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3G iPhone Connection Problems Chip-Related?

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Om has complained about his frustration with the 3G iPhone, which has poor reception and forces him to spend more time on the 2.5G EDGE network than he thought, but the issue may be with Infineon’s 3G chip, according to Richard Windsor, an analyst with Nomura Securities. In a research note today, he said: “We believe that these issues are typical of an immature chipset and radio protocol stack where we are almost certain Infineon is the 3G supplier.” That comment might cheer AT&T, but it’s bad news for Infineon, and perhaps a warning to the chip industry about quality control. [digg=]

Windsor writes that the problem isn’t likely to be solved with firmware updates, which means Apple could have to replace the chips so users get the performance they were promised. If the chip is the problem, this would be the second large chip failure this summer, with Nvidia’s faulty graphics chips placed in thousands of laptops grabbing most of the headlines so far.

The Nvidia issue appears to be caused by poor packaging, and the company has taken a $150-$200 million charge related to fixing the problem, but neither OEMs nor end customers are happy about the situation — especially Nvidia’s reluctance to disclose the full scope of the failure. I’ve emailed Infineon to see what they have to say about the iPhone chip and whether they make it themselves or outsource production as Nvidia has done with its graphics chips, but given Apple’s tendencies we might have to wait a while until we know the truth.

83 Responses to “3G iPhone Connection Problems Chip-Related?”

  1. Frank Schroeder

    My wife has the brand new iphone 3g s and we are having connectivity problems. The reception frequently cuts in and out and has even lost the connection.

  2. Camille

    I have problems with 3G net work selection it fails to register on 3G network, Bluetooth not functional, failed to receive sms., cannot play realplayer files

  3. There may be a problem with the iPhone’s chipset, but what everyone seems to forget is that CDMA assigns resources as users join a cell, splitting the available total bandwidth between them. One user? No problem. 300? Then you start having problems. Voice is likely still prioritized on 3G networks, which means that whatever data rate is left is shared amongst the remaining users. The 7.2Mbps is for EVERYONE on the same cell, not PER USER. Remember that. I explain this and compare it with EDGE and GPRS in the latest post of my blog:

  4. Fred Dunn

    Electronics Engineering Times (EET) magazine had an article on Apple choosing non-tier 1 component suppliers aledgedly so that Apple would have a tighter control over them. Apple bypassed the industry leaders to “have more control”. Here is the article:;jsessionid=RDLLI3VDBYGFOQSNDLRSKH0CJUNN2JVN?articleID=209100058

    I am also sure that it is a hardware issue and Apple and it’s customers are going to pay dearly for this mis-judgement.

  5. I agree with the complaints. Every call I made or received today, the person’s voice faded in and out or dropped all together. This is very frustrating. I will go to my local Apple store and demand a trade to the Treo, which I carried before ( The great iPhone) and had no problems…plus the treo has microsoft office and you can actually save, file and attach documents. Better battery, camera, video, keyboard ect…….

  6. Gis Bun

    To correct someone, over 4 million iPhones were bought by victims … errr …. customers so far.

    Unless I win it, I ain’t going to have one ever. Over hyped, bad Q&A, bad support, poor connections, ….

    I’ve heard that hairline fractures are appearing on some phones – clearly visible with white cases.

    Apple seems to acknowledge a lot of issues of late or are slow to respond. Example: The last major OS to fix the DND flaw – but fixed only for servers – not clients.

  7. Chango Malo!

    None of the problems described here and I have owned 3 iPhones in my time.
    a drop here or there but not unlike a BBerry or Nokia? Performs better or equal to any other phone out there…..MAYBE you do have a bad unit?

  8. It’s disappointing to see that Apple refuse to acknowledge the issue or address it in any way. I can see massive class legal actions from users with faulty IPhones. It is not good enough for Apple to keep producing defective hardware throughout the world.

  9. Mike Cerm is closest to the truth…
    3G is very mature tech and has been in Asia for over 3 years now. I recall having similar issues with Sony + Nokia phones when 3G was new. Most times the culprit is the carrier.
    Here is the solution that works: Most 3G phones can lock to 3G signal or fallback on GSM. In cases where the signal is fluctuating, the phone tends to drop the call. Again, this has happened to me on best european phones.
    The sony+nokias have a setting which is like “Use 3G”, “Use GSM” or “Both”.
    Change from both to GSM and your problems will go away.
    Of course, you don’t get 3G speed for surfing but then u dont miss calls. When you want to surf, you can toggle back to 3G mode to try your luck. This problem would fade away once the carriers get the coverage sorted. To be fair to AT&T, US is a large country and coverage in many places could be spotty.
    Again don’t blv what AT&T says about 3G coverage being avlbl on their website, as many carriers tend to include locations which are also under deployment.

  10. @Raymond – Believe me, I tried. That was spotty too. It was my first time with my iPhone there so maybe I missed something, but I am a web professional, longtime apple user, and know my way around Wifi, etc. …There seem to be 2 different ATT WiFi networks there. I would lock into one, then for some reason it would just drop randomly at some point. At other points I couldn’t sign on to either one. To further frustrate me, even when I was on Wifi, I was trying to upload photos using a certain social network’s app (which shall remain nameless), and it seemed to not recognize the WiFi connection and only upload over Edge (the uploads took forever for each iPhone photo). …Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a Mac user solid since ’88, and overall I totally love the iPhone – but AT&T’s 3G coverage (or perhaps the chipset’s robustness) is a joke.

  11. I have to agree with Om on this one, I have been *very* disappointed with the spottiness of 3G coverage. This sums it up for me – last friday I was at the Giants game, AT AT&T F*#$NG PARK, and I could only get Edge – and that was in the Field Club seats behind home plate. That is should just embarrassing for AT&T … IT’S THEIR PARK!

    At my house I only get Edge – that’s Twin Peaks IN SF. At the Safeway near my house I get no coverage at all. I get 3G most places in the city, but then behind a building or in a bar or something it will only be edge. Stanford shopping center in Palo Alto last week – at the Apple store – Edge. Downtown Mountain View in my office – Edge. It’s totally unforgivable. This is the heart of Apple/AT&T country. I’d hate to think how it is in middle America.

    I’ve been blaming AT&T (was a happy Verizon customer for years), but if a hardware recall solved the problem I would be first in line.

  12. dukeoconnor

    Two 3G’s and a 2.5G here. No major problems other than apps occasionally crashing. @Jason – I’ll give you a 3 out of 10 on that troll — you can do better.

  13. I haven’t had any problems here (Silicon valley) that I wouldn’t first attribute to ATT’s lousy buildout around here. The same phone works phenomenally in CIngular’s old stomping grounds along the I-10 corridor in SE Texas and Louisiana.

    WiFi reception is about as good as my MacBook Pro.

    Seriously – I think that this is primarily a case of excited expectations. Apple normally executes so well, but the MobileMe fiasco and supply problems have cast a cloud over the 3G, and it’s natural to think all of these issues are the phone’s fault.

    Not sure how much time Om spends in the valley compared to the city, but down here, ATTs call quality and reception has always been subpar, thanks to a healthy NIMBY community. Unlike LA, where cell sites hang off of buildings at every corner, you have to hunt for cell towers around here. Spectrum management around our three airports in the south bay probably also have something to do with it.

  14. Special K

    Hmm… I too have no issue with 3G here in southwestern US. The 2.0 software has small hiccups, but I won’t go so far as to calling it buggy. I do experience the keyboard lag compared to version 1.1.4, but that’s it. Overall, I would rank this at 4.5 out of 5 on the satisfaction scale.

  15. A cellular test set could instantly eliminate the handset as the culprit – so it is truly unfortunate that AT&T does not equip its retailers with the equipment and training to test their terminal devices. One test set from Wavcom or Anritsu can be used for just about any tri band GSM or CDMA handset – checking for freq, mod, signaling, and data link layer tests.

  16. Jeff Jennings

    Gee my iPhone 3G works great. I’m at the fringes of the service area at home and get acceptible reception. In my small town of 80,000 I get great reception most everywhere.

    As for the issues with the buggy 2.0 release I think Apple is doing just fine. Overall I am pleased. A longer lasting battery would be nice but there are constraints with the form factor. Stop whining and get a extra USB cord to charge on your office computer and a car charger.

  17. oops I forgot one thing.

    This whole cloud computing thing (which in fact im a big fan of).. first of all apple released the mac book air which is basically a cloud computing device and then goes on to demonstrate how little they know and how little they can execute a cloud computing initiative aka Mobile Me.

  18. Is there any good news coming from Apple these days?
    Mobile me = fail, need I say more?
    App Store = joke, apps keep coming and going, none of them are of any real use
    iPhone = fail, 3G problems, battery issues, bad GPS, case cracking, chip problems

    Ive been an apple user for a number of years but frankly im really warming to windows. I have fewer problems with my office Windows based notebook and MS Mesh is great.

    My opinion is that apple really are on the slippery slop now. oh well it was good whilst it lasted.

  19. Mike Cerm

    While it would be nice to blame the 3G problem on someone else, Apple still has a lot to apologize for. The 2.0 firmware was so terrible and buggy that it’s difficult to tell where the software problems end and the hardware problems begin. 2.0.1 fixes some performance issues, but there’s still a lot yet to be resolved.

    I have a theory about the 3G problem… While I don’t have the 3G myself, I’ve found the Wi-Fi reception on the 2G iPhone to be quite terrible. It’s worse than my laptop, and worse than my HTC Mogul. I have a feeling that, to mask the terrible battery performance, Apple’s being too aggressive with power-management. Apple’s under-powering the antenna, it’s picking up a weak 3G signal, so the iPhone is dropping back to EDGE. Because it’s much more energy-efficient, EDGE works fine with the under-powered antenna.

    It’s just a theory, supported by anecdotal evidence, but it makes sense to me. Heck, given the reports of how bad the 3G battery-life is, being forced to use EDGE seems more like a feature than a bug. I bet Apple would say the same, if they ever commented about anything.

  20. Alan Hipson

    I have an iphone 3G in the UK and have had it replaced by the apple store as the 3G chip was faulty…comparison with their store iphone showed up that my iphone had 3 bars less reception than on their referance phone instore.
    New iphone works perfectly.

  21. stephen

    I have three iPhones in my household and have not seen any problems at all with 3G. I have had some problems with quitting apps, but iPhone reception has been flawless. My co-worker has two iPhones and I have three other friends with iPhone, no problems with 3G.

    I think you may have a bad unit and that is all.