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  • No, Folks, Most of You Don’t Need an iPhone!

    July 10th, 2007

    There, I’ve said it! The ultimate blasphemy, and indeed the millions of people who are busy saving their pennies for a new iPhone will probably think I’m crazy even to suggest such a thing. Indeed, I plead guilty, but I also think there’s a lot to be said for this point of view, without denigrating the quality of Apple’s cultural icon in-the-making.

    First, of course, there’s the huge investment. No, not the initial $499 or $599 purchase price. That’s easily gobbled up by your credit card. Rather, I’m talking about the two-year commitment to AT&T for a calling and data plan. All told, it adds up to an average investment of $2,000. It could be less if you buy the basic plan, or a lot more if you buy several iPhones or just need huge buckets of minutes.

    Yes, AT&T has a monthly Go Phone plan, where you pay for each month’s service in advance. It costs a little more, of course, and there is no long-term contract or early termination fee to worry about. But if you want to continue to use your iPhone, you’ll still continue to pay, so this alternative is best left to the credit-challenged.

    But even if the initial purchase price and monthly bill for your iPhone is not wearing you down, you really want to consider just what you expect to accomplish with your phone. As you’ve no doubt heard, even though it lacks a few features, the iPhone does a little bit of everything, and is more of a tiny computer than just a wireless phone. It’s also an iPod, a handheld organizer and a tiny Internet appliance.

    I bet you could even write a book on it, though I can see where typing speeds on that touch screen will quickly bog you down if you’re used to doing it the old fashioned way.

    So let’s start with the iPod. Do you have one now, and do you often take it with you when you travel? Having that gadget and a wireless phone in one handy device surely makes sense, except, of course, for the iPhone’s 8GB storage limit and the possible need to reduce the size of your on-the-go playlist.

    Don’t have an iPod or a music player of any sort? Well, what about the other features that are contained in an iPhone? Do you really need to take a gadget that helps you organize your life with you? Can you survive without having Internet access at your beck and call wherever you are?

    Indeed, can you wait until you get to your home or office to check your stuff?

    I just wonder how we all survived before the personal computer was invented. It must have been a pretty shallow lifestyle to have to use a pen, pencil or typewriter to write letters, and a postage stamp to send them. How did you ever avoid the instant gratification of having messages delivered to their recipients within minutes, rather than days or weeks? And don’t get me started about instant messaging.

    All right, I’m not here to change your lifestyle. I just want to put things in perspective before you order your new iPhone. Yes, it may be worth every penny Apple charges for it, but do you need what it offers?

    Now this is something I’ve been wrestling with for months. My mobile phone, a simple LG VX8600, derived from the LG Chocolate, does have various contact management tools, though they’re buried in a barrage of arcane menus with awkward operational steps. But the only contacts I store are the ones for friends and family; in other words, the phone numbers that I am apt to use frequently. It’s certainly not worth storing a contact that I’ll seldom use.

    My son, Grayson, however, has close to 100 contacts in his wireless phone, but that’s also his one and only phone. As with lots of young people these days, he doesn’t have a landline and probably will never get one.

    But there is another factor at work for me. You see, I’m constantly calling my wife, Barbara, about email when I’m on the road. If I travel for any extended period of time, I pop my 17-inch MacBook Pro in its case and store it in the trunk. I have a Verizon Wireless Internet card, so I can connect in most locales even when a Wi-Fi hotspot isn’t handy.

    Now, if I had an iPhone, I wouldn’t stop and check my email every few minutes, though I can see the possibility of casually glancing at the email menu at a traffic light, or writing a response while waiting for lunch or dinner to be served at a restaurant. Oh yes, that’s a little rude isn’t it?

    In perusing the iPhone’s electronic manual, I see that it also mates well with a car’s Bluetooth feature. That makes it a little more tempting. All right, I don’t take my iPod with me very often, but being able to get online and stay in touch has its attractions. Maybe I should start saving my pennies after all.



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