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iPhone vs AT&T December 9, 2008

Posted by Conrad Hubbard in : The Chip , add a comment

I have been wanting an iPhone since I first saw one. I am writing this on my iBook. I have a G4 upstairs that I am giving to my dad this year. Basically, I am an Apple fan. Yeah, my work computer is a PC, but that has only been the case for about a year. For many years my desktop computers at work, and most of the systems I maintained, have been Macs. Anyway, I was saying… I have been really looking forward to getting an iPhone. Unfortunately, I was stuck under an old contract dating from my ex-wife and her capacity to wear out phones.

As my old contract’s expiration date approached, I took a closer look at AT&T’s plans, and was somewhat dismayed. The AT&T plans really are pretty expensive compared to Sprint. If you compare apples to apples (no pun intended), then the Sprint “everything” unlimited plan is $99.99 vs the comparable AT&T “everything” unlimited plan which runs $149.99 a month. Still, I really wanted an iPhone, and the new 3G models seemed like a tremendous improvement over the original iPhone model. So, I sucked it up, and got a lower end AT&T iPhone plan, and rounded out the month of November with a Christmas present to myself.

I love the new phone. For starters, it is an iPod in addition to being a phone. Let’s face it, the iPod revolutionized the portable music scene, and now you can talk to your friends on the same device. Additionally, it offers email, internet browsing and a calendar, all integrated with your desktop computer. Plus a digital camera, and visual voicemail. Through the iTunes store, you can access the ingenuity and talent of the community of independent developers which Apple has empowered through their third party application support. If Apple didn’t make the software you want for your phone, chances are that somebody else has. Many of these applications are even FREE!

AT&T is the exclusive network for the iPhone in the United States. The phone plans AT&T offers simply are more expensive than those of some of their primary competitors. That might not matter so much, if they actually gave you everything they say they do. As I completed my purchase of the iPhone, in the Apple store at Lenox Square Mall, the salesman hit me with a prophetic revelation. “You should probably change your phone settings to preserve your battery,” he said. The first thing he had me do was turn OFF the 3G setting on the phone. WTF? Isn’t the 3G network, and its speed, one of the big selling points of the device?

Sadly, he was right. Despite the fact that AT&T’s website map of coverage surrounds the city of Atlanta and its suburbs with a giant blue patch indicating that the 3G network is everywhere, I have yet to find a single stable location for it. At work, if I change to the 3G network, it flickers into life briefly, and soon reverts to the EDGE network. At home, it just teases me when I try to access it, and swiftly pulls up the EDGE network after a brief search for 3G. At the local bar, same deal.

Apple isn’t to blame here. They wisely put Wi-Fi capability into the phone.┬áNow, at home and at work, I set my phone to use the EDGE network and wi-fi. That works fine. Still, it is disappointing that Apple is carrying AT&T, rather than being complemented by them. Hopefully, someday, the old phone giant will catch up with iPhone…