Monday, August 25, 2008
A couple of small, independent evaluations of the iPhone 3G's performance, which has been much maligned by many of it's customers (including me from time to time), have been published in the past day or so. The results are interesting to consider, especially side-by-side.

In the first test, Swedish tech site GP took their iPhone 3G to a super-fancy antenna test chamber at a company called Bluetest, where they ran the iPhone through the highly technical paces along with a few other 3G phones for comparison purposes. Results are available on the GP site.

In the second test, Wired asked readers to participate in testing from the field, where they gathered and submitted speed and other connectivity data with their own phones. Wired then analyzed, mapped and posted the results as well as the test data in complete raw format at their site.

In the end, what did the tests yield? Well, you should read them for yourself and draw your own conclusions, of course. But in a nutshell, here's my take on what they found:
  • GP's antenna test found that the iPhone 3G's antenna performs as well as any of the other 3G phones tested.
  • The Wired real-world network test found that the networks are often woefully underperforming, and that while speeds are typically faster than EDGE, the ability to connect to a 3G tower might be problematic at best.
So, does this mean Apple-provided software fixes may not be able to solve the iPhone's 3G woes? It seems that in the case of network performance where the number of "bars" showing on 3G is at the bottom of the scale yet a EDGE network has a strong signal, trading off could be done better by the phone. But what really needs to happen to solve the big-picture problem is better 3G coverage. My experience in several cities has been that 3G coverage is poor in many cases, and inconsistent at best. In fact, if the AT&T EDGE/2.5G network was not available as a fall-back (or maybe "call-back" is a better term, given the dropped call rate), AT&T would never be able to sell their service. The effective 3G network coverage just isn't good enough to stand on its own. And poor coverage combined with all those handoffs and network drops just mean more and more battery power being applied by the device to keep re-establishing it's 3G connectivity.

However, any software fixes for lockups, freezing and app crashes will require Apple taking action. One thing I've wondered lately: Are device/software hangs and crashes causing or somehow related to network connectivity issues? Could one be causing the other, at least part of the time? I have noticed locking/hanging in several apps while the iPhone tries to connect to the AT&T network (as evidenced by the simultaneous flurry of AT&T radio-speaker-dance noise that we've all become familiar with over the past several years).

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Apple | Mobile | Tech
Monday, August 25, 2008 7:10:55 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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