sfatt.jpgYesterday, we ran a story about a new AT&T app that will allow users to report dropped calls, and in that article I noted places in the City where AT&T’s coverage seems kind of crappy. For the sake of this piece, I’m going to define “kind of crappy” as two or fewer bars, OK?

In the story, I said that I currently do not have consistent service at

– Lincoln-Irving-Judah between 42nd and 43rd (basically, where I live, yay! This is why I never respond to texts sent to me on the weekend days, FYI. Also, I am a hermit.)

– Fell between Divis and Fillmore

– Almost all of Crissy Field

Commenter and friend Ced remarked

It’s not AT&T’s coverage, it’s your iPhone. If you had a phone made by a phone manufacturer, not a mp3 maker, then you’d get coverage.

Which, interesting point! I’ve had an iPhone since August, 2007, so perhaps I’m being unfair to poor little AT&T?

According to the map Sarah B. pointed out to us, the areas I was griping about as being sans signal offer “moderate” service, which I know is untrue for me and my iPhone.

So I pulled out and charged:

A new, only once-used Samsung Jack
A (heavily) used Blackberry Pearl 8100
A much loved and missed Sony Ericsson S710a

Here’s my plan: This weekend, I’m going to swap my SIM card into each one of those phones and try to make calls from the areas I noted above, as well as some of the other “moderate” areas I might pass through. Where else (in SF! I am too lazy to leave the city, and also, don’t care) do you know AT&T craps out? Tell me in the comments, and I’ll check it out with one of the other phones. Let’s settle this shit!

Update: a friend google reader shared this lifehacker article about deadcellzones.com, a site where you are supposed to be able to enter zip codes to get an idea of how coverage is, based on user submitted information. However, it’s not working for me right now, but I’ll keep on checking over the weekend.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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  • cedichou

    I’m blushing. Thanks for the investigative journalism!

  • cedichou

    AT&T craps out with my phone at the top of market (I think it’s callled portola there), next to the intersection with clipper and the twin peaks turn around and the gas station with the elderly discount.

  • kl2real

    Go get ‘em, Eve!

  • Muni Diaries

    Almost all of South San Francisco, which, I’m sure you know, is NOT actually in San Francisco. Majority of where I’ve been in the Mission, including my home near 20th and Valencia. Vast swaths of SOMA.

  • Mr McDowell

    I have a 1st gen iPhone, so I only get “edge” and no 3G. Living on Hayes between Fillmore and Steiner, my service went from great to almost unusable *all* in the last 9 months.

  • Fion L.

    Awesome. Tell us how it goes! Wish I could test this one for myself, but I don’t have another phone… :(

  • Richmondsfblog

    It’s definitely gotten worse in the last 4-5 months. I used to be able to receive and make calls without any issues from my home in the inner Richmond. Then it started to go south. No ringing, just voicemails coming in. Then having my calls die out of nowhere, repeatedly.

    I had to call AT&T Wireless for other reasons so why I had them on the line, I complained about the issues. The customer service rep told me, and I am not making this up, “We have so many towers in that area, there’s more chances of things going wrong”. Uh, ok. I hardly expected them to be able to say anything other than “I’m sorry” but that was one of the lamest justifications I have ever heard.

    According to this TC article, they have been trying to beef up NY and SF, two of the worst areas for iPhone users because the concentrationis so high. http://www.mobilecrunch.com/2009/08/21/att-3g-should-now-suck-less-in-san-francisco-and-new-york/

    As for whether it’s the phone or the service, IT DOESN’T MATTER. For consumers, the phone is the service, the service is the phone. Probably the bigger issue is that consumers, even when experiencing this kind of poor service, have no recourse. You can’t cancel because you’ll pay upwards of $100 fine for early termination. And in the case of the iPhone, if you want it, you gotta use AT&T.

    I still love my iPhone and guess I don’t expect any phone to work perfectly all the time. That said, it seems to have improved in the last month or so, at least with issues at my home. But there are still dead zones on 280 for example that get me every single time.

  • dw.bg

    I live at 18th and Church and have a BlackBerry with AT&T. I’d love if dropped calls were my only issue. Many calls I “receive” at home don’t even ring or show up on my phone at all. I may get a VM notification hours later if I happen to send a text or do something that requires I connect to their shithouse EDGE network.

    *sigh*

  • Jess Liotta

    Valencia Street is awful for me, especially between like 19th and 15th. I listen to Pandora on my iphone plugged into my car, and whenever I turn onto Valencia to pick up or drop off my carpooling coworker, the music stops because I have between 1-2 bars and just edge or even no data network at all. Even sending her the “I’m waiting outside!” text in the morning can be a adventure at times. It is not awesome.

  • f1peeps

    seems that service has been worse the last 6 months. it’s not just the dropped calls or ‘no service’.
    i get voicemails hours or days later. when this happens the phone never rings and i have been out and about in areas where i have reception. try 14th/valencia. you can see myself and many of my neighbors out trying to maneuver and stand in just the right spot to get one or two bars. i literally have to go outside to send a text. from 14th to 22nd between church and south van ness is pretty abysmal. i get horrible reception in dolores heights and near 18th/collingwood. soma is awful as well.

  • f1peeps

    seems that service has been worse the last 6 months. it’s not just the dropped calls or ‘no service’.
    i get voice mails hours or days later. when this happens the phone never rings and i have been out and about in areas where i have reception. try 14th/valencia. you can see myself and many of my neighbors out trying to maneuver and stand in just the right spot to get one or two bars. i literally have to go outside to send a text. from 14th to 22nd between church and south van ness is pretty abysmal. i get horrible reception in dolores heights and near 18th/collingwood. soma is awful as well.

  • Will R.R.

    I used to live in the Castro/Upper Market last year. My roomie had AT&T without an iPhone, I have iPhone. Both our services sucked. Bad. I think it still sucks over there.

  • andyc

    at&t switched the coverage bands they use earlier this year.
    i don’t really understand all the science of it but basically the ‘good’ towers that use one set of frequencies switched to 3G and the spotty towers service the 2G phones now.
    i can’t find the link right now but it was an article i found from searching around on the net..

    my search for that info was at the time prompted by a similar experience..my old iphone call quality and dropped calls degraded significantly, after a few months of that i was pretty surprised when i had a friend visiting who had a newer one and his 3G showed 5 bars.

    i think even if you agree the original iphone is probably weaker in the reception department for being from a computer instead of phone company that the network stuff is probably part of the issue as well.

  • C.

    The dropped calls are NOT due to the phone(s), but due to lack of connection and lack of quality or robustness of the connection – totally AT&T’s problem — and one not due to the cause(s) (e.g. high load) to which they have attempted to attribute it.
    I drop connections at Gough & Geary (perhaps due to vibes from St. Mary’s, by famous architect Pietro Belluschi of BofA Building fame), Gough & Hayes, 14th & Valencia, 18th & Dolores, Market/Portola above 18th St., and many, many other places on my usual daily routes through the city. There is no general vicinity or larger neighborhood in which I have not experienced dropped calls or intermittent (or inaudible) connections.
    The connection is SO bad that no one would ever sign – much less not just laugh at – any service-level agreement that AT&T could actually meet.
    My keeping my iPhone is just a sign of my unreasonably devotional love of my iPhone, my Macintoshes, and their creator, Apple (and its CEO of the Decade, Steve).
    Also, I am totally pissed off that I was not eligible for an upgrade from 3G to 3GS after paying outrageous monthly amounts for unlimited “service” (actually severely limited as to whether or not it really worked!) with AT&T.
    I am generally not at all litiginous, but I really do think there should be a class-action suit against AT&T for not delivering connection. I am not sure whether there is any basis in standard contracts for this. And it might harm them to a point at which they might not be able to improve their connections, but it might also just give them a wake-up call and not let them continue to get away with it.

  • Ciaran

    Oh, where to begin? Places I get no service, or it claims i have service but just doesn’t work:

    - Upper Haight. Two blocks away up Cole Street it’s five bars and 3G, on haight it’s two bars dropping to zero if you go inside.
    - 16th & Valencia
    - Treasure Island
    - The Presidio, where it will vary wildly between five and zero bars.

  • Jimbo

    My biggest dead spot is along Hazelwood and Los Palmos just off of Yerba Buena in Westwood Highlands. I live at the other end of Los Palmos and the reception is fine, but I have never had a call that didn’t drop out on the way to or from West Portal. One of the richest parts of the city is right down the street, and there’s no cell reception there. Go figure.