Ann Arbor Area Business Monthly
Small Business and the Internet

iPhone: One Man's Story

September 2008

By Mike Gould

Mike waiting in line to buy an iPhone

I hate standing in line, but sometimes a geek's gotta do what a geek's gotta do. So there I was bright and early, waiting in line at the AT&T store on July 11 when the new iPhone 3G went on sale. But I wasn't standing, I was sitting, because I knew it would be a long wait. In vain, as it turned out.

I arrived at 7:00 and they sold out 4 people ahead of me; I should have set the alarm a little earlier, I guess. So I got on the waiting list and trudged home, my old cell phone a cold, heavy weight in the pocket of my shorts.

I figured the line would be shorter at the AT&T store (versus the Ann Arbor Briarwood Apple store), and I was right. I hoped they would have sufficient quantities, and I was wrong. They had lots more at the Apple store, but sold out that day as well.

Happy ending: the next Saturday I had to go to the Apple store for another matter, and arriving at opening time, was informed that they had just received 2 iPhones, and did I want one? As it happened, I did, you betcha. We did the signup rigmarole and I was out the door, iPhone-empowered.

Why Do I Do Things Like This?
Loyal readers will recall that I rarely buy version 1.0 of anything, but this was version 2.0 (the 3G business refers to the high-speed network used by the iPhone - more on this later) and several clients were making noises about buying one, so I needed to get up to speed. And several professors at the UM School of Education where I work had them. And sometimes it's fun to have the latest and greatest. And I knew they would sell out so I HAD TO HAVE ONE RIGHT NOW. THIS MINUTE!

I researched the situation, buying two books which covered the Rev. 1 iPhone, and searching the Web for updated information (see references below). By the time I had the unit in my hot little hands, I pretty much knew what I was doing.

I got off to a somewhat rocky start in that my outgoing calls worked great, but my incoming calls were going to my old phone. I emailed AT&T support the next morning (Sunday), and was very pleased to receive an email (via my new iPhone while at a lake party west of Chelsea) that very afternoon that the problem had been resolved, and it has been clear sailing ever since. Amazing customer service, I must say.

My First Smartphone
This is my first foray into telephonic intelligence, having coped with a dopey old Verizon phone for the last 3 years. I was waiting for this very model to come out, I guess. The previous iPhone was way too expensive, but this model is merely a bit too expensive. The cost of the baseline model is $200, but I got the more expensive $300 jobbie, as it has more memory I can use to pack in thousands of photos, turning the device into a portable photo gallery. The catch is the monthly bill to support both the phone and data service. I haven't gotten my first bill yet, but I know I am going to pay nasally for the privilege of never being too far away from email, web surfing, and all the other functions I'm enjoying now.

What's Not to Like
I'll cover the downside first. The number one pain is the support cost; this is about the same as other smartphones, but at least $20 a month more than my dumbphone. I'm writing this off as a cost of doing digital business. The next complaint is that this phone uses 3G service, which is a high-speed data network service that is still being rolled out in many places in the country. If you go to the AT&T coverage site, you can see that most of Ann Arbor is covered, but support fades as you head west towards Dexter.

Not that big of a deal for me, as I don't need this most of the time, but if you live in say, Chelsea, you won't be able to take advantage of this feature. This only affects data behaviors, web surfing and email and the like, so if your main concern is telephone stuff, not to worry. And while 3G fades, AT&T's other service, the Edge network, is available for data stuff wherever there is a cell tower - slow, but it works (this how I got the email at the lake party).

The screen gets a bit smudged by being finger-prodded and held to your face, but a quick wipe with a shirt tail fixes this. The other downside is battery life; this thing can run out of mojo right quick if you have all the features turned on. There a number of ways around this: I turn off the power-hungry 3G network most of the time, relying on WiFi for my data needs, as I am rarely far from a base station. Turning down the screen brightness also helps.

What's to Like
Oh man, where to begin. A smartphone, by definition, has the ability to interact with your home computer, surf the web, check your email, and, oh yeah, send and receive calls. The iPhone does all the above, and, as it is essentially an iPhone on steroids, it also stores and displays movies, photos, music, Googlemaps, weather reports, a notepad, a camera, and a boatload of useful and not-so-useful applications you can download from the Apple Apps store.

So far I have downloaded (for cheap or free): Magic 8-ball (to help with my decision-making), a couple of Internet Radio players, a couple of weather apps that do different displays of radar maps, etc., a voice recorder, and the all-important More Cowbell app, in case I need more cowbell (obscure Saturday Night live joke).

Steve Jobs describes the iPhone as a platform: something that enables the use of applications the way that Macintosh OSX or Windows does. I think he is onto something: Apple sold $30 Million worth of apps in its first 30 days. Not bad for a new platform.

Books:
iPhone: The Missing Manual: Covers the iPhone 3G (wait for this 2nd edition) - David Pogue
The iPhone Book: How to Do the Things You Want to Do with Your iPhone (2nd Edition) - Scott Kelby

AT&T 3G coverage map:
http://www.wireless.att.com/coverageviewer/

Mike Gould, is a part-time mouse wrangler for the U of M, runs the MondoDyne Web Works/Macintosh Consulting/Digital Photography mega-mall, is a member of Factotem.com, and welcomes comments addressed to mgould@mondodyne.com.

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