Bizarre iPhone behavior, or is it AT&T?

So here I sit in the Phoenix airport, which (woo-hoo!) has free wifi, contemplating a most puzzling problem.

My iPhone, which was working just fine last night and which still seems on the surface to be working fine is behaving most strangely. My wife tried to call me, but I couldn’t pick up because it happened to be while I was on my way through security. So I called her back, and, while I could hear her, she couldn’t hear me (although on one attempt it seemed that I couldn’t hear her either). 3G and Edge networks both work fine for surfing the net, sending and receiving calls (except for the fact that the person on the other end apparently can’t hear me), sending and receiving e-mail and text messages, and everything else. No physical trauma occurred that might have broken the phone, at least not as far as I can tell.

The only oddity that I noted was that when I rebooted the phone this morning it failed to reboot and came up with a strange error message. Then I rebooted it again, and all seemed fine.

Weird. Has anyone ever had this happen before? Is it software, hardware, or AT&T? I guess all I can hope is that it’s OK when I get back home or that it can be fixed by resetting the phone to factory settings and reinstalling the software. Otherwise, it’s off to the AT&T Store tomorrow after work.

Can Orac survive being cut off from the hivemind for that long?


  1. #1 Jenny T
    March 8, 2009

    Most likely, you accidentally pressed the mute button with your cheek. I’ve had that happen several times in calls where I randomly couldn’t be heard anymore.

  2. #2 zeno
    March 8, 2009

    Jenny T is probably right: the simplest answer is usually the right one!

    In answer to your last question, all I know is that I’d be lost without mine.

  3. #3 The Science Pundit
    March 8, 2009

    Did you remember to remove the clear plastic coating from the microphone?
    [/bad joke]

  4. #4 ebohlman
    March 8, 2009

    It’s also possible that there was a bad trunk somewhere in the system (trunk circuits have physically seperate paths for each direction); it’s happened to me once or twice with landlines.

  5. #5 Mary
    March 8, 2009

    Actually, that did happen to me when I was out of town as well. I was trying to get an important call from a customer and couldn’t speak back to him. That was when I decided I had to turn in the flaky thing and get a new one. I had also previously had a lot of browser crashing that no one else was having, and a separate incident of what sounded like the hard drive grinding very teeny coffee beans or something…

    I was with a colleague and after the call we tried a bunch of things but everything failed. And we’re pretty good with technology.

    I had to make an appointment with the Geniuses and they tested it, and swapped it out for a new one right there.

  6. #6 Joseph C.
    March 8, 2009

    I hate to say it because AT&T is the definition of big, evil, hard-to-work-with company, but I’ve found that their wireless network kicks ass. I’ve had very good service in some really remote regions where I thought I wouldn’t get a signal at all. Of course, your mileage may vary.

  7. #7 blf
    March 8, 2009

    Orac’s a box of blickenlights. He, er sorry, it, hasn’t got a cheek to press the mute. I blame vaccines.

  8. #8 Orac
    March 8, 2009

    Further investigation shows it ain’t the mute button. Worse, doing a complete reset and software reinstall didn’t fix the problem, either. I guess it’s a trip to the Apple Store tomorrow night. Until then, I’m unable to use my phone as an actual phone…

  9. #9 MathMike
    March 9, 2009

    Did you happen to have been using the headphones just before making the call? In some cases, you can have that behavior from the phone because it still thinks the headphones are plugged in. You can check for this by using the volume toggle on the side. The screen will say “Headphones” instead of “Ringer” as you change the volume. A restart with the headphones plugged in, and then removed usually fixes it.

  10. #10 Bluegrass Geek
    March 9, 2009

    Sounds like you’re victim to a Daylight Savings Time issue. That would happen sometimes when I worked for Nextel: some handsets and/or coverage areas would not get the update pushed out properly, which caused problems with placing calls. You might want to call AT&T and see if their tech support knows anything about an issue in the area or with the iPhone in particular.

  11. #11 rrt
    March 9, 2009

    I hate to tell you this, Orac, but I think this is all AT&T. I have had this problem for well over a year before I even got my (3g) iPhone. It seemed to improve (but not vanish) then, so I had blamed it for a while on the network upgrades they were doing, but it’s gotten worse again over time. Same kind of things–one person can hear while the other can’t, and also calls dropping or simply refusing to even connect. And sometimes my phone won’t ring…just goes straight to voicemail. And sometimes I don’t get VM for hours.

    These are NOT signal strength problems, they often happen in perfect coverage. And again, I had the same problems on my earlier LG for at least a year.

    About the browser-crashing, though: yeah, I had that BAD. But it almost completely vanished after the latest update. I also just recently had an odd problem with 3g refusing to function–EDGE just fine, but no 3g. That was entirely software and a reset fixed it.

  12. #12 Orac
    March 9, 2009

    I tried resetting the software and reinstalling the iPhone software. The problem is still there. It’s also occurred in two areas separated by many hundreds of miles, Arizona and my home. Moreover, it’s been going on for nearly 36 hours now, and I’ve tried calling several different phones.

    I don’t think it’s the network. In any case, I am going to the Apple Store after work tonight; I made an appointment with a Genius.

  13. #13 rrt
    March 9, 2009

    Oh…huh, sounds like it’s different, then. Well, similar, just far worse. Mine is just a persistent minor annoyance, maybe a couple times a week.

    Hope they fix you up!

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