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iPhone 4S carrier performance study finds no clear victor

post #1 of 26
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A new study testing data speed, call reliability and voice quality, web browsing and video performance of Apple's iPhone 4S on the three major US carriers finds that AT&T's data speeds are the fastest, while Verizon takes the crown for having the least dropped calls.

Results from a study released on Friday reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the iPhone 4S on the three major cellular carriers in the US, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon, in an attempt to decipher which network boasts the best overall performance for the device, reports Computerworld.

The study by mobile performance analytics firm Metrico Wireless began in October, when all three major networks starting carrying the iPhone 4S, and surveyed data speeds, voice quality and voice call reliability in cities representative of a nationwide aggregate.

Tests were conducted using the company's global measurement system and consisted of over 20,000 web page downloads, 8,000 data download and upload tests both while moving and stationary and 6,000 voice calls. Voice quality was measured using the POLQA speech quality algorithm over the three carriers' networks.

The reported results come from a six-page summary released by Metrico, with the full 54-page report showing that each carrier has strengths in certain areas of operation. The firm sells its studies and findings to carriers and other telecom companies.

Amit Malhorta, Vice President of Marketing at Metrico, is quick to note that the study is not intended to necessarily find a winner among the three carriers, but "to provide objective data on how each carrier performs across important performance categories."

"We wouldn't be out to crown a single device the winner," Malhotra said. "We won't steer people to one phone or the other. We're not really trying to highlight the negatives."

In terms of data speeds, AT&T was the clear leader and had an average stationary download transfer rate of 3,210 Kbps, triple that of its closest competitor Verizon, while Sprint came in a distant third. Web browsing on the AT&T version of the iPhone 4S was also stellar, with load times averaging 1.29 seconds compared to Verizon's 2.60 seconds. Sprint averaged 6.44 seconds for page downloads.

Metrico rated data delivery as "excellent" across the board, though upload data speeds were left unreported.

Data download speeds | Source: Metrico

The iPhone has had trouble with dropped calls in the past and Malhorta said that the 4S is no exception, showing a higher failure rate than the 1.4% industry average. In the test, Verizon had the least amount of dropped calls with 2.1% followed by AT&T and Sprint, with 2.8% and 3.7% respectively.

Uplink voice quality, when an iPhone user speaks, was a strong point for Sprint, scoring a 3.95 out of a possible 5 points with the Perceptual Objective Listening Quality Analysis algorithm Metrico employed for the study. AT&T scored 3.85 and Verizon 3.5. For incoming calls, voice AT&T took the top spot with a score of 3.82, followed by Sprint with 3.72 and Verizon with. 3.55.

Data download speeds | Source: Metrico

When compared with other 3G smartphones in the carriers' lineups, the 4S was found to be a solid performer in terms of low noise and average bluetooth speech quality, but suffered in speakerphone speech quality.

Video performance was found to be fairly equal when Metrico delivered a 300 Kbps, 20 fps clip to the device. However, the firm noted that delivery success dropped somewhat for all three carriers with YouTube video clips.

Malhorta said that one of the intentions for the study was to show how performance problems in one city reported shortly after a phone is launched becomes less relevant over the entire network over time.

"We want to enable informed decisions on the part of subscribers," Malhorta said. "For carriers and OEMs, even though there are new features and functionalities rolling out, they can't forget about the core functions such as voice and data."

iPhone 4S carrier rankings by test

Data transfer rate (average/max)

AT&T - 3210 Kbps/6047 Kbps
Verizon - 1071 Kbps/2371 Kbps
Sprint - 581 Kbps/1767 Kbps

Webpage load time
AT&T - 1.29 sec.
Verizon - 2.60 sec.
Sprint - 6.44 sec.

Dropped call rate
Verizon - 2.1%
AT&T - 2.8%
Sprint - 3.7%

Outgoing voice quality (out of possible 5 points)
Sprint - 3.95
AT&T - 3.85
Verizon - 3.55

Incoming voice quality (out of possible 5 points)
AT&T - 3.92
Sprint - 3.72
Verizon - 3.55

Video performance (success rate of delivery)
AT&T and Verizon - >98%
Sprint - 96.42%
post #2 of 26
Let's see. All three drop calls at roughly the same rate (look at the error bars).

AT&T performance is miles faster than either other vendor.

Just why can't you pick a victor?
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Gatorguy 5/31/13
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post #3 of 26
Sprint

ATT

Verizon \

Sprint sucks!
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post #4 of 26
AT&T's service is terrible!!

I bought a new iPhone 4s and I can't decide which I hate worst the phone or the service!!

The phone isn't worth a damn for making cars and Siri doesn't work at all!!

Every person I have clued on my new phone has complained about not being able to hear me!!

and battery life is a joke!!

I left home at noon and when I got home at 6PM the battery went from 100% to 19% and I didn't use the phone but for one short call!!
post #5 of 26
I got my new 4S with sprint and I have yet to drop a single call. With AT&T, I was dropping calls constantly. I dropped so many calls, I started an iphoto album of dropped call screen shots. Sprint has been perfectly reliable for me so far. I'm in greater Boston.
post #6 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

iPhone 4S carrier performance study finds no clear victor

But it does find a clear loser: Sprint.
post #7 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by captmark View Post

AT&T's service is terrible!!

I bought a new iPhone 4s and I can't decide which I hate worst the phone or the service!!

The phone isn't worth a damn for making cars and Siri doesn't work at all!!

Every person I have clued on my new phone has complained about not being able to hear me!!

and battery life is a joke!!

I left home at noon and when I got home at 6PM the battery went from 100% to 19% and I didn't use the phone but for one short call!!

Altogether I'd say that's highly unusual. Have you gone to a Genius Bar to complain? Perhaps your settings are misconfigured or you got a lemon.
post #8 of 26
I have been on AT&T using an iPhone since the beginning. I switched to Verizon and got the iPhone 4S. There is no comparison. On AT&T I was dropping over 10 calls a day. Now at most I drop one call a day. AT&T coverage in WeHO and Beverly Hills is like Swiss cheese. Not so for Verizon. I don't know what took me so long to switch! Data is fine. It's better here on Verizon because you have to have a signal to download.

Plus what I have of read a out is the advantage on Verizon of getting cheap local sim cards during international travel. Never again will I have to pay AT&T's international rates. I just came back from a week in London and used my iPhone just like I do here. Bill: 35 dollars!!!!
post #9 of 26
You can't make much of a judgement based on this study alone.

One big factor......where were they testing? Probably somewhere where they had decent signals for all carriers. I live in a place where both Verizon's and ATT's signals are sketchy. I have only 1 bar inside my house, and often have to stand at the porch door to make phone calls -- that is, if I can even make the call successfully!

If Sprint gave me a decent signal at my house, it'd be a better carrier for me, even if the download speeds are 1/3 the rate. It'd probably still beat my iPhone 3GS.

Even when the study seems to favor ATT, Verizon's network is largely better. So if you want the faster connection (and live in a populated area), ATT may be the better one for you. If you want to be able to have good 3G service over a wider area, Verizon may be better for you.
post #10 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by frugality View Post

Even when the study seems to favor ATT, Verizon's network is largely better. So if you want the faster connection (and live in a populated area), ATT may be the better one for you. If you want to be able to have good 3G service over a wider area, Verizon may be better for you.

Yeah, Verizon CLAIMS that their network is better. But when you actually see the comparisons, AT&T wins in most locations.

I realize that Verizon is claiming 4G speeds over most of the country, but AT&T's 3G keeps up with Verizon 4G in most places, so that's really moot.
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Gatorguy 5/31/13
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post #11 of 26
I got rid of Sprint. Loving ATTs network. I went out to Rolla, MO today and had 3G the whole way.
post #12 of 26
I think ATT will be better for iPhone until a 4GLTE iPhone comes to frutation.
post #13 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Yeah, Verizon CLAIMS that their network is better. But when you actually see the comparisons, AT&T wins in most locations.

It's pretty well-known that Verizon has wider 3G coverage, but ATT has faster 3G....where you can get it.
post #14 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by frugality View Post

It's pretty well-known that Verizon has wider 3G coverage, but ATT has faster 3G....where you can get it.

I realized that coverage is relative to where you are live. For me ATT is awesome, but it might be terrible if I decided to move to another state.
post #15 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cpsro View Post

Altogether I'd say that's highly unusual. Have you gone to a Genius Bar to complain? Perhaps your settings are misconfigured or you got a lemon.

He's right the iPhone 4s is marred with problems I have one since day one and I wish I had not sold my iPhone 4 because it was way better.

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post #16 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by frugality View Post

It's pretty well-known that Verizon has wider 3G coverage, but ATT has faster 3G....where you can get it.

Is that really true anymore? Remember, Verizon and Sprint were claiming, accurately I might add, '3G' coverage for their CDMA2000 areas that were 1x which has real world data transmissions averaging 60100 Kbits/s, which is worse than the '2G' GSM EDGE speeds AT&T had over the country.
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post #17 of 26
Here is what the Or be of time told me : the steps are as follows :

1) Apple lets the operators do the huge investments necessary for the 4G

2) Apple provides its mobiles the technical capability to retain the more efficient and cheaper operator on the spot, thus turning itself into a MVNO

3) the operators stock goes near to zero

4) Apple buys for almost nothing the one which possesses the more efficient network
post #18 of 26
Quote:
He's right the iPhone 4s is marred with problems I have one since day one and I wish I had not sold my iPhone 4 because it was way better.

That's exactly the way it is for me!!

If I pay $30 shipping apple will loan me a phone while they repair my phone!!

If a product any product but especially one that costs $400 breaks or doesn't work properly in the first 30 days I expect a replacement not a repair or a refurbished one in it's place!!

That is not the way you do business!!

Unlesss you have so much money that you just don't care about your individual owners!!
post #19 of 26
Here on long island verizon and att have the same coverage. We are an island so all 4 major cell companies share the towers here. Att has much better data speed so thats why i stick with them.
post #20 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by captmark View Post

That's exactly the way it is for me!!

If I pay $30 shipping apple will loan me a phone while they repair my phone!!

If a product any product but especially one that costs $400 breaks or doesn't work properly in the first 30 days I expect a replacement not a repair or a refurbished one in it's place!!

That is not the way you do business!!

Unlesss you have so much money that you just don't care about your individual owners!!

Wow! Im sorry. Ive never had a problem and i live in manhattan. Go to the genius bar.
post #21 of 26
These tests weren't conducted in NYC, that's for sure.

Outside of NY though, AT&T is very fast on 3G - Hulu and Netflix stream beautifully, and apps download fast.

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Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others.
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post #22 of 26
"The iPhone has had trouble with dropped calls in the past and Malhorta said that the 4S is no exception, showing a higher failure rate than the 1.4% industry average. In the test, Verizon had the least amount of dropped calls with 2.1% followed by AT&T and Sprint, with 2.8% and 3.7% respectively."

FWIW those figures are somewhat along the same lines as results from a few months ago, Verizon iPhones showing fewer call issues than ATT iPhones.
http://www.macworld.com/article/1590...t_verizon.html

Glossed over and seldom noted is the fact that iPhones simply have a higher call failure rate than most other phones, exceeding the industry average handily. Certainly something Apple should continue to try and improve on.
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post #23 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by daylove22 View Post

He's right the iPhone 4s is marred with problems I have one since day one and I wish I had not sold my iPhone 4 because it was way better.

Sell the i4S and buy a gently used i4. You'll even have a few bucks left to stick in your pocket.
post #24 of 26
Quote:
Phone 4S carrier performance study finds no clear victor

Quote:
Originally Posted by ConradJoe View Post

But it does find a clear loser: Sprint.

Yeah the article really seemed to pussyfoot around what seemed obvious.... ...maybe they have a soft spot for the underdog.....

....but what's up with Apple remaining above average in dropped calls on all carriers for five iterations of their phone? is it something to do with the complexity of smartphones in general? or Apple-specific?

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post #25 of 26
AT&T is the clear winner as it beats the other two hands down in speed but is only slightly inferior in other categories. But bear in mind that they have had the iPhone longer and perhaps they have figured out what's more important - data as opposed to voice.

I am baffled by the complaints about reception and battery. The 4S has been the best for me on both fronts, and I have had every single iPhone since the original.
post #26 of 26
Does this explain Sprint's unlimited data plan? They can't throttle because they can't make it go any slower.
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