Early mixed results for over-the-air 3G fix for Nexus One

This morning, Google began deploying an over-the-air software update for its Nexus One phones, including the addition of true pinch-to-zoom multitouch and synchronization features for Google Maps, as well as a purported fix for poor 3G connectivity for at least one version of the phone's firmware. In the early minutes after deployment, there appeared to be some hope as some users of Google's support forums reported improved signal strength.

But that was in the early going. As the hours passed, customers were correcting their existing reports, and others were adding new reports, of only marginally improved 3G speeds at best. Connectivity appears to have improved for some -- getting at least some 3G where there was none before -- but that's not a complete solution for them yet. What's more, troubles with 3G signals being completely dropped when the phone is touched by human hands -- a problem reported by a minority of users, but still a sizable number -- seemed to continue.

"Initial thoughts: still on the edge of the world," reported a Google forum contributor whose handle is WorLord. "Still lose 3g in the house and back yard. No flip-flopping,,though, and one more bar of whatever I'm on than previously. Net connections no longer time out like they did before; maps and pages actually resolve in their own time as opposed to never. As predicted, new baseband and build versions. Overall I'm pleased... the phone is aactually useable in most conditions where I don't have a wireless connection to jump on."

Based on reports we've read, cases where customers with no troubles prior to applying the OTA fix, who then reported zero 3G connectivity after the fix (in order to add multitouch and improve Maps), may have actually been experiencing installation procedure issues. There's no conclusive evidence yet of the fix actually causing new troubles where there was none before.

As Nexus One customer idogadget reported: "My EDGE strength was at 63dBm [decibel milliwatts], and after the update is -51dBm. My 3G before the update when laying on the counter without touching was -103dBm, and went to zero when picked up. Now 3G is at -97dBm on the counter, -103dBm to zero when in hand depend on how you hold it...So I guess the question still remains unanswered: Is this a software or hardware problem? The update did help, but how much software tinkering can improve 3G if indeed [Nexus One] has a faulty antenna or antenna related problem?"

One customer who apparently has been experiencing fewer problems than most advised others in Google's Nexus One forum that one reason they may be seeing such rapid signal fluctuations as this one is because N1 is simply a faster phone. A slower phone would give the appearance of steadier 3G and EDGE signals, while fluctuations are actually the order of the day all the time. Another customer advised that 3G signals are not properly measured in "bars" anyway, and that flutters in the signal strength meter are indicative of total signal strength, not just 3G.

But users who've experienced little to no improvement after applying the fix are now complaining that the amount of time Google, HTC, and T-Mobile spent addressing the fix extended over their 15-day grace period for refunded returns. Now their only recourse is to trade their current units in for replacement Nexus One units, and their faith in the product's merchantability has been diminished along with its 3G signal.

"If I were to cancel service now, I will have to pay $350 to Google, $200 to T-Mobile, plus the $180 I paid for the phone and $100 ETF I paid to AT&T -- that is over $800," writes customer Bleeky. "I was fine with AT&T and my iPhone 3G S, and if it turns out that I am stuck with terrible service for the next two years, who's to blame? Are you saying that I shouldn't be upset for being duped into thinking a 'software bug' was the reason I had s****y T-Mobile service? I stayed faithful and hopeful that this 'update' was going to fix the problem, but it didn't. Now that my two weeks has passed, I have no recourse!"

Commenters in T-Mobile's support forums have not reported trouble with the OTA update; in fact, they've reported smoother operations, faster responsiveness from the Android OS, and generally positive results from multitouch. Early problems with the Google Voice application force-closing itself appeared to have been eradicated later in the day, and are now being blamed on the Web service, not the phone. However, traffic in T-Mobile's threads concerning 3G troubles appeared to have gathered around Google last week.

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