Now That I’ve Got An iPhone I’ve Got Questions

I’ve got 38% of my battery left after having the phone on for six hours. Granted I’m probably hitting the Internet harder today than I will be in a few weeks.

apple-iphone-3g.jpgI’ve been a happy BlackBerry user for the past few months, but it’s hard not to be enticed by everything the iPhone is. For the past few weeks I’ve been talking about it–mulling over the good and bad of a switch.

“Just get the phone,” Stef said yesterday as we drove home from getting her non-working in-warranty BlackBerry swapped for one that worked. And so I did.

We already use AT&T (among the few carriers providing service at my house) so that part was easy. We’re two years after my last phone, so the iPhone 3Gs cost $199. Other than that there shouldn’t be much change to our bill. The data plan for the iPhone costs the same as the data plan for the BB.

Apple designed the iPhone to be more like a computer than phone. It has a larger screen than the BlackBerry with extremely high resolution. That makes small text cleaner and easier to read. Think paper, not monitor.

The screen itself is touch sensitive and allows you to use two fingers resize the underlying content. That’s really powerful since nearly every website is designed to be viewed on something much larger that a phone.

I got home, downloaded some software and began to peruse the “app store.” This too is a genius feature from Apple. There are tens of thousands of applications which run on the iPhone and take advantage of its screen, GPS, compass, accelerometers and other things I haven’t quite discovered yet.

Now my phone has applications to identify music and which stars are shining above. There are also apps for news sources and games installed. So far I’ve spent around $3. Many apps are free and most cost $.99.

The phone is elegantly efficient. There’s hardly anything that needs explaining.

OK–there are a few things. “What’s this little silver button?” I asked myself yesterday. It wasn’t until I got to work and spoke to another iPhone user that I found it isn’t a button, it’s a switch! It turns the sound off just in case you work in a TV studio or your wife wants to sleep.

The fact Apple placed a switch so elegantly that it looked like a button says a lot about the fit and finish of this phone.

That being said, I’m still not 100% convinced. BlackBerry has set the bar high.

The virtual keyboard is difficult for my stubby fingers. I’m constantly mistyping and hitting backspace. It is much easier to use in the wider landscape mode than the portrait mode. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make the switch to landscape in some keyboard modes.

Why? Dunno. Seems out-of-character for the Apple designers.

I need to connect to two Enterprise mail servers. Sorry–iPhone only supports connecting to one.

I wish I could set up profiles for work or home or out-and-about. I don’t think they exist.

And then there’s the battery!

I’ve got 38% of my battery left after having the phone on for six hours. Granted I’m probably hitting the Internet harder today than I will be in a few weeks. Still that’s unnerving should I take the phone away from home where I’ll need a true full day’s service. Unlike other phones I’ve had you can’t pop out the battery and throw in a spare.

“Can I return it if I don’t like it?” I asked before leaving the AT&T store. I’ve got thirty days.

Most likely it stays, but I wouldn’t bet the house yet.

The New Phone

I’ve got a new phone. Helaine’s got a new phone. Stef’s got a phone, but it’s currently on a UPS truck somewhere between here and college.

I’m not sure this was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made, but it was pretty close. That’s ridiculous, because a cell phone decision should be easy… or at the very least, easier. I think the cell phone companies make sure it’s as difficult as possible to compare plans.

They’re willing to compete. They just don’t want to compete on price.

Yes, my new phone is a toy, but I wanted a PDA type phone. You know the type. It’s got a full QWERTY keyboard and 320×240 pixel screen. I have no business reason for getting one. I still wanted it.

Originally, I had my heart set on a Motorola Q9, a sharp new phone. It was supposed to be out in August, then September, then…. well, it’s not out yet. In the meantime, my Motorola RAZR died (though it has since mysteriously come back to life), rushing the process along.

I finally decided on a Samsung Blackjack. It’s bigger than today’s standard cellphones, but it still fits in my shirt pocket. It is a phone, camera, camcorder, audio recorder, computer. It’s probably got more going for it that I haven’t figure out yet.

More on the phone in a minute. First, the process of getting it.

As it stands now, there’s no way to buy a cell phone and know you’ve gotten the best deal. Seriously. I wanted to stick with AT&T, but they have different prices on the Internet, in their retail stores and from their independent online dealers. And, of course, few of those prices are obtainable.

One online retailer showed my Blackjack earning me $60, on a new contract. Yup, buy a phone and get $60 back.

Hey, that’s for me. My old AT&T contract expired in August. But when I called to get the price, I was told it wasn’t for me.

As a good AT&T customer, I wasn’t eligible for their best price. That was only for switchers. The price for me would be $250 more per phone! I will maintain a bad taste from that for a while and though it was the independent telling me… I’ll blame AT&T, the enabler.

On top of that, AT&T sells the exact same Internet access for a variety of prices. If you’ve got an iPhone, you really get jobbed. There’s also a different price for Blackberries, phones like my Blackjack and standard phones, like my old RAZR.

It’s all the same access. It’s all unlimited access. They’re just differently priced.

A blog reading friend, Pat (who once worked selling cell phones), was incredibly helpful, setting me up with Rob at the AT&T store in Meriden. Rob did what he could, but it still cost me $160 more per phone than that online teaser ad led me to believe.

Rob was the calming influence in all of this. Of all the people I dealt with, he’s the only one who could say the sky was blue without me being tempted to look up and make sure.

This is one very cool phone – though being a phone is only a small part of what it does. I’ve already been online, downloading programs to better web surf, deal with email and upload photos and video.

The video and still image quality is surprisingly good, considering the tiny lens. It’s not going to unseat “Clicky,” but I will be using this functionality. In fact, on our upcoming vacation, I’m planning on doing a little vlogging from the Blackjack.

The phone connects to the Internet on AT&T’s high speed 3G network (available here at work, but not at home). It’s still not like real broadband, but it’s not too bad. Of course the relatively small screen is not well suited for web browsing.

If you’ve never used one of these, you’ve probably looked and said, “those keys are awfully small.” They are. Still, I haven’t had any trouble with the keys. Where my big fingers do cause trouble is with the center navigation switch. For me, it’s very difficult to press it, without pressing what’s next to it.

Some of my trouble is caused by being left handed. There’s a navigation wheel located perfectly for right handed people, but not me. I will learn to use it with time, as lefties learn to use right handed computer mice.

It didn’t take more than a few minutes to start to realize the power this phone possesses. I understand even more why the phone companies are fighting network neutrality. This phone allows you to bypass the cell carriers on many things they want to sell.

For instance, there’s a service sold by some carriers for around $10 a month. It turns your phone into a pretty cool GPS receiver with live traffic reports. Google gives that functionality away for free! It’s tough to sell against free. As far as I can tell, I’m about $40 away from using Google and my phone as a GPS receiver.

I’m curious to hear Stef’s impressions when after she unpacks her phone. I hope she’s as pleased as I am… and I’ve only scratched the surface.