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. Living in San Francisco, I’ve got to say I’ve only rarely had a dropped call in a place I didn’t expect (besides tunnels, where I don’t see why many phones should continue to function). Part of the problem involves network switching; there are certain places in SF where I notice a switch between 3G service and regular Edge service. At that particular point (one of which is maybe five minutes south of 19th Ave on 280), I’d drop the call (the two times it has ever happened). The question is: is this a network problem switching calls between towers/speed networks, or is it a phone problem where the phone is unable to maintain a connection across two networks at differing speeds?

    I’d chalk it up to my phone. The Sony I used to have was much more consistent about picking up calls after a “drop” in a tunnel. The iPhone doesn’t seem to be able to do this effectively.

  2. I couldn’t agree more, I’m afraid. I’m about ready to cash in my phone and head for the hills. I wish I’d seen this sooner: I started my own blog to document the troubles I’ve had in NYC: http://www.plzfixmyiphone.blogspot.com and http://twitter.com/plzfixmyiphone

    Problem is, most of the time I’m too frustrated by my iPhone to want to take the time to write out a blurb about what’s happened. I can understand dropped calls when I’m in a building or on a train, but all of my twits and incidence posted on my blog happen essentially in open air with full bars. Infuriating.

  3. Om, I feel your pain. Living in San Francisco, my floor was littered with dropped calls.

    But what truly drove me around the bend was a Labor Day weekend cross-country drive helping move my mom from LA to my sister’s house near Boston. By the time we got to Boulder, I was so furious with AT&T and the iPhone, that I raced into Radio Shack and picked up a Samsung Instinct from Sprint. It worked! No dropped calls, and something called “coverage.” I no longer have the Instinct, replaced with a Touch Pro — an okay device for now. But the Sprint network is reliable enough and EVDO Rev. A seems pretty ubiquitous.

    In other words, eating the onerous AT&T cancellation fee was well worth it.

  4. Brian Perry

    That’s too bad, Om! In Seattle, Sprint is normally the odd one out. In the past 5 years, I’ve only had one dropped call – and that was in a two-week experiment when I dumped (then Cingular) for Sprint. Since then, nothing but good coverage, including on my iPhone 3G, from downtown to my semi-suburban home 1 hour to the southeast. Not always 5 bars, but if it works, I’m happy, and after reading these comments, now consider myself quite lucky too. :)

  5. @AZ –
    Huh?
    I didn’t see anything about “job” interview in this posting. I think it’s pretty obvious that Om has a job, don’t you? The reference was to giving (or conducting) an interview in the media sense.

    In any case, what a snide, snotty comment!

    So, when you’re paying a guy to look after your business, I can only assume you wouldn’t want him to have a cell phone available at all times for mission-critical reasons? That he should always be sitting right next to a landline phone, never moving, always hovering over the receiver just in case you should call? Sorry, can’t contact you when off on site somewhere ‘cos it would be poor judgement to use a cell phone.

    Don’t bother hiring, who’d want to work for you anyway?

  6. @Carlo Sostilio – 5 bars doesn’t mean full 3G bandwidth.

    I know ATT engineers that are working to increase 3G capacity inside of route 128 in the boston area. But they admit 3G sux in Boston. The bandwidth is one of the slowest and lowest on ATT’s 3G network right now. Again – they admit it. I don’t fault Apple – ATT should reimburse certain areas for owning a 3G capable phone and not providing enough bandwidth for the device. Not a full refund of course, as I know the technology limitations, but instead of $30/month data plan….charge half until the network is built out and you see the speed that true 3G offers.

  7. I just turned off the 3G switch, and finally went back to my 2G iPhone.

    You can’t complain about AT&T’s network without saying which one, since the GSM network and the 3G network are built out independently. The GSM one works fine; it’s just slow. It’s the 3G one that lures you with the promise of speed and then delivers utter unreliability.

  8. Using any cellular phone during a job interview is just. plain. stupid! Even more so in the current economic environment.

    Use a land line. The last thing you need to worry about during such a critical meeting is the unknown variable of cellular signal performance.

    That said, if I were interviewing this guy, I WOULDN’T HIRE HIM. Look, if I am paying him to look after my business, and he makes the shitty decision to use a cell phone during the interview, how can I trust his judgement on the job.

    Never put yourself in the position to be let down by AT&T in the first place. And to blame them just makes you look like a whiny little punk.

    You’re fired!

  9. Om, the best part is that UMA works internationally no problem, just connect to a wifi hotspot and UMA kicks in. Sure, it’s VoIP in a way, but it’s saved me a lot of money while abroad.

  10. I also broke up with my iPhone, although I did it within the first 30 days so I got all my money back. I used an AT&T 8525 before the iPhone and am currently using the HTC Fuze, and I have had fine call quality with both. It was only the iPhone that gave me problems.

    However if you want to use your iPhone on another network without jailbreaking it, why not use something like TurboSim (http://www.intomobile.com/2007/08/15/unlocking-your-non-att-sim-for-iphone-just-got-easier-turbosim.html)?

  11. majortom1981

    Are you sure it wasnt the iphone and not the network. I have been with cingular (now att ) for maybe 5 years or so and havent had any reception problems.

    Some phones though have worse reception then others. The reception on my att fuze (touch pro for you verizon people) is Great . The lg I had was worse reception wise.

    Heck here on long island there are some places that att gets service that verizon doesn’t.

  12. Don’t want to jinx myself, but this post really is not a reflection of AT&T for everyone. I live in the suburbs of Boston and I get 5 bars at home and the majority of places I visit in MA. Recently was in NYC for a week, no issues at all. I’ve had 1 dropped call since using my Iphone.

    I think potential buyers really need to use their head and check out AT&T’s coverage in their area. It’s quite simple if they visit the wireless AT&T website.

    • @Carlo Sostilio,

      I am so jealous of you and your five bars. I agree with you — people should make decisions based on their locale and the network coverage. Still, the broader problem of less backhaul bandwith still remains and AT&T will have to work hard on addressing that issue.

    • Not true about the coverage map on AT&T’s website. My apartment area is supposed to be in the “good” coverage area, just one step below “excellent”, but I never EVER have service in my apartment. Even on the street across from my building, I’m lucky if I get one bar, and all my calls drop. That map is worthless.

  13. Living in Santa Clara area and ATT network is actually not bad, compare to Tmobile, in my opinion. I have had a couple drop calls once in a while which I don’t know is because of iphone or the network. My friend who switches from Tmobile to ATT even praises the ATT edge network. ;)
    Mind you I use it not that much esp during weekday, but I do need to carry a extra battery for weekend as I use it a lot more.
    YMMV

  14. Were you using 3G? I have found too often dropped calls to be my main concern. Your location and proximity to 3G also makes a big difference. I recently switched from Verizon. What have I learned? They’re all overcharging us for mediocre services in one regard or another. Choose the lesser of the evils.

  15. I was shocked when Apple announced exclusivity with any carrier, let alone AT&T. Do you remember now how much cell phones, in general, suck? Apple had a chance to make a difference, and they sided with the status quo exclusivity…now that the honeymoon’s over, maybe someone at Apple will get the guts to open the iPhone.

  16. A.B. Dada I am not sure I quite understand your multiple GSM comments and iPhone being for wimps….I can already do all of those things on my unlocked/jailbroken iPhone which should work just fine when I’m in Mumbai too off a throw away SIM card

  17. Om, I totally have to agree with you on the AT&T network. No point having a 3G network if no-one can get onto it !! The whole net outage the other week just confirmed to me how useless they are. I never had the problem with T mobile or Verizon on data but AT&T really is bad.

    BTW I’m looking out of my office window and can see an AT&T tower across the road and my connection is spotty and slow at best (the tower isn’t even 500m away as the crow flies)

  18. I guess need to reset my expectations for ubiquitous mobile coverage because I’ve had the opposite experience with AT&T network than many of you. I live in the East Bay and own both IPhone models. I haven’t had coverage issues despite the normal pockets of poor coverage e.g. in between buildings in the financial district, switching between towers, etc. Only good news is one less person taxing the network. :-)

  19. Om my desi brother, you are so 2006.

    Me:
    Cradlepoint 350 WiFi 3G router with AT&T ExpressCard, Verizon USB backup. Always on a 3G network for data.
    T-Mobile G1 (jailbroken) for voice, WiFi tethering as a second backup
    Eee Netbook 8GB/Linux

    All fits in my carry-all. I can write from anywhere.

    I am also on plusgsm wireless for Poland travel, and in Mumbai I get a throw-away SIM on the black market shops on Napean Sea road across the street from my house. All I need is a reliable SIM for France and Dubai now ad I’m set.

    The iPhone is for wimps. Real techies use multiple GSM paths!

    ;)

  20. Tony Novak

    Well, as soon as the AT&T MicroCell is available (http://i.gizmodo.com/5140307/the-3g-microcell-brings-an-att-cell-tower-into-your-home) there will be a simple solution. All you need is: (1) your iPhone, (2) the AT&T MicroCell, (3) a small laptop running Linux, (4) a Sprint EVDO card, (5) a car battery, (6) a power inverter, and (7) a large backpack.

    Check it: you simply plug the EVDO card into the laptop and configure it to do NAT. Connect the MicroCell to the laptop, and use the car battery + inverter to power the MicroCell and the laptop. Now you’ve got quality 3G coverage everywhere you go!

  21. I use a blackberry curve 8330 and Touch, it works great. It would be nice to carry one device but the Touch is slim and doesn’t add much to weight. Good luck Om with the new setup.

  22. People never listen to me when I tell them that no phone/PDA hybrid will ever fill all the niches that a really good phone and a really good PDA (or NetBook) will. Om’s the authority. Maybe someone will finally take HIS word for it.

  23. Having used T-Mobile for 2 years, I’m happier with an iPhone and AT&T. Our coverage is very good in Honolulu.

    I’d never use a mobile phone as my main business line.

    IIRC, Apple offered the iPhone to Verizon first – and V said no to Apple’s demands for control.

    • Thanks Bill, I travel to Honolulu every week and was wondering about coverage. I wonder if you can get an unlocked iphone there or if you had to sign up for a 2 year plan? I currently have a (prepaid) tmobile sim to use in Hawaii. Did you ever try to use your old tmobile sim with your iphone?

      Thanks