Inside the iPhone 3G dropped call complaints

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Comments

  • Reply 61 of 86
    stormjstormj Posts: 42member
    I think it's this simple: I think they are concerned about the battery life and so they made the 3g radio too weak. I got a white iphone 3g on July 11 and have had the problem exactly as described by everyone else... I am in California on AT&T, and my HTC 8525 has no problems like this (its problem is that it has Windows (; )



    This is the first I'm hearing the 2.1beta fixes it. Anyone else confirm?
  • Reply 62 of 86
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by stormj View Post


    I think it's this simple: I think they are concerned about the battery life and so they made the 3g radio too weak. I got a white iphone 3g on July 11 and have had the problem exactly as described by everyone else... I am in California on AT&T, and my HTC 8525 has no problems like this (its problem is that it has Windows (; )



    This is the first I'm hearing the 2.1beta fixes it. Anyone else confirm?



    I've heard the 2.1 fix from three other posters and one first-hand source I know personally. I don't think it's a matter of the radio being "too weak", but along those lines perhaps the firmware is being too conservative in boosting the output power for UMTS, or perhaps too aggressive in switching to GSM/EDGE.
  • Reply 63 of 86
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by winterspan View Post


    Yea, I know. And I know I'm right now, because I just made those very changes before i read your post (from wikipedia of course)! Here you go everybody! Man, I should really be getting paid for all the work I do around here!

    <image>



    As much as I have reposted your image how much do I owe you or, better yet, what is my cut.
  • Reply 64 of 86
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sapporobaby View Post


    I think, and do not quote me on this but the -83 is the s/n ratio measured in db, as are the transmit power readings.



    Typically that number is a RSSI (Receive Signal Strength Indicator), it may not necessarily differentiate between noise and signal, only what it perceives is the current received signal. Depending on where they get the value from, hardware or software, can be the determining factor whether or not it's signal to noise or overall received power in the band/channel (which interference/multi-path/etc... can effect as well).
  • Reply 65 of 86
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by winterspan View Post


    I've heard the 2.1 fix from three other posters and one first-hand source I know personally. I don't think it's a matter of the radio being "too weak", but along those lines perhaps the firmware is being too conservative in boosting the output power for UMTS, or perhaps too aggressive in switching to GSM/EDGE.



    Could be as simple as how it calculates the receive signal strength, all decisions are most likely based off that indication.
  • Reply 66 of 86
    diracdirac Posts: 4member
    "The problem is that Windsor isn't a technical expert; he's a financial analyst..."



    "It has always used an entirely different multitouch technology based on sensing magnetic capacitance..."
    I think you are confused in that the iPhone does not likely use magnetic effects to sense touch. You might mean "electric capacitance", or simply "capacitance":



    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitance





    Dirac.
  • Reply 67 of 86
    I just wanted to add to the thread that I'm seeing an unusually high amount of dropped calls on my work commute. I know where I've been getting dropped calls over the years and there have been two spots. Now with iphone 3G, they are all over and completely random.
  • Reply 68 of 86
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by stormj View Post


    I think it's this simple: I think they are concerned about the battery life and so they made the 3g radio too weak. I got a white iphone 3g on July 11 and have had the problem exactly as described by everyone else... I am in California on AT&T, and my HTC 8525 has no problems like this (its problem is that it has Windows (; )



    This is the first I'm hearing the 2.1beta fixes it. Anyone else confirm?



    Don't know if 2.1 fixes it. But I'm in a similar boat - I'm in coastal LA (Venice) - supposedly blanketed with 3G coverage - and the phone spends maybe - (and I'm being generous) - 10% of its time on 3G. About 80% of the time it's on EDGE. The other 10% - I sh*t you not - it is on GPRS. (I only figured this out when I called support last week and asked the Apple rep what it meant when I had *neither* the 3G nor E icon.)



    It's a "week 32" phone. Applied the 2.0.2 update this evening and have not had time to test it sufficiently. We'll see.....
  • Reply 69 of 86
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,951member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by zigzaglens View Post


    It's a "week 32" phone. Applied the 2.0.2 update this evening and have not had time to test it sufficiently. We'll see.....



    How do you know the production week?
  • Reply 70 of 86
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by zigzaglens View Post


    Don't know if 2.1 fixes it. But I'm in a similar boat - I'm in coastal LA (Venice) - supposedly blanketed with 3G coverage - and the phone spends maybe - (and I'm being generous) - 10% of its time on 3G. About 80% of the time it's on EDGE. The other 10% - I sh*t you not - it is on GPRS. (I only figured this out when I called support last week and asked the Apple rep what it meant when I had *neither* the 3G nor E icon.)



    It's a "week 32" phone. Applied the 2.0.2 update this evening and have not had time to test it sufficiently. We'll see.....



    If you have 3G then you aren't using a "week 32" phone.
  • Reply 71 of 86
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,951member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    If you have 3G then you aren't using a "week 32" phone.



    But isn't week 32 last week? Is it not based on the calendar year?
  • Reply 72 of 86
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    But isn't week 32 last week? Is it not based on the calendar year?



    Last week was 33, but I misunderstood his post. I read it as the iPhone has been out for 32 weeks and therefore shouldn't have any radio issues by now. Mea culpa.
  • Reply 73 of 86
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    How do you know the production week?



    Fourth and fifth digit of the serial number [in Settings -> General -> About].
  • Reply 74 of 86
    richlrichl Posts: 2,213member
    The problem isn't helped by the fact that the phone is exclusive to O2 in the UK. At one stage they were at risk of having their 3G license revoked because their coverage was so bad. They still aren't investing in their 3G network to the same degree as the other operators.
  • Reply 75 of 86
    I don't know how to use the quote function but the article said "It [iPhone] has always used... technology based on sensing magnetic capacitance..." Capacitance is an electrical property but is not related to Magnetism. It was such a good article but just wanted to mention that since the capacitive touchscreen is one of the main differentiators for the iPhone compared to others using old resistive touchscreens like Palm which doesn't support multi-touch.



    One last comment is that transferring calls as you are moving from tower to tower and changing RF bands (EDGE to 3G for example) is a pretty complex issue (other companies test this excessively like Mot for example) and it seems a bit optimistic that a baseband FW updat could fix this but of course it is possible. I've seen phones close to mass production get canceled as they couldn't fix this problem even with a ton of effort from the RF engineers.



    I own the original iPhone and think it is great but of course there is always room for improvement. I would get the new one but want to avoid a 2 year AT&T contract.
  • Reply 76 of 86
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,603member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kotatsu View Post


    For what it's worth I'm having trouble maintaining a 3G signal where I work in the UK. It's 1 bar at best, but drops off often to zero bars and so down to GPRS. Meanwhile a friend of mine with a bog standard 3G Nokia handset gets 3 bars of 3G on T-Mobile when he's standing right next to my zero bar iPhone.



    Different network of course which may be the reason, but it's still annoying that he can use 3G no problem but my fancy new iPhone is struggling to load up anything at all.



    Where I live I get 4 bars on mi iPhone O2 on 3G and my mates T-Mobile N95 gets no 3G signal. Also my LG viewty on orange gets no signal whatsoever.



    Another completely pointless comparison for you.
  • Reply 77 of 86
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by irnchriz View Post


    Where I live I get 4 bars on mi iPhone O2 on 3G and my mates T-Mobile N95 gets no 3G signal. Also my LG viewty on orange gets no signal whatsoever.



    Another completely pointless comparison for you.





    I'm the opposite..



    I didn't realise how much o2 3g coverage there is near me.



    With the iphone I only got useable 3g coverage in the city centre, whereas with a borrowed Palm Treo I get 3g nearly all the way home..8 miles from the city centre!!



    amazing difference!
  • Reply 78 of 86
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by PG4G View Post


    I am telling the truth, and I am currently holding my iPhone in that very same location, my lounge room.



    It used to drop to GPRS depending where i was in my room. I now currently cannot lose 5 bars of 3G (i am in australia, so I don't have edge access) and I was shocked.



    I had a trip around the city on the sunday, (my friend installed it on my phone after his) and wow... in places where it dropped to gprs continuously, it wouldn't go below 3 bars 3G.



    The connection is unbelievably strong with this beta.



    Can you translate your experiments from fuzzy "bars" to the -dbm settings using the

    field test number (*3001#12345#*) oft-mentioned here? Even these decibel readings

    are sensitive to the way a cellphone is held (10 - 15 decibels worse when holding

    the iPhone [or other 3g phones as well] "normally" rather than in a hands-off or pinch grip).



    If a baseband modem firmware fix can add 20 db to 3g reception with *no* associated network

    changes, someone must have seriously goofed the handset parameters to begin with...



    Also, in the interest of science, can you reveal the General->Abount->Modem Firmware

    number of the beta being run?
  • Reply 79 of 86
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Experts and analysts of all stripes are trying to explain what's wrong with the iPhone 3G, but their answers are frequently supported by bad science, outlandish claims, and pure speculation. Here's what's wrong in the reports, and why a simple firmware update is likely to solve the current issues.



    What's the problem?



    While nobody has formally studied the problem, lots of iPhone 3G users are complaining that they can't find 3G service, can't maintain 3G service in areas where other 3G phones can, witness wildly fluctuating signal strength bars on the phone, or conversely can't use 3G because it consumes battery life too rapidly.



    Many articles on the subject are referencing Apple's support forums, where some discussions have gotten so long that forum moderators have had to lock the original thread and create a new overflow discussion.



    Clearly, there are real problems. How widespread and common those problems are is more difficult to pinpoint. Apple said it sold a million iPhone 3G units on its opening weekend, and Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster reported that each of the company's US retail stores are now selling an average of 95 iPhone 3G sales per day. He expects the company to sell 4.47 million this quarter. That indicates that well over two million iPhone 3G units have already been sold to users.



    Even if the 3G issues were only affecting one percent of the phones sold, that would leave twenty thousand users with problems. If only a tenth of those users posted comments online, that would easily account for the two thousand messages on Apple's discussion boards.



    Blame the provider?



    In the US, AT&T has been fingered in the iPhone 3G's reception problems due to the telco's relatively new and limited service coverage of its 3G network. Even in urban areas where AT&T's service maps indicate there should be 3G service, the iPhone 3G frequently fails to find it or maintain a strong enough signal to complete a call.



    Compared to Sprint and Verizon Wireless, which both have wider 3G service coverage in their more mature 3G EVDO networks, AT&T is building out its 3G network using UMTS, a worldwide standard. AT&T is also forced to use different radio frequencies than other UMTS providers, which results in less technical maturity for AT&T's 3G network than those overseas.



    AT&T primarily uses the 1900MHz band in the US, but is working to expand its use of its 850MHz band, a lower frequency that allows radio signals to spread farther and penetrate walls easier. Europe uses the even higher 2100MHz band for 3G, but there is also more dense network coverage there.



    While AT&T's network is still experiencing some growing pains, the iPhone 3G's reception issues are also being reported in other countries too, even in Europe where 3G UMTS networks have been built out for some time. In those locations, the iPhone's dual band 3G radio uses the standard UMTS frequencies, making it hard to blame AT&T for more than just its limited coverage.



    Dropped calls by provider



    An article on the iPhone 3G by BusinessWeek cited unnamed sources to report, "the problem is affecting 2% to 3% of iPhone traffic, the people say. That compares with a dropped-call rate of around 1% for all traffic for AT&T." A source for the dropped call rate at AT&T wasn't given.



    Studies on dropped calls are difficult because users don't report their dropped calls, and providers would be challenged to know whether phones on their networks ended a call on purpose or not. Further, calls may be dropped for a number of reasons, from poor service coverage or intermittent signal interference to phone set problems to users walking into a elevator or bank vault.



    A study on dropped calls published by mindWireless in February 2007 ranked US providers on dropped calls by analyzing 80 million calls on 130,000 wireless accounts over a the first six months of 2006. It defined a dropped call as any two calls placed to the same destination within two minutes, without a call in the middle. This would not identify dropped calls where the user did not call their party back immediately, or where they were called back by the dropped party. It also excluded voicemail calls.



    The company reported that Sprint had a dropped call rate of 5.4%, AT&T Wireless 5.7%, Verizon 8.0%, Cingular 11.3%, T-Mobile as 13.8, and Nextel at 14.6% (not including push to talk calls). AT&T Wireless was bought by Cingular in 2004, but the company was still in the process of merging its networks when the study was underway; that merger combined the GSM towers operated by both, strengthening Cingular's signal. Over the next year, Cingular subsequently rebranded itself as AT&T. Sprint has also since merged with Nextel, although those two companies operated incompatible networks (CDMA and iDEN) that couldn't help each other in terms of signal.



    Those numbers indicate that the reported "2 to 3%" dropped call rate on the iPhone 3G, as well as the 1% drop rate for "all traffic on AT&T" are not likely to be anywhere close to reality. They are also not the product of any scientific study, since the iPhone 3G as only been out for a month and during that time the firmware has been updated.



    Incidentally, Sprint and AT&T began fighting over the ad line "fewest dropped calls" last year, and AT&T was separately sued by subscribers over its claim as false advertising. AT&T no longer makes that claim, but now advertises "more bars in more places." That promise hasn't solved iPhone 3G reception issues however.



    Blame the components?



    Nomura analyst Richard Windsor kicked off the iPhone 3G panic when he published a research note suggesting that the iPhone's problems were due to a faulty industrial design using Infineon chips, and suggested that Apple might have to recall the faulty units.



    The problem is that Windsor isn't a technical expert; he's a financial analyst. More problematically, this isn't the first time he's described a speculative hardware problem and sounded a false alarm for a possible recall based upon erroneous guesswork. Last year, he claimed that the original iPhone was plagued a faulty design for a film on its screen that used "a chemical deposition to provide touch sensitivity based on heat."



    Windsor wrote that the design had failed in earlier attempts to make it work after just a few months, and suggested Apple might have to accommodate a massive recall after iPhones suddenly stopped working in the first three to six months. That never happened, but more importantly the iPhone also never used a heat sensitive film. It has always used an entirely different multitouch technology based on sensing capacitance that lays under the iPhone's glass screen, not on top of it.



    The chips used in the iPhone 3G are similarly not unique nor the likely subject of a massive recall. Guenther Gaugler of Infineon told BusinessWeek, "Our 3G chips are, for example, used in Samsung handsets and we are not aware of such problems there."



    Blame the production?



    Some have blamed Apple's phone manufacturing instead. NyTeknik ("New Technology"), a Swedish publication, said that problems associated with the iPhone 3G may be due to problems in high production manufacturing, and notes that similar "normal childhood illnesses" have affected phones from Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson and Nokia.



    Testing each iPhone during manufacturing would cost more than its actual components cost, according to Claes Beckman, a professor of microwave technology at the University of Gävle. The site performed its own testing on an iPhone 3G and found results for nominal sensitivity of 3G radio signals that were below the minimums set by the ETSI standards body. However, it also noted the iPhone 3G design has passed the CE mark, which means that it originally met the ETSI standards in testing. This led the group to believe that the problems cropped up in manufacturing after production accelerated.



    Users reporting problems with their iPhones have been asked by Apple to provide their "build week," represented in the fourth and fifth digits of the unit's serial number. This could mean that Apple is tracking problems with phones manufactured between specific dates; the company has been swapping out phones for users with complaints.



    The number of faulty devices may fluctuate slightly during manufacturing, but there is yet no clear suggestion that problems have accelerated with new production. Some users report having exchanged out several new iPhones without seeing any difference in exchanged models between different build weeks.



    Blame the firmware?



    The two sources cited by BusinessWeek indicated confidence that Apple would be able to address reception issues in the upcoming iPhone 2.1 software update, expected next month in September. Earlier in the month, Apple released 2.0.1, a bug fix that also included updates to the iPhone 3G's baseband firmware. That update had some impact on the signal strength display that users were seeing, but no details were provided on what the release actually fixed.



    Earlier this year, Apple released a 1.1.4 update which also addressed a problem with dropped calls that some users were experiencing at the time on the original GSM iPhone. It too was only described as being a bug fix without offering any specifics. The iPhone 3G's UMTS technology is more computationally complex than the original iPhone's GSM radio. While its chipsets are also used in phones by other makers, the firmware Apple is using to drive the its hardware is unique and has plenty of room for maturity and optimization.



    The good news is that Apple is selling millions of iPhone 3G units all of the same design; other manufacturers, such as Motorola, Samsung, HTC, and others not only sell fewer smartphones than Apple but also offer a range of different models, ensuring that each model gets less focus. All of Apple's attention is going into optimizing the iPhone 3G. RIM, which sold twice as many smartphones as Apple last fall, and Nokia, which sold just over 8 times as many, similarly split their development resources across a wide number of different models.



    Credit iPhone 2.1?



    When it arrives, the iPhone 2.1 software is expected to combine firmware optimizations with higher level software updates, including tools to enable developers to work with more accurate GPS data for turn-by-turn directions, as well as the notifications system for third party apps that Apple described at WWDC. The notification feature was reported missing from the fourth iPhone 2.1 beta released to certain iPhone developers just days ago.



    Features are frequently added or removed during beta build testing, but the removal of the notifications system from the 2.1 build may relate to an effort to deliver its anticipated low level firmware updates as soon as possible and perhaps sooner than planned, leaving the notification service to be distributed as part of a separate release.



    Apple has not publicly connected the notification system with the iPhone 2.1 release; it delivered the details of both under a non disclosure agreement intended to prevent speculation and panic as changes occur in its deployment schedule.







    How does one find out if we have a faulty unit? I have been experiencing weird issues such as right in the middle of sending a text message I will all of a sudden get a black screen... Then when I hit the home key to hopefully get the home screen I have to turn my phone off and back on to get it to wake up. My wife has found herself taking screenshot pictures.. Not sure if this is supposed to happen but it is always by accident. We have never dropped either phone and treat them very well. They have had a shield on them since day one and a rubber skin. One day I was sitting across the table from my wife (both having iphone 3g) and we were in a full coverage 3g area and all of a sudden she had no bars of service but I had full bars. Then she had partial bars and I had none and it went on and on like this all through lunch. I carry a blackberry 8310 for work along side my iPhone 3g and many times I drop a call or the call cannot even complete with my iphone but it has no issue going out on my blackberry. Any suggestions??
  • Reply 80 of 86
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by zigzaglens View Post


    Don't know if 2.1 fixes it. But I'm in a similar boat - I'm in coastal LA (Venice) - supposedly blanketed with 3G coverage - and the phone spends maybe - (and I'm being generous) - 10% of its time on 3G. About 80% of the time it's on EDGE. The other 10% - I sh*t you not - it is on GPRS. (I only figured this out when I called support last week and asked the Apple rep what it meant when I had *neither* the 3G nor E icon.)



    It's a "week 32" phone. Applied the 2.0.2 update this evening and have not had time to test it sufficiently. We'll see.....





    Just as an update - I've given the 2.0.2 update plenty of time and usage to try to see if there is any improvement. I've basically seen none. I am still getting 3G rarely, if ever. I don't know whether Apple or AT&T are to blame for this mess (or both,) but it's very disappointing.
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