Why I won't be getting an iPhone - Just Yet?

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Everyone else is commenting on the new iPhone before it's release, so why can't I? My two cents is that I won't be camping out at the Apple Store for an iPhone this evening. Yes, the price seems high, but in reality its not. If you price other smartphones, it becomes obvious that without the common provider subsidy, smarpthpones are expensive. An unlocked Palm Treo 680 goes for $399 retail. The Nokia N95, will setup you back a whopping $749. Spending $499 or $599 seems average all of a sudden. I purchased an unlocked, 'used' and discontinued Palm Tero 650 in January via eBay and it cost me around $160. Sure, I could have purchased a new Palm Treo 680 for $199, but that would have stuck me with a commitment to a different provider.

Ay, there's the rub, I don't want to switch providers. I'm quite happy with T-Mobile. I spent hell on earth for many years with Sprint. A small example, no matter how many times I corrected them, they couldn't get the spelling of my last name correct. More than once I had half a mind to skip paying. If they complain, I would have said, "Sorry but nobody by that name resides at this address." Strike one against Sprint.

Most of my time with Sprint was spent before the ability to keep one's cell phone number while switching networks, so I just learned to limit my contact with their 'customer service' representatives as much as I could. When I moved back to Chicago from the San Francisco Bay Area I had a chance to start anew and took it - I also learned how horrible Sprint's coverage area was outside of a metropolitan area while driving the moving van. Strike Two!

I did a little research and chose T-Mobile. The biggest reason for T-Mobile at the time was the fact that its uses GSM, which is the worldwide standard, for its phone network. For me, the logic played out like this: GSM is a more widely adapted technology and given the fact that I'll be traveling abroad more - my wife-to-be is Irish, her and her family emigrated to the States when she was 5 - and given the horribly out-dated experience I had using a long distance phone card the first time I meet her family - thanks to Sprint, strike three, your out - it seemed the right thing to do. In fact, it has been the right thing, while I don't make a lot of calls, let alone calls while abroad, I've found that text messaging, both back to the States and with 'the locals' is the quick, easy and relatively cheap way to communicate, keeping everyone on the same page when needed.

Yeah, I know AT&T is GSM, but that's only one factor. Another, as you can guess by the knocking on Sprint, is service, both the network and the customer kind. I have very little patience for what passes as customer service these days; I do not suffer fools gladly - I can admit that I'd make a poor customer service representative myself, but that's a different set of issues. I'm happy with T-Mobile. I don't tend to communicate directly with them much, but when I do I can't complain. In two plus years with them, I've only had one issue with a rep offering me bad advice, but it was quickly corrected when I brought the problem up with another rep. I can't say I'm itching to move to a different provided for 'better' customer service.

While in theory AT&T's voice service is the same network technology, thus the same coverage, I'm a little concerned by David Pogue's note that "in a Consumer Reports study, AT&T's signal ranked either last or second to last in 19 out of 20 major cities" and that his own tests with the iPhone in five different states "bear this out." Not a good sign. A worst sign is the fact that the first version of the iPhone is using the EDGE network for data, instead of and as many others wish to see, HSPA or the like. I think Pouge speaks for many gadget--heads when he says this "drawback may be deal-killers for some people."

Indeed, my Treo 650 and the Motorola v600 I originally had with T-Mobile use GPRS for data, which is slower than EDGE, but given the grandfathered in t-zones data plan I have, $4.99 for unlimited data, means I won't be jumping ship for something slightly faster. Moreover, GPRS is just fine for the Blazer web browser accessing WAP enabled websites or using Chatter to sync IMAP for mostly text based email. I'm sure trying to access 'rich media' with Mail or Safari on the iPhone with a stopgap data network would indeed be "excruciatingly slow. You almost ache for a dial-up modem."

In other words, I like my service provider; I like my service plan and I'm happy with the voice/data network and customer service I receive. While I'm not using a T-Mobile phone, having dumped the Motorola v600 for said Treo 650, I'm content with the phone itself, its large software library and the gigabytes of advice floating around on the 'net. Its not just about 'the phone' its about the phone, the network and the customer service.

Now, if I got my hands on an unlocked iPhone...

2 Comments

technabob: Which is why an unlocked iPhone with T-Mobile would be even better, since one could replace/supplement the EDGE data plan with their WiFi HotSpots plan. Of course then you have to ask yourself when the fruits of the Apple/Cisco "we'll play nice" agreement produces VoIP capability for the Apple iPhone. Yeah, its definitely wait and see mode for me.

still on the fence...I'm none too thrilled with the AT&T exclusivity, given the poor performance of their GSM/EDGE service. However, there's all of a sudden been a pretty significant performance boost reported by many users (myself included) since sometime yesterday. I'm sure AT&T is just adding capacity, and it'll slow down again once those millions of iPhones come online this weekend.That said, I'm gonna wait and see probably. I'd rather have a true 3G connection... or at least AT&T could have bundled WiFi access points with their service offering. That would have made it quite a lot more palatable for me.

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About the Author

Paul is a technologist and all around nice guy for technology oriented organizations and parties. Besides maintaining this blog and website you can follow Paul's particular pontifications on the Life Universe and Everything on Twitter.

   
   


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