When iPhone iOS4 came out, I was relatively quick to upgrade my iPhone 3G to the new OS to try out the few new features that work on the older phone. One thing I noticed immediately was that the phone slowed down. The iPhone 3G, even running OS 3.1.3 is slower than the 3Gs and 4 but I’ve been using this phone for a year now and there was a marked difference in speed: launching applications especially is slower under the new OS but also some interaction within applications as well, like using the camera and browsing pictures.
Given that we have terrible cell reception here at our house I hadn’t noticed that iOS4 had made any difference in the iPhone 3G reception but I had an experience in New York two days ago that made it clear that iOS4 is at least partly responsible for certainly the 3G if not the 4′s problems with reception.
iOS4 Reception Issues
I was at Kennedy Airport waiting for a friend coming in from China on Delta. The plane landed on time but it’s baggage door wouldn’t open so the passengers and those of us waiting outside waited over four hours for the bags to be extracted from the plane (a 747 400), one by one. Delta was terrible but that’s another story. During that time many people in the waiting area were talking with their passenger friends and relatives stuck inside. I noticed that most of the people with iPhones were having problems with reception, everyone else was happily talking away. I realize that many in New York are not fans of AT&T’s poor coverage in the city but this was different. The woman I was standing next to (an attractive movie producer) had an iPhone 3G like mine running iOS 3.1.3 (the latest OS upgrade before 4). She was occasionally able to get a bar or two and get through to her mother on the other side. I never got service at all. I queried other people with iPhones and only one other person had my setup of a 3G with new iOS4 and he was getting no service. Meanwhile, my friend on the other side has an iPhone 3Gs running OS 3.1.3 and he was able to call me (I had numerous messages from him when I got service again.
So, does this experience prove anything? I doubt it but it sure looks to me like at least part of the reception problem people are having with iPhone 4s is iOS4 which of course is upgradeable.
Downgrading the iPhone 3G
After this experience I decided to downgrade the OS on the iPhone 3G before I gave it to my wife. It turns out it’s not a simple task but it is quite doable if you follow some instructions.
I used this article on Lifehacker: How to Downgrade Your iPhone 3G[S] from iOS 4 to iOS 3.1.3 but Christopher Breen at Macworld has a nice overview you should consider reading as well: Rolling back your iPhone 3G to OS 3.1.3.
It’s totally doable and my iPhone 3G is now working fine with the older OS 3.1.3.
The day after my Kennedy airport experience AT&T called telling me that they had my iPhone 4 so I went down there with a freshly scrubbed 3G and they set up both phones and upgraded our account. Those of you who read my rant about AT&T know that I was not really looking forward to dealing with this particular retail store again. Well, they must have known it; they were extremely nice to me and made the entire process of getting the new phone and setting up my old 3G for Anne fast and easy.
So, now we have two phones and from my very informal testing here’s my verdict:
The old 3G is running as fast as ever with the same reception it had before the upgrade to iOS4. My recommendation for any 3G owners out there is to stick with the old OS, the few iOS4 features you’ll get out of the upgrade are not worth the speed decrease and possible loss of reception until iOS4 gets upgraded.
The iPhone 4 is fantastic. My phone has no yellow marks on its screen and I’ve not seen any drop in bars no matter how I hold it. We went hiking today and found a lost dog. I called the phone number on the dog’s tag halfway up Bear Mountain which is a tough place to get any reception. I’m left handed and hold the phone in my left hand. No problems at all. Of course, I’m not used to having 4 bars on a phone around here so slight losses of signal are part of living where there are few cell towers. I like the way the phone feels in my hand and I’m looking forward to exploring its new features.