Apple learns a wireless lesson

There's no doubt Apple put the wireless industry to shame a year ago when it introduced its revolutionary iPhone. Nokia, Motorola, Samsung and other handset makers had been making cell phones for years but none of them had been able to come up with a device that was as user-friendly and as intuitive as Apple's iPhone. 

Riding on its success, Apple introduced the iPhone 3G in July to much fanfare. But just a month after its debut, the device has been hit with a wave of criticism and--as of yesterday--a lawsuit. The iPhone 3G reportedly drops calls frequently and is unable to maintain a connection to AT&T's 3G network. Not all iPhone 3G devices are experiencing problems but there are enough to cause a flurry of complaints from consumers. 

What Apple is experiencing is not uncommon in wireless--problems occur with handsets and with wireless networks.  But this type of criticism is unprecedented for Apple. "Everyone has problems. And there have been some very big problems with cell phone battery recalls and other things in the past," says Iain Gillott, founder of iGR Research. "The difference is that the expectation was very high for this product and for Apple."

I've heard lots of theories about what is causing the iPhone 3G problems. Some believe there's a problem with the Infineon chip. Others believe it is a software glitch. Whatever the issue is, I'm surprised it wasn't picked up during the rigorous handset testing that must be performed on all carrier networks before a new mobile handset is released to the public. 

Nevertheless, it seems as if Apple is learning a lesson about wireless. RF networks are complex and fraught with potential problems--that's why rigorous network and handset testing is so critical prior to launch. -Sue