iPhone coverage at 11,000 feet

Though an iPhone signal can be hard to come by in San Francisco, it's not a problem on a California mountaintop.

Go ahead, make the call. Kent German/CNET

Last weekend I traveled to Mammoth Lakes in California's eastern Sierra Nevada. If you've never been I highly recommend it for its spectacular mountain scenery (Convict Lake is a highlight).

My family has visited the area for at least three generations, but the last time I went (give or take 20 years), the concept of a cell phone barely entered my mind. This trip, however, I took along CNET's iPhone 3GS. Not only did I want to use some of the travel-friendly apps , but I also wanted to gauge AT&T's service in the relative wilds of California.

As any iPhone owner can tell you, AT&T coverage is on the device is far from perfect . While that would be understandable in rural areas, it's rather frustrating that in major cities like San Francisco you can suffer from a weak signal right in the middle of town. Indeed, the poor reception is a major reason reason why any iPhone version has failed to win our Editors' Choice award.

I even got it here. Kent German/CNET

So you can imagine my astonishment at receiving a perfect AT&T signal on the very top of 11,000-foot Mammoth Mountain. I had taken the gondola up one morning and I wanted to use Facebook to upload a few photos of the fantastic view. Though I fully expected to receive no reception at all, I actually had a solid signal with five bars. I snapped the photos (check out my slideshow from the trip), uploaded them and updated my status without a hitch.

Though I later spotted a cell phone tower on top of the gondola station, I couldn't get over the fact that I had a stronger iPhone signal there than on my patio in San Francisco. Sure, the tower was no doubt installed to benefit winter skiers, but I still thought it was pretty cool. I even got a signal while hiking in Devil's Postpile National Monument, which is 6,000 feet below Mammoth Mountain but outside a line of sight.

So I ask you this, AT&T. If I can get a perfect iPhone signal in a rugged valley and on a mountain peak, why do I drop a call on the corner of 18th and Sanchez in San Francisco? That's just not right.


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