Tag Archives: at&t

One month with the iPhone 4

Outfit Ice iPhone 4 case
Image by griffintech via Flickr

Longtime readers will remember that I’ve owned an iPod Touch for a couple of years now, and it’s a marvelous device. The only things that kept it from being the perfect handheld, for me, were the lack of a camera and the lack of a microphone for taking voice memos. For a couple of months, though, other issues came forward. I began to think about how having 3G connectivity to the internet would be nice. I realized that my ages-old Samsung phone was way past its prime. And most seriously, iOS 4 was slowing my iPod Touch down to a crawl. All these things, plus the fact that my college has a discount deal with AT&T, finally pushed me over the edge into iPhone territory.

My wife and I both ordered iPhone 4‘s, mine a 32 GB model (to match the capacity of my iPod Touch) and hers a 16 GB model. The 16 GB model is apparently more popular, because it was put on indefinite backorder; so my wife, who lacks my techno-lust, opted to cancel her order and get a 32 GB iPhone 3GS instead. But my 4 got here in about a week, and I’ve been using more or less nonstop since then.

Yes, I know Apple has become the new Microsoft in terms of monopolistic, closed-system approaches to hardware and software. Yes, I know Android is the platform that all the cool geeks are flocking to. Yes, I know AT&T is supposed to be horrible and that if I would just wait a few months, the fabled Verizon iPhone will appear. However, these did not deter my purchase in the slightest. While I did my homework on Android vs. iOS devices, I never got very close to going Android. I’m an Apple guy the whole way, for better or for worse.

So, how’s the experience been?

  • I have not had any experience whatsoever with the much-publicized antenna and reception issues. In fact, the quality of the reception and voice clarity on the iPhone 4 is probably better than that of any phone I’ve ever had. (Which isn’t saying much, since I think this is only the third cell phone I’ve owned, but still.) We live supposedly in an AT&T dead zone, if you go by AT&T’s coverage map, but right here at my desk I get 3 out of 5 bars. And the reception is crystal-clear, and I have had no dropped calls at all (so far). For the record, I am using a case — I got a free case from the AT&T store for signing up, and now I’m using the free bumper I got from Apple. (I prefer the bumper because it maintains the phone’s slim profile.)
  • I signed up for the basic 200 MB per month data plan. At first this seemed like a sure bet for overages. On my laptop, there are sometimes single files that I download that are bigger than that. But I was surprised to find that by the end of the month I had only used up about 50 MB of that allowance, and that was not because I was stingy with my 3G internet usage. Indeed, it seemed like I was using the 3G for connecting to the internet a lot more often than I thought I would. I was way under my limit because 90% of the time, I am connected to a WiFi network. I just don’t need 3G that often — when I’m in the car or waiting in the dentist’s office, maybe, but these are not typical situations. Others may find themselves in more frequent need of 3G, though.
  • The retina display is very impressive, especially on apps that are optimized for the iPhone 4. (My current addiction is Real Racing.) It does a particularly good job of rendering text (for example, in ebooks or PDF’s) to be very crisp and clear.
  • The camera’s impressive too. It doesn’t have the megapixels of our point-and-shoot camera, but it’s also faster on the draw than that camera, and I like being able to take a photo or video and then send it directly to Facebook, Twitter, or to an email or MMS recipient. So I can really see the iPhone taking the place of both our still and video cameras.
  • The hardware is very fast, very nice and crisp. It’s pretty clear to me that iOS 4 simply wasn’t intended to operate on hardware less than the iPad or iPhone 3GS, and the 3GS is pushing it.
  • Most of the other features of the iPhone are identical to those of my iPod Touch, which is fine by me.

The iPod Touch has been turned into a gaming device and handed off to my giddy 6-year old, who can’t believe that after two years of telling her to get her hands off my iPod, she gets to use it all she wants (within certain parenting parameters).

I’m looking forward to more uses of the iPhone, especially as classes start soon and I can use apps like Attendance that really benefit from the camera and other iPhone features. The more I use it, the more I realize just how much of a game-changing device the thing really is.

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Why I won’t be getting an iPhone just now

My interest in the new iPhone has never reached critical mass, but after finding out that I can get 15% off AT&T cell phone plans through my work, I started thinking again. The basic family plan, after discount, would be $100 per month, which is more than what we’re paying now ($60/month) but possibly worth it if the iPhone is as great as some say. But my interest tanked again when I saw the coverage map near my house:

The finger on the map is roughly where I live. The orange color indicates “good” coverage, which according to AT&T means that it “should be sufficient for on-street or in-the-open coverage, most in-vehicle coverage and possibly some in-building coverage”. If I stray over to the other side of our subdivision into the yellow, it’s only “moderate”. Most of where I live and work is no better than “good”.

Sorry: But if I’m going to drop $300 on the phone and $1200 per year on the service, I want a little better than being able to maybe-sort-of use the iPhone inside my house and only a relative degree of certainty I can use it at all, even standing out in the front yard.

It reinforces my conception that iPhones are for city folks and people who travel a lot, who make up a large and vocal portion of the pro-iPhone blogosphere and who don’t have to worry about whether they’ve got cell phone tower coverage in the first place. As for the rest of us, well, I don’t think the network is ready for us yet.

Or am I missing some important point here?

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Open memo to Steve Jobs

Dear Steve Jobs,

I appreciate your noticing that the iPhone is prohibitively expensive for most some people. Cutting the price to $199 for the basic model is a good step. But: When the phone/data plan for the iPhone still starts at a minimum of $60 per month, cutting the price doesn’t make the thing more affordable. You’re talking about a reduction of $200 or so to a one-time startup price, but keeping the cost of ownership unchanged. Whereas, if the good people at AT&T would cut the price of the plan, you could likely keep the price unchanged and it would be a lot more affordable.

But then again, you are a genius and a rock star all at the same time, so why am I telling you this? Instead, please assert your reality-distortion field on your pals at AT&T to get them to play ball with normal people who like technology but can absolutely live without it if the price is too high. Which it is.

Affordability is a lot more than the price on the sticker of the gizmo. That is all.

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Filed under Apple, Technology