Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Technical comments on 3G limitations

So Jobs wasn't simply exercising his reality distorter ...

Why Apple's iPhone Doesn't Need 3G - Seeking Alpha

...High bandwidth networks drain batteries. Power consumption of any chip increases according to the frequency squared. That means if you want your network to go 10 times faster, the chip inside your phone managing that network consumes 100 times the power that a slower chip would (It's not quite that simple because of different signaling techniques, but the overall principle still holds). This is why Steve Jobs has decried the power consumption of 3G networks -- that speedy signaling actually matters in a battery-powered device. So why don't European users see this power-draining effect today with their phones? Well, check out the Nokia message boards and you'll find that they do experience some of the effect, but that effect is diminished by the fact that Europe has a much higher density of cell towers than the US does. And since cell phones decrease their radio power output when signal strength is high, the frequency effect of 3G transmission is partially offset by the fact they can use lower power amplifier settings for their radios....

I suspect the truth is more complex, I'm don't think 802.11g is really 25 times more power hungry than 802.11b for example. Maybe 2-3 times, but not 25. All the same, I do believe there's relationship between energy costs and throughput, particularly if the underlying protocol is computationally demanding.

The iPhones bandwidth issues are not a part of my 9 essential iPhone requirements list [1]. I'm much more concerned about using the phone PIM features when there's no network available at all.

[1] I see Apple has addressed item #8. So they only have 8 more to go and they make their big sale.

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