Is it O2 that's rubbish or is it the iPhone?

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iphone-reception.jpgWhen I wrote my piece yesterday on O2 snapping up all the smartphones, it was initially from the point of view of pricing and monopoly. With both the Pre and the iPhone exclusively on board it rather limits the consumer’s options in terms of getting the very best smartphones they can at a reasonable market price.

Of course, the flip side of this is that O2 spends money on these exclusive deals that they could be investing to improve the quality of their network. Judging by the comments most of you agree. So, I had a further nose around the web and there’s plenty of pages dedicated to O2 hatred, not least of all O2 sucks by Rob Follis who’s so frustrated with the number of calls his iPhone drops and the terrible signal black spots, even in our capital city, that he’s invited others to share their grievances.

The funny thing is, that if you look over to the States you’ll see a fair amount of similar literature on the matter with their exclusive iPhone carrier AT&T. Now, there’s a few theories as to what might be going on here. Well, two. It’s either the reception in the iPhone that sucks or it’s the networks that carry them.

Theory 1

For Theory 1, you can look to a host of articles written after the launch of the iPhone 3G or, more specifically, to the Infineon UMTS transceiver inside the handset. It’s been described as an immature chipset, which doesn’t sound good, not that I’m entirely sure what that means; erratic mood swings and arguments with the other components? Locking itself in its room and listening to loud music?

The point is that there’s certainly some evidence suggesting it may be a bit duff. One idea is that Apple themselves have set the chip to demand a higher strength 3G signal for it to function. Either way, it’s suspect and, in fact, all this O2 and AT&T abuse is to do with the iPhone itself and not the networks. However…

Theory 2

…wouldn’t you have expected Apple to have sorted something like that out? Certainly by the dawn of the 3GS? I’ve been using one for a few weeks now and I’ve noticed my quality of service drop through the floor, and it’s not just me.

My girlfriend switched to O2 onto one of the SIM only tariffs. It’s an excellent deal. There’s more minutes than you can stuff into your arm pit and enough texts to keep my thumbs busy with replies all day. But what they also seems to have added to our daily communications is a whole bunch of dropped calls, whether I’m using the iPhone or my usual Vodafone networked handset.

In fact, if you go back to Rob’s blog, there’s a nice, succinct post on this one with a photo of a well-known, rock solid phone – the old Nokia 6210 – showing precisely no signal in NW3 5BL, London – a location that the O2 coverage checker describes as “High”, the top ranking.

Now, obviously, this on its own doesn’t mean an awful lot. Most networks have all sorts of issues in all kinds of places but, anecdotally, O2 are the ones I seem to hear about the most. The trouble is that most of the evidence we are going to get is just that – anecdotal. So, if that’s the way we’re having to play it, let’s at least gather as much of it as possible. Here’s what I’d like you all to do:

Activity 1 – Poll

Vote. Which do you think it is.

Activity 2 – Out Your Network

Shout us your network and any black spot problems you’ve had so we can get a better picture of how good the mobile service providers’ coverage really is. Rattle off those comments!

Daniel Sung

15 comments

  • I find the O2 3G service in London incredibly patchy, while using the iPhone in Norway recently showed what a real 3G network should feel like – blazingly fast; and this in the Arctic Circle!

  • I have just been to America and the AT@T coverage on my iphone was noticeably better than O2 over here. Have been with all UK providers and O2 seems to be the most patchy.

  • I got the 3gs last week. There is something seriously wrong with the network. I live in London, and work on Bishopsgate in the square mile for three days, and just behind the Tate Modern for two days. I live in e11. At ALL locations, the data is like having a 14k modem, despite the signal often showing as strong. I thought it was the phone, but yesterday I was up in Ilford yesterday and Loughton the day before and the speed was amazing, just blazing, so I think its the network. Whether its congestion for the data because there are a lot of users I dont know, but seriously. This cost me the better part of 300 quid, plus an eighteen month contract and I feel had. It is next to useless at home and at work, FFS. I am really p1ssed off now and will be watching this thread to see whats going on. For now, unless it picks up in the next few days, this contract is being terminated, and they can stick their opportunist business up their a$$. It’s a clear failure to deliver on what was promised, and they better fess up and give people some info on whats going on….

  • I am SICK of having no 3g coverage!! That is 100% o2’s fault! My “Three” network phone has perfect 3g coverage in my area, so i assumed that o2 would. BIG MISTAKE. There is NO 3g in my area. So i am left with an iphone that i can do little with except slow internet. Dropped calls dead areas, and no 3g at all. o2 — you can dream on if you think i’m buying the Iphone “s” with you. I’m going to wait until another network can sell them. LOSERS!!!

  • It’s definitely the network. We have a whole range of phones in our household. Most are on O2 as ironically it is the only network that has coverage at our house. When we are out and about this friends invariably when we have problems with coverage on O2 all the handsets suffer similarly (though not all at the same time) while the other carriers are still working well.

    Another point though probably indicative of the companies attitude rather than everyday usage; Glastonbury was a complete dead zone for O2. Orange and Vodaphone worked great. I was able to make a call about 1 in 20 attempts on O2 and texts were taking up to 2 days to get through. Data was a complete non starter despite occasionally seeing the 3G network up though never for more than a few minutes at a time.

  • Having just bought the iPhone 3GS I switched from Vodaphone (excellent reception where I live in Woking) to O2. The reception all over town is patchy. Even when you see a full bar for signal strength the second you start using the data connection it drops to one bar. NOT IMPRESSED considering the amount of money I’m paying a month. To be fair I must say I have not had any dropped calls.

  • Having just bought the iPhone 3GS I switched from Vodaphone (excellent reception where I live in Woking) to O2. The reception all over town is patchy. Even when you see a full bar for signal strength the second you start using the data connection it drops to one bar. NOT IMPRESSED considering the amount of money I’m paying a month. To be fair I must say I have not had any dropped calls.

  • I hardly have any problems with my o2 phone (N95) i do get dropped calls now and then, but they are always in the same places and only whilst i am driving, i put these dropped calls down to moving to another transmitter, the only other problem i have is new years eve network overload but i suspect everyone on every network suffers then

  • With an unsubsidised market value of 900(!) pounds sans network you really have to look to the manufacturer. What is this extortionate premium actually worth beyond the brand? An interesting follow-up would be to calculate the real value of the components behind that Apple, because on paper any short analysis of the spec sheet points to the device being as far from ‘state of the art’ as you can get.

    • P.S: Before I’m accused of bias given my known distaste for the iHype, my service provider actually is O2 and has been since the days when they were called BT Cellnet. I have no real qualms with the network, be it 2G, 3G or HSDPA, and that’s why I would credit the hardware in question with blame.

  • Around London bridge area iPhone shouws full signal however it rarely is able to make a call. I feel this is too many people is in a small space trying to make a call.

  • Personally. I think it’s the network more than the phone. The data network simply sucks in a big way. I find it extremely slow and cumbersome compared to my day-to-day Orange network, when sending and receiving email, or bringing up a browser window. From the device perspective, there’s a real tug of war between the radio and the WiFi side of things. It gets confused, especially when there’s a weak WiFi hotspot, and put that connection as a priority of EDGE/UMTS/HSDPA connection. Talking of which HSDPA coverage is rubbish. I flip between CSD and EDGE and a little 3G most of the time at home, and I live in West London. It should be good if not exceptional coverage…and it’s not.

  • You left out the fifth option in the poll: it is the troll-, click-baiting writing of Tech DIgest that is rubbish.
    Cheers!

  • I use a Nokia Smartphone for 3G, calls, etc on O2. Nothing wrong with my signal – even in “weaker” areas. Maybe it’s the iPhone that’s rubbish?

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