Friday, June 29, 2007

Is 3G All That?

One of the universal complaints in reviews of the iPhone is regarding AT&T's "poky" EDGE 2.5G data network. Commenting in a Q&A with the Wall Street Journal, Apple CEO Steve jobs said:

You know every (AT&T) Blackberry gets its mail over EDGE. It turns out EDGE is great for mail, and it works well for maps and a whole bunch of other stuff. Where you wish you had faster speed is…on a Web browser. It's good enough, but you wish it was a little faster. That's where sandwiching EDGE with Wi-Fi really makes sense because Wi-Fi is much faster than any 3G network....

When we looked at 3G, the chipsets are not quite mature, in the sense that they're not low-enough power for what we were looking for. They were not integrated enough, so they took up too much physical space. We cared a lot about battery life and we cared a lot about physical size. Down the road, I'm sure some of those tradeoffs will become more favorable towards 3G but as of now we think we made a pretty good doggone decision.
This got me thinking. Is 3G really all that?

Don't get me wrong, I want the fastest "wireless" pipes possible for my mobile data. However in my current day-to-day mobile usage, AT&T's EDGE network suffices 90+% of the time. My Samsung Blackjack Windows Mobile Smartphone is 3G enabled, but I usually turn 3G off and just use the EDGE network instead. Why? Because as Jobs states, 3G is a battery hog.

I'm far from a power user and until I got the free extended battery from AT&T, I had to charge my handset on a daily basis after only a few few phone calls, light surfing, and getting my work MS exchange email pushed to me. The extended battery only gets me an extra day at most.

I've found that the EDGE network in the San Francisco Bay Area mostly gets the job done. I get my work email on my handset even before it hits Outlook on my notebook, and I can surf the latest sports scores and game updates of my beloved Mets.

Do I wish the web surfing was faster? Hell yes, but 3G's 2-3X speed enhancement is not enough for me to sacrifice battery life. If the faster speeds are necessary then it's easy to switch between the EDGE and 3G networks on the handset. At least I have the option choosing between battery life and faster data speeds. This isn't ideal but it's acceptable...for now.

So am I getting an iPhone? Nope, I'm waiting until the 3G version comes out, of course....

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