When the iPhone 4 launched *just last year*, there was all kinds of blather about how lousy AT&T continued to be, and of course, all of the media determined themselves to be experts about antennas and the physics of cell phone reception. I wrote then:
The opportunity to hack an iPhone or to modify your car comes from the same motivation. If this thing is so perfect, I wonder if I can change it. The video below gives the technically unsophisticated individual an opportunity to say they're smarter than Steve Jobs. It is the easiest hack in the world: just pinch it in the right position. Crippling the miraculous iPhone is like blowing up the Death Star, or solving Rubik's Cube. It gives one a sense of power and accomplishment. If Steve Jobs is so smart, why did he make this mistake, one might ask. And hey, what's up with AT&T? Everybody 'knows' that AT&T is inferior to Verizon even if only 4% of the population could even tell you what kind of cell technology lies beneath the '3G' marketing.
Yes people would stop me and ask me if putting my thumb over the line changed my reception. The answer was basically no. I've seen reception get better, I've seen it get worse, I've seen it do nothing. I've seen the same thing without moving the phone or touching it at all. What I said then and what I say now is that somebody ought to build a signal strength application with the GPS locations for every cell tower on the planet. Until then, everybody except RF engineers is guessing. Nothing wrong with guessing, it's just the second guessing and getting famous for it that annoys me. The iPhone is an engineering marvel, but people find a way to crap all over it. This defies reason. And so it goes.
Of course AT&T suffered even greater crapstorms. But now they've been vindicated, twice. I like the Ars Technica article. But let's start with Boy Genius.
The Verizon iPhone 4 performed decently at first, though I was quite surprised that Verizon had dead areas in most places AT&T did up in Connecticut. How could this be possible, I thought to myself? I have the best phone on the best network. I needed to head into Manhattan for a couple meetings that day, so, let’s just see how it holds up on the drive down, I told myself. First phone call on I-95? Dropped. What made things worse was that I was stuck on 2G a lot of the time, even in the heart of New York City once I was out and about.
How is this happening?
Well, after a couple calls to Verizon Wireless — and everyone I spoke with was extremely helpful — it turned out my phone didn’t fully activate. I believe the PRL and roaming configurations weren’t updated properly, and after I reprogrammed the phone (something most people won’t ever have to do, as iTunes discreetly does this on first plug-in), I was doing much better. Or was I?
After the “fix” was performed, I still saw 2G on the Verizon iPhone as much or more than I had seen EDGE on the AT&T iPhone that I have used for years (I realize it’s not the same exact phone — I’m referring to the signal quality and coverage). Back in Connecticut, I was still experiencing dropped calls, and it was almost comical. “Dude, I thought you got a Verizon iPhone finally?” I did… it’s just… not that different.
In the end, my personal experience with Verizon’s iPhone in and around New York City ended up being about the same as it was when I was on AT&T. This, combined with other advantages AT&T’s network has, has made me finally decide to switch back. Literally moments before I wrote this article, I synced up my Verizon iPhone and restored it to my AT&T iPhone (I can do this because the OS on the Verizon iPhone is lower than the AT&T iPhone — if I ever wanted to switch back, I couldn’t restore my data until the Verizon iPhone OS is updated to version 4.3). I missed the ability to talk on the phone while data is still flowing (even though I hate talking on the phone). I missed AT&T’s extremely fast data speeds. I missed knowing that if I ever travel outside of the country, I don’t have to get a new phone (even though I hate flying — no, seriously, try me). I missed feeling like I’m in the digital age instead of the stone age.
From Ars Technica
At least in Chicago (and, according to anecdotal evidence from our readers, mostly everywhere else too), AT&T's network performance on the iPhone is consistently faster than that of Verizon when it comes to bigger downloads. (This is the case even when the Speedtest numbers put Verizon first, showing that Speedtest alone isn't the best real-world example.) When it comes to moderately sized or even small downloads, the two aren't going to seem much different to the naked eye without a stopwatch.
The hotspot feature of the Verizon iPhone is definitely a plus, especially for those who regularly need a 3G connection on their laptops or tablets while on the go. The battery life when using the iPhone as a hotspot is amazing—much better than most standalone hotspots we have used—but the lack of simultaneous voice and data on Verizon could hamper your experience. The AT&T version of the iPhone is expected to gain hotspot capabilities in the near future, though, so this may not be a differentiating feature for very long.
So there. And of course the personal hotspot is a fait accompli as of iOS 4.3 just a month after the publication of the Ars article back on Feb 11th. Of course I don't want to spend 40 bucks a month for it.