First look – Orange iPhone 3GS

Orange's iPhone 3GS has hit shelves beneath banners proclaiming 'you're covered' – a reference to its 3G network apparently covering 93% of the UK, mo

Orange's iPhone 3GS has hit shelves beneath banners proclaiming 'you're covered' – a reference to its 3G network apparently covering 93% of the UK, more than any of its rivals. But does it mean a smoother iPhone web browsing experience? We compared one with an O2 iPhone 3GS on our commute to find out.

It's worth noting first that doing a network test that's definitive for everyone is nigh on impossible – several different factors effect speeds, and 3G coverage is rarely consistent across large areas. But it can at least provide an general idea of the consistency of coverage.

We began our test in central London, SW8. After clearing the Safari cache on both the Orange and O2 iPhone 3GS, we simultaneously loaded sites on both handsets – Stuff.tv, BBC and Apple.

At our first SW8 location, the Orange iPhone struggled to get a 3G signal and took over a minute to load Stuff.tv via GPRS – twice as long as the O2 handset. But a walk down the road to Vauxhall station saw both phones lock onto EDGE speeds, fully loading the BBC site in a speedy 7 seconds.

The story was slightly different in Teddington, TW11 on the outskirts of London. The Orange iPhone proved much happier out there, picking up a 3G signal immediately, while the O2 iPhone languished with GPRS. This allowed the Orange handset to load Stuff.tv (20 seconds) and Apple.com (16 seconds) over twice as fast as its O2 rival (60 seconds and 33 seconds respectively).

So, what's the verdict? Well, it really only confirms one thing – there are definitely differences in the network coverage of O2 and Orange, so it's worth trying their 3G coverage in your area (even if you're theoretically well covered) before deciding whether it's worth a network leap. 

If you are already on Orange, the network has also just launched its pretty neat Orange Wednesdays app (above), which shows you the nearest participating cinemas and film trailers, and lets you redeem your 2-for-1 ticket (in exchange for a 35p text). It's on the App store now.