AT&T has finally beaten me down.
January 21, 2010 6:11 PM   Subscribe

[At&T sucks filter] I cannot make or receive calls with my iPhone in my apartment, nor have I ever been able to -- since September 2008. I'm at the end of my rope. Help!

I know I said [more inside] but I don't know how much else there is to say - I'm simply and entirely fed up with not being able to use my iPhone as an actual phone, and am wondering if anyone has any ideas about how to improve my reception/usability, or if I'm just screwed.

When someone calls me, my phone does not ring. Several minutes later (to several hours, or, possibly, never) I'll see that a call came in. But never NEVER will my phone actually ring while I'm in my apartment.

I can, however, always receive texts, so my strategy now is to have someone text me when they want to talk, and I will call them back on Skype. This works...somewhat. I always have periodic issues with my internet (but I think that's due to needing a newer Airport and/or interference from my neighbor's cordless phones and/or the microwave) so the calls do drop, but at least there is some conversation possible.

Would appreciate thoughts on just ditching the iPhone altogether until other carriers offer service as well as the feasibility of jail breaking and using on another carrier (I think I should already know this but...I don't.) I should also say that ditching my iPhone will break my heart -- I love it beyond all reason and if I could actually USE IT in my HOME I would have no complaints at all. But, you know, not having a phone kinda sucks.

Thanks all.

(BTW, I don't live in the middle of nowhere, so that is no excuse; rather, I'm in the Upper Haight in San Francisco and so...I just. don't. get. it.)
posted by hapax_legomenon to Technology (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe a microcell is the answer, it will route the call over you Internet connection.
posted by SueDenim at 6:18 PM on January 21, 2010

Get Google Voice (free). Have it ring your Skype number when you're at home, and your iPhone number when you're out. Have people call your Google Voice number.
posted by grobstein at 6:26 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have 0 bars for my iPhone in my home here in Hawaii. My Wilson Booster kit makes it so I have full bars and 3G...with about a -90db strength.

I have the bigger kit, but I know they sell small hand helds too.

Not the cheapest, but my options are limited here on the end of the world!
posted by EdoubleG at 6:54 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Unfortunately, according to the AT&T website, the microcell is not available in my area. WTF? I am in SAN FRANCISCO THE EPICENTER OF ALL THINGS TECHNOLOGICALLY RELATED (or so I assumed). Argh. But thanks for the suggestion! It seems like it would be just the ticket.

As far as the Skype number goes, I've had a SkypeIn number before (when I lived out of the country) and I do appreciate that suggestion -- but it just pisses me off beyond belief that I would have to pay even MORE money on top of the already exorbitant AT&T just so I can use my cell phone. (Although yes, I do do that now when I call people via SkypeOut...) Maybe that's just the reality, though. So again, thanks also grobstein.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 7:04 PM on January 21, 2010

Which version iPhone do you have? I could not get service with my old, first-generation iPhone in my home, either. I now have the latest, 3Gs version, and it is worlds better. I can get/receive calls and reception is clearer everywhere else as well. So, one option might be to upgrade?
posted by misha at 7:06 PM on January 21, 2010

Response by poster: I have a 3G iPhone... (good thought though)
posted by hapax_legomenon at 7:10 PM on January 21, 2010

Can you take out your SIM card and try it in a different handset? That way you'll know for sure it's the network and not your phone.

If it's the network, you should be able to get out of your contract and get a phone that doesn't suck.
posted by delmoi at 7:44 PM on January 21, 2010

but it just pisses me off beyond belief that I would have to pay even MORE money on top of the already exorbitant AT&T just so I can use my cell phone.

Well, unless you're on the unlimited plan, you'd probably be using minutes that would total the value of the Skype service anyway. It's not a such bad thing to pay a small additional flat rate for unmetered incoming calls at home.

I'd suggest Gizmo instead (they've got a VOIP model where you pay for calling out but incoming calls to a number they issue you at signup were free), but apparently Google acquired them and has suspended new signups until relaunch, so unless you just happen to already have an account, this won't be of immediate help.

Maybe there's another VOIP provider that has incoming free calls?
posted by weston at 7:51 PM on January 21, 2010

Unlock and go to T-Mobile?
posted by grapesaresour at 7:52 PM on January 21, 2010

Perhaps Apple will announce a partnership with Verizon at next week's tablet party.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:03 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Which is a strong reason not to start there. It's not representative of the rest of the nation, and it's large size makes it hard make clear access boundaries. Frankly, living in the middle of nowhere is less of a curse. You live in the "epicenter" of wireless demand, and in high density housing. That many people using wifi / at&t 3G is going to degrade traffic.

You asked about service providers. I use T-mobile for phone service and it does quite nicely here. Sprint's based in town and NOBODY has anything good to say about it. I think partly you have to consider how many other people are using it (in KC, lots use Sprint comparatively). I like my T-mobile plan, but don't use it for data. Never miss calls.
posted by pwnguin at 8:34 PM on January 21, 2010

Seems pretty straightforward to me. Find a carrier which has service in your apartment, buy their iPhone competitor. They are getting pretty good these days. Sell the iPhone on eBay for several hundred dollars, which should recoup the initial cost of the iPhone and the ETF.
posted by meowzilla at 1:17 AM on January 22, 2010

I assume you're using (or trying to use) the 3G network? Try turning the 3G off (settings/general/network/Enable 3G off). Also, make sure your software is up to date.

I know it sounds weird, but I get different levels of service depending on whether or not I'm on 3G - and I'm in NYC which is also saturated with iPhones so ATT blames us for clogging their network. I f-ing hate them.
posted by cestmoi15 at 5:14 AM on January 22, 2010

Yeah, this happens in big cities. Too many iPhones clog the network apparently - they've admitted that their iPhone service in NYC and San Fran is $hit. I'm in NYC and about 50% of the time I can't make a call or a call is dropped even though I have full bars. From what I've heard, there's nothing you can do about it. Only thing I can suggest is to call AT&T and complain about it to see if they'll at least give you a statement credit or something.
posted by melissasaurus at 5:48 AM on January 22, 2010

You're screwed. I have the same problem in Noe Valley. If I knew how awful it would be, I would have bought an iPod Touch instead and gotten a phone that actually works. AT&T is severely underprovisioned in San Francisco. They've been promising they'll upgrade capacity, but then again they claim to have upgraded SF in November 2009 and things aren't much better.

I've tried a cell phone repeater: antenna on the roof, coax cable to my garage with a little tiny cell there. If I stand right next to it I have better reception, but it doesn't have the range to go 20 feet through a wall to my office. They cost about $200 and are easy to set up if you can run a cable to your roof.

If you're serious about cancelling service I recommend you start creating a record of complaints. Every time a call fails note it in a log. Contact customer service once a week to complain. After a few weeks of that tell them you're cancelling the contract because they are not providing service, provide your record, and mention that you will pursue remedy if they try to charge you a cancellation fee. I have no idea if this strategy will actually work. The California PUC should be your ally in this, but they tend to be pretty hands off when it comes to mobile phones.
posted by Nelson at 8:02 AM on January 22, 2010

Nthing the suggestion of turning 3G off when you're at home. Yes, it's a pain in the patootie to remember to do so (not to mention remembering to turn it back on when you head back out to the real world), but that made the difference for me here in LA.
posted by DandyRandy at 8:30 AM on January 22, 2010

There's an app - Mark the Spot - for reporting service problems. You could also call 611.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:54 PM on January 22, 2010

Have you reported this to AT&T Wireless? It's not clear if you have. If you have, what did they say?
Like Proniac says, there's an app for that.
posted by soelo at 2:41 PM on January 22, 2010

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