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Matthew Ahrenstein

DevOps Engineer for an amazing company, hiker, amateur radio operator, target shooter, and developer.

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So I decided to attempt the move from AT&T to Verizon Wireless, and instead of just replacing an iPhone with another iPhone, I decided to try out the Samsung Galaxy S III. Everything was going well except for one major flaw: My data connection kept breaking! I’m going to write about what I found out, while trying to fix it, so anyone thinking of buying this phone can make an informed decision.

So when I first got the phone, it was awesome! It was shiny, and the UI was incredible. I installed the apps I wanted to use, and I configured my ringtones, contacts, and notifications. The guy in the store was very helpful too. I was excited to try out the phone that is currently the number one selling phone in the world. After leaving the store, I found a slight issue though; my data connection dropped, and I couldn’t get it back. I toggled Airplane mode, and that didn’t help, so I rebooted the phone. Data came back, and I chalked it up to a glitch, or tower maintenance near my home. When I got home I found another issue though. My phone would not connect to my Wi-Fi, well it connected to my Wi-Fi, then disconnected, and said it was out of range, so I toggled Wi-Fi, and it started working.

The next day is when I learned there is a problem. I was heading into New York City, and while I was in my home, my phone refused to connect to Wi-Fi, or the Verizon data connection. I called Verizon, and they reset my phone’s registration on the network. That fixed it for a while, but it involved rebooting the phone, so perhaps the reboot just hid the issue again. Then while on the train, I crossed the entire island from Eastern Suffolk County, all the way to NYC. Several times on this trip I lost the data connection again. Now I know there is an issue beyond glitches, or network maintenance. I decided to pull out an AT&T iPhone that I had active, and do some research.

What I found was quite disappointing. While I could not find any official recognition from Verizon, or Samsung, I did find that the Galaxy S III has an issue with the radio. (The component that connects to the cell network) Many people were experiencing dropped calls, and most experienced the loss of a data connection, until reboot. At this point, I decided to see if tinkering with the phone could fix the issue. I liked this phone, and wanted to get it working. I had Verizon replace the SIM card, but that didn’t work, so I decided to go deeper. I rooted the phone, and replaced the OS with a custom build of Android. I also replaced the kernel (core of the OS) and the MODEM (Note: Here “MODEM” refers to the software files that allow interaction between the phone OS and the radio, not replacing the actual radio circuitry itself). I then setup my contacts, apps, and settings again. The phone was running faster, and smoother than the original stock OS, so I was pretty optimistic that this would work, and it did…for two hours. After an hour of browsing the web on 3G, and then leaving the phone in my pocket for an hour, I went to check my e-mail. While reading my e-mail, the 3G data indicator disappeared, and I lost my data connection again. Needless to say, I was disappointed that this didn’t fix it.

I wasn’t ready to give up though. I tried a few more ROMS (custom OS), and some other kernels, MODEMS, and tweaks. I tried changing network settings, and then I finally settled on my device being a dud. Before bringing it to the store though, I wanted to see if anyone else had this problem. It turns out that a lot of people are having this problem. Users on XDA-Developers, Droid-Life, and even Verizon Wireless’s online support community are all complaining that the Verizon Galaxy S III has a weak radio in it, and that it just loses the connection. It also turns out that Samsung is known for weak radios (something I was not aware of considering their success with their Android handsets) and that a “fix” is hopefully coming out in October. Well I can’t wait two months for a “hopefully coming out” fix. Also I highly doubt that a software patch can fix a “weak radio.” After talking to Verizon’s tech support, I’ve decided to return the device for now, and wait to see what devices release in the next few weeks. I know a few Motorola phones are coming out soon, and the next generation of the iPhone is also rumored to come out this month. (I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one though. Apple rumors are more miss, than hit)

All in all, the Galaxy S III is a great phone, but the Verizon model (and possibly others) just can’t keep a signal. Even though I only really got to use the phone, when I was near Wi-Fi, I grew to like it very quickly, and I wish I didn’t have to return it. Hopefully Samsung releases a new batch of phones with fixed internals. I would definitely pick one up if they solved this issue.