Don't blame the network, blame the phone for dropped calls.
That's the advice from Broadband-Testing, a European test lab that tested six of Europe's most popular high-end/smart phone models for their ability to stay connected under different conditions.
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People are buying sometimes very expensive mobile subscriptions on features and faith alone, said Steve Broadhead, the lab's director. "We want to inform users so they can press the handset vendors and operators to improve the performance of phones before they go to market," he said.
The researcher tested two phones from RIM and one each from Apple, Samsung, Nokia and Sony Ericsson. "The results clearly show that all mobile phones are indeed not created equal when it comes to making a successful voice call," said Broadhead.
"Although consumers tend to blame the network for failed or dropped calls, the results clearly highlight the contribution that the handset can make," he said.
The phones were tested on a mobile device test system from Spirent Communications to simulate scenarios that users face daily. Testing was carried out under network conditions found at the edge of a cell, as well as during handovers between cells or between 2G and 3G networks. The tests modelled handset performance at rest as well as moving at pedestrian and at vehicular speeds.
The results showed that no one handset offered optimal performance in all conditions, he said. "Ironically, some proved to be less than effective when the user is actually mobile. For example, the Blackberry Storm really struggled when having to handover between 3G and 2G cells."
The results also show the difference a firmware upgrade can make. The Apple iPhone 3G was tested with both its original 2.0 firmware and the 2.2 upgrade. "The upgrade turned a smart phone that was almost unusable as a phone into one of the best performers in the test," Broadhead said.
Dean Bubley, director of Disruptive Analysis, a mobile analyst, said handset performance testing was increasingly important. "As mobile operators migrate towards the very high speed 4G/LTE (Long Term Evolution) network, and with increasing focus on smart phones as laptop/netbook replacements, the performance capabilities of all aspects of the handset, including voice, become more crucial," he said.
He said current certification and type approval did not test a handset's true performance. "Based on the results we've seen from these tests, we believe it is necessary and valuable to measure handset performance objectively."