Sprint iPhone Owners in San Francisco Suffering Lousy Service

Sprint iPhone owners in the San Francisco area are experiencing "near unusable" service. Sprint says, with Apple, it's working on it.

Sprint iPhone 5 owners in the San Francisco area aren't having the typical iPhone—or even Sprint—user experience.

A recent iPhone speed test of the Sprint, AT&T and Verizon Wireless networks by Apple Insider confirmed what San Francisco residents have been complaining about in forums for months.

"Testing across various neighborhoods in San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as rural tests performed through Central California and Lake Tahoe, Nevada," wrote Apple Insider, "consistently demonstrated a data speed advantage by AT&T, moderate data speeds by Verizon, and more often than not unusable data service from Sprint."

Using a SpeedTest.net tool, the site found download speeds of 3.09M bps on AT&T, 0.97M bps on Verizon and 0.10M bps on Sprint. On average, download speeds in San Francisco were 1.8M bps, 0.9M bps and 0.5M bps, respectively.

When Sprint's network was tested with an Android HTC Evo 4G, Apple Insider "found better data throughput on the EVO in the same location, even when confined to working on the 3G network."

Sprint is the only carrier to offer the iPhone on an unlimited plan—a good thing. But, it added, "Sprint's data service is so bad it's unlikely you could ever get your money's worth of data using a Sprint iPhone."

Sprint spokesperson Mark Elliot told eWEEK:

"We are aware of this issue raised to us by customers, and our team is working diligently with our partners at Apple to investigate. We will provide further updates as soon as our research is completed. Sprint works hard to provide the best possible user experience for our customers, and we take every inquiry like this seriously."

The Apple iPhone 5 went on sale Sept. 21, and by Sept. 25 users were turning to forums for help (if not also to vent).

"At least with the EVO, even on 3G, I NEVER dealt with the issues that I am seeing now. I can barely get bars in downtown/uptown Oakland even though there appear to be towers there that were added this year," wrote a Bay Area resident using the handle MediaBEWn on a Sprint forum. "I can't even get decent service in SF walking around the FiDi, SOMA areas without being forced to connect via WiFi!! Really? Do you know how many Internet-related jobs are within 400 yards of 2nd and Market?"

On Apple forums, it's more of the same, though Sprint iPhone users beyond San Francisco also reported problems. Forum user joshua168 complained Oct. 31 that it was taking 15 to 20 minutes to download one app from the App Store, and that most texts with a picture included failed to go through.

"Called Sprint ... said it was 'a known issue,'" he wrote. "Offered no resolution. Went to the Sprint Store in Austin ... said they have had no such issues."

In North Carolina, another user, AndrewWood82, complained of "horrible Sprint 3G speeds that are bordering on unusability. I came from AT&T and so I know speed."

The Sprint iPhone issue is receiving nationwide attention just as consumers are learning that they'll soon have another carrier from which to purchase the device. T-Mobile CEO John Legere, speaking at parent-company Deutsche Telekom's Capital Markets Day Dec. 6, announced that T-Mobile will begin offering the iPhone in 2013, with unique pricing plans.

At one point Legere, outlining T-Mobile's strategy, misspoke, telling the audience, "You'll hear us target very aggressively Sprint—excuse me, we're not going to target Sprint; we find them easy from a network standpoint—we're going to aggressively target AT&T, and I'll talk about why."

Legere went on to say that a huge perception change has taken place in a category T-Mobile refers to as "AT&T switchers." While it takes aggressive tactics to lure away AT&T customers, Legere seemed to suggest, Sprint customers may go more willingly.