Observations on the iPhone 3GS

Okay, we succumbed to the pressure and switched to iPhones.  Yep, the 3GS.  Our contract with Sprint was ending and we had the choice of upgrading to some sort of touch-screen PDA-like device after a few years of Motorola RAZRs.  We looked at them all, Palm Pre, HTC Touch Pro 2, Sprint’s Android, CrackBerry – Every operating system, piece of glitzy hardware and voice/data plan out there.  And the iPhone 3GS won.  Hands down.

Set aside the fact that switching to a Windows Mobile 6 device on Sprint would cost us the same, with a $150 loyalty discount, as if we had walked off the street as a new customer (Wireless companies have never really understood customer loyalty).  And forget that a new, discounted, Palm Pre or CrackBerry would set us back more than the non-discounted iPhone 3GS.  Or that the data plan from AT&T was less expensive than the competition.  Or that the Android and CrackBerry, in spite of the ability to develop third-party apps, really don’t have anything useful available on them.  The iPhone is just simply designed better.

Nobody ever said Apple couldn’t design sexy hardware.  Even without drinking the KoolAid™, Apple hardware has always been a designer’s wet dream.  And the proprietary software has always been designed from the user’s perspective, not the twisted mind of some geeky developer who has arcane keyboard shortcuts embedded in his DNA.  No, we don’t buy the “Macs always run perfect” routine — over the years we’ve seen more than our share of Sad Macs and Mac Bombs, and we struggle with the fact that the only user-solution available is to rebuild the desktop.  And we know that statistically it’s less likely to get a virus on a Mac, but we don’t get viruses, trojans or malware on a PC either — we know how to prevent that.  Even with all that, the iPhone just happens to be a user’s wet dream too.

First, it fits your hand.  All the touch-screen competitors make lousy phones, they don’t fit your hand next to your ear.  Sure, we could join the Borg and get Bluetooth implants on our cheekbones, but that’s not how we use a phone.  Yes, we have used the devices, the Jawbone is absolutely awe insipiring, but sticking a plug in our ear will have to wait until we have lost our natural hearing or we are assigned to a Special Forces detail guarding the President.

More importantly, the iPhone fits your pocket.  One reason we loved the RAZR phones is the clamshell devices were sleek and slipped into your jeans pocket beautifully.  Sure, the shiny coating was rubbed raw, but the phone was protected while banging around with keys, coins and the occasional gore and grit that slip into everyone’s life.  The iPhone, with its exposed touch screen and rather expensive repair policies, is far more scary to slip into your pocket.  But it’s just as capable.  A rubberized slider case from Incase, another group of wet-dream designers, and a cheap screen protector have kept the iPhone from major, and even minor, damage.  The oleophobic glass screen technology Apple chose is far superior to any touch-screen we’ve seen in the area of shedding potential dust, damage or dingyness.  If possible, the glass even appears to shed finger prints and smudges, a technology we’d like to see on our drinking glasses, eyeglasses and windshields.

And the iPhone has apps.  We have Zunes for our MP3 source, and we’re not enamored enough with music to waste our money with iTunes, but there are other apps available for the 3GS.  Like the Geocaching app.  Yes, we’re weekend Geocachers (Sunweasels), and the iPhone makes those park and grabs a bit easier.  We no longer have to plan a Geocaching expedition and load the GPS coordinates, we can thumb up a local cache for a lunch time break.  It doesn’t replace a real GPS, for one thing it’s far less accurate, but the iPhone 3GS, and the Geocaching app, is always tucked in our pocket.

Or mounted on the dash mount in the Wrangler.  It doesn’t bounce like a dedicated GPS (Garmin GPSMap 60CSx) does, plus with a simple cable it becomes the stereo source.  Satellite radio cuts out under trees, but the free Pandora app for the iPhone shines.  We have our own dedicated station playing our own range of hits, with no monthly/annual fee, and better reception than any satellite radio.  As a by-product for a pretty decent phone.

And that may be the key to our pleasure with the iPhone 3GS.  First and foremost, we need a phone.  Not a MP3 player, not a gaming system, not a mapping device and not a way to find the nearest public rest room.  A list of contacts, voice dialing and some sort of voice mail are the primary needs.  And, well served by the iPhone 3GS, these needs somehow fade into the background.  They’re not afterthoughts in this device, as they appear to be with the texting-scion CrackBerry or the sliding-keyboard Palm Pre, which has a more convoluted keyboard than even the CrackBerry.  They’re not overly complicated, as in most implementations of Windows Mobile.  They’re not even as difficult as they were with the phone-only RAZR.

We’re satisfied.  We tried the competitors, even the Go Phone and other disposables (actually quite expensive to use…).  We tried to stay with Sprint, we were happy with the coverage and service even though their pricing kinda ticked us off.  We had even left AT&T for Sprint years ago, when Cingular took over AT&T and their service took a nose dive.  We’ve been moderately satisfied with AT&T, coverage is okay for where we travel, but we probably would be more satisfied with other carriers.  AT&T got us simply because of the iPhone.  And the iPhone 3GS got us simply because, for our needs, it was the best.  Hands down.  Even if the Mac Geniuses are kind of annoying.

Disclaimer

We like our iPhones, you may not.  We really don’t care, but if you buy an iPhone because of us and regret your decision, don’t blame us.  We have a limited amount of exposure to them so far, and we use our phones differently than you may, so it’s your fault if you blindly follow the advice of some schmuck with a blog.

On the other hand, while we are iPhone converts, we don’t really like Macs for computers (we’ve been using them for a decade for specific tasks).  It may be the devil we know, but we’re comfortable with the PC, it goes above and beyond what we can get from a Mac at a third the price.  Or less.  A $300 Acer Aspire One Netbook running Windows 7 beats a MacBook Air any day of the week.  And we could break about five of them before we spent as much as we would have on the Air.  While we think the Mac versus PC commercials are cute, Windows, for us, is the better choice.  Though we have to admit, the Mac makes a good hardware platform for running Windows.

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