Monday, September 28, 2009

I've joined the cult of the iPhone

Actually this happened a couple of weeks ago, right before I took the young scholar off to George Mason University.

Looking back, most of my cellphone decisions have been driven by the whim of my offspring. We got cellphones in the first place at the urging of our oldest, who foolishly thought it would make his mother easier to get hold of. Now we've switched to AT&T because the youngest wanted an iPhone.

Since we regularly found ourselves standing on the sidewalk to make calls due to T-Mobile's crappy coverage, I was game for a change. And I get a modest discount from AT&T's mobile price thanks to my employer.

Not to drag this out, but in the end we all ended up with iPhones -- youngest and me with 32GB 3Gs models, mom with the 8GB 3G. Mom (who shows slight Luddite tendencies) was the straggler. But after a weekend session of showing her what mine would do, she decided she liked the idea of having a cool phone.

Thank you, Steven Jobs.

Overall I'm finding the iPhone a sophisticated piece of equipment with a lot of power. There are somethings I don't like but I'm over them. My old phone was a Nokia 5300 -- which my oldest referred to sneeringly as a kiddy phone. I had a cheap ($6 a month) data plan with T-Mobile which didn't let me do a whole lot until I hacked the phone's firmware.  Now that I have a smartphone the AT&T data plan is $30 a month -- per phone.


I knew it was dangerous when I bought it. However, I'm doing my best to get my money's worth out of that plan. One of the selling points for me was the availability of Pandora, Slacker and other streaming music apps. I can do Shoutcast as well. It's better than radio.

I also like the threaded SMS texting, which allows you view your messaging as an ongoing conversation (you do have to shell out even more for unlimited texting -- bastards). The spousal unit like this a lot, too. The last killer feature is the GPS stuff integrated with Google maps. That one has been a godsend, especially when taking the youngest to GMU and trying to find my way around Fairfax, VA.

Since getting it I've only actually paid for one app -- the 99 cent version (there's also a free version) of a game where you launch sheep. Yeah, you read that right. There are a couple of other apps I'm considering purchasing as well. Everything else I've installed has been free.

Some of the annoyances (besides the outrageous dataplan costs) are the piss-poor battery life if you want to do anything other than just talk. Plan on running the recharger a lot.

The other annoyance is Apple's control freak attitude about what you can install on this little sucker. Of course, you can "jail break" your phone, which opens you up to a world of, um, unsanctioned applications. Youngest son did this within 24 hours of getting his hands on his phone.

Curiously, oldest son, the owner of the MacBook, got a new phone and opted for the new Blackberry Bold, another smartphone. He couldn't really explain why he chose that over the iPhone. Call it his need to be different. He loves it though.


Dan Brekke said...

We're in the midst of a marathon procrastination re: new mobile devices. I have a four-year-old Samsung phone on Sprint that has worked just fine. It's kind of broken now. So is the six-year-old Samsung phone Kate uses. She would like to have an iPhone. I love almost everything I've heard about the iPhone (both my kids have one, and I got an unplanned and very impressive demonstration of the GPS feature you're talking about while we were on an outing one day). So why don't we just go out and get a couple? Well, I haven't heard anyone say they like AT&T's coverage or pricing. And anecdotally I seem to hear a lot of iPhone users say they've needed to get replacement phones.

I've been drawn to the Palm Pre. Sprint's coverage is great. Its data packages are cheaper than AT&T's, I think. And the GPS feature is free. Both the hardware and software get good reviews. But the sucker is expensive *and* brand new and I always have a feeling that I should let the first wave hit the beach and discover all the mines before I venture out myself.

Those Samsung phones are going to have to hang in there just a little longer.

Dr Ralph said...

Youngest son was the driver on this one. I looked long and hard at the other smart phones before going with the iPhone - almost went with the Nokia E71a. In the end it was the music apps (Pandora et. al.) that sold me.

I've read a lot about how poor coverage is in SF and NYC and over capacity the 3G network is. Here in DFW it's good - much better than T-Mobile, my old provider.

If I'd stayed with T-Mobile I was seriously considering one of the Android phones.

Dan Brekke said...

My younger son/technology scout is urging me to take a look at the HTC Hero, an Android phone that Sprint offers. It's gotten very enthusiastic reviews.

We'll see.