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.

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
2 min read
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.

Road trip with the iPhone 3GS--photos

See all photos