Take AT&T iPhone 4 Dropped Call Report with a Grain of Salt

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A new survey from ChangeWave finds that apparently not all iPhone 4s are created equally. According to the report, AT&T users claim two and a half times more dropped calls on the "magical" Apple smartphone.

The iPhone 4 has been available from Verizon for more than a month now--providing analysts, consumer advocates, and individuals with a head to head comparison of whether iPhone issues at AT&T are a function of the AT&T network, or the Apple smartphone itself. However, it is important with any survey to look behind the curtain and exercise some cautious skepticism. In this case, I think I'll take my AT&T iPhone 4 dropped calls survey with a side of salt.

For starters, how did ChangeWave conduct the survey? To get some perspective on the data, we need to know how many users from AT&T, and how many users from Verizon were questioned. We need to know whether users were randomly selected or chosen. We need to know if the survey results are indicative of a cross-section of the nation, or if they're concentrated in specific regions--like San Francisco and New York where AT&T is known to have more issues than other regions.

If Verizon has only had the iPhone 4 for a month, how can you ask users about their experience over the last 90 days?
The actual question asked of users was "Over the past 90 days, how frequently have you experienced a 'dropped call' on your iPhone 4?". Well, first of all, Verizon users have only had the iPhone 4 for about a month, so it isn't a valid question, and second of all, asking users to take a stab at how many dropped calls they've experienced over such a significant length of time is much more anecdotal than scientific.

I am not saying the survey is skewed or biased. I am saying that I have no way of determining if it is or isn't because I don't have enough information about how the survey was conducted. The ChangeWave research team has not responded to my email or voicemail requests for more details.

Meanwhile, AT&T responded to point out that it conducts exhaustive real-world driving tests to ensure call quality and integrity, and that its own research indicates significantly lower rates of dropped calls than the ChangeWave survey reports.

Consumer Reports found that the Verizon iPhone 4 has the same antenna flaw as the AT&T iPhone 4, making it just as likely to drop a call if it is not "held properly" or protected with a case of some sort.

Seems odd that AT&T has 2.5 times more dropped calls, but virtually identical customer satisfaction.
It is worth noting that the same ChangeWave survey also found that customer satisfaction with the iPhone 4 is virtually identical at both Verizon and AT&T. You would think that AT&T customers would be less likely to be "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with the iPhone 4 if the probability of dropping a call is 250 percent higher. Of course, maybe AT&T customers have become numb to those types of issues and have lower expectations than their Verizon counterparts.

Does my iPhone 4 drop calls? Sometimes. I can even identify for you the specific quarter mile stretch of the road where it is most likely to happen, but that is a function of a dead zone in AT&T's coverage, rather than an issue with the iPhone 4 specifically. My own experience, though--at least here in the Houston area--is that no smartphone, and no wireless provider is perfect, and that the odds of dropping a call are about the same no matter how you slice it.

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