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


When 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!