Smartphones below par when it comes to voice calls

They let you surf the Web check your email navigate your way around the city enjoy music and video play games and run all manner of third-party apps.

But when it comes to making and taking phone calls just like the simplest mobiles used to do – well not so much.

UK firm Broadband Testing put a clutch of the latest smartphones through their paces for the most rudimentary function of a mobile phone – voice calls – and found them to be wanting.

Perhaps the greatest irony is that many failed while actually being used on the move which you’d expect to be the natural environment for a mobile phone. This was most noticeable as users approached the edge of the cell and when the call needed to be handed over between 3G and 2G networks.

“Some of the handsets proved to be less than effective when the user is actually well mobile” recounts Broadband Testing director Steve Broadhead. “For example the Blackberry Storm really struggled when having to hand over between 3G and 2G cells – still a very common occurrence.”

“While the test conditions were challenging they were representative of those that many users will encounter daily. This included the emulation of real-world conditions that represented the handset being stationary as well as moving at pedestrian and at vehicular speeds.”

Broadband Testing found the iPhone to be the best overall performer but with a strict caveat – it had to have been updated with the iPhone 2.2 firmware. Earlier models based on the 2.0 firmware were considered “almost unusable as a phone” compared the updated models.

The Nokia E71 did well during the initial phase of setting up a call but proved less stellar when it came to maintaining the call while the Samsung F480 and Sony Ericsson C905 were uneven performers through a range of tests.

The BlackBerry Bold was markedly better than the BlackBerry Storm which struggled with calls made on the move. It’s worth noting that the Bold has not only a different wireless chipset but a different software stack created from scratch by RIM engineers.

Broadband Testing stressed that no one handset came even close to a perfect score across all tests. “Although consumers tend to blame the network for failed or dropped calls the results of this test clearly highlight the contribution that the handset itself can make to these problems” Broadhead said.