Users split over iPhone 2.1's impact on 3G dropped calls

Some users report improved 3G reception with Apple's most recent update, but others say they are still experiencing significant problems making calls

A day after Apple released its iPhone 2.1 update, users were split on whether the new software improves 3G reception and cuts the number of dropped calls, a major goal of the release that CEO Steve Jobs promised earlier in the week.

Jobs' pledge that the Friday update would mean "fewer dropped calls" was aimed at iPhone 3G owners who have complained since its July launch of trouble keeping a connection with mobile carriers' faster networks. Yesterday, iPhone 2.1's release notes echoed Jobs' promise, saying that the update would result in a "decrease in call set-up failures and dropped calls."

[ Learn more about Apple's iPhone 3G in InfoWorld's special report, and get the latest on mobile developments with InfoWorld's Mobile Report newsletter. ]

Reaction to iPhone 2.1, however, was mixed on Apple's own support forum. Unlike the response after the release of iPhone 2.0.2 last month -- most users reported that the update did not fix 3G reception issues -- by Saturday it was apparent users were divided over 2.1.

Some reported improved 3G reception -- a few said the difference was dramatic -- while others said they were still experiencing significant problems making calls.

"I have better signal in my home than usual [and] I have had no failed calls so far. Great update," said "tsmithband", one of many on Apple's iPhone support forum who said they were happy with the update.

Another user, "boston_turtle," seconded that on Saturday. "I just updated and then got a call. Usually, any walking around in my apartment would drop the call. This time it stayed on and had good quality."

But others were remain frustrated.

"Just loaded 2.1 and made a phone call," said a user with the alias "Victor98109" on Friday morning, just hours after the update was posted for download. "Call dropped three times. I don't know how the other 'fixes' work, but the main one of dropped calls does not work with this update."

Others said they encountered even more dropped calls than before. "Ever since I updated to 2.1 my calls are dropping more often than not," a user identified as "Mike295855" said Saturday morning. "I am really upset because I thought this was going to be fixed." Computerworld readers also could not agree on iPhone 2.1. In comments posted to a story published Friday, readers were almost evenly split on the subject.

"[iPhone] 2.1 did NOT fix the 3G reception problems for me," said "Mike" on Saturday. "In fact I think it's worse now since [it] frequently displays 'No Signal.' This phone needs to be recalled and replaced."

"There are two places along a road near my office where I would have a strong 3G signal strength indicator, yet my call would drop. This has happened every day since mid-July when I got my 3G," said Reggie Escalante on Friday. "Today I had strong 3G signal and did not lose my call. As an aside, browsing in the elevator I didn't lose my signal (before it would just drop the 3G and switch to EDGE) riding 19 levels up."

One thing that users could agree on was that 2.1 had boosted the number of signal-strength bars they saw on their iPhone displays. Apple promised as much in the iPhone 2.1 release notes, which said the update includes "improved accuracy of the 3G signal strength display."

But iPhone owners could not reach a consensus about what that meant, and whether Apple was simply pulling a fast one.

"I am seeing 3 bars now at work where before I had one," reported "d18ge" on Friday morning. dBms [a cell call signal strength measurement -- Ed.] reading still reading around -101 to -107 but am now able to receive calls where before [it] was pretty unreliable."

For every "d18ge," however, there was someone like "267," who acknowledged the change in the iPhone's bar indicator, but rejected the idea that anything had changed. "I'm getting a 3 or 4 bar 3G signal, but once I start using it I get just a few minutes use then it drops back down to [EDGE]," said the Glasgow, Scotland resident on the same thread. "Once that's happened, the only way I can get 3G back is to switch it off and then on again. It looks like Apple has tried to pull the wool over our eyes by simply displaying more bars. There is no reception fix."

The iPhone's 3G connection problems have been more than a topic of debate on Apple's support forum. At least two lawsuits have been filed in U.S. federal courts seeking class-action status for claims that Apple deceived customers when it promoted the new iPhone as a 3G-capable device and promised buyers they would be able to surf on the Web at speeds twice as fast as the original model.

Computerworld is an InfoWorld affiliate.

This story, "Users split over iPhone 2.1's impact on 3G dropped calls" was originally published by Computerworld .

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