Resisting the iPhone 4

For the last 17 months I have been the relatively happy use of an iPhone 3G on O2. I have made extension use of the device and it has become an integral part of my life. In principle, I would prefer to use an Android phone as I am more inclined to the open standards nature of that platform that Apple’s closed-shop mentality BUT the Apple choice just works and is so easy. I bought on an 18-month contract, so am free to do whatever I want now.

Oddly, for a phone, its primary use has not been for phone calls. This is partly down to the failure of its built in earpiece early this year which meant I could only hear people if I plugged in headphones. It was out of warranty at 12 months so down to me to get repaired, but I did not want to be without it whilst repairs took place.

The things I would have missed most were:

  • listening to audible books – I have a four-hour drive at the head and tail of most working weeks, cannot rely on Radio 4 having anything interesting on, and do not enjoy listening to music for that length of time when driving. Listening to readings of books by excellent readers/actors is something I enjoy a lot. I subscribe to audible, £15 a month gives me two credits to buy two books a month typically unabridged works lasting at least 10 hours and in many cases as long as twice that.
  • reading electronic books – don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy reading dead-tree versions but, with the exception of discounted books, it is usually easier, cheaper and more convenient to buy a book online (I mostly use the Stanza app, now owned by Amazon, over the ereader, ibook and kindle apps). There are thousands of free books available, covering all of the  classics, amongst other things.
  • podcasts using rss reader – a mixture of technology pod casts such a TNT on TWiT and CNET’s BOL
  • twitter client and some general social networking
  • email client – the ability to check, and respond, on the hoof is brilliant
  • calendar client synced to Google calendars so I can see multiple calendars for both social and work activities for each member of the family
  • contacts synced to Google contacts
  • checking things on the web went away from my laptop

I am not much of a games player these days, although the iPhone is now a popular gaming platform. Using it as a rich information device is my priority.

When IBM in the UK switched from O2 to Vodafone some years ago, as part of the deal we all ended up with crapberry (sorry, Blackberry) phones. Mostly small Pearl models, with an expectation of data services to follow (executives received larger models with full QWERTY keyboards and were immediately connected to the corporate email/diary systems). Sadly, I found this phone one of the most useless devices I have ever come across. After years of using Nokias, I take a decent user interface to be a given. The Pearl’s was terrible. Inconsistent, counter-intuitive, and inefficient to say the least. Even Blackberry has concluded that the odd two-letters per key semi-qwerty layout was stupid (the latest version follows the traditional key/text pad format). Often, when someone texted my on my crapberry, I would reply using my iPhone (confusing I know, but better than them waiting half-an-hour for me to send from the crapberry).

It has been a pain carrying around two phones. How pleased was I therefore when IBM decided to do a deal with Vodafone to allow staff to buy 3GS iPhoness at a discounted price and put them onto the corporate billing rates and arrangements (calls to numbers not registered by me as business numbers get charged to me at corporate rates and deducted by payroll from my monthly salary).

However, the deal coincided near enough with the launch of the iPhone 4 but did not include it. Damn. After a lot of heart searching, I realised that whilst the latest all singing version appealed to the techie in me, I really just wanted something a bit faster than the 3G and with a video option (like just about all other half-decent phones on the market). So I bought a 3GS under the scheme (and, it turns out, saved myself around £150). Shortly, IBM will offer me internal mail/calendar devices on this device and pay for the first 1Gb of data I use, unftil then, I pay £10 per month – a lot less than I was paying O2.

It is rather sad though to be reminded that Vodafone has a poor signal in my home, and this is even worse on an iPhone. I am being driven batty by a pop-up message that tells me on a regular basis that I have dropped off of the network (annoying when you are trying to read a book). Vodafone have a fix for this: a femtocell which effectively gives you your own local mini-tower that uses your broadband connection to link back into the vodafone network. There are already common in the USA (which has a lot of coverage problems) but only Vodafone does them here at the moment I believe. The Vodafone offering is called Sure Signal and costs £50. Or at least it does if you are a Vodafone consumer customer. For a corporate customer it costs £120. Argh. I don’t see why I should pay anything to provide cover to my home – its not as if I am living out in the wilds. I have to ponder this. I could maybe be persuaded at £50.

Providing you do not touch the externally exposed aerials, the iPhone 4 is supposed to be a lot better. Maybe I bought too soon.

I have been pleased to put the crapberry to the back of a draw only to be called into service should my new iPhone 3GS develop problems.

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