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A love-hate connection

Slim and sleek as it is, the

iPhone is really the Hummer of cell phones.

It's a data guzzler. Owners use them like minicomputers, which they are, and use them a lot. Not only do iPhone owners download applications, stream music and videos and browse the Web at higher rates than the average smartphone user, the average iPhone owner can use 10 times the network capacity used by the average smartphone user.

"They don't even realize how much data they're using," said Gene Munster, a senior securities analyst with Piper Jaffray.

The result is dropped calls, spotty service, delayed text and voice messages and glacial download speeds as AT&T's cellular network strains to meet the demand. Another result is outraged customers.

Cell phone owners using other carriers may gloat now, but the problems of AT&T and the iPhone portend their future. Other networks could become stressed as well as more sophisticated phones encouraging such intense use become popular, analysts say.

Taylor Sbicca, a 27-year-old systems administrator in San Francisco, checks his iPhone 10 to 15 times a day. But he is not making calls. He checks the scores of the previous night's baseball game and updates his Twitter stream. He checks the weather report to see if he needs a coat before heading out to dinner -- then he picks a restaurant on Yelp and maps the quickest way to get there.

Or at least, he tries to.

"It's so slow, it feels like I'm on a dial-up modem," he said.

Shazam, an application that identifies songs being played on the radio or TV, takes so long to load that the tune may be over by the time the app is ready to hear it.


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