November: That’s When I Leave Apple

Now I have a date: November 2010.

That’s the target date for me to leave my iPhone behind for an Android phone.

That’s the day I get out from under Steve’s thumb.

Why Leave? I Need a Phone.
Let me make one thing clear. I love my iPhone. I use it constantly, have downloaded over two hundred applications, use a battery case to extend its life because I use it so much, and have an unreasonable iPhone headset collection. It’s a brilliant consumer device for the masses.

It’s also the worst cell-phone I have ever owned.

To be fair, it is also the only AT&T phone I have owned. But even my Sprint Spectrum chocolate-bar phone complete with rubber antenna was more reliable than this, way back in the late ’90s. My succession of Verizon phones from Qualcomm, Samsung, LG, and Motorola were always great phones.

My iPhone (I’ve been through three) is the worst phone I’ve ever owned in terms of call quality and reliability. This week, driving down an Interstate (I-70) in central Maryland, I dropped a call to a land-line. Twice. Inside twenty minutes. Long conversations have become a sort of a game. How long will the call stay up? Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen!

My wife has a really old BlackBerry that she carries for work, on T-Mobile. Color screen, but still a roller button on the side. Big, fat and ancient looking. But you know what? She uses that thing for conference calls to India all the time and never drops a damn call. She has an iPhone as well (my old 3G), but comparatively, it sucks as a phone.

Shiny is nice. Shiny and unreliable is not.

When the 3GS came out, I committed to at least a year with AT&T. At the time, the Android ecosystem was pretty nascent, and Palm and Blackberry were not real choices. So I’ve put up with the lousy phone in the iPhone in exchange for the wonderful computer in the iPhone. But that day is done.

Remember the AT&T ad where Luke Wilson snarks that if a Verizon customer wants to get data during a call, they should carry a second phone? That’s what I feel like regarding voice calls on my iPhone. Sure, it is possible that it is all in my areas of usage, that I consistently run though a fringe area of coverage, etc. But that is irrelevant. AT&T has had data on my lost calls for years now, and nothing has changed. Mostly I believe this is because the iPhone is responsible for the bulk of my call quality problems.

Why Leave? It’s Steve’s World, I Just Get To Pay For It.
Really, it is. From no Google Voice, to no multi-tasking, to no Flash, to no Fennec (Mobile Firefox), to no boobies — the iPhone is as closed a system as can be constructed. For a lot of folks this is a non-issue. For me, it grates, all the time.

For example, this summer I’ll finally get multitasking on my 3GS. I am, in fact, really excited about this.

But I would be more excited about this if it didn’t give me back something I used to have under Windows Mobile on my reviled Motorola Q. Years ago. I used to be able to use rudimentary Flash on that same device, using the Skyfire browser. I had three browsers on my Q (although Mobile IE is so putrid it shouldn’t count). I was able to listen to streamed media in the background. I could install any old thing on that phone. Thanks to software, it did tricks it’s creators never envisioned.

And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with Apple’s tight control. What the iPhone can do is always constrained by Apple’s rules, Apple’s morality, Apple’s taste, Apple’s business needs. I don’t begrudge them the ability to make money, but I do begrudge them enforcing there vision so completely.

Take iTunes, for example. No really, just take iTunes away! When will I be able to lose iTunes, one of the most bloated, buggy, and generally annoying pieces of software around? It has come to remind me of Real Player’s old installs, with bunches of background processes, annoying update nags, and sucky performance. But I can’t get rid of it, not anytime soon. Steve’s vision includes every customer having iTunes, so I have to have iTunes. Even if it is craptastic in the extreme, and pushes a desktop-centric view of the world regarding my phone.

(BTW, Apple could solve all of these problems in one fell swoop by allowing third-party stores for the iPhone. I understand the heat in Hell could be solved by a convenient freezing-over as well.)

When To Leave? That’s Up To The Yankees
When to leave was a harder question. I’m not opposed to paying some of an early termination fee, but not too much. I went through all my apps recently, and there are only a core ten or so I really have to have. And even the apps I need to have are platform apps; I love Twittelator Pro, but I’ll be reasonably happy with any decent Twitter app. But I am addicted to MLB At Bat.

MLB At Bat is not just a little update app with balls and strikes; it gives you, when you by the online package for around $100, streamed home and away live video and audio feeds for every game. I use this all the time to listen to Yankees’ games when I can’t get to my TV. (For my TV, I use the streaming to actually watch the games in pretty good 480p HD.) Yes, MLB At Bat is available for Android, but it goes against the grain to pay twice in the same season for it.

So, I’ll use the baseball season as my departure point. Once the Yankees playoff run is over, whether they win or not (Go Yankees!), I’m gone to Verizon’s most capable Android phone. Figure on November. I’ll watch the phone announcements as it may be worth it to wait for specific phone to be released, and I’ll start compiling a list of replacement apps.

I’ll miss the shiny iPhone experience, but I miss reliable phone service more.

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4 Comments on “November: That’s When I Leave Apple”

  1. Cathy Says:

    Hey cuz — I’ve heard similar from others who have an iPhone. I’ll stick with my Blackberry (just upgraded yesterday from the old version, similar to your wife’s, to the new Tour. So far, I think it will be great!).

    I actually won’t use any Apple products because they’ve made it such a proprietary experience. I loved the Mac I had in the late 90’s, but I don’t want to be one of Steve’s subjects.

    BTW, I travel around the country, and Verizon is the best carrier I’ve ever had in terms of keeping the calls going.

    • designbygravity Says:

      “Steve’s Subjects” — that’s funny.

      Yeah, for too many years I took call quality and reliability for granted with Verizon. I’ve reached my breaking point with the iPhone.

  2. Joonas Says:

    How about just switching from AT&T to some more reliable network? (Yes I know that Apple makes it painful as they do not support other networks, but still it is possible and might be less of a trouble than switching to another platform altogether).

    • designbygravity Says:

      Well, if I am going to leave for network reasons, I’m going with Verizon because they have the best network around here (Baltimore/Washington area). CDMA iPhones seem to be a ways off yet.

      Though if Apple announced an iPhone for Verizon, that might do it.

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