December 28, 2009

You Would Have to Be Insane to Get a New iPhone Now

By my own conventional standards, this Christmas should have seen the arrival of two new iPhones in the Gray household. My iPhone 3G is somewhat long in the tooth, and has clear cracking in the bottom right corner, where Sarah clunked it on the kitchen tile. My wife's cell phone, inexplicably, is missing, and has been for weeks. While mentally, I'm all set to close out her old account, and sign us both up with new iPhone 3GS units, every single time I start the process, I just start getting ticked off at AT&T, and the more I think about it, the more ridiculous it seems that I would sign on the dotted line to any kind of long-term contract with Apple right now.

The number 3 has been bandied about a lot of late, with Verizon and AT&T having a proverbial pissing match over maps in the last few months. But the number 3 also frames the major sticking points that have stopped me from heading to the mall and forking over a few hundred bucks to get us both on the near cutting edge.

Apple Says I'm THIS CLOSE to Upgrading...

Those three reasons all begin with the letter A:

1) AT&T
2) Android
3) Apple


Forget about Verizon's stupid map for a second. The entire battle around 3G is a complete farce if the iPhone can't even maintain consistent call quality or avoid dropping calls, the most basic of requirements. Just today, I have had only two phone calls with my iPhone, and both dropped. The first was with a new client, who I hung up on in the middle of discussing success criteria, and the second was with a PR rep talking about a new announcement set for tomorrow. I joked that the iPhone hung up when it heard the word MySpace, but we both knew AT&T had choked.

The iPhone drops calls whether I have one bar or five bars. And where it should have five bars, I find myself doing a contortionist's dance to edge toward a window or a safe spot in the house where it doesn't sound like static or the person on the other line is underwater. Many other times, I get voicemail notifications when the phone itself never rang. Ridiculous.

So every time I log into the Apple Web site to test buying the iPhone 3GS, I am reminded of a two-year contract with AT&T, for me, and for my wife. Why would I ever agree to be hooked to this ball and chain when there is any chance that Apple could open up to new, better, providers in that time period, especially in the first year?


Android does not have the most applications today. Switching to Android would not magically port over the applications and iTunes I have purchased, making those major roadblocks in switching platforms. But in a year when it seems all that Apple did was speed up the iPhone and add rudimentary video recording, Android went from being a niche player to a real competitor. If Google's pace of innovation continues on the platform, the iPhone's once thought to be insurmountable feature lead could be vastly eroded.

It Wouldn't be THAT Hard to Upgrade


I saw the iPhone 3GS announcement as a ho-hum improvement. Albeit the third version of the platform, following the initial iPhone and the 3G model I have, the 3GS didn't alter the landscape. That said, it's expected Apple will come out with the next generation iPhone in the middle of 2010, following WWDC. Combined with all the current buzz around the tablet, one wonders what would be missed by buying the 3GS today, if one could instead hold out for generation four.

Walking through the terms and conditions for AT&T just made me a bit sick to my stomach. I recognize that I have a lot invested in the iPhone platform. I've always been a good iPhone fanboy. I know my wife needs a new phone, and it does make some sense that we're both on the same carrier and plan, but I do feel like if I do what my natural tendency is and wander over to the Apple Store with credit card in hand, that I would be a big sucker, chained to AT&T's sub-standard service for another two years. And at the end of those two years, where will Android be? What other carriers will Apple have opened up to?

In the world of gadgetry, two years is an incredible amount of time. Maybe I should just buy these units now and plan on facing a hill of early termination charges later. But that just makes me more of a victim to the entire system. I know I'm considered crazy by some, but to do this, I would have to be certifiably insane.