Worldwide iPhone 3G problems may lie with the network

Although Apple's iPhone 3G is getting some plaudits in the world press, people are also complaining about wireless connectivity speeds, price, and other issues, depending in part on where they live.

In the US, iPhone 3G users with AT&T have reported average download speeds of about 990 Kbps, the same as for Softbank in Japan and Telia in Sweden. Canadian carrier Rogers Communications did much better with an average download speed of about 1,330 Kbps.

But users in many other countries continued to experience a range of different connection speeds, a phenomenon that Wired magazine attributed more to operators' networks than to the iPhone.

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In an informal survey conducted by Wired, users in Germany and the Netherlands reported the fastest 3G download speeds -- of roughly 2,000 Kbps -- while users in Australia reported the slowest: about 759 Kbps.

Yet in San Francisco, 10 out of 30 participants reported speeds about equivalent to EDGE. The report theorized that, in major metro areas, 3G towers are getting overloaded. Also, US participants accounted for about 75% of zero data results, suggesting that many of them were dropped from AT&T's 3G network during speed tests.

Meanwhile, reports from French publications indicate that, in that country, wireless operator Orange might be artificially throttling iPhone 3G speeds.

Customers of Orange have been reporting download speeds as low as 350 to 450 Kbps. Yet the phone has shown itself to be capable of achieving much higher speeds when connected to other European networks, such as SFR in France, according to an account in iPhoneAtlas.

In Latin America, Telefonica last week launched the new phone in eight nations, and American Movil in ten. "Argentina, Uruguay and El Salvador have Latin America's highest wireless penetration rates, so products like the iPhone will help operators get new business from existing clients," according to an account in Latin Business Chronicle.

"However, despite the buzz around the iPhone specifically and 3G services in general, it will only be with a massive distribution of affordable third-generation phones that the 3G market will start taking off in Latin America, experts say. And that may not happen until 2010."

In India, where pricing now starts at $712 for an 8 GB model, other types of complaints are surfacing.

Indian wireless operator Airtel held a launch event at a local shopping mall last week and only "managed to sell over 25 pieces of the glorified mobile phone," says a report in iExpressIndia.

The Indian publication also quotes one user -- a high-tech marketing executive -- as saying that, "The cost of the phone is too high and, moreover, the phone is poor -- pretty low in features."

As the user then elaborated: "The first generation iPhone and the iPods have full metal bodies, but the second generation iPhone that has been launched in India has a plastic body and is prone to cracks and scratches. The battery life is low."

In the Philippines, a reviewer was impressed with certain features of the new phone, such as the Safari browser and the quality of video and audio playback. But he was not enthralled by the new phone's lack of a replaceable battery.

"Ah, this one is a big issue considering that the new iPhone has a 3G radio and GPS. The battery would last for a day but anything more than that is a miracle -- unless you turn off everything from Wi-Fi [to] Bluetooth, GPS [and] 3G," he wrote in the Manila Bulletin Online.

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