Sprint's Spark: It's Fast but No Multi-Tasker

Sprint says it is focused on battery life, coverage, and performance for its Spark devices over the ability to talk and surf the web at the same time.

Consumer Reports found that phones on the Sprint Spark network can't do simultaneous calls and data sessions. The publication found that data-dependent apps stopped functioning when a call came in or a user made a call.

Light Reading asked Sprint about this: "Sprint Spark devices leverage eCSFB technology (enhanced Circuit Switch Fall Back), which enables single radio functionality in the handset," a spokeswoman explained in a email.

She continued that using a single radio at a time gets better performance out of devices that can utilize the Spark network upgrades:

    This allows Sprint to leverage the many benefits of Network Vision, including the ability to utilize multiple CDMA and LTE spectrum bands efficiently. Although simultaneous voice and LTE is not supported on new Sprint Spark devices, it does provide improved coverage, quality of voice and data service, as well as improved battery performance. The devices will support simultaneous voice and data on WiFi.

So potential Sprint Spark users -- the upgrade is currently available in 24 markets in the US, most of which are big cities -- have a choice to make: Do they need a really fast connection when not calling, or do they need to multi-task? Users have so far been finding 60+ Mbit/s speeds on unloaded networks, while Light Reading saw speeds of up to 27.27 Mbit/s on a busy network in New York City. (See Fanning Sprint's Spark in NYC and Sprint: LTE TDD Speed Boost Coming Soon.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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danielcawrey 5/10/2014 | 1:47:17 PM
Performance I would choose performance over multitasking. I am a horrible multitasker, so a I'd much rather have speed and battery life. 

Do people really need to be able to use data during calls? I guess some applications need it. But we are already such a distracted society I would argue that this is just not needed. 
myhui 5/10/2014 | 3:04:44 PM
Yes people do need data service while they're on a voice call Examples:

Call up cloud-based appointment book while talking to a client on the phone.

Look at a pdf file just uploaded to Google Drive while talking to a coworker on the phone who wants to share that doc and discuss its contents.

Confirm the location of a business you're heading out to while talking to the business owner on the phone and looking at Google Maps Street View at the same time.

Discuss details of a scene with your film's director while looking at a video of a mock-up of the scene.
Mitch Wagner 5/10/2014 | 4:01:21 PM
Re: Yes people do need data service while they're on a voice call Valid use cases for some, but for me personally -- my Verizon iPhone doesn't do voice and data simultaneously. That was a big marketing point in AT&T's campaign against Verizon. And yet in the nearly two years I've had the iPhone 5, I've only once wanted to access the Internet while simultaneously making a voice call. 

The Sprint bandwidth is remarkable. I only get 30 Mbits download speed on my hard Cox connection. My Verizon iPhone gets 9.31 Mbits download and 13.01 Mb upload.
briandnewby 5/11/2014 | 1:44:06 PM
Re: Yes people do need data service while they're on a voice call I haven't noticed that I could multi-task on other Sprint phones, either.  I can't do that on my iPhone.

Our office has been testing a couple Sprint Spark devices for advance voting applications and the speed is very good.

But to the point about "is multi-tasking needed?" I have to say yes.  (At least as much as anything is a need).

I compare it to a car salesman years ago, when the Chevy Blazer model and color I wanted wasn't in stock, who tried to tell me that a 2 WD version would be okay--that I'd only need 4 WD a couple of times a year.

I only have to shovel my driveway about 5 times a winter, but I have the shovel for those times.

Often, I'm on my phone at my office and looking for an email just sent or sending something.  Needing that capability on the go is less frequent, but when it happens, it's akin to not have the snow shovel.

If Sprint's strategy/hope is that people will convince themselves that they really don't need full functionality, that seems like a strategy/hope leaning more to hope.
Sarah Thomas 5/12/2014 | 12:43:01 PM
Re: Yes people do need data service while they're on a voice call I find myself using multitasking a lot when I have my headphones on for a call. It's a nice-to-have feature, but more than anything, it seems like a step back not to have that on an advanced LTE network. It was a big deal once Verizon got that ability. I just thought it was something the industry had already tackled, so it's a bit of a disappointment.
jabailo 5/12/2014 | 12:54:05 PM
Skype is both At what point do we just start using Skype instead of "voice calls"...

kq4ym 5/12/2014 | 1:32:50 PM
Re: Yes people do need data service while they're on a voice call I don't like to admit I want multi-tasking, the speeds are fine with me currently and I just don't want to feed the meter faster as prices rise for the highest capabilities. But, for a marketing ploy, multi-tasking claims will sell lots of folks. And that's the bottom line, provide something that appears to be cool, faster and more efficient and the dollars hopefully flow in.
DanJones 5/12/2014 | 2:07:23 PM
Re: Skype is both Well, yeah, I think this issue will go away if people use Skype or VoLTE *actually* arrives.
Mitch Wagner 5/12/2014 | 5:00:53 PM
Re: Yes people do need data service while they're on a voice call briandnewby - Some people just don't need to talk and access the Internet from their phones at the same time. Like I said, for me it's only happened once in nearly two years. I don't remember it being a crisis that I could not, or even particularly inconvenient. 

Often I'm carrying around two mobile devices: iPhone and tablet. If I'm in a situation where I need to access the Intenret while talking on the phone, I can do it from the iPad. Or if I need to do it on the iPhone, I'll have an Wi-Fi connection to do it with. 

On the other hand, I bought my first tablet in 2010 with Wi-Fi only, no 3G. Second tablet in 2012: Still Wi-Fi only, no 3G. Third in 2013, the same. Finally, later last year I bought an iPad Air and decide to go for the wireless data option. And I'm glad I did: I've only used a few times, but it proved mighty convenient when I did. And I only had to pay for months when I actually used the wireless data. So that $130 charge upfront for the iPad with wireless data proved well worth i. 
Mitch Wagner 5/12/2014 | 5:02:34 PM
Re: Yes people do need data service while they're on a voice call That is certainly a time-honored advertising technique: Sell people a solution to a problem that is not actually a problem. 
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