I’ve been a Sprint customer for a long time. I have good friends who work there and I try to support them and my hometown company just as I hope they prefer AMC Theatres when they can.
However, for the past month or so, I’ve been testing out the Verizon iPhone (DISCLOSURE) thanks to the Verizon Midwest office. Sure, it’s a bit ridiculous that I’m carrying 3 phones right now (work Blackberry, personal Sprint HTC Hero, iPhone), but it actually gives me a nice opportunity to compare and contrast the various benefits and drawbacks of each phone. I also tested a Sprint EVO Shift when I was at SXSW and I’ll be using that as a comparison as well.
Let’s start with the bottom line: I love the iPhone. This should come as no big shocker to people who follow my blog. It isn’t without faults (and I’ll share those here), but overall, my experience with the phone has been great. (In fact, I’ve been delaying writing this post for a while now with the hope that I won’t have to give back the demo device until it is done.)
The advertising for Verizon is all about “the network” and I’ll say, it’s solid. I never really had connection issues for the phone, although there were times when I found the 3G service affected inside of buildings. However, the 3G service was pretty fast, particularly loading web pages, although I’m not sure I can attribute that to the network or to Mobile Safari.
One nice feature that I was able to use was the Mobile Hotspot. As we were driving to my in-laws’ house in Iowa, I switched it on and Alli was able to connect via WiFi and check her Facebook account while we drove. This is an extra charge on every phone it is available on, including the iPhone on any network. It’s kind of a bogus charge, because it still counts against the data that you are already using. I don’t understand why they should be able to double-charge you for a feature that is built-in.
It’s simply the best App Store on the planet. Higher quality applications, easy payment, easy purchase on your computer or on your device. There are so many great applications that have been handcrafted with an eye for user experience and design. In comparison to the applications I’ve used on Android devices, the best ones have been applications that were first built for iOS devices. Despite how rigid Apple’s App Store requirements are, there’s something to keeping developers to a standard. Android’s “openness” in their Market just leads to lots and lots of crapplications (trademark pending).
My favorites have been some that were favorites on my iPad. I love the official Twitter application (formerly Tweetie). I love Reeder for reading RSS. I love Instagram, Beluga, Dropbox and especially Gowalla. I love the Weight Watchers Mobile application for tracking my food and activity as a part of my weight loss program. I love that U-Verse has an application that allows me to manage my DVR remotely.
Honestly, two of my favorite discoveries have been games. One I knew about: QRANK Social Trivia and another that I discovered as a more addictive version of Angry Birds called Tiny Wings. I also absolutely love Facebook’s official iPhone application. While on the iPad, I tend to use the full site, but on the iPhone, the application is so efficient and well designed that there’s no reason to go to the full site.
Size and Weight
Another thing that I absolutely love about the iPhone is the form factor. It is well designed and an appropriate weight in my hand. It just feels right. It’s bigger and heavier than my HTC Hero, but thinner. It’s slightly smaller than the HTC EVO Shift, which is thicker on account of the slide out keyboard. The device that the iPhone gets compared to most is probably the HTC EVO 4G, which I’ve seen but never used. The EVO feels massive to me…too large to put in a pocket. The profile of the iPhone is almost unrecognizable when I stow it.
The iPhone is now the most popular camera in the world. More photos are uploaded now to Flickr via the iPhone than any other camera on the planet. It just goes to show you that “the best camera is the one you have with you.”
And the iPhone camera isn’t just a serviceable portable camera. It’s a good, 5MP point-and-shoot camera (rumor is the iPhone 5 will have an 8MP camera) that also has the ability to shoot video just as effectively as the point-and-shoot equivalent (and now Cisco-murdered) Flip. If you need proof, check out this video that I posted to YouTube from when we went to see The Civil Wars at Lawrence in the Bottleneck. I didn’t edit it at all.
I know a few people who don’t like the iPhone almost solely because it requires Apple’s iTunes to manage. Since I’m in an all-Apple household, that doesn’t bother me even a little bit. In fact, when it comes to using other phones (Blackberry, Android, or Palm-based devices), the fact that they don’t integrate with iTunes is annoying. I love my iTunes library. I don’t want to move it entirely to another library and application. Also, since so many applications on the Mac now integrate with their mobile counterparts, moving documents, photos and files is so easy through the iTunes interface. Sure, it’s bloated, but a lot of software is these days (just open Firefox).
The iPhone was originally presented as an extension of the iPod line of devices. But as anyone knows, it has become an industry unto itself. Still, that iPod application is still one of the ones I use just as much as anything else. Not having to carry a separate iPod for all my music is brilliant and I can carry a ton of music on my iPhone and iTunes allows me to switch it easily. This is one benefit to the phone that gets discounted a lot, but having to carry one less device is a huge benefit for a gadget hoarder like myself.
Here’s the rub. When it comes to pricing, I’m in a bit of a pickle. See, I have friends who work for Sprint and I can be a part of their plan for a reduced price. Even Sprint’s unlimited plan at $69.99/month is lower by about $30 than a comparable iPhone plan, either on Verizon or AT&T. The most frustrating aspect of the up charges when it comes to iPhone plans is unlimited texting runs an additional $20 per month on top of your normal monthly fee. Texting costs these phone companies virtually nothing. Charging $20 a month is akin to highway robbery. One benefit of Verizon is they have a Nationwide Talk & Text plan that runs $60/month for 450 minutes and unlimited texting, but it doesn’t include data. That runs you another $30/month and doesn’t include the nice ability to share your connection as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 5 devices for another $20/mo. By my calculations, that would cost somewhere in the range of $110 per phone. The 450 minute limit on talk time and the additional up charges for data are the real killers here.
Despite the significant increase in cost, I’m coming to the point where the iPhone is becoming an extension of me. Alli no longer calls me on my normal phone because she knows that I leave it in my bag now. If I was picking up the bill, I am not sure if I could bite that bullet, especially with the Nexus S coming to Sprint this weekend.
But the bottom line is this: as predicted, I have loved the Verizon iPhone. In fact, I’d probably love it even more with more time spent using it because I would further customize it to my liking. I’ve been hesitant to do so with a device that I knew at some point I’d have to return back to the good people at Verizon. It’s been a little ridiculous carrying 3 phones around for the past month, but getting an extended period of time with a fully-functional non-AT&T iPhone has been totally worth it. I’m looking forward to seeing what the iPhone 5 brings in the fall.
So what phone do you carry and what do you love about it?