This morning Randall Stross of the New York Times tried to shift the blame for the iPhone’s connectivity onto Apple’s shoulders. Here’s why it’s mostly AT&T’s fault and definitely still Apple’s problem.
Ever since the iPhone’s overnight success, AT&T has been complaining about the burden that smartphone users put on its struggling network. Stross’s claim that a recent study showed that download speeds on AT&T’s network are faster in many metropolitan areas than Verizon’s.
While I can’t argue with that data, the study wasn’t meant to explain iPhone users ire and misses the point in a few very important areas. The first of which is that if you don’t reside within the city limits of AT&T’s coverage areas, you likely don’t have 3G coverage at all.
Secondly, download speed isn’t the real issue that most iPhone users complain about. The biggest problem with being an iPhone user actually comes from dropping important calls from family and work almost constantly.
In fact, iPhone owners in New York experience an average dropped call rate of 30 percent. That’s not going to be a good experience no matter how fast the network’s download speed.
Stross believes that Apple should borrow some engineers to help it, “make better use of the country’s fastest wireless network.” The problem is that he’s missing some important points about AT&T’s 3G network and the fact that the companies are, in theory, partners.
First off is the fact that AT&T’s 3G network uses a fairly customized version of 3G that makes switching devices back and forth from other GSM networks like T-Mobile a nightmare. The Radio Interface Layer (RIL) in the phone has to be customized to AT&T’s peculiar network settings.
So this means that if AT&T designed the iPhone directly based on the GSM standard, it’s going to have issues on AT&T. However, it’s AT&T’s job to work with its partners to iron out these kinds of issues before a phone launches, let alone before launching the third version of the phone.