Apple iPhone 4 launch day; why I won't be buying one for the first time

There are lines all over the world for the Apple iPhone 4 launch today, but this time will be the first time I will be avoiding the lines and skipping the newest iPhone. Competition has risen and the carrier issues with AT&T are too much for me to handle.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributor on

Today is iPhone 4 launch day and being the smartphone fanatic that I am I tried to place a pre-order last week. The system was having major issues at the time so I ended up with just an in-store reservation to pick one up today. I purchased the last three iPhones and was in line either the night before or early on launch day for each one, but for iPhone 4 I have decided to pass up my opportunity to purchase the device after a week of evaluating my options and have no plans to purchase the iPhone 4 at this time. There were several factors that went into my final decision and I wanted to share them with you since I think there are others performing this same evaluation.

Let me start off by saying that I would have already purchased my iPhone 4 if I was an existing AT&T customer who was eligible for an iPhone discounted upgrade because I think the iPhone 4 is clearly the best smartphone available on the AT&T network. That said, I am not currently a subscriber so the decision is not quite as easy. Here is a list of the factors that went into my decision, with more details for each factor following my list:

  1. AT&T network performance
  2. Sprint vs Verizon vs AT&T monthly fee comparison
  3. iOS experiences on iPhone 3GS
  4. The Android competition

Please keep in mind these are MY reasons and everyone will have different preferences, network performance, and desires so I am not judging anyone or saying that the iPhone 4 is not the device you should purchase. Much of my chagrin also is directly related to the AT&T network, which is not applicable to those readers outside the US.

AT&T network performance

I purchased the original iPhone in 2007, followed by the 3G and then the 3GS. I was an AT&T subscriber each of those times and dropped them twice during these past three years. My last attempt was a way I thought would get my whole family onto AT&T so we could eventually be an iPhone family, but that failed miserably when we experienced dropped calls almost every day in areas where different phones, not just the iPhone, showed strong signal strength. If your network cannot be reliable for the basics then there is no reason to stay with the carrier and pay huge monthly fees. I know that carrier performance varies wildly by geographic position so this issue may not affect you at all.

I have been an extremely happy T-Mobile customer for about 9 years and my calls never drop while I get full coverage just about everywhere I live, work, and play. I also have seen very good network performance from Sprint and Verizon. AT&T's issues for me may be related directly to the number of iPhone customers in my area, but I am not willing to put up with and pay for substandard network performance any longer.

Sprint vs Verizon vs AT&T monthly fee comparison

I recently dropped Verizon and switched to Sprint for the HTC EVO 4G. A factor here was the carrier offerings and even with the $10 premium data fee, Sprint ends up being less expensive than Verizon and AT&T while offering more services. Let's take a look at the lowest individual calling plan with data and unlimited text messaging as a comparison and here is what we see:

  • AT&T: $39.99 for 450 minutes, 2GB data plan for $25, unlimited text for $20, and AT&T Navigator for $6.99 (current promo price) all for a total of $91.98
  • Sprint: $69.99 for 450 minutes with UNLIMITED data, unlimited text, included Sprint Navigation, NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile, Sprint TV and more and premium EVO data fee of $10, all for a total of $79.99 before taxes
  • Verizon Wireless: $59.99 for 450 minutes and unlimited text, $29.99 for UNLIMITED data, $9.99 per month for VZ Navigator all for a total of $99.97

You can also add WiFi tethering with Verizon or Sprint, while Apple offers a cable tethering option for the iPhone 4. I regularly hit 2GB of data with my regular smartphones and imagine with a more powerful iPhone 4 people will reach that 2GB level. Additional GB cost $10/month so you could add $10 or $20 to the AT&T total above if you are a heavy data user. Verizon has also announced they will be following AT&T and moving to a metered data strategy soon. After yesterday's revealing of the Verizon Motorola Droid X and Andrew's review I was seriously considering the device over my EVO, but the $20/month savings affected this decision as well.

It is pretty clear here that Sprint offers the most for less and this was a good exercise for me to perform because it helped me confirm that the Sprint EVO 4G is the right device at this time for my needs.

iOS 4 experiences on iPhone 3GS

A couple of days ago I upgraded my iPhone 3GS to iOS 4 and was able to spend quite a bit of time with it yesterday to get a good feel for the new operating system. I do like the ability to finally organize my apps into limited folders and the task switcher is handy. I do not like the "multitasking" implementation though as I have seen it freezing where I left apps and not allowing true multitasking where things keep running in the background. For example, I started loading a webpage, then jumped into refresh my Twitter feed, then jumped over to read an email and into Kobo to download some ebooks. I went back to the webpage and it did not load anymore than where I left it and then checked Kobo to find the book was in the same download position I left it in. I know that true multitasking probably has a major hit on battery life and understand Apple's desire to control this, but I personally would rather I be allowed to manage this and have things run the way I want them too.

I have owned the first three iPhones and have never stuck with using them for an extended period of time. I like the apps and the user experience for the most part, but do not like just having application shortcuts all over the home screens. I want more on my smartphone and the iOS just doesn't do it for me.

The Android competition

The other hottest mobile operating system today is Google Android with the Sprint HTC EVO 4G and Verizon Motorola Droid X the main competitors at this time while T-Mobile will soon have the Samsung Galaxy S. I like the iPhone operating system for many reasons, but here are my personal reasons that I prefer the Google Android operating system:

  • Outstanding notifications system
  • Widgets and/or Home screen glanceable information
  • Unshackled multitasking and user control
  • Hardware variations (huge touchscreen or QWERTY keyboard designs)

I do believe that Apple's iOS offers a smoother, more consistent user experience that I know will appeal to the masses. However, I need these things above to be implemented before I find iOS as useful to me as the Google Android OS. Palm's webOS offers a fun and intuitive experience while also meeting some of my needs above, but there is no compelling hardware at this time running webOS. I also don't think applications are a factor any longer, except for games, since I am able to find any application I want on Android that I use on the iPhone.

I should also mention that the Sprint HTC EVO 4G will get better in a few months when HTC and Sprint release the Google Android 2.2 (Froyo) update with support for Adobe Flash, Bluetooth voice control, speed increases, battery life improvements, improved Android Market, microSD card app install support, Gmail switcher, and much more.

The new iPhone 4 display is probably phenomenal, except for the yellow spots, but I honestly cannot see the pixels on my EVO 4G display either when I hold it close to my face and much prefer the larger 4.3 inch display size. I like the quality and performance of the camera and dual LED flash lights on the HTC EVO and particularly enjoy using the kickstand.

Can you now understand where I am coming from and why I am not getting the iPhone 4 today?


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