why I am not buying an iPhone

Update: Damn, this is a popular post. I am replying to comments below but I should note that I am not an iPhone expert. I have no special knowledge. I’m watching the news and the videos and reading the blogs like everyone else is. If you’re here looking for iPhone information consider the page on the iPhone on wikipedia which has collected a lot of what is currently known about it. Keep in mind also that there’s a whole lot that ISN’T known and won’t be known until the iPhone is released on friday and people actually take it apart and play with it.

Please note also that if you spam my blog with iPhone questions you’ve asked on every other blog that mentions the iPhone I will delete you. That’s really rude.

I’ve been asked a lot over the last week if I am going to be buying an iPhone, and twice if I’m going to be camping out to buy an iPhone. For some reason, I can’t imagine why, she said, innocently, I seem to have acquired the reputation for being kind of a cell phone freak.

I am not going to buy an iPhone, at least not this version. I am not an iPhone Hater, as those who lust for the iPhone are caling the doubters, but I personally feel little iPhone lust. My reasons:

  • The virtual keyboard. I’m a heavy smartphone keyboard user; I am a double-thumb typer and I rely on the feel of the keys to type fast and accurately. The word on street so far is that the iPhone’s virtual keyboard takes some getting used to but is not as bad as it looks, especially if you trust the error correction to work for you. I would like to see it for myself, and I would like real people to use it for a while and to express real world opinions (can the blackberry people use it? That’s what I want to know). I’m also suspicious that any virtual keyboard will ever be as comfortable to type on as a real keyboard with pressable keys. I have a hell of a time with real full size keyboards that do not have good tactile feedback — the joints in my hands hurt. Given how often I type and my experiences over the years with stress injuries in my hands this is something I pay attention to. I do not want a phone that will land me in physical therapy, no matter how cool it is.
  • The slow data connection. I was stunned when I heard in the original iPhone announcement that they were going with an EDGE cell connection. AT&T has a fast HSDPA 3G network in most major markets — I cannot comprehend why they didn’t use it. Apple seems to be blithely assuming that you can drop down to wifi at any time and then the connection will be speedy but as someone who has had a wifi phone for the last year I can assure future iPhone users that free and open wifi connections are not as ubiquitous as you might think, even in major urban areas. You will have to rely on EDGE, and EDGE is slow. I have EDGE with T-mobile and it is acceptable if you’re patient, but you have to be very patient. If you’re used to broadband or an EVDO connection it is going to drive you nuts.
  • I hate AT&T. OK, I hate all cell carriers. They are all evil. AT&T is perhaps more grossly incompetent and money-grubbing than sheer evil, but AT&T is still a big vote for iPhone: NO right there. It’s going to take an awful lot to get me to sign up with AT&T, especially with a two-year contract, although now that they’ve announced the iPhone plans and they are remarkably simple and not stupidly named (you have the “Elbows Landscape plan with My Hazelnuts”) I’m a bit less suspicious. To be fair, I would probably have precisely this same argument with any carrier at all, including T-Mobile where I am now.
  • $500+ for a phone no one has even seen. Speaking as someone who spent $500 on a phone last year that I hadn’t even seen this may seem like an odd complaint. I spent full retail on an unlocked, untethered phone, and I would do it again. I didn’t spend $500 on a phone that would also lock me into a $2000 long term contract with a carrier whose service I know isn’t all that great.
  • It is a first generation Apple device. I have had on-and-off experiences with first generation Apple devices; My first generation PowerPC mac was a complete mess; my first generation iPod was replaced once under warranty and broke again a few months later; my first generation 12″ powerbook was rock solid for its entire useful life and I loved it so much I bought another one. The iPhone is new enough in a variety of ways — and cell phones are integral enough to my life that I would really hurt if it broke — that I think I’ll sit out the first generation.
  • It’s just not that huge a revolution right now. It is an absolutely beautiful phone. The interface is gorgeous and there are obviously some really new ideas in interaction design there that are truly fascinating. Once the crowds in the stores die down I will be there in the Apple Store playing with it. I can definitely see buying one later on. But now? I have email and the web and Google Maps and text messaging on my phone. I have a camera and music. And I also have video and games and third-party applications. The interface isn’t as pretty on my Nokia. The screen is really small. The apps could be better designed and more useful. But its good for now.

I’ll wait.

In the meantime I do seem to have accidentally acquired a Nokia Internet Tablet. Its a wifi-based web browser and email device with a big high resolution screen that runs linux. I’m not exactly sure what came over me there.

8 thoughts on “why I am not buying an iPhone

  1. I listened to all the comments last night on TV news. There was a lot more time spent on the iphone that I thought there’d be. Negative, for the most part, and I don’t understand it. I love my Mac. I think Apple is great. Every company has issues. Just look at Microsoft. I am waiting in hot anticipation for the iphone. I want it. I want it. I want it. But now I have to take a few steps back. These are some great reasons to wait. Given the hefty investment, it might even be prudent to see if it has bugs with the initial release. I can’t believe it will, and doesn’t the software enable Apple to update/resolve bug issues without you having to buy another iphone. I don’t know. As a writer/web designer, email is a huge issue. That’s what I was hoping to improve with the iphone from what I have now. I’d like to hear more about the good that iphone offers.

  2. RE: EDGE vs. GPRS: Robert Cringely (he of ex-Infoworld fame) had some interesting ideas on this, the upshot being a Deep Throat-esque “follow the money”. I’m curious to see how this flies for the European iPhone since we’ve already GPRS and 3G which roughly bracket EDGE in terms of speed, and while there’s some EDGE availability it looks to be pretty limited.

    Laura: I would be shocked right to the teeth if they gave you GPRS. The phone would be unusable on the net. I thought I read somewhere that you’re getting UMTS for the euro iphone — you’ve got much better support for 3G over there in the modern world.

  3. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the iPhone and have chosen to take a vacation day off of work to purchase the phone on Friday. Having never stood in line for more than 1 hour.. (well maybe at Disneyland)..for any consumer product.. I don’t know what to expect…I think the first thing on my mind is.. HOW DO I USE THE RESTROOM?.. Do others hold my space in line? I heard this morning that “iPhoners” are already camping out in NY?.. Whats up with that…

    Anyway.. that is proper etiquette for camping out? I’m thinking it’s going to be a blood bath?

    Laura:Don’t ask me, I’m going to be home on friday night with a nice cold porter watching it all on TV. There’ve been rumors that the AT&T stores will have portapotties. Normally I believe the tradition with line campers is to do it with friends, in shifts, to solve such problems.

  4. You don’t pose any compelling reasons not to buy the iPhone yet you do contradict yourself by listing more than one compelling reason (why you or someone else) might want to indeed gain purchase of it. In fact, you admit that your current phone is a total compromise when compared to the iPhone.

    Because you hate all cell carriers, you will stay with your current phone that has sucky apps and a tiny screen? (AT&T has better coverage than T-Mobile and their 850Mhz penetrates to inside buildings better too, btw). Your network speed with the iPhone will be no worse than what you have now and in fact may be a lot better.

    Frankly, what you’ve shown is that you would gain a lot by getting an iPhone.

  5. Hank’s comments are sort of bizarre; I think your argument for not getting one is pretty strong. It includes many of the same points I’ve made elsewhere. I can’t fathom getting a device that restricted, with no developer ecosystem, no hope of an SSH client, no hope of any VPN clients, no real file sharing, no decent mail behavior, and no cut-and-paste — and that’s just for starters. My 8525 outperforms the iPhone on all these metrics, and cost less to boot. I’m an Apple fan, but the iPhone would represent a substantial step backward in functionality for me.

  6. The sole reason I am not buying one is that I cannot justify blowing $600 on a phone, particularly one that will not work in Japan for when I travel there.

    As for the feature set, I am completely happy though. It looks like a great device, and very well made.

  7. The V1.0 aspect scared me right off. Lorraine was going to get me one for my bday. I’m waiting for V2.0 and hopefully 3G. I have a 770 also, want to upgrade to the 880 – but have no idea why… I’m going to rely on you for the timing of the iPhone – thanks.

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