Ended up getting the iPhone 4G — I had a 3G previously, and it really was starting to show its age — and it really is a nice phone. The highlights:
- Display is ridiculously nice
- It’s fast — subjectively, as fast as the iPad — and the extra CPU power really makes the web browsing much better.
- The bumper case is not that great — it prevents some headphones from being used (because the distance to the headphone jack is a bit longer) and also prevents you from using the 10,000 iPod USB adapters that you have lying around the house, because the slot in the case for the iPod adapter is just small enough that older adapters don’t work. As one of my friends said, “Get the Dremel!”
- I took the case off and tried to reproduce the reception problems that people had been talking about, but was unable to get it to happen.
The ominous thing was that the iPhone 4G suffered from the same wireless problems as the iPad, manifesting as a couple of symptoms: a) unable to connect unless I was really close to the router, b) and really low signal strength.
I had been living with the wireless problems for a while, although they were extremely frustrating. Finally, a lucky break meant that I was able figure out the underlying cause (although to my chagrin I discovered later that other groups had identified this a long time ago). My iPhone 4G wouldn’t get onto the net, and even worse, every time I tried to get onto the net, it would kick my laptop off for a minute or two.
At that point, it became blindingly obvious — the phone was trying to use an expired lease, and as a result was conflicting with the laptop. Thirty seconds later I had set up static IPs for the iPad and iPhone 4G, and all my problems were solved. I could use the devices all over the house, there were no mysterious drops, signal strength was fine, and as a bonus, the mysterious wireless network failures that my laptop was having were solved.
Well, I really should have done my research — I could have found the answer to this much earlier.
Why did I think it had something to do with signal strength? I suspect that the 3.2/4.0 iOS somehow bases the signal strength indicator on DHCP status — where I was getting one bar before is now three. The alternate explanation is that I tended to use the devices in the more remote places at night, which happened to coincide with the DHCP conflict.