I love my Blackberry Bold. I’ve had it for two months now and it’s a very good phone. My only gripe is the battery life is a bit sparse, but hey, I’ve had Macs for years, I can live with that. But I have to say, much as I’ve been impressed with the Bold’s speed and features, I’ve been equally unimpressed with the 3G network it came with.
The pitch was that the Bold’s network partner – AT&T – was way faster, allowing me to do stuff like download large files, watch videos, and stream data even while on the phone. In nearly every use case I’ve had so far, I’ve found this not to be the case. Half the time, in fact, I am not even on AT&T’s 3G network, but rather am kicked over to Edge, AT&T’s lower bandwidth older sibling (which is actually more stable, but I digress).
Now my initial reaction to all of this was to complain about how terrible AT&T’s 3G network is, but then again, that complaint is pretty uninteresting – seems everyone complains about their network, right? But a funny thing happened a couple of weeks ago. I found myself at a conference having dinner with a group of colleagues. The fellow next to me had an iPhone on the very same network as me – the AT&T 3G network (in fact, that’s the only network you can get for the iPhone…a fact that makes me suspicious about what was about to happen. But I get ahead of myself….).
The dinner conversation turned to music, and we all got stuck trying to name an 80s soft rock ballad that the restaurant’s rather hapless piano player was busy slaughtering. Someone across the table, who also had an iPhone, loaded up Shazam, an iPhone music app, and pegged the song on the second try (that’s pretty damn cool, but not the point of this story.) Once we had the song, folks started trying to recall the lyrics (thankfully, the piano man was not singing). As the table kept guessing, the fellow next to me was busy on his iPhone. Within about ten seconds, he raised his phone up and silenced the table. There on his screen was a YouTube video of the original singer, belting out the tune.
It was a very cool search-meets-media-meets-popular-culture-meets-dinner-conversation moment, and there’s a ton to be said just about that, but here’s where the story gets irksome, at least to me. “Hey!” I thought to myself as the fellow next to me enjoyed the social capital of being first to find and stream the YouTube video. “I’ve got the cool new Bold, and I have the same 3G network! I wonder if I can do what he just did?”
I’ve tried now a few times to get YouTube videos to work, in various parts of the country, and I’ve come to a hypothesis: The AT&T network discriminates packets and prioritizes them for iPhones. Am I nuts here, or is something wrong with my phone?