My pal Mark Sullivan of PC World has written a spectacularly ambitious story summarizing cross-country tests of the major wireless carriers’ 3G service. It’s a follow-up to an earlier piece, and the big news this time around is that AT&T did extremely well. It had the highest average download and upload speeds in tests conducted by Norarum, Inc. for PCW, and was tied for highest reliability. Most of the individual numbers associated with AT&T’s 3G performance via laptop and iPhone in thirteen cities range from good to excellent.
Except for one number. In the tests, AT&T’s reliability via iPhone in San Francisco was a dismal 55 percent, by far the worst performance turned in by any carrier on either laptop or smartphone in any city. Nearly half the time, the damn phone just didn’t work.
As Mark explains, the tests only reflect what Novarum and PCW found on given days in specific parts of certain cities at particular hours of the day. But the result certainly mirrors the frustrating experience I’ve had with my iPhone in large swaths of San Francisco–the one that’s lately had me flirting with giving up the iPhone entirely in favor of a Verizon phone. If the story’s overall results are any indication, though, I might be much happier with my iPhone if I spent most of my time somewhere other than the Bay Area.
A few other notes on the article:
1) AT&T’s San Francisco reliability via laptop modem rather than iPhone was 85 percent–still among the worst numbers in the tests, but much better than the iPhone turned in. Maybe it’s possible that the iPhone’s reception is part of the problem?
2) In the project’s tests of a Droid on Verizon in San Francisco, the phone was a bit slower than the AT&T iPhone, and its reliability was also iffy at only 67 percent. (For what it’s worth, I’ve been using a Droid recently in spots in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood where my iPhone drops every single call, and it’s been indomitable.)
AT&T may be much maligned these days, and its 3G coverage is still available in far fewer locales than Verizon’s, an issue that PCW’s tests didn’t factor in one way or another. But it’s nice to think that maybe, just maybe, it really is moving in the right direction.