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My Big iPhone Break-up

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Earlier this morning, after enduring days and days of dropped calls and errant network behavior, I quit on my iPhone (s aapl). It wasn’t an easy decision, but it had to be done. I depend almost exclusively on my mobile phone for my communications. Whether it be surfing the web, checking email, sending text messages or talking — my mobile is the center of my daily existence.

That being said, AT&T’s (s t) network just wasn’t cutting it for me. I even tried using a BlackBerry, but the network issues never quite went away. Then over the past few days, my iPhone was spending ungodly stretches of time “searching” for the network, the download speeds of web pages slowed down, and email — well that’s a whole other story. The static, the dropped calls and above all the shoddy call quality were enough to raise my blood pressure. And given my medical history, that’s not a good thing. The only feature that worked flawlessly: SMS.

I love my iPhone — but AT&T’s network has failed me. Apparently I’m not alone. If you follow me on Twitter, then you know how often I complain about it; my complaints always result in me receiving similar messages of frustration from other iPhone users. A status update on my Facebook page on the topic unleashed a flood of messages from people expressing abhorrence of AT&T’s service.

Anyway this morning, while conducting a phone interview, the call dropped on me twice. Enough was enough. A few minutes later, I went to T-Mobile’s company store and got myself a BlackBerry Curve 8900 for email and SMS. I also signed up for a plain-vanilla voice service from Verizon Wireless (s vz). And I already have a 32 GB iPod Touch for surfing and music. They can all be charged using the USB port of my Macbook, thereby obviating the need for extra chargers.

Is this an ideal solution? Probably not — but living with spotty service isn’t worth the trouble. The dream of living with a single device, a superphone, as we like to call it, hasn’t quite worked out yet, thanks to the network. Goodbye iPhone, it was nice knowing ya!

343 Responses to “My Big iPhone Break-up”

  1. I currently have a Nokia n95 (unlocked) on AT&T and live in the Bay Area and commute about 40 miles one way. I’ve been noticing the service get much more flaky of late. Larger “dead zones” and areas that the phone claims there is signal yet I either get network busy or network errors.

    Given I live in Santa Cruz, TMobile really isn’t an option. When I’ve tried their service, I need to align my chakras, pray in the proper direction, and sacrifice a goat just to get signal outside. I have not tried Sprint and Verizon’s selection of phones is pretty lousy.

    I am still waiting on my dream setup:

    1. A basic phone on a reliable network that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, for when I am travelling/moving/not near wifi.
    2. An iPod touch that has a GPS built-in, replaceable batter (GPS sucks batter), and a good VOIP client for a primary number.

    I’m not a fan of the n95 — it’s too slow, but it isn’t WinMo — until there is an Android phone that isn’t an embarrasment ergonomically and visually, I am probably stuck where I am. Since the above isn’t likely to happen either.

  2. I’m surprised at how passive most of these comments are. What has happened to your rights as a consumer? Why do you want to continue to pay for poor service? Is it not up to us to – DEMAND – good service, quality and packages that we can approve of? YOU DON”T NEED TO PUT UP WITH CELL PHONE PROVIDERS WHO CONTINUE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE of customers. Try writing to CEO’s of these companies and let them know what you want. If customers talk with their wallets, companies eventually get the point. I think having this article written is a first step. Keep in mind that companies are never too big to fail. History has proven that competition since the Carter Phone Decision back in the late 60’s has beaten these guys in the past and can do so again!

    • @courtney benson

      You are absolutely right about demanding better service. unfortunately we never get any of that from the cell phone carriers. Verizon comes as close to being a good solid network in this country. And that says a lot about our state of the networks.

  3. Om – why didn’t you get the Blackberry Curve on Verizon as an all-in-one device? I think it does pretty well for voice from what I hear and should solve all your iPhone issues (that I empathize with….) My [bad] solution is that I use my cell phone a lot less for voice, using office phone or home phone (VoIP) whenever I can….

    • @Ron

      Since T-Mobile isn’t a contract and is only a month-to-month deal I want to try them out first before I switch to Verizon. If T-Mobile doesn’t do the job I will make the switch. I prefer GSM networks since I do travel a lot and need a phone that roams seamlessly. I know you can get a VZ world phone but I really am testing the waters. The voice call service is working just fine by the way.

  4. Om. I hear your frustration, I think there is something broken with the 2.2.1 update as well as I’ve seen a noticeable degradation in data connection quality. but the solution doesn’t make sense. You were dropping calls on the iPhone and bought T-Mo and Verizon to replace your one device? The T-Mo network, I can assure you is far inferior to the AT&T network. I run a mobile company of course and carry four phones with me at all times. I can guarantee that after two years of this behavior the AT&T network is clearly superior to the T-Mo network. Why not just buy a Verizon phone for voice and keep the iPhone for web and apps? I use a Nokia e71 on T-mo for voice and e-mail and iPhone for web and apps (except in areas where T-mo coverage is weak and I have to use the iPhone for calls (or the Verizon Voyager or Sprint Instinct I also carry!).

  5. I’ve never had problems with my AT&T service. Example – I was in the middle of the 1.8 million witnessing Obama’s inauguration and made 7 calls and only one was cracking! I made numerous emails, never skipped a beat. I received about 30 emails during the entire ceremony. Except for some software problems early on I’ve never had problems with my iPhone including the AT&T service. Believe or not I still make call in the L’Enfant Metro Station which AT&T doesn’t serve (but should).

    • Charlie-
      “I was in the middle of the 1.8 million witnessing Obama’s inauguration and made 7 calls and only one was cracking!” Do you have any idea how your calls were being monitored and how powerful the signals were that day…..BIG TIME! My point is your signal was highly improved or “delayed” at this location. So it is mute.


  6. Just another data point, I live in Berkeley and work in San Francisco and use my iPhone on AT&T exclusively for all business and personal calls while driving and in the office. I cannot remember the last time I had a dropped call nor can the other people I informally surveyed in our office. I do think that the 3G performance could be better (I leave it on all the time) and would like greater than 1-day battery life, but so far I haven’t gone back to the ‘berry.

  7. I ended my relationship with my iphone a couple weeks after the G1 came out. Truthfully, I miss the still as of yet refined interface Apple seems to be able to nail just right. Over the holidays I actually swapped back and forth between my iphone and my G1. The iphone is definitely better when you’re switching from voice/data to music, but the ability to run background apps on the G1 is, well, the thing that relegated my iphone to doing duty as an glorified ipod for my car.

    I still miss the iphone sometimes, but having location aware apps that can actually run and do their job when they’re not in focus is huge for me (not to mention being outside of Apple’s walled garden). (Love ya, Steve, but ur too much of a control freak, and, well, it’s MY phone!!)

  8. i would say using the iphone unlocked over 2g is the way to go…..the 3G iphone battery life running on 3G service is not up to par…my office is 90% iPhone split between 2G/3G users and almost all of the 3G users leave 3G turned off. If tmobile coverage is good in you area Om I would think twice against unlocking your iPhone. It only takes 10min to do anyway:)

  9. I love Apple, and would love to have an iPhone. But I have never been able to deal with AT&T wireless. My plan is the next trip I have to Germany is to buy an iPhone there through tMobile, my longtime provider, and bring it home unlocked. Meanwhile the iPod Touch works like a champ and my old Razr is still working well.

  10. In the greater Seattle area, I keep my iphone 3G in 2G mode pretty much all of the time so that it remains usable. If I don’t, I’m rewarded with dropped calls, calls that go straight to voicemail, or a phone that hangs when I attempt to dial out.

  11. Roger Weeks

    I live in San Jose and while I get an _occasional_ call failure when making calls, I’ve not had a single dropped call on my iPhone 3G since I bought it when it was released. I don’t LIKE AT&T, but the coverage here is fine.

    Contrast that with the T-Mobile network down here, which fails to provide any signal inside my house.

    I won’t ever give Verizon any of my money ever again.

  12. Here in Australia I use the Telstra 3G Next G network, it works flawlessly with the IPhone almost where ever I go. They are expensive but it just works and I have never had an issue. The NEXT G rollout has been a big success, it operates on 850MHz and covers the country well even in often remote places. I have also use the 3 Mobile network here and OPTUS but they are less reliable but still better that AT&T probably because they have had their networks rolled out for a long time. Recently I use my iPhone with great success in the UK on the O2 network, however in Central London I did notice the reception bars were less often that I get here in Oz. I think the 850MHz network roll out here is a great thing even though I hate the monthly bills. I pity my US iPhoners in the inferior 3G experience they get, becasue in my experience the iPhone is the best device I have ever used.

  13. Gave up on mine a few weeks ago Om
    Nothing to do with network, actually O2 is pretty good over here, its battery life, I just couldn’t make it past 5pm on a travel day, its just broke my heart in the end.
    Back now to the old reliable.
    Blackberry Bold for email
    Nokia E71 for voice

      • Yeah, but it’s $90 freaking dollars! Also big, and I hear it actually makes signal quality poorer. :D

        ROFL, apparently, with AT&T you can’t win no matter how you try. I switched from Verizon to AT&T for the iPhone, and I’m just in a bad situation now because of it. Sure, our AT&T plan is a bit cheaper, but the service is VERY spotty; no 3G also means that I get data use out of my phone only at home or work, where the wifi is. (Did you know that calls DO NOT interrupt EDGE data connections??)

        It’s just a myriad of stupid things. But I can’t go back to Verizon if they got the iPhone tomorrow; I have a large unpaid balance now because of disconnect fees. Sprint or T-Mobile are about my only option; thankfully enough that lets me choose between the Pre or the G1..

  14. I have to say that part of the fault seems to be from AT&T, and partially by the phone. At least down here in the South Bay, I have been using AT&T for a while without too much of a problem… when I was using an HTC Hermes (AT&T 8925). When that broke, I went out and got the Samsung BlackJack II, and things definitely got worse. Data was fine, but coverage became a lot worse. My office, with the HTC phone, had very good coverage, but with the Samsung BJ2, I can barely hear the other side since the connection constantly goes in and out.

    I am ready to throw this phone out the window, it’s such a piece of crap, and while I’m at it, just forget about anything 3G for a while. Twitter angered enough people with outages, when is AT&T gonna be able to learn that if you unleash the iPhone, you’re gonna run into the same problems?

  15. Much as I wanted to, I did not get the Iphone for precisely this reason, as I had heard horror tales about the spotty coverage. I have had Verizon for many years – and incredibly I have never had a single dropped call ! Also, I have the World Edition Blackberry and it has worked flawlessly for email, even when I was travelling in India. Although not as cool as the Iphone, the Blackberry’s engineering, design and interface is so much more robust that if I wanted to be sure that I never missed an important email, the Blackberry would trump the Iphone anyday. I guess looks are not everthing – in technology as in life !

  16. Had to jump back in – I am on Sprint and have been for 9 years. I have had very few problems and those spots I did have problems with have pretty much gone away in the past 2 years. I tried Verizon and ATT in the past two months (yep, I was lured by the Storm and iPhone) and neither impressed me more than my Sprint service (as I said above, ATT was bad for me). And Sprint’s plans allow for roaming and they roam on Verizon’s towers – so it is a win-win in my book.

    And now I too am also waiting on the Pre – could be “THE” phone.

    • gh0stly

      Palm PRE! 4G! Sprint is the best now. Don’t you believe otherwise! Have dropped calls in a certain area? Get a dual band phone. Simple as that. 4G is going to make 3G users wish they had it. up to 7mbps? That is faster than AT&T’s fastest home DSL service! AT&T has been behind the curve for a very VERY long time. How they scored the iPhone comes down to one thing. Which GSM network is better? T-Mobile or AT&T? Well, at the time AT&T. So unless Sprint or Verizon is willing to lease or build a GSM network, AT&T is the only choice until a CDMA model is available. I’m sure it is in development.

  17. Om, I live in the Hollywood Hills in So Cal and the Sprint network is awesome. Looks like the Pre will be available in the next few months which makes those of us on the Sprint net with iPhone envy very happy. The Pre has gotten great early reviews. On the sprint network i can leave my home, get on a conference call and talk for an hour without a drop, or a problem. It is how it should be. I too bailed on At&t 9 years ago. Dropped calls made me pull my hair out.

    iPhone is awesome, At&t HARDLY

  18. Jason Throckmorton

    Out of curiosity, why not go with the G1? We’ve been having the same problems, but I’ve noticed that my first generation iphone gets better reception and is generally more reliable than the 3G models around the office. It’s a shame that AT&T’s network is so poor. Do you think Apple has some SLAs in their exclusivity agreement that would allow them to open up the iPhone to other carriers given AT&T’s performance.

    • amanda

      I completely agree i have the g1 and it works great via att or over wifi with skype. I bought the phone off of craigslist uner a hundred bucks and it works awsome and it is not jailbroken or the like. I love it!!!

  19. In our SOMA office, everyone with 3G iPhones turn 3G off in the office, and they don’t have any dropped calls. Of course, then we have to ask ourselves, “what’s the point of having a 3G iPhone? if you can’t use it?”

  20. I am sure you also got those who chimed in with “gee, here in So&So city, I have great coverage” – well good for them. But I have always suspected that a ton of iPhone users either just put up with lack of service or don’t care or both. I am in Austin, TX and I am supposed to be saturated with ATT 3G – but my 3 day experiment with an iPhone proved otherwise. At the end of the day, if you use your mobile as it is intended (a communications device), you have to have coverage regardless of the latest/greatest handset.

    The good thing is there are going to be lots of great choices in the coming months for all carriers – the Pre, new BB’s and new WM devices – so if one has to give up on the Jesus phone, they will still have some solid alternatives. Maybe you will not be as “cool”, but at least you will be able to make a call (and not have it drop).

  21. Michael Buckigham

    Om, I’m in the exact same boat as you. Even AT&T agrees that 50% of all my calls are dropped and when I was in San Francisco over the summer for business, I had to buy a pre-paid Verizon phone to avoid paying outrageous phone surcharges from the Hyatt Regency near Embarcadero. My wife wants to strangle me for switching our service from Sprint to AT&T when we got the iphones.

  22. Stacey Higginbotham

    And this is why I keep signing over my paychecks to Verizon even though they nickle and dime me to death. The network rocks. A device without a great network is like a pretty girl without any intelligence. She may be nice to look at, but you wouldn’t want her running your life.

  23. austinandrew

    It’s sad, really. AT&T has the best phones and worst coverage. Verizon has the best coverage and worst phones. But the number one function of a phone is to be able to talk to someone. I don’t care how cool my phone is and how many gadgets it has if I can’t talk on it.

    • MicroNix

      I have to disagree with you austinandrew. Verizon Droid has been completely solid as a phone and data device for me on Verizon. And the Droid is definitely not a second class citizen. Besides voice and data at the same time on the AT&T network, the Droid matches the iPhone feature for feature minus a little polish of the interface. Whats more, the most important feature that I purchase a phone for, the actual “phone” has been absolutely rock solid on calls. I would much rather have a reliable phone that really can multitask apps than one with shotty service and the ability to do voice and data at the very same time.

      I ditched AT&T before the iPhone was even popular because of dropped calls, horrible service and down right rude customer service. The iPhone would be darn near the ultimate phone but is severely crippled by AT&T’s network. Maybe this flies for teens and 20-somethings, but when you have kids of your own that you need to stay connected with, dropped calls or no service at all just isn’t an option. The longer Apple stays exclusive to AT&T, the more time the competition will have (Android) to come up with the “iPhone killer”. They are almost there now.

  24. I have two phones my iPhone and my krazor from verizon wireless. If you have ever been in SF during any big event the AT&T network breaks down and also sends messages into some wireless purgatory never to be seen again. I agree it is no superphone it is still fun but I’m glad I have a backup phone.

    • Wow, I have never really had any problems with my iPhone other than on a very few occasions. I live on the peninsula and down by San Jose and it’s always great for me. In fact every other phone I had ever had on the on Sprint network had been a nightmare of dropped calls and slooww services. Even after I got my Treo 650 on Sprint, still dropped calls. So, I have been ecstatic since I got my iphone through At & T. Who knew? Sorry guys…. I hope it gets better out there and I hope I don’t become afflicted.

      • I seem to have stuttered grammatically with my fingers above. So I will try again.

        I have had the first generation iphone and also have the 3G iphone. I switched to it from Sprint after years of dropped calls and crappy customer service. I couldn’t even get a signal inside my house some of those years. I tried numerous phones as well.

        With both of my iphones I have not had any significant problems related to dropped calls, slow data or problems with email or texting. I live in the south bay area. My husband doesn’t have problems with his either.

        Good luck out there because I will never go back to Sprint. I’ll eat one of my iphones first.

    • I have been a Verizon Crackberry customer for many years. I finally made the decision to go with the iPhone 3G s after my company added enterprise services for the phone. I have had the phone for about 30 hours and have a hard time getting through a single call without getting dropped. It is impossible to make a call from my house where I never experienced drops on Verizon. I have been out around town all day (Orange County, CA) making calls and there is an HUGE difference between the service providers. I am so disappointed because the iPhone is most definitely superior hardware and software. I am taking the iPhone back tonight and keeping my Verizon service and the BB Curve, as I know that I will not be happy with the service. A very sad day!