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AppleInsider calls Sprint iPhone 'tragically wrong'

A test of iPhone performance on the three U.S. carriers backed up AT&T's claim to be the fastest service and Verizon's as the most reliable.

Apple's iPhone

Sprint Nextel may want to have another look at how Apple's iPhone operates on its network.

Enthusiast site AppleInsider conducted a test of how well the iPhone performed on the three main U.S. carrier networks. For AT&T and Verizon Wireless, the results weren't surprising: if you want speed, go with AT&T; for reliability, choose Verizon. That largely backs up their respective claims for the iPhone.

But AppleInsider found connection and speed issues with the Sprint iPhone, echoing some of the complaints from its customers. In particular, the speed of the network has been frustratingly slow, even compared to other high-end Sprint smartphones. The site said there was "something tragically wrong with how the iPhone works on Sprint's network."

So while Sprint offers the only truly unlimited data plan, the site said it may not be worth it.

"The problem, at least right now, is that Sprint's data service is so bad it's unlikely you could ever get your money's worth of data using a Sprint iPhone," AppleInsider said in its report.

Sprint, however, said it is seeing much better performance than AppleInsider.

"We have reached out to AppleInsider to get a better understanding of their testing and methodology," said a Sprint spokeswoman. "The results of their tests don't match what we're seeing nationwide, in fact, we're seeing quite the opposite--generally very satisfied customers, low return rates and where there were some initial hiccups, customers and reporters noting marked improvement. We are hoping to work with AppleInsider to see what they are seeing a bit better."

The report comes after Sprint told CNET that it had made select network improvements to better handle the iPhone. It's unclear whether the AppleInsider test was conducted after some of the improvements were made.

Sprint is the latest carrier to nab the iPhone, having just started selling the iPhone 4 a few days before the iPhone 4S launched in October. The company has said that customer satisfaction with the phone has been among the highest that it has received on any high-end device.

For AT&T, AppleInsider said the tests refuted the perception that it offered the worst service. In fact, its speed was often significantly better than its competitors. Still, the site found areas where AT&T wouldn't work but Verizon would, offering slower but more reliable coverage.

The tests, meanwhile, were by no means on a national scale. The site tested various locations in California and Nevada, from big cities to rural areas.

Because of the different variables involved in a test, results have differed significantly. CNET conducted a test of data speeds in select locations in San Francisco and found that Sprint generally performed better than Verizon. The test found no speed issues with the Sprint iPhone 4S.

Updated at 8:32 a.m. PT: with a comment from Sprint.

Clarification at 8:10 a.m. PT: The CNET test was conducted in San Francisco.