Om Malik ditches iPhone due to AT&T


toiletI have traveled a lot lately and after my recent trip to San Francisco I observed that the AT&T service in that fair city simply sucks.  I figured that some of the problems I observed with lousy service were due to my brief and very narrow exposure to the AT&T network in SF but that is obviously not the case.

Recently our boss, Om Malik, ditched his iPhone due to his long-term dissatisfaction with the AT&T service in San Francisco.  I know from conversations with Om that he loves his iPhone which shows just how bad the AT&T service actually is on a continual basis.

“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. 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!”

I’ll be the first to admit that the AT&T service I get in Houston is not bad.  How bad the AT&T service in SF must be to get someone like Om to go with a solution that is unwanted yet necessary to get on with business.  Will Apple ever send the iPhone to another carrier in the US?



He probably should have tested other AT&T 3G devices before declaring that it was their fault. Often, it’s the device itself causing the problem. I carry a 1st generation iPhone for personal use and an old Motorola RAZR for work. I get a signal on the RAZR in places where I can’t on the iPhone……which is Apple’s fault not AT&T’s.


Very interesting….I live in Singapore and have couple of iPhone 3Gs with SingTel the local carrier.
I was their customer for last (2+ years) and saw no reason to move on, till the iPhone 3G came along. I experienced a lot of dropped calls and the 3G coverage was abysmal. This is not Alaska for me to put with shoddy service due to coverage – it is just an island that is 20×20 miles for heaven’s sake.
Having used an alternate local carrier for 3G USB modem for mobile broadband, I was at least personally aware of the quality of 3G coverage from this carrier, first hand. Just cut the cord with SingTel and moved to another carrier and much happier.
SingTel’s 3G was awful and I have had hacked 2G iPhones on their network with lesser issues.
Moral: Looks like Apple tied up with the Telco that paid them the most and forgotten that quality of 3G will go a long way in making an iPhone user happy.
My belief is that the iPhone 3G is a good device, but given its capabilities and power it exposes the flaws in the carrier’s network. Something for carriers to take note an act upon.
PS: the phones in Singapore are not software locked and you are only tied down by contract.


Why not just get a 1st-gen iPhone, unlock it, and use it with T-Mobile? It works with T-Mo’s Blackberry data plan. Only 2G, sure, but you still get the benefit of having a superphone rather than 2 devices…

Ken Sherman

The US has historically been behind a lot of the world for their wireless coverage and performance. Basically, the US had/has an excellent wired network and the demand for mobile service wasn’t enough to invest in the technology. I hope that’s changing.


I’m on iPod touch. Company provides Blackberry on Verizon. I use iPod when I can. I use Blackberry only when I have too.


Really wondering why, in this day and age, Om wouldn’t have just run yellowsn0w, and switched his iPhone to T-Mobile? I run my iPhone on both networks, and thank god the East Bay still has pretty perfect reception everywhere… But I will admit, though I USUALLY get full bars on AT&T in SF, there are weird “pockets” where it dies completely.

Come to think of it, I had it die on me in Golden Gate park just the other day, after being ON a call no more than 20-30 feet away.

But yeah, the “I’m mad about it, so I’m gonna carry three devices” is just past loony.


I live in Salt Lake City and I have no problems at all. We just recently went on a road trip to New York weaving up and down the states hitting as many major cities as possible and I always had full bars, google maps was working perfect, and I couldn’t complain. There was one spot in Nebraska that I had 2 bars for about 3min, other then that, not a problem.

Im on a 3G, jailbroken on 2.1 at the time. I also DO NOT use the iPhone plans, I use a Family plan with unlimited text/data. In addition I had an OTA WAP Push to my phone so I could use swirlymms for mms.


Ah, I haven’t used Verizon in San Francisco for the past couple years, but at that time it had issues. In particular, I’d often have signal, but incoming calls weren’t connected. It was frustrating. My family switched to T-mobile.


I almost would certainly own an iPhone by now if it weren’t for AT&T. When I lived in the SF Bay area, they bought out my early broadband provider (TCI @Home), and screwed up my service. They then bought my mobile carrier (CellularOne-SF), raised my rates, shrank my Home calling area, and now provide the above-mentioned crappy service. AT&T then bought my landline service (SBC), so I dropped my landline last year, saving myself $45/month.

I’ve moved to San Luis Obispo, on the California Central Coast. My mobile carrier is again CellularOne-SLO, but they are struggling, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them sell out to AT&T in the near future. My current broadband provider is Charter Communications cable modem. Charter just filed for bankruptcy.

Ted T.

@ James Kendrick: “Richard, fair question and the only answer that makes sense to me is how physically large the US is. Covering everywhere is not easy to do and location is so important to this spotty performance by AT&T. ”
Sorry, but you are totally wrong: Europe is larger than the U.S. — 10.18m km2 vs. 9.82m km2. And believe me, you can go to dustiest desolate corner of Bulgaria and get better reception than you do on Wall St. (I know from experience).

I think it has to do with competition in Europe, plus a unified GSM standard — Verizon and Sprint going into the CDMA dead end has insured that unlocked cell phones would not do much for US competition (they can only be used on AT&T & T-Mobile) and that AT&T & Verizon users can’t roam on each other’s networks.

The difference in cell network quality between Europe and the U.S. is really striking.

I too live the Minneapolis area and have switched to an iPhone/T&T from T-Mobile.

My AT&T signal is so much better than T-Mobile ever was. I could never get a signal in my building at work and on the road I seldom could use my phone. Keep in mind I mainly travel through Northern Wisconsin and Michigan, which is sparsely populated.

With AT&T I’ve never had a dropped call or have had less than 2 bars. I haven’t tried it on road trip to Northern Michigan, but since that’s the preferred carrier up there, I’m thinking it has to be better than T-Mobile.

I also get a great 3G signal every where I go here and have never had trouble connecting to the Internet.

My T-Mobile phone worked great in London, of all places, but the roaming charges were pretty steep.


AT&T is the reason my company has not tried the iPhone. We like our BlackBerries, but ifr Verizon offered the iPhone – or better yet an Android phone – we’d certainly try one.

James Kendrick

Richard, fair question and the only answer that makes sense to me is how physically large the US is. Covering everywhere is not easy to do and location is so important to this spotty performance by AT&T. Both Kevin and I have good service in our local areas but have run into trouble with AT&T when traveling.

The problem in SF also seems to be saturation related. The more customers that have signed up with at&t the worst their network has performed.


@ Nate. No in the UK we have very good coverage. The phone companies quote 98% coverage for 3G/GSM services, and this appears to be true.
My question was simple – why does it appear that phone coverage is so poor in the US metropolitan areas. I follow a number of blogs and this appears to be a recurrent theme. My own experience in the US was very good – using both T-Mobile USA and UK SIMS on UK handsets.


this is the same reason i cancelled my att contract with iphone. service in portland sucks BAD. dropped calls, bad connections, echo, i was disgusted how bad it was. went with sprint…. no problems whatsoever. just that my current phone sucks!

Craig Campbell

I am in Dixon, IL (childhood home of Ronald Reagan) this week on business. My colleagues, on T-Mobile and Verizon, all have full-bars service. My AT&T has wavered between zero, 1-bar, full bars back and forth with no way to predict. Not impressed. It is pretty OK where I live, in the Chicago suburbs, but to be honest I think T-Mobile was noticeably better. I am not as disappointed in general with AT&T as some people, but I did like T-Mobile much better. I switched for the iPhone, and while I love it, I sometimes wish I had just held off, stayed with T-Mobile (I was using a Nokia E90) and got an iPod Touch!


Why ditch the iPhone for poor at&t service? Do what I did and cancel service, take out the SIM card, and use WiFi. It works great.


This guy kind of sounds like a tool. Ditching AT&T for 3 separate devices? Come on. If he just wanted better service then why not just go with Verizon? T-Mobile in SF (or anywhere else) and for data? Give me a break. Maybe he just built himself a new utility belt or thinks that women dig it when you have lots of crap gadgets hanging off your belt.


I’ve ‘solved’ my iPhone reception problem by leaving it on EDGE while I’m home in San Francisco- kind of defeats the purpose of the whole 3G thing. It seems like just about all of our friends have/use an iPhone 3G and dropped calls are all too regular.


AT&T’s network is definitely problematic in the Bay Area (I live in SF).

But the iPhone is also significantly less reliable (from radio/baseband perspective) than the competition.

Combine the 2, and consider there are probably more iPhones per person here than anywhere else, and it’s a recipe for pain.

AT&T’s network performs great at night:


This holds up with my experience, which is most clearly illustrated by the fact that every single person I know (mostly in the DC or Denver areas) with a Blackberry Storm got it because they would really like an iphone, but they cannot reasonably move away from Verizon. This is not a slam against blackberry devices in general, but I’m not sure the Storm is really for their existing loyalists.

(Of course, given that T-Mobile’s coverage is even more spotty in these areas, folks in Verizon Country really are doomed to second rate phone options).

Dave Zatz

It feels like my EDGE data connectivity has deteriorated. No probs with voice, though. It’d be hard to give up my iPhone and Premiere AT&T account though. We’ll see.

Brandon Buttars

Makes me feel like I’m not missing much. I heard those iPhones are awesome but can’t fork out the early cancellation fee to switch to AT&T. Glad I haven’t yet. Guess I’ll keep with good old cheap T-Mobile and my Pearl for now.

Om Malik

I think there is a serious issue in SF. Too many users on the network has created more problems for AT&T which used to be pretty darn good for a long time. I have been with them since 1996 and well it was hard to give up the service but sometimes it is not so great/

Kevin C. Tofel

Even though I’ve heard horror stories about coverage & service, it’s 90% dependent on your area. Here in the sticks near Philadelphia, I’ve had zero problems with AT&T. Completely different story when traveling lately: spotty and inconsistent in Las Vegas and San Francisco.


You mean to tell me, there’s not a single city in Europe, or the UK, that has spotty service?


Why is the mobile network so bad in American cities, its 100% in the United Kingdom and in Europe?

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