The iPhone is Useless in New York City

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This weekend I’ve been in New York City. The wife and I did a few touristy things like visit the Statue of Liberty, take a carriage ride through Central Park, walk through Times Square, and see a show on Broadway. I also attended the 2009 New York Comic-Con.

Through all of this, however, my iPhone was nothing short of useless.

I don’t quite know what the reason is – is the network overloaded? Is reception poor in the city? I have no idea. All i know is that the GPS couldn’t figure out where I was, the data crawled (if it worked at all) and almost every single call that I made or received was dropped.

In fact the ONLY time that things worked properly with my iPhone was when I was standing outside of the New York City Apple Store. I’m sure that was just a coincidence – but I found it very amusing at the time.

If you live in New York, I’d love to know if this is a constant problem for you, or if this was just an unlucky weekend for me.

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Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

17 thoughts on “The iPhone is Useless in New York City

  1. AT&T’s network leaves much to be desired. I’m not sure how/where they get these survey results that show that they have the best or fastest 3G network or that they have the least amount of dropped calls. Everyone I know that has AT&T is not thrilled with the service, especially the 3G.

    I have Sprint and short of going in an underground cave, I have excellent service a majority of the time and sketchy service rarely. I’ll get a dropped call maybe once every 3 months. And for the data service, Sprint has had their 3G network out for over 2 years now, probably going on 3 and it is widely developed and tested. The EVDO Rev. A has superior download/upload speeds compared to any other network. Sprint has even started testing their 4G network, called Wimax, in select cities.

    T-mobile’s service is you get what you pay for.

    Verizon’s service is you pay a LOT and get great coverage.

    I don’t know why Apple decided to partner with AT&T for the iPhone instead of Sprint or Verizon, which both have excellent networks. It is because of AT&T that I don’t have an iPhone. If they had a decent 3G network established instead of rushing to get it all setup in time for the iPhone 3G, maybe their service would be better. As it is, people say that around 4-6pm, when people are getting off work, the network bogs down like no other and download speeds are laughable. With Sprint, if I have even 1 bar of service, my download speeds are hardly affected.

    Michael, although I’ve never been to New York, my speculation is that the population density is too great for AT&T’s network in the city.

    If Sprint and Verizon weren’t several years ahead the the American GSM networks, AT&T and/or T-Mobile would seem more appealing. However that is not the case, and no matter how cool of a phone I have (believe me, I would LOVE an iPhone), I’ll take the network over the phone anyday. Having EVDO data speeds on a Palm Treo 755p is better than having an awesome iPhone 3G with shotty 3G service and sometimes no reception at all.

  2. Yeah, maybe with NYCC it was overloaded. But you’d think that New York always has something of that scale going on in town, you know?

  3. I live and work in midtown manhattan (west side) and had to give up my first-gen iPhone because of lousy AT&T service. I would love to have an iPhone but it needs to be a working phone first and foremost. Verizon has awesome coverage and great phone reception but their phones are boring. I’m stuck with Verizon’s blackberry curve though I’d much prefer an iPhone

  4. I have had very few problems with the iPhone in New York city. Sorry you didn’t find it the same there. I wasn’t there this past weekend, however, so I can’t say it was perfect.

    As for population density, that’s not a factor. I work in Times Square and I get a signal from the lobby all the way up to the 46th floor of my building, as well as out on the street.

  5. I live 20 minutes from NYC and I get awesome reception. I was in manhattan on the Jan 1st and I never had a problem with calls or GPS. Maybe it was just a busy weekend for AT&Ts servers?

  6. Gee, so many people use iPhones in metro NYC and they seem to be enjoying them, maybe to the point that the lines might be getting overloaded at times. Probably just periodic problems. AT&T should redo their infrastructure in order to increase capacity. iPhones use up a lot of bandwidth. I don’t think you can ascertain much about iPhone usage from one weekend.

  7. Did you try doing a power-reset (sleep & home buttons pressed ’till the apple icon appears)? I’ve found that I’ve had iPhone problems going to the east coast from the west, until I power-cycle my phone when in the east. Reception improves greatly. My old Verizon phone really required a database update (*228) when traveling out of my home area for best performance, and the same phenomenon may be triggered by a power-reset at your destination.

  8. I live and work in Manhattan — service overall is OK, but there are definitely bad periods/areas. Around Wall St. service has gone from abysmal to somewhat acceptable. Things were especially bad after the 3G intro. Upper West Side is fine though — I even get excellent data/voice service on the downtown 72nd St. IRT platform.

  9. Kurt,

    Apple attempted to partner with Verizon first, but Verizon wasn’t interested in dealing with Apple unless they could deal with the phone like any other. This of course meant Verizon badging, buttons on the home screen locking you into Verizon services, etc. Verizon isn’t alone in this, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T do it as well, but AT&T was wiling to do things Apple’s way for the iPhone and Verzion wasn’t. Verizon told Steve Jobs thanks, but no thanks.

    AT&T’s coverage has improved considerably for me the past few months. They’re spending a fortune upgrading and extending their network. Verizon is using older technology, and therefore had a huge head start, but GSM is a more future ready technology and is compatible with Europe. I think AT&T will turn out to have been the best choice in the long run. However, I’d prefer that you could use the iPhone on any network you chose.

  10. I live in NYC (around Lincoln Center), and I’ve had an iPhone since June of last year. I still have the 2G model and I’ve NEVER had any problem with either the phone or Edge access. I wonder if the problems you’ve had are specific to 3G?

  11. I’ve been living with my iPhone in NYC for the last year and a half and have never had problems with data. I travel around the country a lot for work and New York is the least problematic for me. I think you just had an unlucky weekend in the city.

  12. Live 15 minutes from Manhattan and have used iPhone’s all over NYC without many issues. Maybe update your carrier settings? I also have a VZW BB and usually the iPhone works just as well in and around NYC. My experience for the last year or so has been excellent with the iPhone!

  13. I bought an iPhone 1st gen when it came out, I work in New York in Rock center and had no issues with either the phone functionality nor the Edge network for data.
    A year later I bought the 3G iPhone when it came out, same job, same area, same result.

    I get that some folks have bad iPhone karma and get bad reception or no data throughput, I’m just not one of them and in the dozens of people that I know with iPhones in New York, I don’t even know any with these sort of problems.

    I feel bad for them, they should just return the iPhone within 2 weeks of purchase and move onto whatever other phone on whichever other network is all good for them and then move on, enough with the negativity. Take control of your telephony experience, man up and admit you need to move on and do it.

  14. Same experience here while in NY this weekend. I couldn’t keep a 3G connection the entire trip and crawled along with EDGE data speeds. My wife had dropped calls and calls with no volume. Google maps thankfully worked most of the time. It drives me nuts whenever I hear an At&T commercial touting their network. If you can’t get a good signal in one of the biggest cities in the world then what hope does the rest of the country have.

  15. Your article seems to blame the iPhone for AT&T bandwidth/coverage issues. Blackberry’s do not have these issues in the same places???? Playing to the sensationalism of a highly popular product; like blaming bad roads on the Ford Mustang – either ignorant or stupid.

    Verizon and Sprint is CMDA technology – completely incompatible with the rest of the world (Japan and S. Korea excepted). Sprint’s network is absolutely abysmal or non-existent in many places – probably the worst US national coverage of any carrier. It is all about where you want to use your phone. If US only, Verizon or AT&T are still the best choices. If international, well, Verizon is completely useless.

  16. I spend half my life in NYC. I’ve been waiting to buy an iPhone for years. But the first satisfied customer I’ve spoken to had to buy the phone, cancel the contract. Hack it. And switch to T-Mobile just to make calls from his own home.

  17. Just returned the iphone 4 due to terrible reception and multiple dropped calls. Really sad. I live in NYC. About 70% of my calls dropped. Unacceptable.

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