Business Technology

Sunday 16 June 2019

Revealed: Ireland's best - and worst - performing smartphones for call reception

Stock photo
Stock photo
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Ireland’s telecoms regulator has published a new list of what it claims are the best and worst performing smartphones for voice reception.

It’s an unusual step for a state regulator to take and some big brands won’t be pleased.

32 popular models were tested, from feature phones such as Nokia’s 8110 to the iPhone X. (The tests were conducted in August of this year, before the launch of the iPhone Xs.)

There’s good news for Samsung users and bad news for OnePlus fans.

Samsung generally came out top, across its premium, budget and mid-table models. The S9, S9+ and A8 were all within the top six devices tested. Huawei did respectably too, with its flagship P20 Pro in the top 10.

OnePlus, however, did very poorly. The 5T and 6 models were in the bottom five. Indeed, the tests suggest that the 5T just doesn’t handle voice calls very well at all.

The iPhone wasn’t classed too impressively, either. The models tested -- the X, 8 and 8 Plus -- were all in the lower half of the scoreboard.

Google’s Pixel 2 (the Pixel 3 wasn’t yet launched when testing occurred) ranked mid-table.

One interesting facet of the results is that many smartphones outperformed so-called ‘feature phones’, the traditional button devices that are supposed to be superior when it comes to things like voice reception.

Nokia’s 8110 came mid-table (16th), outdone by its own budget smartphone siblings, the Nokia 2 and Nokia 3.

It’s important to say that these tests were specifically aimed at voice, not data. But for a national regulator to say that one phone is far better than another at making and taking calls is an unusual step. It’s the second time that the watchdog has published such a list.

Comreg used a custom-built chamber, following methods set by the Cellular Telephone Industries Association and the UK regulator, Ofcom. According to Comreg, a programmable handset measurement system was installed in the radio-isolated anechoic chamber along with a simulated mobile network base station and measurement equipment.

So what does it all mean? Comreg started doing these tests because of widespread complaints about mobile reception in Ireland. To be blunt, it was getting it in the neck about poor coverage in large areas of the country. It argued that it wasn’t just about geographical coverage, but was also about things such as building materials and the reception abilities of the phone handsets themselves.

So it set up two different series of tests, one measuring the effect that building materials have on reception within homes and the other closely examining the handsets’ comparative abilities.

Although it doesn’t spell it out, the regulator’s results clearly suggest that some smartphones handle call coverage better than others.

Once again, the tests measured voice reception not data. So they should probably be interpreted as such. But manufacturers may well take note.

The full report can be accessed at Comreg.ie/publications.

“ComReg will continue to measure the voice and data performance of all new makes and models of mobile handsets that become available on the Irish market, on an ongoing basis, and those measurements will be published as they become available,” said the report.

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