The great iPhone 3G conundrum…

by rmtwrkr

The iPhone has been around now (in the U.S) for about a month, and there seems to be growing speculation that the next version of the iPhone will be launched around Nov-Dec time (in Europe at least). The big debate is whether this model will be 3G-capable. Now, most people living in the U.S have commented that it would be way too fast/annoying/impossible? to have a 3G model available so soon after the ‘2.5G iPhone’. The general tone seems to be that “Steve (Jobs) said that it is not possible to do it yet, due to the power consumption of 3G, also would make the iPhone into a brick”.

Hmm…..I smell FUD. A few factors here are not really being considered IMO.

Firstly, the power argument:3G *does* use more power than standard GSM. No one is debating otherwise..BUT, the amount of power used by 3G (in this case, UMTS) is directly related to the signal strength of the cell it is connected to. In the states, I have been reading of people complaining of AT&T’s network, basically saying that a lot of the time voice is ‘garbled, or metallic sounding’. That means the signal is crap. Which in turn makes a phone try harder to boost its signal strength, which in turn reduces battery life. A relatively simple parallel is that if I use my Powerbook with a WLAN accesspoint, and I am on battery power and sitting within 2 or 3 metres of the WLAN router I get a strong, fast connection, and good battery life. If I connect to a far-away accesspoint that has a very weak signal strength, I get a shitty connection speed, and my batterylife is shorter (because radio-based devices will normally boost their signal when needed in a desperate attempt to hold onto the connection). From what I can deduce about the AT&T network in america (from what I have heard/read) is that signal strength is patchy at best, and so I guess that the iPhone is already working hard to hold onto those GSM/EDGE network connections. I can imagine that having 3G in the phone will only make it worse.In Europe it’s another story entirely. My E61 is constantly connected to the O2 network here in Germany, with nothing less than full-bars signal strength, and an always-connected 3G signal. I pull data all day and night over 3G (emails, every 5mins). My voice calls are nothing less than crystal clear. In fact I have used my 3G connection on a train across Germany (Berlin to Düsseldorf) and it only broke when going through some of the bigger tunnels (DAMN THOSE TUNNELS!!). This is because here we have a far higher density of cell towers (in Berlin, roughly 1 every 2 sq km) My battery life is around 2 days standby, or 1 day with constant 3G / Wifi usage /lots of calls. I know most people here are used to charging their phone everyday, or every other day. I am absolutely convinced that the iPhone *if* it had 3G would last the same as my E61, at least here in Europe.

The second point of nonsense is the physical size of these so-called 3G handsets. My E61 is no skinny, but it is an acceptable 13mm thick. It has WIFI/WLAN. There are many new phones that are 3G which are much thinner (from Nokia/SE/Samsung). Even the E61i, which is the successor to my E61 is thinner, but has the same specs/battery life. There is no real reason to believe that having 3G would radically alter the shape or size of the iPhone.

What I believe is simply this: Apple had developed the iPhone with near-final internal design about 6 months ago. That design is the one we see now. I believe that Apple already has a 3G version ready (in their test labs), and quite soon will go into final production. As far as people (in the U.S at least) saying that it would be too soon to release a 3G version by December…I say, you need to look outside of your own country’s relatively slow-moving cellphone industry, and realise that for Apple to compete with the big boys in the rest of the world, it needs to have new tech ready every 8-12 months at the latest. 3G is old news here already in Europe, and is moving rapidly to HSUPA. There are already handsets you can buy right now that use this Tech. Apple is not stupid, and most importantly (for its survival) doesn’t give a shit about how it would be received if it announced a 3G phone in November. Fanboys don’t mean shit to Apple. Good for Apple. *By the way, none of this means that I think that the current model is no good, rather that the arguments put forward against 3G are weak at best*

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