Daniel Eran Dilger
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iPhone Wars: AT&T, Verizon and the evil of two lessors

ATT iPhone

Daniel Eran Dilger

Complaints of AT&T’s network performance by iPhone users reached a crescendo at the release of iPhone 3.0, when major features of the release ended up not even being supported by AT&T. But would Verizon be any better?
For iPhone users who switched from Verizon (and there are many), complaints typically target AT&T’s service holes, particularly for 3G service. In San Francisco and New York City, both regions AT&T colors in solid 3G blue in its service coverage maps, there are lots of completely dead zones with zero service and plenty of places where the faster 3G data isn’t available.

Verizon boasts better overall coverage coast to coast, thanks in large part to having started its 3G service rollout earlier. Verizon got started deploying its 3G CDMA2000/EVDO service in late 2003, becoming the second 3G network operator in the country and the oldest to still be operating. Verizon’s Qualcomm version of 3G progressively replaced its previous 2G service, which is now called cdmaOne.

AT&T didn’t begin building its 3G network until much later. In between, it first rolled out GPRS data service in 2002, and then began upgrading that to EDGE service as an interim step. While technically considered a 3G technology, EDGE is usually described as 2.5 or 2.75G to distinguish it from the much faster data service generally associated with the term “3G.”

It wasn’t until December of 2005 that AT&T first began installing its own 3G network comparable to the CDMA2000/EVDO networks operated by Verizon and Sprint, albeit using the UMTS/HSDPA global standard instead. There are a number of reasons why AT&T started out two years behind Verizon in its 3G rollout.

The Palm Pre/iPhone Multitasking Myth

The Origins of AT&T Mobility
The main reason is that AT&T itself started later as a patchwork of different networks. In 1994, the long distance remains of what had been America’s original telephone monopoly, AT&T, acquired McCaw Cellular to create its own wireless service named AT&T Wireless, which it later spun off as a separate company in 2001.

However, the company that is now AT&T Mobility began as Cingular Wireless in 2000, growing out of the conglomeration of over 100 regional mobile networks including those operated by 12 major “Baby Bells” that had sprouted from the original AT&T’s divested local phone services. Most of those networks were operating D-AMPS, while two maintained GSM networks: BellSouth and Pacific Bell.

The independent AT&T Wireless was also primarily GSM, although it also operated older TDMA/AMPS service as well. The British co-owner of Verizon Wireless, mega-giant Vodafone, attempted to purchase AT&T Wireless to obtain what was then America’s largest GSM network. After buying AT&T, Vodafone planned to sell its interest in Verizon and exit the CDMA business, as this would enable it to operate worldwide GSM coverage.

Instead, Cingular rushed in and paid a huge premium to obtain AT&T Wireless in 2004, enabling it to create a nationwide, American-owned mobile network for the US that was compatible with global GSM standards. Creating such a network from scratch would have been impossible due to the licensing restrictions and other regulatory barriers complicating the ability to expand mobile networks.

The New Cingular ended up with two networks with a total of around 50,000 cell sites: its original patchwork of orange networks along with AT&T’s blue network, both of which were a mix of TDMA/AMPS and GSM. The original Cingular had also been operating a joint venture with T-Mobile that provided both networks with shared GSM networks. After the merger, T-Mobile and Cingular split ways, each operating their own GSM networks.

How AT&T Picked Up the iPhone: A Brief History of Mobiles

Cingular needs a phone
The New Cingular began working to rid itself of the older TDMA service to concentrate its efforts on building a single, unified GSM network. That wasn’t fully completed until the first part of 2008. However, Cingular trailed the game in its efforts to sell GSM phones because most of the phones being sold in the US were CDMA models for Verizon and Sprint. Exciting phone models for the GSM market were largely European, many of which could not optimally support Cingular’s network because they used different network frequencies.

Additionally, while Sprint and Verizon shared the same CDMA phone technology, thereby making a greater platform of subscribers for phone manufacturers to sell to, Cingular and T-Mobile, while both being GSM did not use the same US radio frequencies, complicating the design of GSM phones being marketed in the US even further. That meant the most popular phones were appearing on Verizon and Sprint.

When Apple began shopping around its iPhone prior to its 2007 unveiling, it found little to no interest from Verizon, which was already happy with the mix of phones it could sell. Verizon also had the market power to force phone manufacturers to support its media, ringtone, and software demands, which included deals to promote Microsoft DRM music and videos and the rental of Qualcomm’s heavily restricted BREW applets.

Cingular gave Apple an entirely different reception. Without even seeing Apple’s phone, Cingular executives jumped on the prospect of having a phone with the allure of the iPod in a climate where the only cool GSM phones were European models approaching $1000 that couldn’t even work well on its patchwork of GSM networks and its fledgling UMTS 3G service.

After Cingular obtained the rights to rename itself AT&T Mobility, it performed the name change in concert with the rollout of the iPhone, immediately rebranding itself as both a conservative institution and fresh and new. The problem remained that AT&T was still two years behind Verizon in building out modern 3G service.

The iPhone Threat to Adobe, Microsoft, Sun, Real, BREW, Symbian

iPhone 3G
AT&T’s 3G network was weak enough that Apple decided to initially launch the iPhone as a 2G GSM model. Pundits watching the phone industry largely thought this was a ridiculous thing to do almost four years after the arrival of 3G service in the US. International observers from Europe and Japan, where 3G service had become commonplace even earlier, were particularly amused.

However, Apple sold its phone as an overall experience, not as a set of technical specifications. It also promoted the iPhone’s use of WiFi, which appealed to its early adopter audience of AirPort and Mac users. Apple successfully sold the iPhone for a full year before offering 3G service, GPS, and adding third party software. It then sold for another year before offering a decent camera and copy and paste features. All the while, however, Apple focused attention on what the iPhone could do that was unique, resulting in major inroads into the smartphone business and serving as a major draw for AT&T.

AT&T is now in the position of having a unified network that, in places at least, rivals the high speed UMTS/HSDPA networks everywhere apart from the richest and most progressive and socialist of nations, which are still well ahead of anything offered in the US. AT&T’s latest 7.2 networks are also significantly faster than the CDMA/EVDO networks operated by Verizon and Sprint. With the entire world moving toward UMTS/HSDPA, Verizon is now pushing to deploy the next generation LTE version of the 3GPP portfolio in leu of the next generation of Qualcomm’s mobile technology.

AT&T deploying HSPA 7.2 mobile service ahead of new iPhones

Will Apple jump to Verizon for LTE?
This has pundits atwitter that Apple will jump from AT&T just as soon as it can find a rival mobile provider who can give it the opportunity. With Verizon starting LTE trials early next year, this has wags suggesting that Apple will float its rumored tablet on Verizon’s network. But this is absurd on many levels.

For starters, anyone complaining about the holes in AT&T’s now three year old UMTS/HSDPA network will not be pleased with Verizon’s LTE network trials beginning in a very short list of cities. LTE also has plenty of bugs to work out, as any brand new technology does. Apple doesn’t sell gadgets that appeal to tiny minorities, it sells global products it can mass market to wide audiences. That makes it unlikely that Apple will get its toe wet in the LTE water for another couple years, regardless of the operator. Verizon’s LTE network won’t be built out until 2013 at the earliest.

Not too long ago, one could make the case that Verizon was still several arrogant levels above Apple, thinking that it could poop out any phone from a number of providers and match the iPhone in a heartbeat. After two years and three generations of the iPhone, compared with a series of disappointing duds including Verizon’s Blackberry Storm, T-Mobile’s Android G1, and Sprint’s Palm Pre, the AT&T/Apple partnership is the subject of much envy. It now appears that Verizon might want to make a deal with Apple.

However, Verizon is still very much infatuated with the idea of controlling everything and relegating phone vendors into a humble servant’s position. It demands to operate its own software store for all the phones it sells; it is still resistant to supporting WiFi and Bluetooth; and it continues to make too much money on ringtones and music clips to be open to ceding this market to iTunes.

The iPhone isn’t coming to Verizon

Would iPhone buyers jump to Verizon?
For many iPhone customers, the arrival of a CDMA/EVDO iPhone would be the bee’s knees, and the promise of wicked fast LTE makes that fantasy all the more better. What they’re forgetting is that in the mobile industry, there is very little good, just different levels of unknown evil.

As I noted earlier, CDMA/EVDO doesn’t support voice and data at once the way UMTS/HSDPA can. Creating a unique version of the iPhone for Verizon would only make sense if Apple only sold its products in the US. Apple is extremely unlikely to create a custom model to reach a market it already addresses, with the iPhone on AT&T and the iPod touch for every other carrier. Only a vast market like China could demand a unique phone model, and it appears Apple is working hard to keep from having to build a China-specific model without WiFi, although it might need to in order to officially enter that country. By the time Apple delivered a CDMA iPhone, it would already be approaching obsolescence.

With CDMA a dead horse and LTE far too new to adopt, Verizon appears to be an unlikely target for Apple to even begin negations with, let alone be able to work out a fair deal with. Imagine Verizon demanding, not just to snoop through and veto apps like AT&T, but also insisting on the right to act as the App Store middleman. The small but vocal minority of developers with App Store complaints would have plenty more to dislike about an arrangement where Verizon was taking an additional cut of their work while adding no new value.

Would iPhone customers who hate AT&T appreciate paying Verizon extra fees to download songs or ringtones from iTunes? Of all the problems AT&T brings to the table, it’s easy to overlook the unprecedentedly wide latitude that AT&T conceded to Apple in order to get the iPhone. Despite its current financial woes, Verizon still has less reason to grovel in front of Steve Jobs and company than AT&T did toward the end of 2006.

Verizon V Cast Music with Rhapsody: We LG Dare You To Hate It!

What would make AT&T less atrocious?
Apple’s best bet, and the best deal for its customers and developers, is likely to keep pressuring AT&T to improve the level of service it offers. For starters, that means expanding its “fastest 3G network in America” to reduce service holes and improve its 3G coverage area. AT&T already has this in the works, and plans to complete much of the work by the end of the year, long before Verizon will even being trials for LTE.

Also, how about an update on MMS features and tethering, enabled in iPhone 3.0 but still not available from AT&T? Sure, it’s nice to think that Verizon would allow unlimited amounts of both, but remember that Verizon also charges its customers $10 a month to use their phone’s GPS rather than supplying free Google maps as AT&T and Apple do on the iPhone.

And while the relationship between Apple and AT&T does involve restrictions that are holding off the inevitable shift to VoIP and impairing the principle of net neutrality, such as the rejection of Google Voice and other apps Apple has yanked, apparently at the behest of AT&T, there is no reason for believing that the notoriously closed Verizon wants to usher us all into a land flowing with milk and honey.

Also, Verizon doesn’t have functional smartphones eating up all its bandwidth; all the data available clearly shows that iPhone users are requesting half the world’s mobile web traffic. If the iPhone were on Verizon, the company’s policies on data use would undoubtedly shift to match or exceed AT&T’s in terms of being stingy and conservative.

F.C.C. Looking Into Rejection of Google App for iPhone – NYTimes.com

Where’s the WiFi?
Secondly, having made it invisibly easy to log into AT&T’s WiFi hotspots nationwide in iPhone 3.0, Apple and AT&T should promote the deployment of free WiFi outside of just their retail stores, Starbucks, McDonalds, Barnes and Nobles, and various airports. Why not blanket commercial areas in major cities with WiFi support, enabling iPhone users to soak in data access without saturating AT&T’s mobile data network? There must be plenty of desperate cities and transit agencies in America that would jump at the prospect of setting up a public works WiFi project partially subsidized by Apple and AT&T.

Why Apple and AT&T haven’t worked out a deal to make AirPort base stations share home users’ bandwidth with mobile devices authenticating as iPhones, offering the base station owners some sort of reward program for sharing their connection, is puzzling. AT&T is a major player in delivering broadband Internet, and Apple maintains something like a 10% share of all the WiFi base stations sold.

Even better, Apple and AT&T need to get busy marketing a WiFi/3G femtocell router that automatically sets up a cloud of free WiFi and 3G service for retailers and cafes, using the same Bonjour-iTunes feature that enables Starbucks to sell iTunes tracks to its customers and earn a commission. Shoot, I wouldn’t even need a carrot to buy one of these for my home in the middle of San Francisco, where AT&T’s mobile service is almost a completely barren black hole. Sure I have WiFi, but without data service I can’t receive calls or texts anywhere between my east and west windows.

Having more ubiquitous WiFi available would dampen AT&T’s panic over iPhone apps that hammer its network, healing another bone of contention that has left iPhone app developers frustrated with the carrier’s meddling in the iTunes App Store. Verizon has just come around to offering its own WiFi hotspots after working to prevent municipal WiFi from taking off and years of restricting WiFi features on its phones. Unlike AT&T, Verizon is only allowing access to its broadband users, not to its mobile subscribers in general.

AT&T’s 3G MicroCell to patch iPhone dead zones
Verizon changes tune on Wi-Fi | Wireless – CNET News

International incident
Lastly, AT&T needs to negotiate international calling plans that are not ridiculous. It isn’t entirely AT&T’s fault that roaming outside the US is absurdly expensive, but if the company wants to advertise “more bars in more places” and promote the idea that, as a GSM/UMTS phone, the iPhone can work in places Sprint and Verizon phone’s can’t, then it should work to make this realistically possible.

Currently, using the iPhone overseas costs at least a couple hundred dollars a month extra in per minute, per text and per byte fees, on top of the $100 contract rate and $65 “savings” plan you need to prevent calls from costing twice as much. When you get back, AT&T suggests you keep paying the $65 calling plan for months afterward so that any bills that its roaming partners might turn in after the fact are charged at a less absurd rate. This is terrible customer service that approaches fraud.

Yes, you can crack your iPhone and use a SIM card, but I discovered this is just as bad if not worse. You end up with a local number, but you also get data roaming at rates that make root canals seem like fun. Of course, with a CDMA iPhone from Verizon, you get no option to roam internationally or to change out your SIM card.

There’s a lot not to like about AT&T. The problem is that there’s even more to dislike about Verizon.

Why Apple & AT&T will continue to partner closer

  • bartfat

    Good article… but I see one flaw. Why doesn’t Apple partner with T-Mobile? We all know that the iPhone would steamroller the G1, and indeed many people have taken to unlocking their iPhones to use on T-Mobile’s service. But many more would be legitimately served by having both AT&T and T-Mobile as options for carriers in the U.S. That way, both of these carriers can fight for business, rather than simply AT&T resting on its iPhone laurels. What you say is well and good, but what we NEED is more competition to force AT&T to get a little more proactive in using Wi-Fi and other technologies to get the strain off its network. Plus having another competitor actually wouldn’t hurt their business, it does seem at this point that AT&T can’t handle all the traffic by itself.

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    Tmobile’s 3G is not compatible with AT&T or global 3G frequencies, so it would require a new phone. Also, tmobile’s network is smaller and higher freq than AT&Ts, so no net gain.

    From Apples perspective, iPhone AT&T is the competition, not the iPhone itself, much the same as it views Mac Mac OS X as its competitor in computers, and therefore sees no need to compete with a generic PC OS by itself.

  • GwMac

    I absolutely hate Verizon. They nickle and dime you to death for things that most other carriers include for free. I also hate the way they cripple their phones in areas like bluetooth not allowing data transfer, making it nearly impossible to sync with your computer, no wi-fi on phones, and a host of other limitations.

    The only thing Verizon does have going for them is their coverage. Luckily for me Sprint allows free roaming on Verizon’s towers, so whenever I cannot get a Sprint signal (which is pretty rare, usually way out in the countryside) I can easily use Verizon’s network for free. That means I really get the best of both worlds. I pay an incredibly low $30 on my Sprint SERO plan with unlimited data, my HTC Touch Pro is not crippled like the same phone on Verizon, and even get to enjoy the benefits of Verizon’s network.

    If the iPhone ever came to Sprint then AT&T would really feel the pain. Sprint’s 3G network is second to none and their $99 unlimited plan would cause a lot of people to switch.

  • mr_kitty

    When the Novatel Mifi came out on Verizon I did an experiment on the network speeds. In NYC Verizon is considered king of networks, so I wanted to see how their network speed compared. The Mifi takes the Verizon EVDO Broadband connection and rebroadcasts it as an 802.11b/g signal.

    All over NYC (primarily Manhattan, some parts of Brooklyn) I ran SpeedTest.net’s iPhone app on AT&T’s 3G network and the Verizon Mifi signal. Verizon averaged about 10% faster connections. Areas where I had AT&T coverage problems, I also had coverage problems with Verizon coverage. (I also ran other control checks like other wireless networks and speed tests on my computer on the Mifi. They were consistent – the iPhone wasn’t kneecapping wifi transfer rates, etc.)

    10% improvement isn’t much, especially when you consider the extreme number of iPhones taxing AT&T’s network in NYC. If the iPhone were on VZW’s existing network, it’d be on its knees in seconds.

    I don’t agree with Apple selling the iPhone as a locked device. If I buy a product, it should be mine to use in whatever manner I see fit (and allowable by law). My contract with AT&T ensures they will be reimbursed for their subsidy. They shouldn’t get to retain ownership after the sale (besides, what happens to my old iPhone when I upgrade to the new one?).

  • http://twitter.com/NateTehGreat nat

    @ mr_kitty

    besides, what happens to my old iPhone when I upgrade to the new one?

    When deactivated by not renewing your contract, your old iPhone becomes an iPod touch with a camera.

  • mr_kitty

    When deactivated by not renewing your contract, your old iPhone becomes an iPod touch with a camera.

    Not with the wifi drop outs of the 2.2.1-3.0 software, it doesn’t.

  • http://twitter.com/NateTehGreat nat

    Not with the wifi drop outs of the 2.2.1-3.0 software, it doesn’t.

    I hadn’t heard of that but if it has to do with OS 3.0, wouldn’t that mean it affects both iPhone and iPod touch users? :P

  • davesmall

    Here is a bummer piece of news on the iPhone that underscores your comments about crappy international roaming arrangements.

    We’re planning a two week France vacation in September. AT&T has added International Data Plans that give you 20 MB for $20 per month and escalate up to $100 per month for 200 MB. You can turn a plan on before you leave and turn it back on when you return. You can even upgrade while on the trip if you find that you need a bigger plan. You can reset the data meter on your iPhone to zero just before you leave to keep track of how many megabytes you’ve used so far during your trip.

    I was just on the phone with a helpful and knowledgeable AT&T International representative who helped me to understand some of the finer points.

    It was all sounding pretty good until the subject of maps came up. We like to rent a car in Europe and we manage to get hopelessly lost at least once a day despite our supply of paper maps. I thought having the iPhone with GPS would solve all that. No such luck.

    Maps have been disabled on the iPhone while roaming in France. The courteous AT&T rep explained, “that’s because maps are continuously streaming images. Even if you signed up for the most expensive 200 MB data plan at $100 per month maps would blow through the 200 MB in about half an hour.’ So they’ve disabled the function. You can’t even use maps on the iPhone over there (except on WiFi).

    It’s so sad that the carriers can’t (or don’t want to) keep up with the technology. Do we need maps when driving around in a foreign country where the signs are in a different language? Duh! Of course we do. Is the iPhone the perfect device to keep us from getting lost? Of course it is. Will the satellite mapping function work over there? Of course it will. So why can’t we have it? Answer: Greedy cell phone service providers who can’t see the forest for the trees.

    I simply don’t understand why Orange, AT&T, Rogers in Canada, and the other cell phone service providers can’t get together and agree to roaming arrangements that will give them happy customers rather than angry customers. Free worldwide unlimited data roaming is what they should be offering. This would lead toward enthusiastic word of mouth recommendations and many more customers. Almost every international traveler would be eager to buy an iPhone and to sign one of their two year contracts. Short term greed seems to have gotten in the way of longer term wisdom.

  • mikeg

    Excellent article as always. I have often wondered why there is this Hate AT&T and Love VZW pervasive attitude. While I can not comment about big REALLY BIG city problems as I live in a smaller metropolitan area in Western Ohio, I have had really good service with my iPhone in my service area. I also carry a Blackberry Storm (VZW) and periodically travel to larger cities like Las Vegas, Washington DC, Dallas, Phoenix, Boston, and Chicago encountering few problems. Sometimes I have weak coverage with VZW and other times the AT&T was weak, but in all cases I had usable coverage.
    Even if VZW were to introduce an iPhone, I still plan to stay with AT&T barring any major screw-ups on their part.

  • http://www.sistudio.net studiodave

    What Wifi dropouts? I have never had them with my 3G iPhone. In fact the distance that my Wifi works is within feet of consistent for a year.

  • snookie

    Verizon has recently unlocked most all of their phones GPS so you can use Google Maps. The Blackberry Tour for example is unlocked. Also they could offer an iPhone “World” phone as they already do with Blackberrys. Anyway I completely agree that people who think Verizon would make their iPhone experience better are in for a shock. I actually think Verizon is more customer hostile than any other carrier simply because they can. I have had good coverage and no dropped calls in Phoenix for awhile now. But very poor coverage outside of the city.

  • http://www.sistudio.net studiodave

    Hey Verizon, What about rollover minutes? That alone was enough for me to switch. The iPhone was a bonus.

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  • applefan84

    I always find your articles interesting, but I’m just wondering what word you meant to use in your title. You have “lessors,” which is someone that grants a lease to someone else; my landlord is my lessor (and I am his lessee). I’m wondering whether you meant “lessers,” “One that is lower in importance, rank, magnitude, or degree.” I’m not sure whether “lessors” actually makes sense, since I don’t know if Apple is actually leasing AT&T’s network, and even if they are, I have never heard anyone but other lawyers use the word, which made me wonder if you meant “lessers” (in the sense of “the lesser of two evils”).

    [Yeah sorry I made a typo. And since its in the title, WordPress is too stupid to correct it without changing the URL, so it can’t be fixed – Dan]

  • alansky

    Verizon and AT&T are both thieves, liars and control freaks. Some choice that is! By the way, here in the SF Bay Area, even AT&T’s EDGE coverage is spotty at best. I’ never had so many dropped calls in my entire life as I’ve had since I switched to AT&T!

    My perspective on this whole issue is that we should be relying on the internet to make phone calls, not relying on phone companies to get online. Phone companies are dinosaurs. It’s time for them to roll into the tar pits and sink into oblivion.

  • http://thesmallwave.com/ Tom Reestman

    Couldn’t agree more that Verizon is not the “cure” for AT&T. In fact, they’re worse. Still, they’re basking in the light of unearned praise:


  • http://bkpfd.org qka

    Your idea of having iPhones tap into home Apple routers is interesting, but probably in most cases contrary to the agreements the router owners have with their ISP. If the ISP is AT&T, well, exceptions might be made.

    I have Time Wanker cable, and they specifically prohibit the sharing of my service with them outside my household. Sure, it would be easy to share that connection via WiFi with my neighbors, and I don’t think there is much that they would do to prevent that. Launch an organized service like you propose, on 10% of all routers, as you estimate, and all of a sudden that becomes of interest to them.

    If your ISP imposes usage caps, like Time Wanker wants to do, then the rewards offered by Apple and/or AT&T would have to be very generous, to compensate for the cost of the additional usage.

    For these reasons, I don’t think your proposal will be adopted, except maybe for AT&T Internet customers.

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  • http://crankyoldnutcase.blogspot.com/ The Mad Hatter

    After two years and three generations of the iPhone, compared with a series of disappointing duds including Verizon’s Blackberry Storm, T-Mobile’s Android G1, and Sprint’s Palm Pre, the AT&T/Apple partnership is the subject of much envy.

    Um, while the Storm was a failure, I think it’s far to early to call the G1 and the Pre failures. The Pre appears to be selling in large numbers, and the G1 has sold steadily.

    While neither has sold as well as the IPhone, as long as they are making profits for their companies, that’s all that’s needed.

    Oh, and they are both proving that Windows Mobile is a failure in the marketplace.

  • http://crankyoldnutcase.blogspot.com/ The Mad Hatter

    Microsoft is not even going to talk about WinMobile in future according to a statement issued by the company:

    No more blind cheerleading from Redmond: Microsoft (MSFT) finally admitted that its mobile business needs some work.

    At Microsoft’s analyst day in Seattle, Robbie Bach confessed in his finest business school jargon that the company hasn’t “done as good a job as I would like building relationships and getting the right integration with our hardware partners,” according to the WSJ, and vowed to improve: “You’re going to see dramatic improvement in integration.”

    He added, “You’ll see our execution rhythm pick up and the quality of our execution improve.”

    Based on the quote, the only option they have is to NEVER talk about WinMobile, because blind cheerleading is the only option, when your company is incapable of producing quality software.

    For anyone who wants to read the article, it’s titled Microsoft Admits Its Phones Are Crappy, Vows To Improve.

  • KenC

    @davesmall, you should test out your Maps data while here in the US. I don’t think you’ll use 200MB in 2 weeks. I used my iPhone in China for 2 weeks on the 20MB plan and with careful use, was able to stay under 20MB and I used the Maps alot. Turn off your email, and only check it at your hotel over wifi. You can preload some map images by scrolling around your route while on wifi in your hotel.

  • http://blog.cytv.com cy_starkman

    Exactly. Said as much in a comment to a prior article.

    What wasn’t mentioned was that Verizon’s CDMA/EVDO rev A network only offers 2mbit, not 3.6 or 7.2 or 21mbit (as Telstra suggests is their current roll out). So beside not being a global network, it’s also a slow one, nearly half the theoretical of the current AT&T.

    This issue would be magnified by iPhone stomping it. Cause the theoretical leads to the available shared bandwidth. As such Telstra’s 21mbit HSPDA network ain’t going to get to that speed but at least you might get something near 7.2 on a 3GS and from my tests it does, my iPhone is now faster than my wired broadband depending on time of day. The data costs are not though… we pay for the privilege in Aus to access “a world beating nationwide” network.

    I’m not sure I would quite jump to calling Australia Socialist though.

    And what is with this WiFi disaster, I’ve had a 3G and a 3GS and every version of OS since 2.0 and can’t say there has ever been a hitch. Actually it is more reliable than our Macbooks to be honest.

  • aztri

    Hey snookie,(“I have had good coverage and no dropped calls in Phoenix for awhile now. But very poor coverage outside of the city.”)
    Our house in the phoenix area gets poor to no reception in our house, but better reception almost everywhere elsewhere. I10 from Phoenix to Casa Grande has good , even 3G coverage to about 40 miles out of casa grande on I8. I guess “your actual milage may vary applies”.

  • http://www.jphotog.com leicaman

    A bigger problem than the buildout delays from providers is idiotic city councils, such as Carlsbad, CA., where the attempt to keep the city “pretty” pretty much means being hostile to any antennae to give us good, solid coverage. Even so, AT&T does great with my iPhone everywhere in the city except my freaking desk at work.

    Ah well, I need to get up and stretch my legs once in a wile anyway.

  • Silencio

    @davesmall: I recently used Maps on a trip to Europe — including Paris — no problem. I did everything you outlined above WRT setting up ATT international voice and data roaming service, and two weeks’ worth of Maps usage over data roaming didn’t come close to exhausting my 20MB worth of data.

    I saved my email and web browsing for when I was connected to WiFi.

    One important aspect of ATT’s ongoing network improvements is going to be the addition of the 850MHz band to their 3G network. The lower frequency will have better range and better ability to penetrate into buildings, which is a major issue I’m seeing at present. Just implementing that, in addition to more towers, should be a big help.

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  • MarkyMark

    IMHO, AT&T has made a staggering blunder by not deploying and aggressively promoting UMA/GAN on its network, and insisting that Apple support it in the iPhone. This would solve so many problems it isn’t funny. Unfortunately its one of those technologies that most people find impossible to visualize until they’ve seen it in action (like on T-Mobile’s network) where it can be incredibly effective.

    I think that the reason 3G wasn’t available on the first iPhone is because the tri-band 3G chips weren’t yet available in sufficient quantity at the time.

  • marian_

    “The New Cingular began working to rid itself of the older TDMA service to concentrate its efforts on building a single, unified GSM network. That wasn’t fully completed until the first part of 2008.”
    I believe that’s not correct. IIRC, Cingular discontinued AMPS/TDMA service in February or March 2007.

  • http://aclevertwist.com/ Andy65

    My experience with AT&T is horrible. When I first got it, I didn’t really experienced problems but, after 3 to 4 months every call is dropped, I missed all calls and VM. I called AT&T and told me that there is no problem with the signal and every excuses that they can think of, I switched iPhone and had the same problem, so I canceled my AT&T and I’m happy with it.


  • Tardis


    I actually thought the phrase “evil of two lessors” was a very very clever joke about companies that leased mobile phone bandwidth. Maybe not.

    To reinforce this message, Softbank gave me a FREE WiFi router from FON, aka Fonera. This seems like a great deal. For starters it is on my desk so my iPhone uses WiFi rather than the phone network. If I go overseas and come across another Fonera network, I can log on for free because I am already part of the system.

    You need to keep reminding your American viewers that America is not the whole world. The iPhone is relevant to a large part of the world. Verizon versus Sprint or AT&T is not.

    When I got my iPhone 3GS from Softbank, they told me Softbank to Softbank is FREE, WiFi is FREE, overseas you pay through the NOSE for mobile so stick to WiFi.

    Looks like it was not such a valuable gift anyway, I could have bought it for $20, but to me it was valuable because I would not have done so otherwise.

  • rjackb

    I get so sick of these tired posts about a particular cell phone company’s coverage that someone thinks totally sucks. The quality of your coverage depends almost entirely upon where you are attempting to use your phone. In one area, a particular company may have great coverage while some or even most other carriers’ coverage totally sucks while in another area some other carrier may have great coverage while the others suck.

    It just so happens that where I live and where I travel frequently, i.e., where I use my phone almost all the time, AT&T coverage is outstanding. So, STFU.

  • mihomeagent

    That’s hilarious. The “lessors” are as funny and illustrative and revealing as, oh, say, a Chiron graphic error putting the wrong name on a country on a map.

  • wanorris


    All the fire Apple is taking is just what’s to be expected. The newness factor has worn off, and they’ve settled into position as the market leader in smartphones. When you’re the market leader, someone can love 99% of everything they use your product, but if there’s one thing that bugs them, that’s all they’ll talk about. The AT&T network, issues, the inability to use an alternate carrier, the multitasking thing, the app store censorship outcry — all of this is just people chafing because they feel like they’re completely locked in to the system and that they don’t have any choices.

    This is aided and abetted by the fact that Apple has lined up nearly all of the industry’s players as enemies. The OS vendors have to be opposed to them. They only sell it on their own hardware, so every existing handset maker is forced to cast about for other operating systems to license to enter the market. They have an exclusive deal with one carrier, so all the other carriers, including #1 Verizon, are forced to try to take down the iPhone and support an alternate platform.

    Are systems like the Palm Pre iPhone ripoffs? Umm, duh. Apple has basically forced the entire industry to underwrite ripoffs of the iPhone. When Blackberry was the hot phone, all the carriers just cut deals to offer their own Blackberries, problem solved on the carrier end; not so with the iPhone.

    So unless Apple decides to be a little more flexible, don’t be surprised in a few years when Android — or whoever — ends up being the dominant platform in the industry. Sure, the iPhone came first, and it was better, but it likely won’t matter because Apple seemingly has no interest in taking the steps necessary to hold onto the dominant share if it means reducing their margins on the units they do sell.

  • wanorris

    > Why Apple and AT&T haven’t worked out a deal to make AirPort base stations share home users’ bandwidth with mobile devices authenticating as iPhones, offering the base station owners some sort of reward program for sharing their connection, is puzzling.

    Wouldn’t that be the most embarrassing proposal in the history of the wireless industry, though? “We’re not capable of building out our network properly. Will you do it for us?”

  • wanorris


    > Based on the quote, the only option they have is to NEVER talk about WinMobile, because blind cheerleading is the only option, when your company is incapable of producing quality software.

    I’ve had WinMo phones since before the iPhone came out, and mostly like them. I wouldn’t say it’s low quality, just that the interface is antequated. They didn’t do a good job rethinking the workflow when it shifted from being the OS for non-phone Pocket PCs to the OS for phones.

    Most WinMo veterans install an enhanced UI anyway, though they vary widely from iPhone-like systems made up of app icons to heavy-duty contact management oriented systems for hardcore users.

    It will be interesting to see what will happen with the delayed version 7 when it finally sees the light of day next year. Whatever the case, I doubt it will be a threat to Apple’s market share for the foreseeable future.

  • NeilM


    Unfortunately the info you were given about map availability in Europe was flat-out wrong. We used Google maps on the iPhone 3G in France, and that was a year ago. Yes, we’d bought a chunk of international data, and yes we kept our eyes on usage. But in fact those maps are surprisingly compact in data download terms. And there’s all kinds of 3G coverage, even in rural France.

    However there’s now an even better option in the form of available nav apps such MobileNavigator Europe from Navigon and others (from the iTMS). For under $100 you get maps locally stored on the iPhone that only need a GPS signal, with no ongoing roaming data downloads.

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