Smartphones fail as mobile phones, claims European study

Tests conducted in Europe on the five leading brands of smartphones point to an enormous variation in voice call performance. While users typically blame the network operators for dropped or poor quality voice calls, the tests have indicated that the handset can significantly contribute towards these problems.

The performance ratings, carried out by Broadband-Testing, included high-end smartphones from RIM, Apple, Samsung, Nokia and Sony Ericsson. Steve Broadhead, founder and director of Broadband-Testing, said the analysis was conducted under network conditions found at the edge of a cell, as well as during handovers between cells or between 2G and 3G networks. "While the test conditions were challenging, they were representative of those that many users will encounter daily," said Broadhead. "This included the emulation of real-world conditions that represented the handset being stationary, as well as moving at pedestrian and at vehicular speeds."

The results concluded that no one handset could offer optimal performance in all conditions, and some, according to Broadhead, really struggled to cope in certain network environments that occur in everyday usage.

"Ironically, some of the handsets proved to be less than effective when the user is actually, well, mobile. For example, the Blackberry Storm really struggled when having to hand over between 3G and 2G cells--still a very common occurrence."

The results also showed the difference a firmware upgrade could make. The Apple iPhone 3G was tested with both its original 2.0 firmware and the 2.2 upgrade and turned a smart phone that was almost unusable (as a phone) into one of the best performers in the test.

Nokia's E71 performed well in call setup tests, but did less well at maintaining a call, according to the report, while the Samsung and Sony Ericsson handsets performed strongly in some areas but not in others. Meanwhile, trials on two BlackBerry models showed markedly different characteristics, consistent with being based on different wireless chipsets. The Bold proved the better of the two, while the Storm struggled with calls made while on the move.

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