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Problems continue for the hot new phone; Apple locks down angry users' threads

The iPhone 3G was supposed to be Apple's latest media darling, the successor to the device Time magazine called the "invention of the year".  In some effects the iPhone 3G has achieved this mercurial success -- but perhaps in sales only.  It quickly sold 1 million phones and oodles of applications and has cruised comfortably to sales of 3 million phones worldwide.

However, problems have prevented ever since launch.  The launch was muddled by problems connecting to Apple's servers.  Then there were reports that the new iPhone's plastic casing, part of the price cutting measures that had slashed the iPhone's price from $399 to $199, was defective and cracking.

Now more tough news has come for Apple with reports that the iPhone 3G is committing the cardinal sin of cell phones -- being unable to make a good connection consistently in covered areas.  The Apple message boards are ablaze with angry users complaining of dropped calls or poor call quality even with relatively good signal strength.

One user, Mr. Yarbrough, a 34-year-old accountant, describes, "I was driving down Folsom Street in San Francisco, and I got a dropped call 10 times. I get dropped calls just standing in one place.  I'm extremely annoyed, but I'm hopeful a software update will fix it."

It is unclear exactly how widespread the problem is as the message boards are a poor way to ascertain levels of failure.  The main thread on the Apple boards had 746 comments, when it was locked by Apple, allegedly because it, "was too long and some browsers were timing out."  Further adding to the difficulty of coming to any such metrics is the fact that Apple is denying that anything out of the ordinary is going on

AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel states, "How a device performs in individual situations depends on circumstances like where you are in the 3G coverage, how close you are to a cell site. Things like terrain and buildings all come into play.  I'm not denying that people are having a less than satisfactory experience, but overall, the phone is doing great."

So what exactly is causing the problems?  Some users say that the problem is with faulty SIM cards.  They say after replacing the card their quality improved and problems disappeared.  However, one analyst, Richard Windsor of Nomura, is entirely convinced that the Infineon chipset on the phone is the source of the problems.  He says the dropped calls, service interruptions, and abrupt network switches resemble problems that phones with Infineon-based 3G chips had when first launching in Europe.

He writes, "We believe that these issues are typical of an immature chipset and radio protocol stack where we are almost certain that Infineon is the 3G supplier.  This is not surprising as the Infineon 3G chipset solution has never really been tested in the hands of users. Some people will not experience these problems as it is only in areas where the radio signal weakens that the immaturity of the stack really shows."

He says that no firmware update will fix the flawed phones.  However, he adds the problems may be limited to a specific batch of phones or certain build of the phone.  Who is to blame?  Mr. Nomura says to blame Apple.  He says, "this shows the risk of not going with a tried and tested solution."

Infineon says it’s looking into whether Mr. Nomura's comments on the chipset never before seeing deployment was true.

In the meantime problems continue to pile on from around the world.  T-Mobile Netherlands, frustrated by similar connection issues, has issued a statement acknowledging that problems exist and blaming its partner Apple for them.  The company posted a blog in Dutch, which crudely translates to, "The 3G coverage of T-Mobile is as good as the competition, there can therefore not lie (sic). We suspect that it is a hardware / software specific issue of the iPhone itself."

It appears that T-Mobile is currently the only partner to have acknowledged the problems. 

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RE: 3G Issue
By stinkyj on 8/13/2008 10:19:05 AM , Rating: 3
All the reviewers of the original IPhone thought it was a dud, b/c it didn't have 3G. What these nice journalists didn't tell everyone is 3G coverage is spotty at best in a lot of areas in the US. It's getting better, but not even close to GPRS/EDGE coverage.

RE: 3G Issue
By Souka on 8/13/2008 11:01:55 AM , Rating: 5
And lets not forget the other important feature a cell phone should have... battery life....

With 3G in use, reviews have clearly show the dramatic impact on battery life.

My Co-worker who waited in line for the 1st iPhone, waited in line for the 3G iPhone. He typically charges it 2x a day now...with the 1st gen. iphone he only charged it when sleeping at night.

I suggested he turn off 3G... but his comment was like that of above... "why get 3G then?"


RE: 3G Issue
By Adonlude on 8/13/2008 1:28:55 PM , Rating: 2
Battery life isn't the best but it seemed like I saw some improvement after allowing a few full charge/discharge cycles to take place. I would guess I saw 10-20% improvement. Maybe the charge indicator needed to see a few cycles to self calibrate? Maybe the battery needed to be worked a bit?

That being said, I now have a power cable attached to my work computer, one to my home computer, one in a home outlet for when my computer is turned off, and one in my car... so what does that tell you?

FYI: Dealextreme sells perfectly good cloned iphone charging cables for like $2.50 a pop.

RE: 3G Issue
By omnicronx on 8/13/2008 11:21:34 AM , Rating: 3
The phone should still fallback to other proticals when the 3g signal becomes too weak, just as it does with other phones. It just does not make sense that calls would be dropping like this unless there was an issue with the radio in general.

RE: 3G Issue
By Cobra Commander on 8/13/2008 12:12:57 PM , Rating: 1
I don't know stinkyj, 3G's coverage situation is pretty much a given and I don't think that demonstrates a lack of journalistic integrity in the slightest.

For example, I know I'm glad that Car & Driver does not discuss the pros and cons of a combustion engine every time they review a specific car.

If someone truly needs 3G and they don't know about its coverage then sucks to them if they're disappointed due to their ignorance.

And knowing business professional who legitimately utilize their 1st-gen iPhone for business... yeah, they needed 3G.

RE: 3G Issue
By JustTom on 8/13/08, Rating: 0
RE: 3G Issue
By EricMartello on 8/13/2008 11:54:14 PM , Rating: 2
And knowing business professional who legitimately utilize their 1st-gen iPhone for business... yeah, they needed 3G.

No self-respecting professional would be using an idiotPhone for business purposes other than to sell them. BlackBerry's are really the best choice when it comes to business - unless said professional is more concerned with being "hip" than actually having useful functionality.

RE: 3G Issue
By teng029 on 8/13/2008 4:17:24 PM , Rating: 2
agreed. i also agree that it will only get better. for now, i ususally have a wifi connection when i use the internet and the EDGE network suffices for most everything else.

as for the previous poster who asked what the point was of buying an iphone 3G? because i wanted one.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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