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Cranbo

iPhone in the PNW back country?

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OK, call me a Yuckin' Fuppie with more dollars than sense, but I'm lusting after an iPhone. Years ago I went with Verizon, back when analog service was better in the back county - I'm talking Pacific Northwest, here - but analog's been gone for a while, so that's not a factor anymore.

 

I wanted to know if people have any concrete experience with using an iPhone (3G, I suppose) off the beaten path. I try not to yak it up too much whilst climbing, but would like to have it for the proverbial emergency situation - OK, and calling my wife from the summit. :] Is moving to an iPhone a mistake?

 

(Please try to keep this conversation to connectivity issues... yeah, like that's gonna happen....)

 

Thanks,

- rob

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Is moving to an iPhone a mistake?

 

I suppose that makes me "a Yuckin' Fuppie with more dollars than sense"....:-)

It's been hit and miss for me. I really liked Verizon (last carrier and I had a Palm) for quality of sound. At&T sucks by comparison. However, it seems that currently, backcountry connectivity is approx the same. Hit and miss for both.

 

Sorry I'm not more definitive....

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Not connectivity necessarily, but a relevant concern (and I'm sure this is not the discussion you are hoping to aviod) is battery life and durability. The iphones really need charged everyday it seems (note that I don't own one but many of my co-workers do). If you keep it off and just turn it on to make the occasional call, probably no issue.

 

Also durability. I do have an ipod touch (iphone without the phone function) and I'll take it with me sometimes for approach hike motovation. In one instance I ended up doing the last 1000' to Muir in some sideways rain and got pretty soaked from sweat and rain (ipod was inside my rain shell). The ipod was real flaky that evening. The screen was unreadably dim and it shut off repeatedly despite having battery remaining. It works fine now, but I was pretty sure I ruined it that night. Never had any similar problem with phones or mp3 players depsite similar rough use.

 

I get free phone and service from work, and I've got mixed feelings about the day when they buy me an iphone. it'll probably be great until I repeatedly run out of battery and then within a year i'll probably have a broken iphone. Then again I'm not very careful with that kinda stuff to start with.

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The only disappointment I've had since switching to the iPhone is AT&T's connectivity. Verizon was/is better. BUt I wouldn't trade the iPhone for any other smartphone at this point.

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its seems cell phones are much more reliable at recieving text messages in the backcountry - so use whatever gets the best battery life - mostly i'd say ditch it though, nothing but bad news flows through those fuckers - last summer i used my partners phone when i climbed up la cunt and got a text message that my friend's baby had died - really cast a pall over the rest of the trip :(

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The only disappointment I've had since switching to the iPhone is AT&T's connectivity. Verizon was/is better. BUt I wouldn't trade the iPhone for any other smartphone at this point.

 

+1

 

You can unlock an iPhone and stay with Verizon though

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The only disappointment I've had since switching to the iPhone is AT&T's connectivity. Verizon was/is better. BUt I wouldn't trade the iPhone for any other smartphone at this point.

 

+1

 

You can unlock an iPhone and stay with Verizon though

No, I don't believe you can. Verizon uses CDMA whereas the iPhone has a GSM radio.

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That's plenty "definitive" for me. :) I can live with "hit and miss", I'm just wary of AT&T being mostly "miss"....

 

Can you give any examples or rules of thumb as to where you can or can't connect?

 

I have always been puzzled, for example, that when I'm on Rainier's south side, my Verizon phone would show one or two bars of signal strength, but would consistently fail to connect. A few years ago I found if I forced the phone to go analog, I could connect there, but since analog went away, I haven't found a work-around.

 

- rob

Edited by Cranbo

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My non-IPhone AT&T device gets great reception. I get strong signals where my brother's IPhone cannot. I don't think it's AT&T. I think the iphone has a shitty antenna. The iphone seems to be great at everything except making calls.

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RE your Verizon phone on S side Rainier...

 

CDMA phones use a timing offset to identify sites in the network. If the site your phone is seeing is too far away, the phone will falsely identify the offset due to timing delay. Depending on how Verizon has the network set up, this will limit communication range to about 10-15 miles.

 

Shorter version: The phone can see the site, but the call fails because it is asking for service from the wrong one.

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My iPhone lasted all of three months due to moisture intrusion so I got a POS special that has performed basic duties for the past year. You might want to carry your iPhone in a ziplock baggie when heading up, apparently this is a frequent cause of failures.

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Verizon still has the best service in the mountains, bar none. For years I've been able to pick up service in places where climbing partners with other networks cannot.

 

As for the iPhone, I chose to stay away from a pricey toy in the backcountry. I got a cheap Motorola Q, which is a pretty simple smart phone. It takes an SD Micro card on which I store music and I ordered 2 replacement batteries from eBay for $5 (shipping included) Without a spare battery the phone will still last an entire trip if I am careful with power management and turn the exactly phone hardware off when I'm just listening to music. With the extra batteries I can now use the phone for an entire trip for music and still have a full battery for any phone use I may want.

 

 

My big complaint with the iPhone is for something so expensive, it t does not feature replacable storage or battiers. This is typical of Apply, which is one of the worst companies (ever) in terms of developing their products for planned obselesence. I stay away from their products whenever possible on that principle alone.

 

In any event, I like my phone/music system since it is simple and it works, although it lacks the trendy coffee-shop appeal that an iPhone has.

 

Edit: I do believe there is some way to obtain (or hack?) a CDMA equipped iPhone and get it to work with Verizon. I heard this a while ago, and I'm not sure if it's true. In any event, I maintain it's still a toy and there are better ways to go, especially for backcountry use.

 

Edit 2: It's true text messaging is often the only thing that'll work. In areas with slightly better connectivity phone calls will sometimes work, and I've even had areas where I get internet service and was able to browse NOAA for weather updates. If I recall, Eldorado's summit let me browse the interwebs at fairly good speed.

Edited by JoshK

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I found reasonable cell coverage from the summits for Challenger and Triumph, although in both cases I had to force the phone to analog mode (Verizon). ;-)

 

Now that I've changed to ATT, I find coverage in general to be far inferior to Verizon and in areas other than the I5/I90 corridors it's pretty much worthless. I second Josh's advice - the b/c is no place for an iPhone or similar phones. If you must get an ATT iPhone, also get a cheapo off of Craigslist and pop the SIM card in it before you head out.

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there is no such beast as a CDMA iphone...unless it exists in the hands of a Apple developer who is working on something for when the iphone is released from its contract with ATT.

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My Iphone lasted 7 days with no charge in the backcountry listening to music and watching some video but not much. Just turn it to airport mode and it lasts quite sometime.

 

I charge my phone every few days but I dont talk on it during the day very much but I do listen to music, vids seem to suck the life much quicker.

 

If your at a base camp then there are a multitude of solar chargers that work well.

 

I have had no issues with durabilty, I carry it like my camera in a case.

 

I usually upload google maps then can use google maps cache without having to log on.

 

 

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I've carried a sat phone when we were way in the outback (we had to call for a pick up). I don't understand the need, but I imagine you could take your iPhone and a solar charger.

 

Better yet take a hamster cage with a generator and trap marmots then make em run. ;)

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And in emergencies, you can eat the hamsters.

 

Mt. Rainier Verizon sweet-spots: Near Cougar Rk Campground, SE side of the new visitor's center . . .

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FWIW, I've only been on a few mountains here in Washington so far, but the only Verizon service I've found on Rainier (Muir), Baker (Easton), or Shuksan (Fisher) was on the ridge just west of Sandy Camp on Baker above the end of the Railroad Grade at about 6200'.

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That's pretty funny, I was just on Baker exactly there, two days ago! And I got the same weird Rainier behavior (which Bogart explained, thanks) where it said I had coverage, 1 or 2 bars, but would just do "Connecting...." for a few minutes and then fail. Actually, it worked once, for about 30 seconds, then never again.

 

I think I may just stick with my POS free Verizon phone, as many people recommended. Crunch the numbers, an iPhone costs around $2K/year - whereas my V plan is "only" $600/year :/ - so I may just stick with that....

 

- rob

 

 

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And to feed back on a few of the ideas presented here...

 

- I can't make an iPhone work on Verizon - the iPhone's GSM, and Verizon.... isn't. Right?

 

- A POS free Verizon phone with a pre-paid account will cost a minimum of $100/year, as the time you buy for pre-paid expires after some given period. I crunched the numbers and $100/year is the cheapest I could find. That'd kinda piss me off to pay that for something I'm hopefully not gonna use (yeah, I know, cheap insurance, you say....)

 

- rob

 

Edited by Cranbo

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A *very* quick search gave me a few #'s on sattelite phones.

$2000 phone

$50/month for 120 min.

$30/month for ??

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You can get new phones for $1000-1300 and used/demo phones from $500 down to $300. Looks like a yearly plan with 600 minutes will run $600, as I understand from their website.

 

 

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Since the death of analog cell service, my experience in the mountains has been uniformly crappy, with my AT&T service. I got brilliant service at the summit of Stuart years ago with an analog phone, but trying two years running with a digital phone -- nothing. Then, two weekends ago, I was up on Colchuck, and got no signal at all, but half a mile away at the summit of Dragontail -- four bars!! Go figure.

 

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i saw someone talking on a phone up on shasta today, i turned on my iphone and tried to get a signal--nothing. leave it in the car

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