« Another Social Center Demo | Main | 600 to zero emails in five hours - how to empty your inbox after vacation »

October 26, 2009

Mobile phones are not very good phones


I'm going to tell you something you probably already know.  Most mobile phones are not very good phones.  It is amazing to me how bad mobile phones are at being - phones.  My phone, an aging Samsung device, is a great email and task management device, but give me a choice between it and an old-fashioned land line for an important call, and I'll chose the land line every time because I don't want my call dropped, faded or otherwise mishandled.


And don't blame it my particular device, because I hear how most people answer their mobile devices.  "Hello, hello, can you hear me?"  This article on Gizmodo reportshow a reader took their iPhone into the Genus Bar and was told that "a 30 percent dropped call rate is average" in the New York Area.


I find it amazing that our phone service was once considered to be so important that the network was designed to withstand a nuclear war.  Remember the bomb shelter signs that used to be on some buildings?  Many of those buildings were phone company buildings, though I'll bet if the bombs had started falling we would have found that 1) the doors were already locked from the inside and 2) nothing survives a nuclear bomb.  Thankfully we never found out, and bomb shelters, in the US at least, are historical oddities.


Anyway, it is strange to think that we went from a world where not getting dial tone when we picked up the receiver was considered an emergency, to one where 30% of our calls failing is considered normal.


A few weeks go I received a press release from Spirent, a company that does test systems for communications platforms, including wireless networks.  They've written a white paper about testing they did using six of the popular smart phones and how they put them through real-world test scenarios.  The results are even worse than I would have expected, with some phones having high failure rates under extreme conditions such as the user walking around the block while talking on the phone.


Spirent made a couple of good points in their paper.  One is that when people go to the phone store to buy a new phone, they are typically focused on everything but voice quality, and if they do care about voice quality and call reliability, it's impossible to get data that would allow you to compare two different handsets, much less two different networks.


Also according to their paper, there are huge failure rates in certain scenarios with every device tested.  One device had almost an 80% drop rate in a particular scenario.  No, you won't hit that scenario every day, but when you do, 80% of the time you're going to have your call dropped.  Again, it's amazing to me that we put up with this.


I know it's not cool to actually talk on the phone now, but I still think the killer mobile app is this - voice calls that only disconnect when I press the little red button on my phone.  If you have a mobile phone that never drops calls, feel free to leave a comment.  Or if you just want to rant you can leave a comment too.

October 26, 2009 in Web/Tech | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Mobile phones are not very good phones: