Okay, this isn't really news to anyone but it's worth mentioning.
My wife and I switched to AT&T about two months ago from T-Mobile. We're currently both using iPhone 3Gs. Problems abound. After 45 minutes on the phone yesterday with AT&T Customer Support and Technical Support, blame has been placed squarely on Apple's shoulders.
We live in a not-great area, cell phone reception-wise. Most of the area around us gets solid 3G service, but our house sits right on the border between "dead zone" and "lousy." When I test phones at our house, EV-DO devices (Verizon and Sprint) tend to waver between 1x and full EV-DO, while GSM phones (AT&T and T-Mobile) go back and forth between EDGE and 3G. Our dining room is a good place to talk on the phone, while the living room couch tends to be a little dicier. Also, there's a 1/2 block square area between our place and the main outlet to everything that's a known GSM dead zone. EV-DO phones do fine there, but GSM phones always drop out for that half-block.
Point being that I tend to give devices the benefit of the doubt when they're used in our abode. But both my wife and my iPhone 3G have been having all kinds of trouble since we got them in early January. She's having SMS issues with certain senders/recipients and we both are swimming in dropped calls, voicemails that show up 30 or 60 minutes after they're left, and other various and sundry unreliability.
After a few rounds of explanation and discussion, a few tests and a hard reboot, yesterday afternoon AT&T tech support basically blamed everything on Apple. "iPhone 3G just doesn't handle the switch between EDGE and 3G very well," they told me. "Most devices are able to drop back to EDGE when the 3G signal is weak, and they retain good reception and battery life even if it means getting the slower EDGE data speeds. iPhone 3G doesn't handle that very well - we see a lot of the problems you're having. Dropped calls, poor signal strength and batteries that run down really quickly. It's like the phone is so desparately trying to connect to that weak 3G signal that it won't just drop back to EDGE, and so you lose reception while the phone also drains its battery by trying to connect over and over."
Awesome. So what can I do to fix it?
"Luckily it's really easy to turn 3G off on iPhone. So we recommend turning it off manually (under General Settings) when you're in a bad 3G service area. Then just turn it back on when you're in good 3G coverage. You'll only notice a slow-down in data services when using EDGE, really, and you should get better voice reception because your phone won't constantly be attempting to reconnect to the weak 3G signal."
On the one hand that's fine, as we have WiFi in the house and can just use that for data. On the other hand, paying $30/month for 3G data that I have to remember to manually activate and de-activate? Maybe I should have stuck with my unlocked, EDGE-only iPhone on T-Mobile ...
Whatever Apple's got up its sleeve for the third-gen iPhone, I sure hope it handles 3G-to-EDGE handoffs better than this version does. And that's not even mentioning the whole move away from the much sturdier metal back panel of the first version - a move that I thought was supposed to help with 3G reception.
That inexpensive Sprint plan Dan Hesse keeps peddling on TV sure looks appealing ...