Stymied by continuing Nexus One 3G issues, Google blames the environment

For the most part, last week's over-the-air software update to Google Nexus One phones, which was intended to address the 3G connectivity issues with certain versions of the phone's firmware (with a gift of added multitouch), appears unsuccessful for many commenters to Google's support forums. Very few customers reported improvement, and some who did in the early going are now saying their flip-flop problems between 3G and EDGE have returned.

Meanwhile, although Nexus One manufacturer HTC has typically referred phone issues to Google -- the self-proclaimed "vendor of record" when the device premiered -- as of now, it has declared the issue resolved, suggesting that customers still experiencing problems "restart their Nexus One device to restore their T-Mobile data connection."

The entry of new customers into the Google support forum who report having purchased their phones in the last week, only to be confronted with the issues some others have faced since last month, suggests that Google may continue to be selling phones containing the firmware suspected of having the connectivity defect.

"I just recently purchased the Nexus One and discovered that I am unable to make calls and access the internet at the same time," reports new entrant Mayo1 on Saturday. "Once I make a voice call, I am unable to browse the Internet or use any apps that require Internet connectivity. I am mostly in a 3G area. Initially, I'm browsing or using my apps just fine then I decide to make a voice call and all of a sudden Internet connectivity is gone. The minute I hang up the voice call, I can go right back to browsing."

Besides this and the flip-flop problem, the other prominent symptom users are reporting is that connectivity seems high until someone touches the phone, then it drops to zero -- which suggests a problem with the phone's antenna. Although the common thread among customers with these symptoms appears to be the same firmware version, customers are beginning to suspect that these issues are actually unrelated -- that they are separate problems that afflicted a certain strain of the phone, but may not be caused by the firmware in that strain.

Last Sunday afternoon before the Super Bowl, Google employee Ry Guy posted a perplexing message. Citing the fact that "there's still a lot of interest here," he began by reminding customers of the existence of the OTA software fix "that will improve 3G connectivity for many Nexus One users." No one continuing to report negative symptoms had claimed to have refrained from installing the fix.

"However," Ry Guy continued, "there are a variety of factors which feed into the quality of 3G connectivity on mobile phones, a number of which are dependent on the environment rather than the phone itself. For instance, a software update can't address the experience of users on the edge or outside of 3G coverage areas. We're going to continue to track 3G performance closely with HTC and T-Mobile and will post any updates we've got."

Customers responded as though Google had just fumbled in the fourth quarter. "Just face facts: There is something significantly wrong with the software or hardware," wrote andrewrchick. "If you just tell us you will fix it but you need time, most of us will hang on in there. But don't insult us and blame it on T-Mobile as too many people here have enough experience to say otherwise."

And customer olypdd noted the trend of some technology news services following the forums lately: "Please remember...many, many entities, some who research and report on these technologies, are following these blogs. I would be careful to not blow smoke. It doesn't do anything to save Google (and HTC) from what is already an embarrassing Superphone release, and anything that looks patronizing will be reported as such elsewhere."

Over on the T-Mobile forums, customers who had not reported 3G connectivity problems appreciated the "pinch-to-zoom" multitouch addition in the latest OTA fix. For them, it certainly didn't hurt. For others who did report troubles, not only were their connectivity symptoms unchanged, but multitouch seemed to be crashing their browsers.

Writes T-Mobile customer polobear this morning, "Overall, I'm happy with the phone. Specifically however, I'm not happy with the 3G. As luck would have it, I live in an area with fantastic T-Mobile coverage. I get 5 bars (EDGE) in my basement no matter what phone is used. But on the N1, I can't pick up 3G anywhere around here (not in the house, not outside). I've never actually seen a 3G connection on the phone, ever."

Judging from T-Mobile's support forum, there did not appear to be any similar 3G connectivity issues affecting its other Android brands, including the MyTouch 3G, which is co-branded with Google.

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