Blog Post

My Big iPhone Break-up

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 don’t have an iphone but I use AT&T. Has anyone given thought that it might be the iphone rather than the service provider? Although AT&T is not perfect, it is not (that) bad either — can’t complain because i haven’t had dropped call on my motorola phone yet unless ofcourse I am going into a tunnel (which is expected).

    The reason why i say it may be the equipment rather than the service is because couple of my friends have AT&T but with a different phone, their coverage is really crappy compared to mine. I have 4 bars standing next to them in the same area and their phones only have 2 (and they have trouble calling out) — figure that one out!

    Maybe it’s AT&T, maybe it is the equipment … maybe it is a combination of both. I think there are areas which AT&T excels at and Verizon/ Spint/ Tmobile is worse (and vice versa). Over here, Sprint/ Tmobile pretty much sucks and Verizon is just ok… all depends on which part of the US you are staying in I guess.

    With how the iphone is in demand and Apple scurrying to fill that demand, I would not rule out that there may some kind of firmware bug or mechanism that makes the communication buggy with the telco (AT&T).

    Saying that, I can’t wait to get myself an iphone when my service plan is up for renewal mid 09.

  2. I live is S. Orange County CA and ATT is horrible. I’m on Sprint now and it’s a better but not as good as Verizon. I’m switching back when my contract expires.

    ATT = Suck
    Sprint = Ok
    Verizon = Rocks

    Om, I wonder if anyone outside of Apple has done the math on the ATT/iPhone exclusive deal. I know a lot of people would have purchase an iPhone if you could choose your network, so is the revenue lost on iPhone sales made up by the ATT subsidy? Just curious.

  3. The other issue that’s yet to arise is what this means for competition. On one hand, it sucks that the iPhone/AT&T offering doesn’t deliver, on the other hand, it’s great that we have a ton of options and switching is relatively easy. When the iPhone came out, I thought it was game over (at least in the consumer market), but that’s hardly been the case. What’s worse: sub-par products and consumer choice, or sub-par choice and a monopoly. I’ll take today’s situation any day…hopefully healthy and fair competition will make everyone’s experience better sooner rather than later.

  4. anonymous coward

    hate the network, hate their attitude, hate their customr service. such commendable research & innovation by Apple and other brought to its knees by people who are 2 generations behind in their thinking.

    time for Google to be an ISP + wireless data carrier and all voice on IP on Google/Apple network.

  5. I live in Washington DC area and have been with T-Mobile for almost 7 years and have had no major problems. I do believe that each carrier has some dead spots but T-Mobile’s service and customer care has been good so far. I, just like Om, went to the store yesterday and picked up the new 8900. I love it and wouldnt switch to the Iphone even if they paid me.

  6. jeffyjones

    It must really depend on where you are. I live in Cleveland and after 18 months haven’t had any problems with AT&T and my iPhone. Other markets I’ve hung out in include Orlando, Las Vegas and Twin Cities, also with no issues.

  7. Maybe Apple is LISTENING but not publicly doing anything so that ATT can either improve or default in a way that breaks the contract. But, Apple has been know to turn a deaf ear to customer complaints for long periods of time until they fix the problem as they see fit to do so. However, if iPhone v3 comes out in June with similar problems, the honeymoon could be over for many.

  8. I figured either you had a better network then we do here in the DC area, or this would eventually happen. With all of that new iphone revenue you’d think they’d invest in beefing up the network.

    That said, I think that on average AT&T’s 3G network outperforms Verizon’s EVDO for data applications. But the constant dropping of voice calls is an issue.

    What would be worse than having two carry two devices:
    ipod
    AT&T cell for 3G data
    VZW cell for voice

    yup, that was me for 3+ months. The good news is that although WiFi ramp up has slowed, it’s still moving forward and that ipod/touch/wifi could have legs. Overall I find skype over wifi (on win mobile) to be about the same quality as AT&T wireless.

    -Victor

  9. Stacey Higginbotham

    @kontra, in Austin where I am, AT&T’s network is terrible. And while Verizon’s phones are not drop-jaw gorgeous, I’ve always found a phone that I don’t mind looking at :) Even if I do wish for Wi-Fi….

  10. A question from DownUnder. Are all brands of phones having problems with AT&T? I’m only hearing on the wires that it is the iPhone. If it is the iPhone only, then surely the ball is in Apple’s court to get their phone to work with AT&T as other mobile manufacturers seem to be OK. As I said, I am from Australia, so this perception could be totally wrong and AT&T’s entire mobile network is crap for every type of mobile phone (which would be hard to believe).

  11. Kontra, I think you have something. I don’t have one single problem with 3G in Manhattan, and in fact my iphone gets better reception here than my CrapBerry. It’s remarkable how many problems in life melted away when I moved out of the SF Bay area. LOL

  12. I wonder how long will Apple continue to suffer at the hands of AT&T. And how long will the consumers continue to be behind Apple. This is probably the 5th instance I’m reading of this week of a user moving to another platform, either because of the carrier’s fault and mostly because of the iPhone’s fault (missing features etc.).

    This year is going to see the launch of a lot of new phones based on Android, and the Palm Pre and if Apple and its chosen carriers don’t get their act together, the honeymoon for them might as well be over.

  13. Must be AT&T issues versus iPhone issues. I have an iPhone on Rogers in Canada and it works very well – voice and data. There were serious voice issues on both Rogers and with the iPhone last year as Rogers was working out issues on their HSPA network and Apple was fixing iPhone issues.

    Om, did you consider jailbreaking and moving over to T-mobile. Stay with just a single device?

  14. @Stacey: “She may be nice to look at, but you wouldn’t want her running your life.”

    If *somebody* is going to run your life, wouldn’t it be better for her to be nice to look at? On a more trivial point: is poor AT&T service mostly a San Fran issue?

  15. I have the same problem. Just had my iPhone 3g replaced at today, because I drop calls a few times every single day in Chicago. The service is so bad that I cannot even make a call in my apartment, and I live in the City. Like a major urban area, I am 5 minutes from Wrigley Field. Seriously Att!!! I always talk a big game to my non-iPhone friends, but now fear I may either have to pack up my life in Chicago and move for my iPhone or abandon it for another service provider. The problem is, Chicago is amazing!

  16. I have a 1st Gen iPhone here near San Diego. It seems like the call quality has been going downhill for a few months now. I’m getting lots of dropped calls, poor call quality and I’ve been having issues with calls going through, inbound and outbond. Many calls to me never ring and go straight to voice mail and sometimes voice mail takes up to several hours to show up.

    I love the iPhone, but as many have said, AT&T leaves a lot to be desired. My contract with them is up and I’m looking now at a Blackberry. Just trying to decide which network to go with as I no fan of Verizon as I’ve heard to much negative about their costs. It’s not out of the question though.

    Apple had better do something about AT&T soon or there may be a backlash they may not recover from.

    Om, I’m curious to see how T-Mobile works for you, please keep us updated on your new services.

  17. One more struggling with finding the iPhone love. After waiting for so long to jump in the pool (cleverly thinking that they’d have worked out the kinks by now) I’m dropping calls on a daily basis. The odd web, SMS and e-mail problem are enough to make something that should be simple….tedious.

    You know the feeling, sending a text and the progress bar..just..creeps..along..and then. Fails. However isolated, I now have to make sure things are actually sent when I think they are.

    I hope my saga ends well.

    • I think it may depend on your location quite a bit. I live in the western section of my city (in the Northeast), and have no major issues. Yet in the downtown area and other small towns outside of the city, I have noticed a few calls getting dropped. SMS seems pretty reliable, even when email isn’t. 3G, well, could be better. I find myself turning it off sometimes. Maybe that will improve your calls.

      (I’ve been a customer of T-Mobile and Sprint in the past, no device they could ever sell will convince me to return. )

      Hopefully you’ll find a solution that works for you.

  18. I live in Palo Alto and switched from Verizon to AT&T and I’ve regretted it from day on. Unfortunately, I love the data features of the iPhone too much to part with it. As sad as it is, I ended up adding myself to my mom”s family share plan so I can place calls without fear of the constant “Call Failed” message.

  19. Why not just use your iphone on T-Mobile? It’s what I’ve done, and it’s tons better than AT&T has ever been for me. The joys of the iPhone along with the joys of dependable, if albeit behind the times in terms of 3G coverage, service.

  20. I agree to a degree. My experience with ATT has been very good since giving up on the iphone. I have been using that same 8900 for a month now and it is fantastic. No 3g, but I believe that to be the major issue with both Bold and iphone.

  21. Om, would it help or even make sense for Apple to review this?…as in have iphone available for other networks and not just remain tied down to AT&T. I am sure this experience of yours(and countless others) should be hurting Apple indirectly.

  22. There is no device that can do everything that you want? What a stupid comment about the superdevice. The comment should be there is no Apple device that can do everything you want on a better network. What a biased blast on AT&T, this guy is an idiot. AT&T may not be great but these Apple fanboys need to quit whining.