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:
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.
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