iPhone & The EDGE Question

Update: Looks like EDGE got the booster injection this morning.

They are talking about the iPhone even on ESPN SportsCenter – which kinda tells you how big this iPhone launch is turning out to be. The two CEOs, Steve Jobs and Randall Stephenson, are of course putting full court press, talking to some of the big media outlets like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

The big question most of the outlets are asking is why slower EDGE connections, especially since AT&T has a 3G wireless network that is looking for more users.

“Edge is good, but you’d like it to be faster,” Jobs told The New York Times. Jobs explained that 3G chips were too power hungry, and went on to tell the Times. “We felt it wasn’t the right trade-off now.”

“Where you wish you had faster speed is…on a Web browser. It’s good enough, but you wish it was a little faster,” he tells The Wall Street Journal. Clearly, like most of us, Jobs is aware of the speed issues, but then why risk iPhone on the slower network?

The answer is caching – caching inside the iPhone memory to be precise. We are told that iPhone has some of the more popular websites already saved inside the device, and fetches updates from the Web only the information that needs to be updated. This gives an impression of a much faster experience to the end user. Webaroo is a start-up that is doing something similar for non-iPhone portable devices.

In comparison, in case of a 3G device, the entire screen is repainted and as a result the experience sometimes lags. I think it be interesting to see what the final experience is when iPhone owners start going to some of the smaller, lesser known web destinations.

AT&T has tweaked its EDGE network to get rid of some of the latency and add more capacity – From more T-1 lines to its base stations to additional back haul capacity to its network – so there is ample capacity to give the perception of speed. Still, it all seems to be a stop gap solution: Jobs isn’t ruling out a 3G version of iPhone.