With over 1.7 million devices sold in the first several days, iPhone 4 is an unqualified success for Apple and AT&T from a pure sales perspective. But will the spotty 3G network coverage require subscribers to take matters into their own hands?
This weekend I visited my friend Mark, who lives on Long Island and owns his own car wash. Mark and I go way back -- we met when we were about 7 years old and he was the best man at my wedding nearly 15 years ago. So to say that the two of us are close is a bit of an understatement.
As close friends, Mark and I also have a history of "competing" with each other when it comes to technology adoption and gadgets. I bought an iPad with Wi-Fi, so then HE one-upped me and bought an iPad with 3G. I bought a Droid about seven months ago, and finally, he decided to one-up me with an iPhone 4.
Mark: "Dude, check out the screen on this thing. If you put your phone side to side with it, and I don't mean any offense, but your display sucks in comparison. The graphics are so much sharper than the Droid."
Me: "Yeah, it is pretty nice. Although the screen is still small, so the increased pixel density won't really help me with emails. I prefer my iPad for heavy browsing and messaging."
Mark: "iPhone 4 is the most advanced mobile phone on the market, it just leapfrogged every single phone in existence. It has FaceTime, which nothing else has right now."
Me: "I disagree. The HTC Evo, The Droid Incredible, the Nexus One, the Droid X and Droid 2 are very nice phones, and have features the iPhone doesn't. Besides, even though my phone is older than yours, I should have the Froyo upgrade soon which will basically bring it up to date with those models shortly. And if you haven't noticed, FaceTime is useless unless you are connected to Wi-Fi, AT&T won't allow it on their network."
Mark: "Oh yeah? What can your stupid phone do that mine can't?"
Me: "Well... lets see. How's your reception?"
Mark: "It sucks."
Me: "Yeah? Well I have five bars essentially everywhere I go in the tri-state area with Verizon and rarely have any issues with dropped calls. Remember, I travel for a living. So basically, I have a Lexus which I can drive on a uncongested highway and you're driving a Ferrari on the Long Island Expressway in rush hour traffic."
Mark: "You're such a smug a-hole, you know that? I'm so pissed off. I can't get any reception at the office. The entire building is made of concrete and blocks all signals. I have to walk outside to make a phone call. It's causing me to lose business. You know I stood on line for five hours to buy this thing, right?"
Me: "Yeah, well that just means you're a dumbass. It sounds like you need a femtocell."
Mark: "A Femto-what?"
Me: "A femtocell. It's like having your own cell phone tower inside your house or in your office building. You hook it up to your broadband connection and allows you to make 3G calls through Voice-over-IP."
Mark: "I bet it's really expensive. What does it cost?"
Me: "Let me check... (fires up AT&T website on Droid) They call it a Microcell, it's a box made by CISCO... $150.00, with the rebate. It allows you to use up your existing cell minutes, or you can buy a $20 per month plan that gives you unlimited and doesn't eat up your minutes. It allows up to four AT&T phones to connect to it simultaneously."
Mark: "Dude, that is awesome. I'm going to buy one right now."
Actually, Mark couldn't buy one right that second, as it was a Sunday and AT&T's website was having... issues. However, I'm pretty sure he marched right into a local store this morning and bought one.
AT&T isn't the only carrier to have Femtocells -- Verizon does as well, but their model only supports 2G connections at this time. Sprint also offers a Femtocell, with its AIRAVE service. To date, T-Mobile has yet to roll out its own competing service in the United States. [EDIT: Instead, T-Mobile uses UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access) technology on a few of its BlackBerry and Nokia handsets that allow calls directly over Wi-Fi]
I personally don't need a Microcell/Femtocell as I use Google Voice which re-routes the calls to my regular VOIP line (a 1st-generation OOMA gateway) when I am at home in my home office and I only use my Droid when I'm outside the house. But I can certainly see where a lot of AT&T iPhone customers might benefit from picking up a Microcell to enhance their reception when they are at home or at work.
Have you considered picking up an AT&T Microcell to boost your reception for your iPhone? Talk Back and Let Me Know.