July 17, 2010

Verizon iPhone Advice

I call this: phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 11:25 am

Yesterday my old buddy Nick posted on his Twitter the question that has plagued philosophers and Verizon users for months:

To droid or not to droid….that is the question. Should I still hold out hope for the iphone on verizon or just deal with it?

Other people have been asking that a lot on Facebook as well, and my answer to that question has changed a bit in light of recent events with the iPhone 4. First of all I want to clarify what I’m talking about. I’m disappointed a bit with the “death grip” issue, in which you can’t put your fingers in a certain place, or have to use a case. But that’s not really my concern. My concern is with the reports that even when not holding the phone at all, its reception is inferior to the 3GS. AT&T sucks bad enough as it is, I don’t need a phone that’s any worse at picking up what little signal I’m given.

I tried to express my thoughts to Nick in a series of 140-character Tweets, but that got old really fast. I tend to use sentences longer than 140 characters, never mind being able to express a complete opinion. So I said I would blog about it.

1. Is there Even a Damn Verizon iPhone?

We still don’t know. Just this morning I read some analyst say “when the iPhone 4 comes out on Verizon” as if it was as certain as the sun rising in the east. I have no doubt someday the iPhone will be available on Verizon. But the iPhone 4? Even if it was supposed to exist, the iPhone 4 is having enough problems that I don’t expect an unreleased model is ready to be boxed up and shipped to tens of millions more people anytime soon. Verizon, who in the past was notorious for delaying smartphones by as much as a year because they didn’t pass all their rigorous testing (which is why I left them, actually), is not the company I would expect to rush their biggest product ever out the door when it has a known flaw. Verizon has one selling point: their network. This flaw will make the network suck. Why on earth would they risk it?

In short, if there ever was or is supposed to be a Verizon iPhone, I believe the iPhone 4 is the least likely to be it.

2. Does the Purchaser Even Want an iPhone 4?

You read my blog, you may know me by now. You may have seen my liveblogs from the lines out front of the Apple Store at 5AM on launch day of the previous iPhones. You may know that I didn’t line up this year because I was trying to save money by trading in my 3GS at Radio Shack, rather than buying directly from Apple.

I do not yet have an iPhone 4.

I do not yet want an iPhone 4.

I mean of course I want it. It’s sexy. It has that nice retina display. I will use the improved camera constantly. But I’m waiting to see what really happens with the antenna issue, and with some people saying it’s better than the 3GS and some saying it’s worse, and Apple saying, “Nothing is wrong, nothing has ever been wrong, but we’re sorry, we screwed up, and we’ve fixed it. By giving you a free piece of rubber to put around your $700 phone, which has nothing wrong with it. Really.” I really don’t know what to believe. But sort of like Consumer Reports said, they can’t recommend the iPhone 4 because of reception issues, but also declared it at the same time the best phone on the market. And I think that’s probably a good way to describe the problem. Of course there are reasons to buy it anyway, but considering for Verizon users it doesn’t yet exist, and the Droid does, the potential of the iPhone 4 not quite being up to snuff is a little more important.

3. What Kind of Phone Does the Person Have?

A big question when the person is debating whether to buy a Droid now or wait for an iPhone is what kind of phone the person currently has. Is it old and crappy? Is it a dumbphone? Does it just plain suck and they hate it? Nick has been sick of his Blackberry for a while, so it makes me sad to see him waiting around for something that may not come. On the other hand, if the person has a decent phone that they still enjoy, there is more incentive to wait and see.

Cell phone contracts are two years. You can usually get the full discount on a new phone in 18 months (maybe it’s 20 or 22 on Verizon, I have no idea anymore). If it ends up being a year before the iPhone comes out, that’s 365 days of using a crappy phone — hundreds of thousands of calls, texts and email-checks on a phone you hate, and for what? Wouldn’t it be better to buy the Droid and be maybe 75% happy for two years, and then buy the iPhone? Or use it for a year and then shell out the money to buy the iPhone at the higher price after a year, if it’s that important.

My Recommendation

At this point, I haven’t had much opportunity to play with the Droid, but most people seem to feel that it’s a reasonable equivalent to the iPhone for those stuck on Verizon. For heavy Mac users like me and Nick, it might be a little more frustrating to not be able to enjoy all the Mac-specific features the iPhone offers, but it’s far better than nothing. Unfortunately I have changed my tune, and now recommend confidently, if you’re on Verizon and your old phone needs an upgrade, just get a Droid and be happy right now.

Nick got the Droid X, and has posted his review. It sounds like it’s already improved his life.