That iPhone Thing

That iPhone Thing

Now that the collective nerdgasm over the Macworld Keynote has subsided (however slightly), questions and criticisms concerning the upcoming, unreleased, and not yet available iPhone are beginning to circulate.

I’m in the market for a new phone. And a new carrier. I’ve been using Sprint for the past two years and, when I’m not at work, it’s been fine. But as I begin approaching the office, my phone switches to roam. If I need to make a phone call from my cell during the day, I have to walk out to the parking lot. Granted, I don’t often make calls, but when I do, it’s usually important. Lately the roaming thing hasn’t been consistent, which tells me that Sprint is trying to correct the problem. Still, at random and unknown times, the phone will suddenly switch to roaming. And as much as I love surprises, this is not one I particularly enjoy. So, after talking to everyone and anyone at the office and discovering they all use Cingular (soon to be AT&T;), and as much as I hate and despise Cingular’s customer service, it looks like I’ll be moving to Cingular soon. So from a provider standpoint, I’m fine with iPhone being tied to Cingular.

There are a lot of things to love about the iPhone. It’s sexy, it’s Apple, and if works as advertised, it’s going to revolutionize much of the industry. But we don’t know that what was presented during the Keynote will ultimately be what is released. This includes both the good aspects as well as the bad. And, in my opinion, there’s enough bad to keep me away from the iPhone for a while.

First, it uses EDGE rather than G3. Ok, that’s not necessarily a show stopper, but it’s bothersome that something which is intended to revolutionize is using outdated technology. I suspect Apple chose EDGE due to battery life concerns.

And speaking of batteries, you can’t change the battery. If your battery starts giving you problems, do you have to take it into a Cingular store for repair – or worse, mail it to Apple? (The closest Apple Store to me is approximately 7 hours away.) How long will the repair take? Do I get a loaner phone during this downtime? Please. The battery needs to be removable and replaceable by the user.

I don’t care what anyone else says, $599 is a lot of dough considering that it requires a 2-year commitment to Cingular. Cingular hasn’t released any details concerning the available data plans for the iPhone, so the price is unknown. Their basic Wi-Fi plans run from $69.99 to $99.99 per month ($1,679.76 to $2,399.76 over the life of the contract). If you have a basic voice plan ($39.99), you can add a 20MB data plan for an additional $35.99 per month. That works out to $75.98 per month or $1,823.52 over the life of the contract. Add $599 to those big numbers and you’re talking over $2,000 regardless of the plan.

And I hate the fact that it’s going to be a closed system. Sure, this might change, but given the following quote from Jobs, I don’t see it changing any time soon:

“We define everything that is on the phone,” Jobs told the New York Times. “You don’t want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work anymore. These are more like iPods than they are like computers.” Jobs told Newsweek something similar. “You don’t want your phone to be an open platform,” he said. “You need it to work when you need it to work. Cingular doesn’t want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up.”

Wow. Who knew that one bad application could bring down Cingular’s entire West Coast network? You’d think they’d have some kind of stopgap measures in place to keep that from happening. Just how vulnerable is Cingular? Moreover, I’m a big boy. I don’t need Apple standing in as some sort of pseudo-Mom and telling me what I can and can’t install on my phone. If I install an application and suddenly can’t make a phone call, can’t I just reset the phone to factory settings? I can reset my iPod. I can reset my computer. I can reset almost every electronic device I own, but I can’t reset my iPhone?

The iPhone immediately grabbed the heart of almost every geek in the world. Developers want to make applications for it. This could easily become the most awesome community in recent history, but not if it’s closed off. The argument that third-party applications are inherently untrustworthy and need Apple’s pre-approval doesn’t wash. I’ve had plenty of Apple-approved applications behave badly and I’ve got plenty of free/shareware applications that I’ve never had a problem with. Apple’s pre-approval process is a bad decision. Only those with the financial resources to participate in Apple’s program will be able to develop applications. The little guy, the community, is being shut out. That’s a bad decision, but one I don’t see Jobs flip-flopping on any time soon.

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