According to an Ofcom study, smartphone makers have been so busy packing gadgets into their smartphones they have forgotten that they are supposed to make calls.
The research, conducted in controlled lab conditions on a selection of popular smartphones and non-smart phones currently on the market, found that on a 2G network the cheaper handsets were much better at picking up weak signals.
Some smartphones require a minimum signal 10 times stronger than the best non-smart phone before they can make or receive a call, according to Ofcom’s research.
This is particularly important because mobile operators are under pressure to increase coverage, particularly in rural areas. Ofcom thinks that t while network infrastructure investment is seen as key to improving coverage, handsets also play a significant role.
Smartphones encased in glass and metal rather than the plastic typically used in cheaper mobiles have contributed to calls being cut off. On average, the smartphones Ofcom tested required a minimum 2G signal seven times stronger than the average non-smartphone.
On 3G networks the worst performer needed a signal nine times stronger than the minimum recommended by the GSMA, the mobile industry’s standards body.
On faster 4G mobile broadband the bottom of the class required seven times the recommended signal strength to send data back and forth.
Some smartphones are cut off if held in the left or right hand, owing to the position of the antenna.
Ofcom did not name the poor performers arguing that the number of devices it tested was not sufficient to make statistically significant comparisons between individual smartphones.
A spokesman added: “We tested a small number of mobile phones, not for ranking but to understand how handsets performed in different situations. As no one device consistently outperformed the others we chose not to list the handsets.”