After Using iPhone 4: Great Device, Weak Phone (With Update)

After playing with a new iPhone 4 for some time here’s our take. It’s a wonderfully designed portable multi-media device that needs a new phone. Phone problems go beyond the well-known antenna flaw.

We got ours just by walking into an Apple Temple and simply asking for it. They handed one over, no wait time, no pre-order. Apple and AT&T still usually quote a 3 weeks wait. We upgraded on the spot because of Apple’s 30 days no questions asked return policy. Like everyone, we’ve seen the antenna stories.

Our earlier iPhones worked well with AT&T in the D.C. area, unlike NYC or SF. This new phone drops calls more often than wide open Redskins receivers. It’s not the ‘kung fu’ grip antenna problem, either. Even when a call is going well with the phone sitting untouched on a table using speakerphone, it drops a call more often than not. Untouched.

At home, earlier iPhone 3 series reception with AT&T was flawless. Now, walking down a hallway 10 feet will drop a call repeatedly. Moving from one end of a room to the other will drop a call. No matter how delicately one holds the jewel-like device. Rocking in a rocking chair (seriously) suddenly dropped a call with the first rocking movement. All while holding the phone awkwardly with just two fingers on the top and bottom to placate radio propagation deities.

It’s one thing to read frustration like this in say Engadget comments. Experiencing it another. A call to AT&T technical support confirms we’re near 4 network towers. The iPhone 3 series worked flawlessly with them. Out of all the phone calls we’ve made on the new device, maybe 5 didn’t drop, requiring a call back with the other party saying ‘that was weird’. Whether to a landline or cell. We’re careful holding the phone to avoid antenna problems.

It’s a shame. The other functions of the device are beautifully executed. Build quality as always is excellent. Web surfing using WiFi is noticeably faster as well. The pixel density provides a truly crisp, readable display. The camera, Face Time, and hi def video capture are easy to use.

AT&T says they can roll back to the earlier 3G phone (but not give back unlimited data, naturally – no surprise). One AT&T customer service rep earlier tried to talk us out of trying an upgrade, urging wait for a new iteration. He was right. Who knew?

Well, Steve Jobs, we tried. We are, after all, a 99% Apple shop across the board. The sole hold out? A second Xbox 360 at home (first one, RIP due to Red Rings of Death). Just didn’t feel the magic or revolution.

What’s your reaction? Have you had similar experiences?

[UPDATE] Apparently our experiences above, like Tugg Speedman in a POW camp, are a ‘rooster illusion’. An August 5th survey tells us all that the new phone means *fewer* dropped calls. Odd given that Jobs himself admits that the new 4 drops more. We just didn’t realize what Jobs’ ‘only 1% more calls dropped’ meant in real life: a functionally unreliable device.