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Did Software Update Cure iPhone's 3G Sniffles?

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Aug 19, 2008 3:28 PM PT

After weeks of criticism lodged by a small but vocal group of users who claim the iPhone 3G drops calls and picks up weak signals when trying to connect to 3G networks, a software update recently issued by Apple may help nurse some devices back to health.

Did Software Update Cure iPhone's 3G Sniffles?

The computer maker said its latest update improves the device's 3G abilities. Not everyone, however, is convinced the fresh software has sufficiently done the trick. It's also unclear what exactly is causing the supposed 3G problems in the first place.

What 'Bugs' Are We Talking About?

Some of Apple's new phones have reportedly performed poorly when attempting to connect with high-speed cellular networks. Online discussion forums and blog posts are rife with anecdotal evidence that users are having 3G-related issues; however, Apple has remained tight-lipped about the situation. In the United States, AT&T has acknowledged a slight increase in 3G-related issues with the iPhone, and T-Mobile in the Netherlands has even gone so far as to blame the iPhone 3G itself.

Many users have pinned their hopes on a software update from Apple that would fix their issues.

Apple's brand-new 2.0.2 iPhone update may provide some relief, though Apple hasn't clearly indicated what "bug fixes" have been addressed. Of course, Apple rarely identifies what its software updates actually do fix.

"Based on user reports collected so far, the iPhone 2.0.2 software update does not address 3G issues; however, as we don't have detailed release notes from Apple, it's unclear as to what 2.0.2 specifically addresses," Raven Zachary, founder of iPhoneDevCamp and a contributing analyst for The 451 Group, told MacNewsWorld.

"So far, I am pleased with this update. On-screen keyboard responsiveness and Contacts performance seem improved," he added.

'Improves Communication With 3G Networks'

"The iPhone 2.0.2 software update improves communication with 3G networks," Jennifer Bowcock, an Apple iPhone spokesperson, told MacNewsWorld. No additional detail was offered.

It remains unclear whether the software update handles all the 3G issues on the iPhone end of the signal or if problems persist with 3G signals in certain service areas. Some iPhone 3G users haven't had any problems at all.

"I never noticed any iPhone-specific connectivity issues to begin with," Avi Greengart, a research director of wireless devices for Current Analysis, told MacNewsWorld.

"The last time my iPhone 3G repeatedly dropped from 3G to EDGE, I pulled out four other phones with HSDPA 850/1900 -- a BlackBerry Bold prototype, Nokia E71, LG Vu, and HTC Tilt -- and they were all down to EDGE as well, indicating a temporary network issue. By the next morning, all five -- iPhone 3G included -- were back to HSDPA," he added.

"By no means am I saying that the iPhone 3G is perfect," he noted. "I have also experienced random slowness and/or crashing with every build of the software, including the 2.0.2 update. I have also had serious qualms with the iPhone 3G's battery life -- the 2.0.2 firmware hasn't been out long enough for me to know if battery life is any better with it," he said, noting that he's personally had good service in northern New Jersey, Boston, San Diego, and New York City, while his colleagues have reported good 3G service in northern Virginia as well.

"I'm sure that there are some people who aren't happy with their iPhone 3Gs. Maybe they have defective units. Maybe they have poor AT&T coverage in their areas, or the network is overloaded," Greengart said.

Mixed Bag of Results

Despite the supposed for 3G fixes in the 2.0.2 update, some iPhone 3G users are still reporting issues with 3G connectivity after installing 2.0.2 -- but a smaller number are noting improvement.

"I may be in the minority, but I have ABSOLUTELY noticed a significant improvement in 3G speed and a very smooth operating iPhone," commented Joe PA in Apple's online iPhone discussion forums. "Previously, in my home, I had to use wifi in order to get any kind of app or web speed. Now, after the 2.0.2 update, it is significantly faster, with only 3G and no wifi. All apps download data very quickly and smoothly. Contacts works very well, and general improvement with all functions of the iPhone!"

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