Yesterday, I went to lunch with a dozen or so Apple enthusiasts, all of us with our new iPhone 4's. And, yes, the topic of conversation was (as you would expect) the awfulness of the signal issues. There were various bumpers and other cases at the table, along with empirical testing. It was very clear that while the bumper added some protection against signal degradation in weak signal areas, the iPhone 4 would not perform well when held with the left-hand kung-fu grip of doom, even with the bumper.
With earlier models of the iPhone, it was easy to switch service from one phone to another. Starting with the 3G, you could pop in any AT&T SIM and expect it to work. But the iPhone 4 changed the rules. Its smaller form-factor MicroSIM doesn't fit earlier models, making it more difficult to move your service.
Enter the Micro-SIM adapter. Sold by the MicroSIM Shop, the €5.99 adapter (it is sold from Vienna, Austria) allows you to pop your iPhone 4 or iPad 3G SIM into a plastic shell that lets you use it in the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. It works in the first generation iPhone as well, but requires a jailbreak hacktivation to use the SIM without activating through iTunes. You can also pop that same SIM into many other AT&T phones or into an unlocked third party phone.
Read on for more of TUAW's review.
So what's the advantage of doing this? For me, it's all about getting reliable service back while I deal with straightening out my iPhone 4 issues, but that's hardly the only reason. Some users have told me that they intend to take advantage of the iOS 4 jailbreak. Others want to use their iPad 3G data more portably, when it's too much to carry around a large iPad but they don't want to give up on-the-go data.
Before using the Micro-SIM adapter, I tried out a home-made solution created from a Starbucks card and some scotch tape. Roberto Guerra was kind enough to construct an adapter for me and a bunch of us tried it out at one of our Apple geek lunches. Unfortunately, that solution wasn't reliable enough for day-to-day use; we had a hard time fitting it into the SIM tray of our iPhones.
I have better news to report on the commercial Micro-SIM adapter front. Made of plastic, the adapter is reasonably sturdy (seriously, it's just a tiny piece of very thin plastic, so don't expect miracles) and quite stable once you insert the SIM.
I did find it a little tricky to get it placed in -- make sure you use the provided support indentations, which you can see in the picture that accompanies this post -- but once it was finally in, it was very easy to use. It took maybe all of 30 seconds to get it set up, but when you're testing a new product those seconds can seem forever until everything finally and snugly gets put into place.
I placed the adapter with its MicroSIM into my 3GS and within seconds, I had full AT&T 3G service. I then put my 3GS to the same tests I had performed earlier in the day on my 4G. Unlike the 4G, the 3GS had no problems loading web pages, even when held in my normal left-hand grip. I could not duplicate the 4G data signal loss issues.
I'll admit that the €5.99 price for the teeny tiny little adapter seems steep. What you get for that money is convenience -- rather than build your own, spending the time and effort especially to fine tune a hand-made adapter, you get an already-built ready-to-use solution that just works. You're paying for that "it just works" handiness.
To address the elephant in the room, yes, I know that I'm missing the point about my iPhone 4 -- why buy a new system if it's unusable, just return it already -- and yes, I'm working on dealing with that. At the same time, I'm glad that I can now fall back to my 3GS and just have it there and ready to use for my normal on-the-go data needs while I'm dealing with Apple. You may find the same.
The kind people at the MicroSIM Shop sent TUAW several extra adapters. We'll be giving those away once Steve Sande returns from vacation -- so keep an eye out for his giveaway post. And if you don't want to wait for the giveaway, you can just go ahead and pick one of these adapters up. It costs under ten bucks and it may save you both time and grief.