Ann Arbor Area Business Monthly
Small Business and the Internet

Phoning in a Mea Culpa

August 2009

By Mike Gould

Yesterday an actual reader response email poured in to my BizMo mailbox. This happens rarely, as my readers tend to be too busy with their businesses to bother commenting on my latest ravings. But this message was significant: it nailed me on some mistaken things I said in my last article about the iPhone. And since I was wrong about some details, I thought it best to fess up and set the record, if not straight, at least closer to the mark.

A faithful reader who works in a local phone store (and is a Verizon dealer) took umbrage to my referencing my old phone as a "dopey Verizon jobbie". He pointed out that Verizon had nothing to do with the perceived dopey-ness: Verizon Wireless is a network service and the lack of intelligence in my phone was due to the hardware, not Verizon. I had an LG phone that happened to be part of the Verizon network, and any perceived shortcomings were due to the phone, not the network.

And as he pointed out, this was a three-year old phone that was never intended to be particularly brainy. I should have made this more clear, and I hereby apologize to my reader and especially to Verizon. (Upon reflection, I think it unwise to taunt Verizon: I've seen the enormous posse that follows Verizon users around on TV, and going up against these guys is probably not a good idea...)

It Takes a Village
I should have taken more pains to point out that the iPhone/AT&T smartphone is but one communications solution among many, and I'm sure there are many, many people out there perfectly happy with their various Sanyo/LG/Motorola/Whatever smartphones talking over their Verizon/T-Mobile/Sprint/Whatever networks.

And many of these users have Macs and are perfectly happy with the interfacing of these various devices to their computers. But I know from experience that some of these Mac users have had issues with the above devices as well, so, IMNSHO (Geekspeak for "In my not so humble opinion" and I stress opinion) I generally recommend iPhones for Mac users.

I should also point out that iPhones are not perfect; I am still having issues with email via the U-M Exchange servers, but that's another story.

In my own defense, I did point out that the BlackBerry was still #1 in sales at that time. And hey, President Obama likes his BlackBerry so much he got a special high-security model to keep in touch.

I am stuck with AT&T for the moment, as that is currently the only carrier that works with the iPhone. I have been pleased with their service for the most part, but if the iPhone ever gets unshackled, I would seriously consider any of the other networks out there. I, like a lot of others here in the People's Republic of Ann Arbor, have still not forgiven AT&T for the warrantless snooping they permitted during the last administration. I keep hoping competition will drive prices down, as well. We'll see where we're at when my contract expires next July.

The final mistake I made was quoting the $67 per month fee I am paying. I forgot that this includes a discount provided by a connection between my employer, the U of M, and AT&T. If you work for the UM, inquire of your phone provider; you may be in for a similar discount. I think this applies to other corporations as well; it doesn't hurt to inquire. So I was quoting a non-competitive price, adding to my other sins. My apologies all around, again.

If you are shopping for a smart phone, I encourage you to do your research online and see what is out there. Then go to a local phone store and talk to a salesperson. As with anything else, continuing service is the key to a good experience with any technology you purchase. Check out the websites of local phone stores and see what user comments contain. Talk to your friends; see who they have been happy with. Research globally, but buy locally.

Smart phones are still an emerging technology, and the full impact of all they can do is still being explored. Yes, there is an increased cost to all of this, but it is worth it, to my mind. I met the publisher of Make magazine at a meeting last month - it was great being able to whip out my iPhone and show him the photos I intend to use for the article I am writing for him.

A Stunning Revelation
All this brings up an important point: I am not an absolute expert on everything I write about. I'll allow a moment of shocked silence from the audience.

I do my best to research everything and present what I think is the state of the issue, but I have limited resources and only 1000 words to tell my story. And I have my own set of biases and other baggage as well. Discerning readers will have by now detected an ever-so-slight preference towards the Mac platform, and a barely-perceptible disdain and loathing of everything Microsoft (except their mice; Microsoft makes great hardware, and yeah, this article is written in Word), but I do my best to remind folks that this little column is as much an opinion piece as a straight technology report.

Sometimes you need more than a grain of salt here; a generous handful is sometimes called for. Sometimes I will pull your leg until it comes off at the hip: see my April Fools piece of some years back (URL below, and I promised my publisher I wouldn't do this again). I find that a little humor goes a long way towards making technology palatable

Interacting
I do read my fan/hate email, and encourage each and every one of you to drop me line if you find something amusing, informative, helpful, or just plain wrong. Thanks again to my reader for calling me out on last month's article. I'll try to do better in the future.

April Fool's article:
http://mondodyne.com/b2b/smbiznet.62.shtml

Other articles about smartphones:
http://mondodyne.com/b2b/smbiznet.105.shtml http://mondodyne.com/b2b/smbiznet.113.shtml http://mondodyne.com/b2b/smbiznet.123.shtml http://mondodyne.com/b2b/smbiznet.127.shtml

Mike Gould, is a 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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