Hamlet misses out on the new iPhone

Alas, poor Blackberry...

Alas! poor Blackberry. I knew it, Horatio; a device of infinite usefulness, of most excellent fancy; it hath borne me on its back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! ... Where be your emails now? your Tweets? your texts? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the Blogosphere on a roar?

To switch or not to switch, that is the question…

Get thee to a Verizon, go!…

Something is rotten in the state of 3G…

Neither a Twitterer nor a blogger be…

My hour is almost come
When I to sulphrous and tormenting flames
Must render up my PDA…

OK, so none of those work as well as I’d like. But the thing is, my Hamlet-like indecision caused me to miss out on the first wave of iPhones being offered by Verizon, so I will not be one of the cool kids (I’m sure this amazes you). I was thinking about making the move today, but then I see that they’re all gone. There will be more next week, but that’ll be like being the 27th man in space, instead of the first. And now that the first rush of lust for the new gadget has been disappointed… I’m wondering if I should wait a bit longer than that.

Here are the facts, which I’m sure Shakespeare could render more beautifully, but I will stick to plain prose:

  • I work in an office full of Apple people. All the computers in the office are Macs. For my part, I bring my laptop PC into the office every day, and work from that. Yeah, I get it; Macs are cool. But my fingers do all the PC commands so automatically that I find the Mac functions awkward, laborious.
  • Some of these people I work with are fanatical about their iPhones (and their iPads, etc., but that’s not what this is about). And over time I’ve seen what their iPhones can do that my Blackberry Curve can’t, and how beautifully they do those things, and I’ve thought that if I could have one, I might want to.
  • My entire extended family (and I have a large family), except for one of my sons, is on Verizon. Several of us are on the same family plan, which is economical. I just couldn’t see getting an AT&T device. So for the last year or so, I seized upon every rumor that Verizon would get the iPhone.
  • My Blackberry has been acting up for months — losing the data signal and having to be reset (by turning it off, taking the battery out, putting it back in, and waiting a long time while the hourglass spins before it works again) several times a day. Lately, it’s started turning itself off completely, and refusing to come back on unless I go through the whole reset routine.
  • I was due for an upgrade as of January. Miracle of miracles, that’s when Verizon and Apple made the announcement that the longed-for day had come.
  • I figured I could spring for an iPhone at the upgrade price ($199) from my blog account. I would need to, because it would not fit into our new, super-tight, post-England household budget. Besides, Mamanem, who pays the household bills, does not believe anyone needs such a gadget, even though I do. (I’ve tried to explain the critical importance of having constant, excellent connection to my blog readers, Twitter followers and Facebook friends, but she looks at me like I’m babbling in Sanskrit. She thinks of me as being the Dad in the commercial, Tweeting “I’m… sitting… on… the… patio“)
  • I started worrying that another barrier could lie in my way: What if the monthly cost of data access was greater than with the Blackberry? No way I’d get that through the family Ways and Means committee.
  • Last week, I went by Verizon (that is to say, made the trek out to Harbison at the end of a long day) to ask some questions about the upcoming iPhone, asking specifically whether it would cost more per month, and no one knew. All they knew was that I could order one starting Feb. 3. So I left, figuring they’d know more then.
  • Meanwhile, asking around, I learned to my shock that my friends with AT&T iPhones were only paying $25 a month. This kind of ticked me off, because I was paying $45 a month (part of a family plan account costing well over $200 a month). They had a better device and were paying less for it, which seemed to me outrageous. I began to wonder whether I should secede from the family plan and go with AT&T after all. AT&T had been tempting me with an offer for a TV/internet/landline deal that sounded better than what I had with TimeWarner; maybe I could save even more by adding mobile…
  • Then someone told my wife that I was probably paying more than the usual because when I got the Blackberry originally, in January 2009, it was on a corporate server (you know, “Corporate Server” is on my list of potential names for my band). This hassle sort of ticked me off at the time, because up until that time I had had a company phone, but now the paper was making people go buy their own phones, and then be reimbursed a set amount that, of course, would not match the full monthly cost of the device. Two months later, I promptly forget that enormous injustice when I learned of another innovative cost-saving measure — I was laid off. No one at Verizon ever told me that I was paying $45 a month because I was initially connected to a corporate server. Nobody at Verizon noticed that I was no longer connected to anything of the kind. So for almost two more years, I paid $15 too much a month.
  • Last night, it being Feb. 3, I went back to Verizon, hoping for some answers. I was happy to learn that an iPhone would NOT cost any more a month for the data. Then I told the guy that I suspected I was paying too much a month already, and he looked it up, and said yes, I was. So he fixed it, and said from then on I would only have to pay $30 a month for data. I asked him whether I would be reimbursed for all those overpayments. He said no, quite flatly. This was one of those techie sales people who makes you feel like all your questions are stupid and an imposition on his valuable time (every question I asked, he answered with a tone and a look that said, “Are you quite done bothering me?”), so the cold look in his eyes as he let me know what a stupid question the one about reimbursement was was in no way a departure from the rest of our conversation.
  • He said if I wanted an iPhone, I’d have to order it online, and that the first day they’d have them at the actual store would be Feb. 10, but that if I weren’t in line by about 5 a.m., I probably wouldn’t get one.
  • I had thought that the new iPhone would work on the new 4G network when that rolled out, but he said no, it wouldn’t.
  • Then he raised a new problem… he mentioned, in passing, that in moving to an iPhone I’d lose some data — such as old voicemails. Well, I didn’t care about that, but it made me wonder: Would I lose any of my 2,044 contacts I’d accumulated over the years, starting in my Palm Pilot days (and when I say “contacts,” I mean several phone numbers and email addresses each, street addresses, extraneous notes about each person — the crown jewels to me, and quite irreplaceable) or my calendar, and would it still sync with my data on my laptop? (As you may know, I lost access to it all on my computer for several months after a disastrous Outlook crash.) My stuff was all on Google now, connected to my gmail account (which is what brad@bradwarthen.com is), so surely it would work, right? He said he didn’t know. When I insisted upon knowing, he wearily passed the question on to another Verizon employee. She didn’t know either. So I asked the clerk whether he thought I should get a Droid instead, since it is built on Google. He shrugged. I asked him what he would do. He said he had a Droid, and showed it to me. I asked whether he was thinking at all of getting an iPhone instead, and he said, no, not unless they gave him one. Which they wouldn’t.
  • To me, there is little point to a PDA — Twitter and email and all aside —  if the contacts and calendar don’t sync smoothly with something also accessible via laptop. Might as well have an ol’ dumb phone as that.
  • Lose all my contacts, or even not be able to sync them smoothly? Must give us pause: There’s the respect that makes technological indecision of so long life. I was 99 percent sure that there was no way Steve Jobs would make something that wouldn’t connect smoothly with gmail data. But that wasn’t good enough. Sure, I could go home and order an iPhone online, but I wouldn’t be able to get my questions answered first. Even if I could chat with a person online, to what extent could I trust their assurances? Wouldn’t I need it in writing? And no online salesperson would have time for that — there were millions of others who wanted to buy the thing without asking stupid questions and making demands.
  • So I began to wonder whether I should do the equivalent of what I do with movies — not rush out and see them in the theater, but wait for Netflix. Patience is, after all, a virtue. Maybe I should even wait until 4G was out, and the rumored iPhone 5, which (maybe) would run on the new 4G network. Maybe, after a few million people actually start using Verizon iPhones, I could find out from some of them whether they sync well with Google. Or I could just go with a Droid. But I’ve looked at both, and like the iPhone SO much better.
  • I had also learned that a new Blackberry Curve would only cost me $29. So if my old Curve was dying (and it seems to be), maybe I could get one of those now, and wait for more info on how the iPhones actually work. Except that that would use up my upgrade. And without the upgrade, the iPhone would cost more than $700. Which might as well be 7 million. So that’s out.

What to do, what to do? I was too tired to figure it out last night. Today, I had a busy morning of meetings with clients and such. Twice during the morning, I had to reboot my device to check my email or the web. Once, it did that thing where it dies completely, and has to be force-reset. So I’m going to have to do something.

At lunch today with Lora — the most fanatical of my “iPhones are better” friends — I started blathering about my dilemma. While I was doing so, she glanced at her device and informed me that Verizon had just run out of iPhones.

So now I don’t have to think about this for awhile. Until the Blackberry dies completely, that is.

Isn’t it wonderful living in our modern age, with all these fantastic devices to make our lives easier?

18 thoughts on “Hamlet misses out on the new iPhone

  1. Brad

    Well, now, HERE’S an interesting thing I had forgotten, from March 24, 2009 — four days after my last day at The State:

    Contrast that to my experience at my wireless phone provider, where I went to get my Blackberry wiped clean of stuff from the corporate server (how’s that for a band name: Corporate Server), and set up my new e-mail and such. An hour and a half. The young man who helped me couldn’t have been nicer (which is why I removed the actual name of my wireless provider, because I don’t want to get him in any trouble with his boss), and admittedly the transaction was somewhat complex. But what gets me is the wait BEFORE someone starts helping you. When I asked about whether there was a time I could come back and not find such a crowd, I was told there wasn’t. One employee mentioned that his wife calls the place “the DMV of wireless.” Which is a good joke, except for the fact that the DMV has figured out how to provide its services without making people wait forever. Maybe the cell phone companies should ask the DMV how they did it.

    So in other words, someone at Verizon was perfectly aware that I had been on a corporate server, but was no longer — and didn’t think to tell me that I should start paying less per month.

  2. Joanne

    I had no idea about the I-phone when I went to Verizon to print off my bill for my expense check and was met with a HUGE picture and a caption that told me I was out of luck.

    I didn’t know what was going on at first…then I read it and found a little bar that said to go on to my account.

    Good luck with that, Brad.

  3. Carolyn

    I am with Sprint and couldnt be happier with my plan. I seriously considered switching to verizon for the iphone but plans seemed more expensive than the 4 line plan I currently have with sprint. We all got android phones. They are great! Maybe in 2 years when we are eligible for new phones, we’ll consider verizon and the iphone but right now we are happy with what we have.

  4. jfx

    Can I swoop in here and give some unsolicited advice? Don’t get another Blackberry. That company (RIM) is all marketing now. They got fat, lazy, and slow and missed the wave. Android and iOS are the present and future. Which leads me to…Google and Apple are now two mighty rival gorillas pounding each others’ pinatas every day in such a way that we, the consumers, are reaping an embarrassment of techno-candy riches. Either wave is good to ride, but the Android learning curve is slightly steeper. And you are in an Applephile office, which means you are surrounded by friendly tech support if you get the Apple device. That’s priceless. Last thing, never ever go into a Verizon store again, unless it’s for a warranty issue. Learn how to set all your stuff up yourself by searching online, reading forum postings, and pestering your geekier coworkers with annoying technical questions. Setting up these smartphones and moving/syncing data is not hard at all and once you make that initial investment in learning how, you’ll be good to go, forever. Until then, you’ll be at the mercy of those Verizon retail monkeys whose job it is to waste your time by shrugging and being bored.

    Oh, also, this:




  5. Brad

    Thanks, jfx! And don’t call your advice “unsolicited,” this post was a solicitation if anything.

    That first link… that’s exactly what I have now with my Blackberry, and I knew that it also worked with iPhones. What shook me was that those folks at Verizon didn’t know whether it would work with THEIR iPhone. And since this iPhone is technologically different from the AT&T one, that worried me. Probably a month from now, those clerks would know the answer to the question… which is why it seems wise to wait.

    It’s probably silly to worry about it — I mean, of COURSE it should work. But then, I was sure that my data was secure with Outlook. And then, after ONE e-mail I sent that somehow corrupted Outlook on my laptop and my desktop, my data was in limbo for months. NOTHING fixed it. I uninstalled Office several times from both machines, and deleted every Outlook-associated file I could find, and reinstalled, and every time, the application would find the corrupted file somewhere and go haywire again.

    Finally, one of the Apple gurus in my office (as you say) told me how to set up Google. So I rescued the contacts database file from my Outlook folders (I knew enough to know how to do that), and managed to import it to Google.

    Some odd things happened along the way. Some of my contacts got duplicated (sometimes multiplying several times), with slight differences between each copy. And if I put a photo with a contact on Google on the web, the picture doesn’t attach to that contact when it syncs. But for the most part, the functionality is fine. And it works smoothly with my email, and with the phone.

    But since I’m aware that a lot can go wrong in these transactions, I’m wary.

  6. jfx

    Right you are to be wary. But one reason it took awhile for Apple to finally commit to Verizon is that there had to be final assurances that the user experience is the same, regardless of carrier. That’s Apple’s bread and butter. If there are technological differences, they will be invisible to the user. The iPhone is the iPhone is the iPhone. Steve Jobs insists.

    The Android world is different, which is why I say steeper learning curve (I’m on one, and love it, but mine is heavily modified). All the phones run on the same Android OS…but the user experience is not standardized across the phones and carriers. Example: Samsung makes a line of “Galaxy S” Android phones. The phones carry different names across all four major carriers. The AT&T one is called Captivate. The Verizon one is called Fascinate. The Sprint one is called Epic 4G. The T-Mobile one is called Vibrant. These are all the same phone, guts-wise. But there are quirks. The Sprint version has a fold-out keyboard. The graphical user interfaces are tweaked differently. And the carriers make arbitrary decisions on which features of the underlying Android OS are hamstrung or crippled. Many people don’t realize that using your Android phone as a mobile hotspot is a native, selectable functionality in the stock Android OS…but the carriers nuke it in order to charge customers for hotspotting as an a la carte service. Also, different Android phones may be running different versions of the OS, with slightly different feature sets, and no guarantees about if or when newer OS versions are pushed out by the carriers.

    But the iPhone is the iPhone is the iPhone. It looks and works the same everywhere. Everybody gets the same updates. The joke going around is now that it’s on Verizon, it actually works as a phone!

    You’ll probably have a month to stew on it anyway. I read they suspended new orders. That is one hot ticket.

  7. Ralph Hightower


    My suggestion is to delay upgrading to Verizon’s iPhone 4.

    1) Verizon is upgrading their network from 3G to 4G. I don’t know the schedule for when Columbia will be upgraded, but major cities, like NY, DC, Atlanta and others will be the first to get 4G. Personally, I don’t want to upgrade to a new phone that may be obsolete in a few months (calls and data will still work; you just won’t get the benefits of 4G speeds).
    2) Simultaneous Voice and Data. Verizon uses CDMA, AT&T uses GMS (which uses a SIM card). CDMA does not support simultaneous voice and data. Example, say you’re using your iPhone as a GPS in your car, a call comes in and you answer it; your iPhone cannot function as a GPS since a telephone call is in progress. I hear that Verizon is working a workaround. GSM technology allows your iPhone to function as a telephone and as a GPS or whatever other function.
    3) FUD: def. Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. Apple releases new product updates in the summer. Will the new iPhone 5 support Verizon’s 4G network?
    4) PDA Usefullness: Contacts and Calendar. I expect a smartphone, such as an Android, iPhone, or Windows7 phone to sync with my Microsoft Office Outlook’s calendar and contacts. If the smartphone can’t do that, then what good is it? I do want the Twitter and other applications that I would find of use.

    One neat feature of the Verizon iPhone is that it can function as a WiFi hotspot (a $20/mo addl charge) that allows laptops and other devices to connect to Verizon.

    I am looking to upgrade to an Android phone. I don’t think I would consider looking at an Apple product. Apple likes to lock customers in; their products are pricey. Be sure to look at the processor speed of the smartphone. There are some dogs out there.

    Legal Disclaimer: I am a Verizon customer. I was an AT&T Long Distance Customer until AT&T did a hostile takeover of NCR. I was a BellSouth customer until Southwest Bell took over BellSouth and changed the name to AT&T.

  8. Norm Ivey

    My experience with Verizon:

    We wanted to upgrade 2 normal phones to smart phones, meaning we would be paying more per month and extending the contract. We were told we would have to pay a $40 fee for each upgrade, and we could not take advantage of their buy-one-get-one-free deal. (Something about our contract being on the old AT&T plan and we weren’t due for an upgraded phone yet.) This seemed an inane business practice, and we left. Later, after doing some research on their plans, we went back, added two additional lines (smart phones), and switched numbers on two phones we wished to upgrade with the new lines, gave the old not-so-smart phones to my folks and my bride’s folks, and switched everything to a Verizon contract. We came out paying about what we were expecting to pay for just the simple upgrade in service, got two extra lines, and were able to take advantage of the buy-one-get-one-free deal. It shouldn’t have been that difficult. The people, however, were very nice at the northeast store.

    Contrast with our trip to Time Warner Cable the same day to add a second DVR in the office. Here’s your new box, Mr. Ivey. The cost is $21.95 a month, but we are giving it to you for one year for free along with all these free movie channels. I also notice on your bill that you are not receiving your full bundle discount. I’ve made the correction and your current bill will drop about $8.00 a month. That’s how it should be.

    We have four Droids. We absolutely love them. It’s really pretty amazing what you can do with these things. Dick Tracy’s two-way wrist radio seems quaint.

  9. Eric

    Hy Brad,
    First a little background. I’m a Web (and Flash) Developer, a Verizon customer, an Android owner, and a Blackberry user. Ok, then.
    I sympathize with your dilemma and I’m not sure I have a clear suggestion, just more pros and cons to weigh. A smartphone is definitely the shoe of consumer electrtonics. Despite the utility, fashion, or convenience there is to be had, it all boils down to a question of individual fit.
    Now, why am I a Blackberry user? I’m very fortunate that work pays for it (I have the Torch). Like other Blackberry phones, it is streamlined for the 9-5 business use-case. The “E-mail, contacts, and calendar experience” is RIM’s goal, and I think they do a great job at it. Anything other then may leave you wanting.
    Prior to getting my “freebee”, I used a Motorola Droid, which was my fisrt big jump into the smartphone world. And wow, there are few things that it can’t do. The business use-case isn’t quite as streamlined as Blackberry, but there are lots of other perks. The synching of contacts to G-mail, Facebook, and Twitter is outstanding! Everything is available on my phone as it would be my laptop or anyone else’s laptop (assuming I have an internet connection). There are a lot of applications available for both business and recreation.
    I still use my Droid at home on WIFI. I love it.
    Now, here’s the rub. Android is a true multi-tasking environment. While very useful, this tends to be a big battery killer. There is a marked difference in Android battery usage vs. either the Blackberry or the iPhone. I usually keep mine plugged in when I’m not using it. There are optimizations that can help this (and I hope they improve this in the future), but this is perhaps Android’s biggest detractor.
    Now, the iPhone? You’re probably not going to get an objective assessment from me, but still some valid points (I haven’t been enchanted by Apple’s Jim Jones marketing). You’re right to scratch your head about 3G vs. 4G and the iPhone 5 which will probably be making it’s way this Summer. Also beware of Verizon’s data plan promises. They’ve been very dodgy about committing to a flat-price data plan in the long term (in all liklihood, they will probably go for a tiered pricing structure). Oh yes, and the wireless hotspot for $20 a month. Is that unlimited data? Something else? Telecoms are notorious for double, triple, quadruple charging for the same darn data.
    I just believe that Apple is simply losing touch with the market. iTunes, the gate-keeper and key-master of all Apple devices, is a bloated pain in the arse. Apple’s “everything goes through the app store” marketing discourages innovation(high cost and risk for developers getting their app published), competition (banning of Sony book sales, perhaps soon the Kindle), and homogenizes content to Apple’s idealism.
    I could go on and on, but that’s perhaps the enough. I hope this was helpful and good luck in your smartphone upgrade!

  10. Brad

    Thanks, Eric — and Norm, and Ralph, et al. — for your informed input.

    At this point I think I AM going to wait, as long as my Blackberry keeps working MOST of the time. Which it may not do for long; we’ll see.

    I hope it will at least work long enough for there to be a body of anecdotal evidence about how the new iPhone works with Google, etc.

    Of course, I could just go with the Droid, but… I kind of hate to admit this to tech-savvy people, but the iPhone is just so much more… esthetically pleasing.

    I can’t explain why, but when I look at an iPhone — at a photo, or a video, or a Web page — it is just so … beautiful. And I am drawn into it.

    Whereas, the couple of times I’ve looked at a Droid, I’ve gotten the impression of something that may be useful, but which has no aesthetic appeal at all. I can’t explain why, but I’m just not drawn to it.

    The iPhone is a siren singing, and the Droid is, I don’t know, a manatee or something. Still remarkable, but not the same.

    See, this is what you get from a word guy like me — literary allusion (Hamlet, sirens) and aesthetic impressions, rather than technological savvy. I think that’s why, when I studied psychology in school, I was drawn to the out-of-fashion Freud. He interpreted everything through a literary filter.

  11. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    Apple products are unabashedly gorgeous, and designed to be maximally attractive to the end user.
    Of course you find them beautiful–it’s like saying “wet t-shirt contest” to a guy, amirite?

    That said, and I am a serious Mac fan, I found the iPod touch interface a bit boggling. You can jailbreak one into an iPhone, or use it as one wherever you have WiFi, but I never warmed to the device.The touch screen is pretty, but some of the gestures are tricky to master–I guess I never practiced enough. I do like my regular iPod, though, and my shuffle, and my MacBook and my iMac (the second one of those)….

  12. Brad

    That’s an awesome idea, except — then I’d REALLY have to do it every day, wouldn’t I?

    I mean, I mean to, but… I’m not doing it today. I’m supposed to be somewhere right NOW, so I’ve gotta run.

    Rest assured that I’m feeling suitably guilty.


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