iFail: Will Apple be forced to recall the iPhone 3G?

Not long after acquiring an Apple iPhone 3G on launch day I started noticing reception issues. Some times I’d have a full signal, but at other times I’d have little or no 3G coverage at all. In the United States, others have had similar issues, but the AT&T 3G network is still fairly new and doesn’t have strong coverage, compared to the Optus Network in Australia that has been in place for years (my last Nokia was 3G nearly 3 years ago and worked). According to the Optus website, 3G coverage everywhere around where I live is universal and without break, and yet as per the top shot, my reception in this area is one bar. Calls drop out on a fairly regular basis, and the phone often ends up reverting to 2G. Notably when it does switch to 2G, the bars shown are always full, and there is never an issue with calls, although data is another matter, with Optus not supporting EDGE so it’s GPRS at 36k.

A quick search of Google finds that I’m not alone. Here are a few samples of similar issues with iPhone users on the Optus network. There was an outage a couple of weeks back, but not reports since. Thing is, I can’t find people complaining that their Nokia’s are having similar issues, simply because they’re not. The natural assumption I made is that the issue is with the Optus network, but could it be the iPhone itself?

GigaOm reports
that the issue may be with the Infineon 3G chip used by the iPhone:

Richard Windsor, an analyst with Nomura Securities in a research note today said: “We believe that these issues are typical of an immature chipset and radio protocol stack where we are almost certain Infineon is the 3G supplier.”

Windsor writes that the problem isn’t likely to be solved with firmware updates, which means Apple could have to replace the chips so users get the performance they were promised. If the chip is the problem, this would be the second large chip failure this summer, with Nvidia’s faulty graphics chips placed in thousands of laptops grabbing most of the headlines so far.

Could Apple be forced to recall the iPhone 3G to repair the faulty chips? Telco’s never like unhappy customers, and there is growing noise around this issue. They are not going to take the blame if the issue is hardware related, and that puts immediate pressure on Apple to act. If it is further proven that hardware is to blame, there is also the risk of Government intervention, at least in Australia and other nanny-state nations where Governments can and do intervene to force product recalls of faulty products.

I still love my 3G iPhone, but I’d also like it to work. Apple, please fix this issue.

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