The iPhone Is Ruining My Life!

Despite rave reviews and millions sold, Apple's iPhone has become notorious for falling short in one key area -- the phone. Why all those dropped calls could be costing us a lot more than you think.

Text Size:

A A A
Can you hear me now? For years, the iPhone has been plagued by poor reception, especially frustrating to entrepreneurs and other business types on the go.Matthew Armendariz is tethered to his iPhone. The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Web designer uses Apple's wildly popular smartphone for personal and business calls, Web research and e-mail. So when he lost a design project because his iPhone never rang, he was understandably irked. Calls about the project repeatedly went to voicemail, leading the prospective client to believe that Armendariz was too busy or, worse, unreliable. And it wasn't the first time AT&T dropped the ball -- er, call.

"I've dropped countless calls while talking to clients," says Armendariz, who admits -- for better or worse -- he's an Apple junkie and has no plans to abandon his trusty, if sometimes unreliable, iPhone.

[Editor's note: Following the publication of this story, Armendariz reached out to AOL Small Business and explained that he "finally had it and dropped AT&T/iPhone," spending nearly $1,000 to switch to a Verizon Android phone.]

Then there's Lindsey Carnett, CEO of Marketing Maven Public Relations in Los Angeles. She regularly uses her iPhone to call national television producers, new business prospects and retail clients. One recent call with GNC was dropped -- at a very inopportune time.
"Fortunately, GNC still placed the order... but it didn't look good dropping the call in the middle of contract negotiations," Carnett says.

Poor reception and dropped calls have become a way of life for many AT&T Wireless customers since the iPhone was first introduced in 2007, and the new iPhone 4 -- which, by Apple's own admission, may drop calls if users hold the phone a certain way -- has sparked a litany of complaints online. AT&T and Apple were dealt another public relations blow recently, after revealing that a software glitch has misrepresented the phone's actual signal strength for years.

Sure, it's annoying when calls get dropped, and it's a reality for almost every cell phone and carrier at some point. But with millions of power users who live their digital lives on Apple's superphone, and in part because it does so many other things so well, poor call quality has become a well-known Achilles' Heel of the iPhone -- especially frustrating for entrepreneurs and other business types who use it as their mobile offices.

Joseph DePalma, a managing partner at Joseph.Stephen PR in Philadelphia, says AT&T's dropped calls are a frequent frustration and make it difficult to develop "a new client relationship based on reliability."

Steve Johnson, an expert in technology product management at Pragmatic Marketing, tries not to get worked up when his calls fail. "The client dropped the call, we all sighed heavily, he called me back, we concluded our business," he says. This sequence has become somewhat of a tradition for Johnson and his colleagues, who have experienced many dropped calls over the years.

Instead of shouting expletives at AT&T, "Chris" in Oregon (he asked to remain anonymous) is making light of the reception issues. On the heels of the viral success of @BPGlobalPR -- a fake Twitter feed purporting to be from BP's public relations department -- the longtime iPhone user set off to create a snarky AT&T analog while he was on hold to pre-order an iPhone 4.

"While AT&T's servers were crashing left and right, I thought, 'Huh, I've got a few minutes. Now would be a good time to "join" AT&T's PR team.' @ATT_Wireless_PR went live that afternoon in an attempt to give humorous voice to the frustrations that iPhone, and AT&T users in general, have felt for years," Chris says.

But the mystery Twitterer insists he's not trying to take down the company.

"The point is that in this brave new age of social media, even giant multinational telecoms like AT&T can be given a successful nipple-tweaking by one guy with a computer and too much free time," he says. "Will this change the way AT&T does business? Almost certainly not. Will a few people have a laugh at AT&T's expense? They already have."

But Chris' gripes aren't limited to reception issues, nor are those of other AT&T users. Tate Chalk, founder of athletic footwear maker Nfinity and a member of the AOL Small Business Board of Directors, has jumbled contacts on his shiny new iPhone 4. For example, when his mom calls, it shows up as a different name and number. Chalk thinks it might be a "linking" problem that is mixing up his e-mail and telephone contacts. He hasn't called AT&T to discuss the problem or find out how widespread it is, because he fears he'll be put on hold for 30 minutes -- and he has a business to run.

In fact, based on his own experience, Chalk says it's probably not a good decision for people to invest in AT&T's iPhone 4 for business use, because first-generation models tend to have bugs, whether with reception, a wonky camera or a yellow bar on the LCD screen. "For the true mavens, get it," he says. "For everyone else, wait it out."

On Friday, Apple fessed up to the signal-bar glitch.

"Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong," Apple said in a statement. How wrong? For many users, the iPhone adds two more signal bars than it should.

The statement went on to say that Apple is adopting an AT&T formula for calculating signal bars to accurately display signal strength in a given area -- which, of course, doesn't exactly solve the problem of poor reception, just how that poor reception is displayed. Apple will also issue a free software update in the coming weeks to distribute the correct formula to the millions of iPhone 4s that have been purchased since its release on June 24. Owners of iPhone 3GS and 3G will also get the update, since the erroneous formula is present in those versions as well.

Spokespeople for AT&T declined to comment on the issue and deferred to Apple representatives, who did not respond to questions via phone or e-mail. But the companies appear to be working together to address the reception issue.

And that's good news for many businesses that have made -- or want to make -- the switch from BlackBerry to iPhone. AT&T says 40 percent of its sales this year have been to business customers, suggesting that iPhones are encroaching on corporate territory once owned by Research In Motion's BlackBerry.

Since its debut in 2007, the iPhone typically has not been supported in corporate environments. IT departments had been reluctant to fix the expensive device, which was seen more as a toy than a business tool and didn't offer much privacy protection. BlackBerries, although not as consumer-friendly, have always been durable, reliable and efficient -- if not a little less fun and glamorous. But in January, Apple announced that 70 percent of Fortune 100 companies were testing or deploying iPhones. And the Cupertino, Calif.-based company is improving its privacy, devising new business-friendly apps, and offers more than just e-mail. Apple will likely welcome even more fans -- business and otherwise -- once it teams up with Verizon, a long-anticipated partnership expected to debut in 2011.

In the meantime, most iPhone users appear to be standing by their devices, albeit sometimes begrudgingly. "That's what we do," Johnson says. "We sigh and accept it and move on."

Tags: Apple, ATT, ATT reception problems, ATT Wireless, Business Trends, dropped calls, iPhone, iPhone 4, iPhone dropped calls, iPhone reception problems

Comments (Page 1 of 5)

Advertisement

Tip of the Day

  • August 8 2011
    "Today's businesses need to recognize that customer loyalty goes a long way. Re-evaluate your approach to customer service. If you are...
    Continue Reading
  • August 5 2011
    "People love seeing who is behind the company and they love hearing what you have to say -- not necessarily selling but giving tips on what...
    Continue Reading
  • August 4 2011
    "Small businesses leaders should always devote time and effort to involving themselves in their local communities. Whether you're in a large...
    Continue Reading
  • August 3 2011
    "You need to recognize talent and reward your key executives within your company. One of the key strategies to maintaining top talent is to...
    Continue Reading
View all Tips »

Latest OPEN Forum Insights

Presented by american express

Coming soon
Latest Videos
View all »
Expert Take
View all »