Optus' blurry iPhone pics are unacceptable

Optus' blurry iPhone pics are unacceptable

Summary: Optus' decision to minimise network congestion by reducing the quality of website images displayed on devices like the iPhone, without mentioning the adjustment in its terms and conditions, is unacceptable.

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TOPICS: Telcos, Apple, iPhone, Optus
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blog Optus' decision to minimise network congestion by reducing the quality of website images displayed on devices like the iPhone, without mentioning the adjustment in its terms and conditions, is unacceptable.

When the carrier talked about a "web accelerator" technology to ZDNet Australia in February last year, it said the idea behind it was to strip out unnecessary IP transactions, caching and protecting against packet loss. "By sending less redundant data, there's more time for the real data," Optus mobile network director Andrew Smith said.

But it does more than this. The "web accelerator" technology also compresses images and serves them in a lower quality, in turn making it faster for users to download images, and there is no way to turn this compression off. The carrier said it was looking at a "workaround" for the "issue".

After ZDNet Australia reported on Optus reducing the quality of images served to customers on devices such as the iPhone, comments left on our site indicated some customers weren't happy.

Screenshots of an iPhone on Vodafone, Optus and Telstra

Screenshots of the ZDNet Australia website as seen on the iPhone via Vodafone (left),
Optus (centre) and Telstra (right)
(Credit: Ben Grubb/ZDNet Australia)

A comment left by user paddy13 stood out. That commenter said they had called Optus late last year about the poor quality of images. According to paddy13, Optus said it was a hardware issue and referred the customer to Apple. "Apple said the phone was out of warranty and the only option to try and rectify this issue was the restore my iPhone," the commenter said. They tried this, they said, but it didn't work.

"Now I find out about Optus lowering the image quality to all iPhones! I definitely won't be renewing my contract with them. Are Optus not breaching any contract conditions in not meeting their service requirements to me?" Good question!

I scanned through Optus' iPhone terms and conditions (found at the bottom of the linked page) and couldn't find anything about Optus reducing the quality of images.

If Optus is going to compete against other carriers in price and data, it should disclaim that it is reducing the quality of the web experience, or it should offer an "opt-out" mechanism for customers who don't want the "web accelerator" experience.

I can understand why the technology has been implemented — with Optus on the cusp of selling its one millionth iPhone, which is a lot, it has the potential to cripple a network if something drastic isn't done. But for the carrier to not offer some sort of "opt-out" option or let customers know what's going on when they first sign up baffles me.

The author of this blog is not an Optus customer.

Topics: Telcos, Apple, iPhone, Optus

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22 comments
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  • The problem with Optus is they can't manage their network properly. Clearly if they need to install web accelerators to provide a fast browsing experience then they do not have enough capacity. You don't see Telstra or Vodafone installing these devices. I'm sure once you factor in the commercial users on the Next-G network they would easily outnumber the users on Optus' network.
    m00nh34d
  • What I want to know is how you mentioned to get full signal from Optus!
    rosscify
  • I complained about this and gave a few examples several months back:
    http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies.cfm?t=1335242&r=22429431#r22429431

    In the end, Optus really weren't willing to do anything about it. I decided I didn't want to give them my money and face an early termination fee, but as of next month, hello Telstra Next G.
    BenjaminDisraeli
  • Ok in your other article it is claimed that traffic for all handsets is routed through the proxy but looking at my Touch HD there are no signs of compression, at least to the extent shown in your screen shots. Is it only applicable to iphone users?
    Demo.
  • Demo,

    The statement provided to us by Optus said: "Since late 2008, Optus has used web accelerator technology to help optimise the performance of data services on devices such as iPhone providing a better experience for our customers".

    How that varies on different devices, I do not know.

    Regards,
    bengrubb
  • A few points from the Whirlpool thread:

    * It's not related to the iPhone user agent in Safari etc -- you can tether your iPhone to your laptop, change your User Agent to IE6 on Windows XP, use an app other than Safari, whatever, it will still compress the images.

    * It's also not related to the APN ('yesinternet' for iPhone users, 'internet' for everyone else) Optus use either.

    * There are reports of it impacting other devices, including Nokias and the like.

    * Browsing webpages through Opera Mini for iPhone (where everything travels through Opera's servers and images are cached and/or compressed and sent over a non-HTTP protocol) actually results in higher quality images being loaded.
    BenjaminDisraeli
  • Hi Ben

    I think I worded it wrong as you did not write the other article. Just curious as I haven't noticed any compression on my HD. The comment I saw in the other article was "Now the web traffic for all handsets is being routed through, achieving a 10 to 50 per cent improvement in downloading web pages." from http://www.zdnet.com.au/optus-trialling-3g-web-accelerator-339295143.htm
    Demo.
  • In reply to my own post my images are being heavily compressed. a 28k pic is downloaded as 12.2. I was actually connected to my wifi router and was not using the 3g connection when I first checked hence why no compression was present. Shows how often I browse using 3g
    Demo.
  • Demo,

    Interesting. Good to know.

    Regards,
    bengrubb
  • I just ran my own iPhone image test on my prepaid Optus account and the results are......a dogs breakfast. See for yourselves:

    http://i152.photobucket.com/albums/s167/JonBOY26/3GvsWiFionOptus.jpg

    Shame on you Optus!
    JonBOY26
  • It's done by discriminating via the APN's. Doesn't matter the device you are using. So if the iPad is using the same APN as the iPhone (yesinternet) then this will be occurring also.
    urmum-f641b
  • if its not related to the APN, then they have expanded its use across the entire network... dodgy.
    urmum-f641b
  • So is this a reason to get out the contract as breah of service level - overall I find the optus network performance way below that of vodaphone and telstra.
    MichaelT6
  • It seems this does not effect Exetel mobile users - thank goodness. I hate ISPs that decide to interact with my data without telling me.

    My test if anyone cares was only 1 image from flickr loaded via my work network and via my mobile "tethered" to the same computer (used IE for one image and Firefox for the other to avoid cache issues).
    tin-6e4b9
  • I complained about this issue a while ago to Optus as the low quality images were appearing in Safari whilst tethering with Optus 3G (http://twitter.com/DallasClark/status/11868978276). Not a great look when showing my clients their projects.

    They asked me to install Firefox to see if the problem was browser related, so I did and it worked fine. So they claimed the problem was related to Safari, like a setting, even though it works fine when I'm connected through my broadband connection.
    dallasclark
  • Quote "The author of this blog is not an Optus customer."

    And neither am i in a few hours!!!!
    I'm off to port my mobile to Telstra today. Hopefully my iPhone experience will improve with a better network behind it.

    @ Ben Grubb - Thanks for bringing to light the web accelerator issues on the Optus network. I'm sure Apple would want their customers to know that any reduction on web browsing quality on their device is a network issue and not a handset issue. As you have suggested, Optus should make this point of service clearly defined to it's customers or offer an option to opt out of the web accelerator.
    paddy13-4a631
  • I actually think it's a good idea to save data for users (forgetting for now that Optus may have a munted network) but the real kick in the teeth is the fact that Optus don't allow users to switch the settings to "normal" or "lite" mode. This would actually add funcitionality for users and be a selling point (i.e. you can save data allowance if you want and have faster browsing with it on, or choose HQ if you prefer to use up more data for the quality).
    mickeyinc
  • I noticed this a few month ago for viewing an image on my web based iPhone app. This is dishonest and despicable of Optus! This is a feature from Telstra's book! As an Optus customer for 10 years, I will again look at what the competition is offering.

    I should be able to use the data that I have agreed to purchase on my monthly plan in whichever way I want to without being forced to view crappy quality images.
    rturner2
  • Automatic compression like this, that you can't disable, is a right pain. Some carriers here in the UK do this as well. Ironically, my company Vircado runs a compression service for the iPhone (and others) that reduces data consumption to save money, particularly when roaming. The reason I find it ironic is that it can also be used to *prevent* compression, as in the case of Optus. Get Vircado running, set its compression level to OFF or LOW and you'll get your quality back - across all applications, Safari, etc. If you're interested, sign up for a test drive at www.vircado.com, we're handing out a limited amount of free invites to individuals.
    guyro
  • Well i've been with Telstra for the last two weeks and what a difference! I know who i will buying my iPhone 4 from, especially with the new screen. It would be such a waste to have a iPhone 4 and be on a rubbish network such as my previous one!
    paddy13-4a631