TiPb Answers: iPhone 3G Still Having Reception Problems?

TiPb loves answering your emails, but we also love sharing our answers with the community in hopes that more people will benefit, and even better answers will present themselves (hey, that's why we have them forums!). Today's question comes from Brenden:

quick question - are you still hearing about widespread reception issues with the iPhone 3G? I bought one and took it back because of poor reception, but i'm considering getting one again if the reception issues are fixed ..

TiPb Answers, after the jump!

There hasn't been nearly the outcry about reception problems, or network connectivity problems since Apple released firmware 2.1. Your carrier and the region you're in, however, could play a roll in the ultimate equation.

Anyone else having reception problems under 2.1? If so, what carrier and area are you in? Please let us, and Brenden, know!

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

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TiPb Answers: iPhone 3G Still Having Reception Problems?


I have a new iPhone and running 2.1 in southeast Portland, Oregon, US. Phone performance is not good.

It isn't reception, per se, it's DROPPED calls for no particular reason, with full bars. And it continues for me.

I've had my 3G w/2.1 firmware for about 4 weeks now (south Orange County, CA), and the dropped calls (with full bars, as Jason above) are driving me crazy. It doesn't happen all the time but at least more than several times a week, and oftentimes getting back on to the network to continue the call can take upwards of a few minutes. I swapped out my phone at the Apple Store for other issues (bad battery), but I might try getting another SIM card to see if that helps.

iPhone 3G- 2.1 fireware in Lincoln Park, Chicago and phone performance poor. Many dropped calls, fuzzy reception and getting me to text more as I am tired of having calls dropped. I miss Verizon's reception, but love the iPhone

@Kyle, that is really weird that you have poor phone performance in Chicago... every where I go in the city I get all bars. No dropped calls, nada... Very strange.

Sitting at the Newark airport right now...iPhone 3G, software revision 2.1....3G signal ranges from intermittent to zero (without me moving an inch). Nice.

with 2.0 i was getting maybe 1 out of 5 calls dropping or failing to connect - with 2.1 its better, maybe 1 out of 15... but still too much.

I went to the apple store on Michigan ave in the chi, complaning about this garbage phone, it's awful battery life and all of the my dropped calls. The genius looked at it and came back saying that I didn't have enough dropped calls for it to be considered a problem. When I asked how many I had, he said that I ONLY had 13 over a two week period. Now to me two dropped calls In two weeks is too much. Perhaps I am wrong, or continue to get bogus phones either way this has turned out to one of the worst phones I have ever had.

I have the iPhone 3G with 2.1 firmware in Orange County, California and reception is ABYSMAL! For the most part, I get one or two bars of staticy reception. Definitely disappointing and depressing when you consider how much we are paying every month to AT&T for a cell phone that SOMETIMES has decent service.

I never had reception problems with the original 2G iPhone or the iPhone 3G, but now I'm experiencing a switch from 3G to EDGE constantly while I'm at home and sometimes when I'm out. This is pretty annoying because I usually have my iPhone 3G plugged into my computer when I'm home and EDGE is not only slow with data, but it makes that annoying buzzing sound when data is transferred. I can only hope that Apple fixes this with the next firmware update.

I am in the far NW corner of Surprise AZ (Phoenix suburb) and right on the edge of the 3G area and I have no problems with reception and no dropped calls.

In the Western Chicago Burbs were I live, reception is great, between full and 1 bar away from full 3G. In the City (Logan Square) reception was gone. Up in Green Lake, WI last weekend it was very spotty, service came and went, and while I don't expect 3G service there, I was on maybe 1 bar of edge the whole weekend. I've only had 1 dropped call, but have been unable to make a few calls because of total lack of service. Something I had never experienced before with US Cellular.

i have iphone 3g with 2.1 firmware and i have great reception and no dropped calls here in salt lake city utah. download speeds could be better but who needs that when i can hop on wifi?

Here in So. Cal., they are actually telling people at the AT&T stores to turn off 3G. I couldn't believe it, but if you turn it off you'll find that you drop little to no calls. The comment was that AT&T knows of the problem and they are trying to fix it. My whole family went iPhone and 3 have gotten that answer at the AT&T store.

Er... I can't even imagine the frustration, but some of you really expect Apple to fix AT&T's network? I'm not sure Steve Jobs can work those kinds of miracles.
There seems to just be too many iPhones in some areas for AT&T's 3G towers to handle (hence the recommendation to throttle down to EDGE).
AT&T has to add infrastructure. They're way behind Europe, maybe even behind Canada?

Go to an Att store and have them put a new sim card in. I had maybe one bar in my home now after a new sim I have 3 bars...

running 2.1 in San Francisco- I get "no service" in my home office, 1 bar in the rest of the house- dropped calls up the yin yang along 580 in the east bay

No dropped calls with 3G in Germany, neither with 2.0 nor with 2.1. It´s even working flawlessly when moving from 3G to EDGE while on a call. The only thing driving me crazy is the teadious pop-up when loosing network (reading fallback-to-EDGE)

had 3g iphone since the first day. The 2.1 helped me at&t loft in wickerpark Chicago. Very nice. HOWEVER, near downtown(mind you I work 3rd shift) I get full bars on 3g but it is absolutely awful!!! Why the edge is so much faster for browsing blows my mind and makes my blood boil!!! At&t needs to step it up! I'm paying too much for Edge quality service!!! Give me the 3g experience it should be, for the love of god!!!

I live in Tucson, Az and i really like the iPhone, but the reception here is awful. The latest update and turning off the 3G has helped but i still have problems with reception and dropped calls. I recently traveled to Phoenix and i didn"t experience any connection or dropped calls.

I live in the Metro Area of Atlanta (though, I'm in Pensacola, Florida, right now). Ever since the update, I've had fantastic reception. Before the update, I didn't have good reception at ALL. I do not have any dropped calls... I've had a great experience with the iPhone 3G and At&t... since the update.

The last update resolved the reception problems I'd been experiencing. Now, no dropped calls and even able to make 3g calls (something not possible before the last update).
I'm wondering if folks with poor reception live in areas with poor AT&T network coverage. (Not a happy predicament since only AT&T carries iPhone)

I think the last update simply added more bars to our signal rating and didn't actually improve it. Logically thinking, how can a software update improve a hardware problem?

I'm in the Washington, DC area. I commute there from northern Virginia on the Dulles Toll Road which has always had dead spots in certain areas. iPhone 2.1 definitely improved things for me (much fewer dropped calls from my home), but I have to think that AT&T has also added more 3G towers along the Dulles Toll Road. Maybe 2-3 weeks after 2.1 was released, my experience on the network while on my commute got much much better. There is still one spot where I tend to lose signal, but other areas where I've had trouble in the past are fine now.

I know some people think that Apple just changed the number of bars that show up as a placebo, but I have to disagree. While it's true that doing a field test shows that I'm getting roughly the same signal strength in my house, the fact is that I have only had one dropped call since 2.1 came out. Before, I dropped calls 50% of the time in my home.
Software can definitely change things. It can change how much power is diverted to the cell transmitter. It can also change how the phone reacts to different signal thresholds, which is something that Apple claimed directly for the 2.02 update. Whatever the case, my experience has gotten dramatically better since 2.1.

I have the 3G and live north of San Francisco. It constantly drops calls on the 3G so I just turn it off. In reality it's not really a 3G phone then is it.

In Nashua, NH. 3G coverage is non-existent in NH. Even EDGE coverage is abysmal in most of the state. ATT has announced that they anticipate widespread improvement by the end of 08, we'll see. Love the iPhone, miss my Verizon coverage which was excellent.

Located in the Philadelphia, PA area and travel frequently in Northern DE and NJ (all areas covered by 3G according to AT&T coverage map). I had my phone replaced due to dropped calls and then again for bad battery (definitely quality control issues at Apple) and my third phone continues to drop calls with 5 bars of 3G with the 2.1 update installed on every phone. It drops them while traveling in the car or standing in place. Other times I get "Call Failed" just trying to place a call with 5 bars 3G. In addition, the 3G call quality doesn't match up to the quality of Edge and both Apple and AT&T acknowledged that during test calls...we even dropped a test call between AT&T and I!!! The AT&T engineer said it is an APPLE 3G chip issue and they are working with APPLE to address it and APPLE is confident they can continue to tweak the software. Until then they suggested making calls in 2G mode. I've wasted countless hours on the phone with AT&T and APPLE first level support and finally an at&t engineer contacted me and seemed to be very forthright with information. I greatly appreciated that. They also said that one of the major issues is the hand off between 3G and 2G towers...that answers why it drops calls while driving, but what about when I am standing in one place with 5bars of 3G on my current tower? (they couldn't answer that) AT&T reassured me that i am not the only one with this issue and that AT&T is receiving a large number of complaints from people with the same problem. They said that they make APPLE well aware of the continued issues and for now we just have to wait until the software matures. I wish Apple told me that from the start instead walking me through the same procedures over and over on my phone (restores, reset settings, reboots, etc) and then replacing it...sadly that first phone had the best battery life by far (~6hrs usage on average). the second phone was 3.5hrs and this one is about 4.5hrs on average with everything disabled (wifi, location services, auto fetch email, etc) and the screeen brightness set to about 10%. Each of my 3 phones had the same settings. They really need to work on quality control. I am really disappointed. This is the greatest device I have ever owned, but also the worst phone I have ever owned if you can even call it a phone. I wish more people would publish in forums and contact Apple and AT&T...I have friends with issues that are just riding it out. Please make it known so that we can maybe speed up the process and get this resolved.

Just as a followup to my previous post, contrary to what the AT&T engineer told me there are rumors on the internet that iphone 3G reception and dropped call problems are due to network congestion in certain large markets. This is certainly possible as well, so don't think I have let AT&T off the hook on this one :-) AT&T is the only one supplying information right now so I can only base my assumptions on information they provide. With that said, I can stream Pandora over 3G to and from work without a single hiccup (I have less dropped pandora streams than calls) and I almost always get 1Mb/s or better download rates so that doesn't sound like an overloaded network to me. I am no expert, but it seems like there is an issue with the way the 3G chip or AT&T's network handles phone calls in particular. From what I understand voice calls aren't completely on the 3G network but portions are (at least that is how AT&T described it). Maybe incoming (Rx) is 3G and outgoing (Tx) audio is over GSM or something else...or different portions of the call are carried over different protocols? Maybe there is an expert out there reading this that can answer that question?

I'm in the DC area and have never had much trouble with making or receiving calls, or with coverage in general on any version of the firmware. But I have always had and continue to have problems with dropped calls even when I'm sitting still with five bars of 3G coverage. Sound quality and call connectivity were MUCH better on Sprint.

I am in Wichita, KS and just upgraded to the iPhone 3G from the original iPhone 3 days ago and have had a 50% call drop rate (4 total calls, 2 dropped calls). I never had a dropped call with the original iPhone.

I live in central Phoenix right by the airport. I have bars most everywhere and drop calls consistently. I have returned the phone and had it replaced (for other reasons) as well as getting a new sim card. Perhaps I need another sim card. I drop at least one call per day. 3G coverage and speed are pretty great, tho.

3G coverage and performance has been great since I installed 2.1. I've tested in Jacksonville FL, Orlando, Miami, St Louis, Atlanta, Nashville, and Chattanooga TN.
I can't remember the last time I had a dropped call. This was a real issue for me when I first got the iPhone 3g.

Hey, I'm from India and I bought an iPhone(Vodafone) recently. The reception is woeful. I used to use a Nokia earlier and I use the same connection in my new phone. There is a marked difference in reception between the 2 phones.

Her in Bergen Norway on the Netcom carrier.......absolute rubbish! Dropped calls on EVERY call and that is when my phone hasnt crashed and says it needs to be repaired! I am getting it swapped out at the apple store in Southampton England when i go there next in December (apple has no real presence here in Norway) so i will report back if that is any better.

I've have my iphone 3g for about 18 days now with the 2.1 firmware and roughly 70% of all my calls are dropped for no reason with full bars on 3g network. Not only that, people on the other end say I sound like I'm on a walkie-talkie with static.
I really want to like this phone so much because it does so much and looks so good, but its supposed to be a phone and its failing at that part.
Pulling hair out

The 3G iphone is a joke. I live in the Chicagoland area. Previous phone was a Nokia N75 (3G phone). Never had any issues with the N75. I'm on my 3rd 3G iphone replacement from Apple. They all work just as poorly as the last. Lots of dropped calls/garbled audio. Safari crashes at least once every 5 minutes. No MMS, No speaker independent voice recognition. No acknowledgement from Apple as to what their problem is. I suspect it's either the brand new Infineon baseband or the RF lineup. i.e., it's a hardware problem; not a software problem.
VERY frustrating.

I live in Rolla, MO, and I can't even get reception with the iPhone. My years old Cingular-era phone works great, though.

Horrible problems in Seattle. Constantly dropping calls. Randomly switches from "3G" to "EDGE" to "No Service" then back to "3G" for no apparent reason.

Waited so long to get the new Iphone and have been so let down. ATT said it would work perfect in Troy Il where I live (near St. Louis). Barely get reception in or around the house. Have had countless dropped calls on the 3G network in the St. Louis area. Bugs me every time the commercials come on TV ranting about least amount of dropped calls. Compared to what?
Never had problems with Verizon....never!

Northern California-Santa Rosa. Multiple dropped calls continue after 2.1 upgrade. "call failed" early after connecting, particularly with other cell phones? About 1 in 20 fail but I seem to have good stretches and bad so its a bit hard to be sure about the absolute number. Very disappointing.

San Diego here - I HATE this iPhone, even after the 2.1 update. I almost get a dropped call per day and if I'm driving around it can happen more than that. Last week I got a "call failed" right when I got on the I-5 in downtown and then had no reception for five minutes! Unbelievable. How am I supposed to use this for business with such poor reliability???? Unfortunately, no phone has an interface that compares to the iPhone so I'm going to put up with this until my contract expires and pray that Google has decent phones by then.

DC Metro Area here - My phone drops about 75% of my calls that last longer than a minute. Not cool at all.

I love the phone but almost 75% dropped calls on 3g after the 2.1 upgrade. If I have an important call to make I go edge. Live in Philadelphia area and the dropped calls continue after a new phone. The only place I don't drop calls is in Toronto on Rogers. Somebody help

I live in Seattle--- HORRIBLE service here. Within a 20 minute conversation I get at least 5 drop calls. It's ridiculous-- my bars always appear to be full too, so it doesn't make much sense to me.
My serivce seemed to get worse once I upgraded to 2.1.
Frustrating. I currently don't have a landline, never planned on getting one, but now I feel like I have to in order to have a functional conversation with someone.

I have a new 3G (bought 2 months ago) with the latest 2.1 firmware and my cell regularly drops calls. 3-4 calls everyday and after trying 2-3 times I just give up and resort to txt messaging. I am appalled by the deceptive maketing "the new firmware will fix drop calls" and Apple's deaf ears to providing a permanent solution to the problem. I guess I should have just waited and bought a Blackberry Storm. At least, I could have made phone calls. So in a nutshell the iPhone is everything but a device to make Phone calls. Did they forget what the "Phone" in iPhone means ? So Apple if your are listening --> "Phone is a device used to make calls first" - Oh wait ! my call just dropped, no wonder the big dogs at Apple don't know about this.

i sure am glad i read all this, helped me into not getting an iphone 3g, i dont need to be droppin calls all the damn time

Hi there!
If anyone is experiencing iPhone/service issues and wishes to investigate pursuing a claim against Apple/Rogers Canada they can contact me at the following address:
please detail your date of ownership, OS, location and brief description of the problems you've had.
thank you.

I live in Chicago (Lincoln Park) and my service is BAD, BAD, BAD!! Service with AT&T phones in the past were not superb but what i am experiencing with the new iphone is unacceptable !! I drop calls all day long, call failed, lose a caller after a minute, no bars to 4 bars in the same area. It even takes me a few calls before the call goes through and if i am lucky i can talk for a minute. AT&T actually waived all my fees last month for service or lack of!! I am hoping they will continue to at least discount my bill monthly until they figure this out....

I live in downtown Atlanta. I have full bars in my apartment, but my iPhone 3G on AT&T has terrible service. I would conservatively say that 2/3 of my phone calls get dropped. The main reasons seem to be a straight dropped call. Sometimes, it will randomly say the phone number I am dialing does not exist.
I had heard this issue was fixed back in August, but the problems only started for me a couple weeks ago (I got the iPhone in December).

I should have known about the drop calls from the beginning.
I was in the apple store, and I needed to call my bank to increase my spending limit on my debit card.
The Apple salesman told me I could use one of the iPhones on display in the store.
Of course, I had to go through my bank’s generated generic automated voice system, and then I eventually navigated my way to a real live person. I authenticated who I was, and after 10 minutes of talking with my bank… I received a DROP CALL!!! This was when I was using a freaking demo iPhone within the Apple Store. WTF!!!!
I didn’t think anything of it. I was so gah gah over purchasing an iPhone.
I told the Apple Salesman, and he said to just call back or use another iPhone within the store… oh do I wish I could go back in time and slap the crap out of myself.
I should have never bought this damn phone. I experience about 10 drop calls a week. The crazy thing is when I try to call back after a drop call; my iPhone will just sit there for several minutes trying to re-dial. Three letters man, WTF.

OMG... the phone is absolutely horrid! I live in Sunnyvale, CA. The phone drops calls like it's a normal feature of the phone! I am driven absolutely nuts by it! Additionally, this weekend in San Francisco, I was unable to make a damn phone call anywhere along the Bay to Breakers parade route. WTF is wrong w/ this phone? I wish I had known this prior to purchase. I would have never purchased this f-ing piece of *rap.

SF Bay Area peninsula, dropped calls are a daily occurence, as well as incoming calls going directly to voicemail. AT&T blames Apple, Apple blames AT&T, I have embarassing non-professional phone service, back to tin-can days at $100 a month. I tried APpple suggestion of EDGE over 3-d but still had dropped calls. The Iphone is great at everything but being a phone. Doh!