3G Cellular Data Coverage on the Oregon Coast

Living in Portland, we frequently visit the Oregon Coast (at least once or twice a year). It’s only about an hour’s drive away, and it’s breathtakingly beautiful. Some of our favorite places to go are Tillamook (the cheese and ice cream factory!), Cannon Beach (Mo’s and Tolovana Park are great, as is Ecola State Park), Seaside (kitschy promenade, etc.), Lincoln City, and Newport. There are tons of really nice little towns along the coast, too. Honestly, my favorite coast activity is just driving Highway 101 – the road is fun, and the scenery is out of this world.

Bye bye beach!

We took a little family vacation to the coast last weekend, and of course, I can’t turn off my geeky parts (though I did leave the laptop at home – a first for me!). So I was paying attention to what kind of cell phone data coverage I was seeing, whether it was 3G or not, and what kind of speeds I was getting. I had three devices with me to test: my iPhone 3G, my wife Rachel’s original iPhone, and my Amazon Kindle, with it’s cellular “Whispernet” radio that works on Sprint’s EVDO data network.

In the past, cell phone coverage (even for voice) was spotty. You were probably OK if you were in one of the big towns, but outside that, you were out of luck. Data coverage was slow and spotty. Things have improved greatly in the last few years, and the one impression I got from this trip was that not only has cell coverage in general gotten MUCH better on the Oregon coast, 3G has arrived in a big way. It was really nice to be able to stay connected so well.

First, the iPhones on AT&T’s network. When they first started rolling out 3G (before the iPhone), the fast HSDPA data service was only available in 20 or so major metro areas. Cities like Portland and Seattle were covered, but not the towns in between, and not at the coast. AT&T has been building out it’s 3G network at an aggressive rate – no doubt in part because of the iPhone 3G. This weekend, except for localized “dead spots” (like our hotel room, in a deep hollow and right on the beach), where I didn’t have much signal at all, I had great AT&T 3G HSDPA coverage in all of the towns we stopped in: Seaside, Cannon Beach, Tillamook, Lincoln City, and Newport. I did some speed tests in a few places, and averaged roughly 600Kbps – about the same I get in the Portland suburbs.

DSLReports iPhone Speed Test - Much Improved

I also did a few tests on my Kindle. I honestly wasn’t expecting much coverage, but I was pleasantly surprised. In the places I checked (mostly in Lincoln City, where we were staying), I had 4 or 5 bars of EVDO signal, and while I didn’t do any speed tests, it felt just as zippy as anywhere else I’ve used it. Which was great, because I really, REALLY needed to download the book Breaking Dawn (book 4 in the Twilight teen vampire saga – guilty pleasure!) the instant it became available at midnight EST on Saturday night. πŸ˜‰ At 9:02PM PST, I made the purchase, and less than a minute later, I started reading (the book is EXCELLENT, by the way! – Affiliate links to the hardcover and Kindle editions).

So, it’s nice to see that the cell carriers (well, AT&T and Sprint, at least) are improving their coverage on the Oregon Coast. Now I can count on staying connected when I’m there, and a few people have asked me about my experiences with coverage there, so hopefully they’ll find this post through Google or however, and get their questions answered.

Maybe next time I’ll have more time to sit and read or surf or whatever – we took our two kids, Emma (5) and Gabe (almost 2), so this wasn’t exactly a “sit around and relax” kind of vacation. In fact, now that we’re home, I feel like I need ANOTHER vacation to recover. πŸ˜‰


Photos from Beach Getaway to Lincoln City, Oregon

Rachel and I took a short two night getaway to one of my favorite places on the planet, the Oregon Coast, last weekend. We dropped Emma and Gabe off at Grandma’s (thanks Grandma! πŸ™‚ ), and headed over to Lincoln City. Of course, I took a ton of photos while we were there (more than three hundred). I narrowed them down to 100 “keepers”, and posted 60 or so of the ones I’m most proud of to Flickr in this photoset (you can browse them all there, watch a slideshow, etc.).

You can, of course, click on any of these to view the original on Flickr, including all sizes up to the original/full size versions.

Rachel Beach Fill Flash

Many of these were taken by Rachel, who just has a natural ability with a camera. I read books and try techniques and think and analyze, and get usually mediocre pictures. She just picks up a camera, and out comes magic. I’m totally jealous, and totally proud of her creative abilities (which extend far beyond photography). πŸ™‚

Beach Driftwood

Anyway, on the drive over to the coast from Salem, we actually ran into a heavy snowstorm in the mountains. As in, the trees were white and there was accumulation on the road. Later that night, when we were at dinner (Blackfish Cafe, recommended by friends on Twitter, was excellent), it snowed in Lincoln City itself – there was snow piled up and melting on the car when we came out. Weird weather for the first day of spring. But we lucked out the next couple of days – the skies were clear and blue, and it was warm and nice (for the coast in March πŸ˜‰ ).

We went for a late breakfast (OK, it was 11:30 AM, so it was practically lunch) at Pig N’ Pancake. Mmm, bacon… *drool* After that, a walk on the beach, of course!

Lincoln City Beach People
Rachel Beach Walking
Rachel at the Water

If you’ve never been to the Oregon coast, you don’t know that the water is FREEZING COLD. All year round. So, after my first couple of trips to the beach after I moved here, I learned my lesson, and I never go down to touch the water when we go to the beach. But Rachel, a native Oregonian (and part hippie), has to commune with the salt water every time (that’s my way of saying she took these pictures of the water). πŸ˜‰

Beach Foam Divider
Beach Reflections
Beach Birkenstocks

While Rachel was splashing around, freezing her toes off, I found a nice driftwood log, and did what I always do when I have a few minutes to myself – pulled out my iPhone, read some feeds in Google Reader, and chatted with friends on Twitter. πŸ˜‰

Josh Reading Feeds on the Beach
Josh on the Beach

Obligatory picture of my trademark orange Crocs on the beach (“the Crocs shot”):

Orange Crocs on the Beach

We got some really cool silhouette shots of people when we shot directly into the sun and its reflection on the water and wet sand.

Beach Couples Silhouettes
Tiny Beach Dog Owner in Pursuit

Of course, there were people with dogs everywhere. We felt out of place without a canine companion. Maybe next time we can rent one for the weekend, so we can fit in with the dog people.

Beach Dog Girls
Beach Dog Girls Running

I love how none of the girls’ feet are touching the ground in that shot above. Of course, Rachel took that one. πŸ˜‰

After a while, we retreated to our room, and took a nap. We watched the sunset from our room’s balcony, which was RIGHT on the water. As in, look straight down, there’s the sea wall, and when the tide comes in, the waves lap at the foundations. It was actually kind of creepy. πŸ™‚

Drain Colors

But the sunset was awesome, of course! And I took way too many pictures. Even after culling and throwing a lot of them away. I couldn’t help myself.

Rachel Sunset Balcony
Lincoln City Sunset Colors
Sunset Sand Water Colors
Reflected Beach Sunset

There was a flock of seagulls hanging out on the roof of the hotel next door, so of course, I was trying to take all kinds of artsy pictures with them.

Sunset Seagull
Sunset Seagull Cruise
Sunset Seagull Flock

And finally, I got some really strange/cool pictures thanks to a GIANT floodlight mounted on the roof of the hotel next door. It lit up the whole beach for hundreds of feet in all direction, and lit up the white foam of the waves especially well. Of course, I was out on the balcony at 10:30 PM, trying to take some pictures of the phenomenon.

Beach Night Floodlight
Beach Night Floodlight

Like I said before, you can view all 60 or so of the photos I uploaded in this photoset on Flickr. Leave me a comment on this post, or on any of the photos there. Photography critique, suggestions, ideas, thoughts, or whatever. I crave interaction and feedback, so let me have it! πŸ˜‰