Stopping by the woods with an iPhone

On Road Trip 2009, Daniel Terdiman has a phone conversation that stays active from the forest to a hotel, and through shifts from wired headset to Bluetooth car integration and back.

CNET News reporter Daniel Terdiman experienced noteworthy call continuity with his iPhone 3G in Ogden, Utah, on Sunday. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

OGDEN, Utah--I love my iPhone, but usually, I try not to depend on it keeping a phone call active for that long if I'm moving around much.

But on Sunday, I had what I thought was a noteworthy session of iPhone continuity. On my Road Trip 2009 project, I was here in Ogden, Utah, nestled at the base of the Wasatch Mountains, about an hour north of Salt Lake City.

It was a stunningly beautiful day, and Ogden features hiking trails that go straight up into the canyons of these first few miles of the Wasatches. So I drove the Audi Q7 TDI clean diesel SUV I'm testing up to a parking lot at a trailhead, grabbed some gear, and headed into the hills.

On Road Trip, I'm loaded down with cool gear that I'm testing out, but on this hike, I didn't bring any of it. All I brought was my own personal iPhone 3G and an old Canon PowerShot SD1000.

From the get-go, the iPhone was operating like a champ. It was getting a full 3G signal, allowing me to load up and listen to a terrific 39-minute interview on NPR's "Fresh Air" of John Mellencamp as I walked deeper into a wonderful canyon shrouded with trees and with a slightly ascending trail alongside a small, beautiful creek.

All the while, the iPhone kept the full 3G signal, and even when I had been in the forest for 20 minutes or so, the device was still seamlessly playing back "Fresh Air."

To be sure, the orientation of the canyon trail was a big player here. These mountains are on top of Ogden, a wide, flat city. And so I had easy, line-of-sight access to the 3G signal AT&T was putting out. Still, I've never had that good a signal that deep into a forest before, and I've been on plenty of such trails within sight of San Francisco.

Finally, it was time to head back, though, and as I did, I made a phone call. I was still in the forest, so I didn't really expect it to work, but it went right through. I started having my conversation. I emerged from the woods to a glorious vista of city below and mountains behind, and the signal was strong. Eventually, I made it back to the Q7, all the while still talking on the phone, and got into the car.

I was using my regular iPhone headphones, but when I turned on the engine and removed the headset, the call shifted over, without my having had to do anything, to the Q7's built-in hands-free Bluetooth phone integration. I kept on talking as I drove to my hotel.

When I got there, I turned the car off, put the headset back in, and the call was still active. Again, without my having to do anything. I grabbed my stuff, walked into my hotel, and went up the staircase. Eventually, a few twists and turns through a long hallway later, I opened the door to my room and put my things down. Except the phone. I was still on my call.

Amazing.

And why is it amazing? I mean, after all, it's just several systems doing what they're supposed to, right? Well, that's just it. In my past experience, I would never have predicted that this phone call could continue, from when I first dialed it to when I got to my room, without losing the signal at least once or probably twice.

So what's the lesson? Maybe, despite constantly being let down by it, I should have more faith in technology. It's not often that everything works the way it's supposed to, but when it does, it's actually pretty cool.

For the next several weeks, Geek Gestalt will be on Road Trip 2009. After driving more than 12,000 miles in the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest and the Southeast over the last three years, I'll be writing about and photographing the best in technology, science, military, nature, aviation and more in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and Colorado. If you have a suggestion for someplace to visit, drop me a line. And in the meantime, join the Road Trip 2009 Facebook page and follow my Twitter feed.

 

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