August 09, 2010
Why I may not use an iPhone much longer
Yes I know, provocative title. But I didn't choose it to add to the anti-iPhone chorus and litany championed by legacy publications like PC World. And I also didn't choose it to tell you about the latest HTC Awesome or Droid Maxximus that outdoes the iPhone in this spec or that. I didn't even choose it because I have become a convert to Android, though as a professional reviewer I am certainly interested in that latest and apparently finally successful mobile Linux implementation.
I did choose the title because over the past several months I've found myself using my iPhone less and less. Coincidentally, I got my iPad several months ago. Yes, I've found myself using my iPad more and more, and my iPhone less and less. That's because the iPad does almost everything I used my iPhone for, only better. I love apps on the iPhone, but I love apps on the iPad better. I used to marvel how much could be done on a screen as small as the iPhones. Now I marvel that I used to spend so much time squinting at that little screen, like reading entire books on it.
Before I go any farther, I do need to state that I am not fond of phones of any kind. In fact, I hate phones. I hate the way people drop everything to answer a phone call. I hate the "but.., but..., it could be an emergency" people say in justification of picking up the tenth call during lunch or in a meeting. I hate the miserable voice quality the telcos have foisted upon us when I full-well remember that cellphones can, in fact, deliver reliable, crystal-clear calls. So "fewer dropped calls" to me is hardly an argument that'll win me over. Anyway, fact is that I use phones for voice calls as little as possible. Instead, I email, text, IM and whatever other technologies let me communicate when it's convenient for me, and let the other side answer when it's convenient for them.
So I really don't need a phone with a big contract. I don't need an AT&T plan with 1,500 minutes that I only signed up for because I MIGHT run over and then AT&T would charge me an obscene amount for minutes over the plan (sound like health insurance, doesn't it?). What I need a phone for is when I am on the road or when I am abroad. Which is exactly where the iPhone works least well. Between AT&T's miserable coverage, awful voice quality and dropped calls I really cannot rely the phone to be there for me in an emergency. And when I am abroad... let's not even go there.
What does it all add up to? For me, this: I love the iPhone, love the concept, but do not love an almost US$200 bill every month for a couple of iPhones that we hardly ever use as phones. Yes, by now I realize that I do need some sort of phone, but any pre-paid el-cheapo fliphone on a reliable network would fill my phone needs. And all the cool iPhone stuff I now do on my iPad which, by now, I probably use ten times as often as my iPhone. If I could get reliable voice on my iPad, I probably would drop the iPhone entirely. I really never thought I'd ever say that, but that's the way it is.
Would I change my tune if the iPhone weren't stifled by AT&T? Probably not. Even with better and more reliable service, it'd still be a big bill, I'd still resent phone calls, and the iPad's big screen would still make it more pleasant to use than a little phone.
I guess I need what I wanted all along, a little computer that can make the occasional call when I need it. And not a little phone that can also be a computer when I need it. So whoever felt it was a cool idea to hand over the PDA concept to the telcos a decade or so ago, curse you and all the code and products you'll ever produce. Had Microsoft and Apple and Motorola just bought or created their own communication systems when they had a chance, it'd be a whole different ballgame now.