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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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    9 Responses to “No, Folks, Most of You Don’t Need an iPhone!”

    1. paul graham says:

      I usually agree with you, but my service only costs me 20.00 per month. How you say? Well I am already a cell phone customer of Cingular (AT&T), so changing to an iPhone really only costs me an additional $20. And, I'll bet that the far marjority of iPhone purchasers are current cell phone owners. And some of the plans offered cost more that of AT&T, so in reality it is possible that many people have nearly a zero net cost of plan (not phone, and not including early termination fees). Anywy, keep up the great writing.Paul

    2. Dana Sutton says:

      I'm probably very unusual, but I share the view of a local newspaper columnist. I already have a cell phone. I don't use it to call anybody. Nobody uses it to call me. That's what a cell phone is for.

    3. Jim Wright says:

      I always love your column, but this is the worst article you have ever written. Lecturing us that we don't need an iPhone, partly based on YOUR lifestyle? Sounds like I heard that before about the iPod. Just what we need, another judgmental know-it-all. Sorry, but this is the 21st century and it is time to get with it and open your imagination.  

    4. Chris says:

      I don't have an iPhone (I'm a Verizon customer).  I don't see that the cost of the ownership of the  iPhone is any higher than a phone with another carrier.  I've heard several "commentators" make such statements.  The truth of the matter is, the iPhone plans are a little more competitive than what you see with other carriers.  Verizon's $99 plan includes 450 mins plus unlimited data.  ATT's plan is $59.  The Verizon plan DOES include unlimited SMS.  But you do get rollover minutes on ATT.  Yes, the iPhone cost more than any other Smartphone.  If the iPhone proves more reliable and stable than my Treo then I'd be willing to pay more.  My 2¢.

    5. Dave says:

      I agree. I'll just keep my Motorola T720 with an Alltel 15 cents/min prepaid plan, and my 20G iPod. I can't imagine feeling like I need to be connected any more than that!

    6. I always love your column, but this is the worst article you have ever written. Lecturing us that we don’t need an iPhone, partly based on YOUR lifestyle? Sounds like I heard that before about the iPod. Just what we need, another judgmental know-it-all. Sorry, but this is the 21st century and it is time to get with it and open your imagination.

      I think that if you actually read the article from beginning to end, you’d see there’s a satirical aspect to it, and I end up deciding that I might actually want one of those things.

      Peace,
      Gene

    7. AMGoff says:

      Satirical or not Gene, the fact remains I’m amazed by tech pundits who constantly dwell on the $2000. Is it because it’s a nice, big, round number and you like nice, big, round numbers? The iPhone has already been hyped enough as it is, so why add to the hysteria? Before the iPhone came out I never once heard anyone say “Oh, don’t get that free phone, it’s really going to cost you $1500!” Service contracts are ubiquitous with cell phones and have been for a very long time, two years being standard fare. A lot of people choose to stick with the same carrier long after their initial contract is up. We’ve been with Cellular One.. er.. Cingul..er.. AT&T for over 12 years now, so how big of a deal was it to sign another two years. Aside from that, if you were ever knowledgeable with Cingular’s old data plans you’d realize this isn’t that bad of a deal. We were already paying $40 a month for the service plus an extra $5 for the 200 text messages, so really we’re only paying an extra $15 dollars a month for unlimited data. I don’t think that’s a bad deal at all. I do commend you though for not bringing up the “slow and feeble” EDGE network as others have when bringing up the whole $2000 thing. As they are they two things that have really urked me about all the writers. While not on wifi I’ve consistently benched between 150-200kpbs, which I find more than respectable. I often wonder how old some of these “experts” are, since they’re obviously not old enough to remember surfing on a 14.4k dialup.

      Bottom line Gene, satire or not – Don’t add to the hype, counter it.

    8. Satirical or not Gene, the fact remains I’m amazed by tech pundits who constantly dwell on the $2000. Is it because it’s a nice, big, round number and you like nice, big, round numbers? The iPhone has already been hyped enough as it is, so why add to the hysteria? Before the iPhone came out I never once heard anyone say “Oh, don’t get that free phone, it’s really going to cost you $1500!” Service contracts are ubiquitous with cell phones and have been for a very long time, two years being standard fare. A lot of people choose to stick with the same carrier long after their initial contract is up. We’ve been with Cellular One.. er.. Cingul..er.. AT&T for over 12 years now, so how big of a deal was it to sign another two years. Aside from that, if you were ever knowledgeable with Cingular’s old data plans you’d realize this isn’t that bad of a deal. We were already paying $40 a month for the service plus an extra $5 for the 200 text messages, so really we’re only paying an extra $15 dollars a month for unlimited data. I don’t think that’s a bad deal at all. I do commend you though for not bringing up the “slow and feeble” EDGE network as others have when bringing up the whole $2000 thing. As they are they two things that have really urked me about all the writers. While not on wifi I’ve consistently benched between 150-200kpbs, which I find more than respectable. I often wonder how old some of these “experts” are, since they’re obviously not old enough to remember surfing on a 14.4k dialup.

      Bottom line Gene, satire or not – Don’t add to the hype, counter it.

      Well, as with anything else, you need to decide what sort of wireless phone service you need, rather than buy the Rolls-Royce version 🙂

      Peace,
      Gene

    9. Bill says:

      That’s a fairly recent change.

      AT&T’s introduction of “Fine EDGE” did coincide with the iPhone.

      Before that, most areas were looking at EDGE speeds about 2x dialup.

      Usable, but nothing like “Fine EDGE”

      >While not on wifi I’ve consistently benched between 150-200kpbs,

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