| Review by a333 |
member for 6 years, 1576 visits, last login: 11 days ago
updated 316 days ago
- Rego Park,Queens,NY
- $110 per month
- (24 month contract)
- "Decent 3G, good call quality, some very nice phones"
- "Branded firmware is a pain in the *ss until you debrand.. see below"
- "Good service overall"
|Pre Sales Information:|
Value for money:
I've had AT&T Wireless since June 2008, so I thought it is about time I reviewed it. My first phone was a Sony Ericsson z750a, on an individual plan. It was a good phone, and also doubled as a nice mp3 player, coupled with a headset and memory card. Call quality has always been fairly decent here in the NYC metro area. I don't remember the last time I got a dropped call, although I have occasionally gotten "network busy" messages down in the lower Manhattan/Greenwitch Village area. However, they are few and far in between.
Fast forward to end of August 2009, I got a new phone when the rest of the family switched to AT&T (My old Sony Ericsson had been stolen in May, and I was using a GoPhone activated on my account in the meantime). This time it was a Sony Ericsson w518a. It has a host of good specs/features, including camera, bluetooth, aGPS, Tri-band 3G, accelerometer, and gesture control. I also got the $15/month Data Unlimited package (discounted to $10 with a bit of social engineering). However, it became apparent that AT&T's default firmware was just too crippling for my needs. For example, the default email client couldn't be configured with push email. Unsigned Java apps were a pain to run, as they asked for permission to use data every few seconds. I therefore "debranded" the phone (i.e. reflashed it to Sony Ericsson's default firmware). However, since the only available non-branded firmware for this phone is the non-aGPS European w508 firmware, I lost GPS functionality. However, the phone is now significantly more responsive. I can get RSS feeds scrolling across the home screen. There are a host of actually useful apps, like a nifty little Youtube app that also allows uploading of videos. The email client can send picture and video attachments. Also, the push email is a big feature for me, along with the ability to install unsigned Java apps without headaches. Along with that, I can finally choose between GSM-only, and GSM/3G modes (this really helps battery life FYI), and also force my phone to roam on different GSM networks. Finally, I appreciate an interface that isn't cluttered with useless AT&T walled garden applications.
As to the 3G service itself, occasional tethering via bluetooth has yielded speeds of about 800-900 Kbit downstream and about 160 Kbit upstream, with latencies hovering around 200-350 ms. (Note: Do this only sparingly, as tethering is technically against the TOS on the Data Unlimited plan.) Speed tests from the default mobile browser usually return roughly 400-700 Kbit download. I am sure the tethering numbers improve a LOT when using USB, but haven't configured USB tethering yet.
Coverage-wise, 3G coverage is pretty much everywhere in the aggressively built out NYC area, although I might occasionally drop 3G for a moment of two. Youtube videos stream pretty smoothly, and downloads/page loads are very good for a mobile connection.
To sum it up: If you're an AT&T customer who owns a Sony Ericsson phone and actually wants to use the data plan they're paying for, DEBRAND!! The benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. However, proceed carefully, as flashing the wrong files may very well turn your phone into a very expensive brick. These links are a good start for those interested:
The files I used for my w518a:
A Google search for these files should lead you to the appropriate instructions/sources of said files.
Speed tests done on USB (finally):
UPDATE (06/14/10) :
Well, time has passed and for my last birthday parents decided to treat me to an iPhone (3GS). Though it's true I didn't wait for the 4th gen model, I'm kind of happy I didn't especially given the new data plans new sign-ups are being forced into. In any case, the switchover was smooth, with the only change being the data plan, which now is the standard $30/month iPhone unlimited data plan. Not much has changed in terms of speeds.. in fact I think I'm currently getting better speeds around my home that I was with my Sony Ericsson. I haven't managed to get tethering fully up and running though... will post a few speedtests from my laptop when I do. Based on Ookla speedtest app though, I have been getting ~ 1.2 Mbps down and ! 200 - 240 Kbps upstream in my local neighborhood, and have gotten roughly ~ 2.1 Mbit/s down and 250 Kbit/s up, with downstream bursts up to 4 Mbit/s, when I'm in and around Lower Manhattan (Battery Park / Greenwich Village area). Sometimes the 3G is a tad bit erratic though, especially inside my high school building.. (yay for ssh-ing into my CS lab from the bathroom and crashing half the computers remotely ... =) ), but for the most part, I have had few of the widely reported 3G issues that AT&T users in NYC have been experiencing. Then again, I don't frequent the much-busier midtown Manhattan area too often, where there might be issues, but then again, I don't expect more, given the limited nature of AT&T's 3G spectrum (unless AT&T starts DRASTICALLY reducing cell sizes and increases frequency re-use).
UPDATE 08/06/2012: Well, in the last two years, it seems my needs have outgrown the service AT&T can provide... latencies and jitter on its network have become far too inconsistent (it's also probably the fact that I now frequent the Downtown Brooklyn area a lot, and AT&T service there is not quite as consistent, especially during peak hours.) I have switched to T-mobile's Monthly4G service for the past few months, after getting a Nokia handset that can use both AT&T and T-mobile's 3G service, and I have to say, the differences in latency on the two networks is very noticeable (read my review for more details.)