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So Is The iPhone A Good Phone?

Posted by tomwiles at 3:44 AM on July 21, 2010

When the iPhone came along in 2007, many people were immediately disappointed, including me, that it was tied at the hip to AT&T. In retrospect, that set the stage for what was to follow.

Immediately many iPhone users began to complain about poor signal coverage and dropped calls. It seems that everyone assumed that the iPhone itself as a phone was as good or better than any other phone – after all, it was an Apple device, implying that it had to be good.

Fast-forward to now. The iPhone 4 comes out, and immediately some users began to complain about the new antenna design and the “ground out” effect that happens on some phones when certain areas of the external metal antenna comes into contact with human skin, resulting in signal attenuation.

Apple’s immediate reaction was to come out with a statement saying they had checked in to the issue, and discovered to their dismay that every iPhone ever sold had a signal calculation problem. Ooops, the result was that every iPhone going back to the original model happened to be displaying too many signal strength bars for a given signal level. So sorry, the calculation error meant we weren’t following the exact AT&T signal strength calculation specifications. Gee Whiz!!! We have a download that will fix that optimistic display signal strength problem and make it more realistic.

I have no doubt that there was an honest calculation error. The bigger question that remains is this – how do various iPhone models stack up to other specific phone models on the same AT&T network? Does anyone actually test these things in a scientific way? It’s well known that different phone models exhibit different performance levels in the same specific signal areas. Some phone models will work in marginal signal situations where other phone models fail to perform at all.

For some time, I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that the iPhone has never had top cell phone performance. AT&T has likely taken a lot of bashing over the past few years that it might not have entirely deserved.

Verizon puts each new phone model through an extensive testing and certification process before they will sell them for use on the Verizon network, thus ensuring that each new device will meet a certain minimum level of performance. This way the Verizon brand and network performance reputation is protected from the bad word-of-mouth that a marginally performing device would likely generate.

If a CDMA version of the iPhone exists, and the rumors are true that it will eventually show up for sale at Verizon, this has to mean that it’s already being tested. Will the CDMA iPhone pass the Verizon tests?

Perhaps more importantly to some, are the iPhone CDMA testers with their black horn-rimmed glasses hanging out in bars shouting “Can you hear me now?” into mysterious phone models disguised to look like Droids? Is there an app for that?

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