After more than a month of suffering from agonizing 3G data performance and dropped calls, I was very eager to update my phone to the major 2.1 update, especially since it comes with a lot of promises of improvement.
The update process took a long time, mostly because I needed to back up my phone. (I have a 16GB version of the phone that's almost full). The update took exactly nine minutes. Unlike the 2.0.1 update that caused me to have to reinstall some apps, the 2.1 update was able to retain everything: music, contacts, applications, etc.
The first thing I noticed when the updated phone restarted was the 3G signal strength. When I visited the CNET New York office before the update, I barely had one bar, but after the update the signal strength was fluctuating between three and four bars. I used the SpeedTest app and it registered 381Kb/s, which is significantly faster than the pre-2.1 update. I tried making calls and they seemed better too. I was able to place calls in areas where I used to have to use EDGE to hold a stable conversation.
I also noticed the shorter time required for backing up the phone to iTunes, which is nice. Note that it's still time-consuming, taking around 25 minutes for my 16GB version as opposed to around 40 minutes before.
On the downside, the phone seems to take longer time to start up and to sync calendar and contacts with my PC laptop. The 3G signal still varies within small areas--for example, in the CNET N.Y. Labs, there are still a few corners where I have only one bar. Also there's still no sign of MMS, video recording, and the option to sync or copy multimedia content from more than one computer.
So far, though, this seems to be a nice update. I'll keep posting on what I find out about call quality, battery life, and other issues over the next few days, if they are significantly better/different.