The iPhone is a hot seller and fashionable buy. When the original version debuted last year, it received critical acclaim for its style and functionality, even earning TIME magazine's invention of the year award. This year the iPhone launched its second incarnation, this time bringing 3G to the table. While sales have been strong as ever, there have been a growing number of complaints.
Some of the complaints cited case defects, but the majority took issue with poor call quality and reception that many users were receiving. Apple CEO Steve Jobs, according to sources at Apple, dismissed the complaints saying only about 2 percent of users, or about 60,000 people, were affected. Apple silently rolled out a fix, which it hopes to remedy some of the 3G problems.
Verizon has caught onto some of the virulence towards the iPhone and is using it in an upcoming campaign against the phone. Internal brochures were leaked which blast the iPhone on its 3G abilities and on a variety of issues.
According to Verizon, the problem isn't the phone or chipset, but rather the network. They say that AT&T, who carries the iPhone in the U.S., has poor 3G coverage, with only 40 to 50 percent of people in the U.S. living in covered areas. They say their own high-speed EVDO Rev A network covers more than 80 percent of Americans. They claim to have derived these metrics from the coverage charts available on both companies website.
The attack doesn't end there. Verizon points out that while the iPhone's hardware price is $200 less than before; the service price is $240 higher, leaving the customer paying $40 more. This criticism is indeed entirely accurate, though some customers would argue the inclusion of 3G and other features warrants the increase.
Verizon also attacks the fact the iPhone only offers PIX with email, that the iPhone can't download music over 3G, and that its GPS does not feature audible turn-by-turn directions. While these are rather objective "wish-list" sort of criticisms, it does raise another valid point when it indicates that unlimited texting has been dropped from the now higher priced service plan. In order to get unlimited texting, iPhone customers must pay an addition $20 a month, bringing the total service plan for data-only to $50 a month.
Amidst the Verizon attacks, interesting news came in about the iPhone 3G's signal quality. The report, from Göteborgs-Posten, a Swedish newspaper, says that their independent testing has shown the iPhone's signal quality to be just slightly lower than a competitive offering, but not grossly below it in quality.
The newspaper tested the iPhone and the Sony Ericsson P1. They used a special noise free test chamber in which the mobile communicates with a simulated base station. The test chamber was manufactured by Swedish company Bluetest, which provides services to Motorola, Nokia, and others. They found, after testing, that the iPhone was only about 2 dB less sensitive than the Nokia smart phone.
Magnus Franzén, an antenna engineer with an M.Sc. in Engineering Physics states, "The values are completely normal."
Bluetest's CEO Mats Andersson, added, "It is not much. At a difference of 4-6 dB one might start to wonder if there is anything wrong."
The testing is extremely expensive, but Bluetest is working with the newspaper to provide more tests. The GP encourages readers to send in their problematic iPhones, to test if perhaps the problems, while not across the board, are modeled to certain batches of hardware. The jury is still out on problems of this nature.
While the testing somewhat vindicates the iPhone's 3G abilities, it does little to dispel Verizon's claims. Verizon's attacks only target Apple's hardware's signal quality second hand, by saying it made the mistake of choosing a poor carrier for its service, and thus is unable to provide good call quality. AT&T has thus far had no comment and has not yet clearly contradicted or denied these claims.