamonkey420

i’ve been bouncing around the country recently too. however i have noticed that after the update i did have a few more change overs to EDGE from 3G but then again i am currently in midtown, NYC. however in minneapolis, my 3G is very solid and consistent. battery lasts me a full day easily w/syncing on but gps only on when needed for navi.

while in wilmington, de, i had a little back and forth action between edge and 3g but i’m not sure how Tmobiles 3G is in that area.

just my experience so far. i haven’t done many speed tests (thanks for the tip on the speed test app, can’t believe i totally overlooked that one!) but will try a few tests while i’m still in nyc this week. :)

Kevin C. Tofel

Hopefully, I’m flying into NYC myself since all flights to Philly are booked through Monday due to the storm. If I get there, I’ll hit a fourth location. ;)

seamonkey420

just did a series of 5 tests and got these results:

  1. DN: 86 kbps UP:84
  2. DN: 101 kbps UP: 549
  3. DN: 460 kbps UP: 739
  4. DN: 482 kbps UP: 423

note, that after my first test, i went into my settings and turned on data roaming and noticed a significant increase in DN speeds even though i’m not roaming off of Tmobile. hmmm.. interesting…

Wayne Schulz

Pretty much the same experience (fluctuating 3G/EDGE) at the Grand Hyatt in Midtown Manhattan NYC — this was before the supposed 3G patch/fix.

Rock solid 3G signal.

And, yes, certainly overpowering signal could be one cause – but why don’t I see the same thing on my Droid, BB 9700 or iPhone 3GS? Certainly they are all subject to signal overload in NYC. The Nexus One was the only problem.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZmcvXOGmAk

Kevin C. Tofel

Great video demo, Wayne. I do have one question though. From my understanding, the 1-4 bars may not be a good indicator for the data signal. Have you heard the same? I tend to go into Settings, About Phone, Status to verify the actual signal strength and mobile network type. Curious if you’ve looked at that data at all. Regardless, something’s still not right — at least not on my phone. Thanks!

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