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The Saga of my Blackberry vs. iPhone Debate…

September 27, 2009

For a while now I have been wanting a new phone, a smartphone. Although I am not a big phone person and I don’t really text much, I do want some basic functionalities that my MotoRazr lacks (i.e. keyboard) and even beyond the basics, am enticed by productivity apps, mobile access to the web and email (while the MotoRazr has mobile access, it is pathetic and nearly impossible to use given the interface). So I’ve been debating between a Blackberry and an iPhone, and impatiently trying to figure out the most inexpensive way to make this happen *now* even though I am stuck in my current wireless contract for another 5 months and have had no luck trying to get an early upgrade from Verizon, my current provider. Other than that slight annoyance, I have been very happy with Verizon Wireless in terms of cost, coverage, reliability and customer service, especially considering it is the same service a couple of my girls have (free Verizon-to-Verizon is great), we have a corporate discount which saves me up to 8% a month (it all adds up) and Verizon coverage is by far the superior coverage in this area, especially up at camp.

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A few years back, in my previous life in the corporate world, I would have gone with the Blackberry without a second thought. But my life and priorities are different now — I am more about music, internet access, techie toys and fun, cool apps than being able to get to my work email on my phone 24 hours a day. So I just don’t think a Blackberry is the right smartphone for me. Now iPhone on the other hand — how can I not lust after this sleek sweetness?

This being decided, of course it can’t just be a simple deal, particularly since in the U.S. the iPhone is currently married to AT&T. What I really want is an iPhone on Verizon service, but I’m tired of waiting for AT&T’s exclusive contract with Apple to expire and for Verizon to upgrade their network from CDMA so Apple will even give them another glance. Since it doesn’t look like any of that is going to happen any time soon (surely not before my current contract is up in January, maybe not in my lifetime), and since I am pretty emphatic about not wanting to switch my wireless service to AT&T, I’ve decided on a kind of hybrid solution — to keep my basic cellular phone/plan with Verizon and get an iPod Touch to replace my current iPod to use for everything else (internet, email, texting, apps, music, calendar). The iPod Touch is basically an iPhone without the phone, camera and 3g network access. It is comparable in appearance, runs on the same OS as the iPhone and has access to all of the iPhone apps… and of course, it does music beautifully.

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What it comes down to is the question — how important are the missing features to me? As much as I hate the phone, it would be nearly impossible to live without one, especially since we rely solely on cellular and have no home phone. But beyond the need to have a phone that reliably makes and receives calls, I really don’t care how many auxiliary features my phone has. Sure I want mobile internet/email/calendar access and a camera and a music player and pda-type apps and functionality, but do I need it all on the same device as my phone? Not really, especially considering to get a really good phone that does all of this stuff really good is several hundred dollars, the best of which are tied to a single cellular provider or not even available with most U.S. providers, unless you buy them unlocked and even then it is questionable whether your provider will support them (i.e. Nokia N97)… not to mention you then get yourself locked into an obscenely expensive cell/data plan which holds you hostage for two years.

So while an iPod Touch is certainly not a substitute for a mobile phone, it very nicely meets my needs to use as a supplement to the basic mobile phone I already have, in spite of what it is missing. I don’t really care about the missing iPod Touch camera (http://theappleblog.com/2009/09/14/ipod-touch-missing-camera-mystery-solved/) since I prefer taking photos with a real camera anyway and for on-the-fly pics, my current cell phone has a decent enough camera. It’s hard for me to know how much, if any, of an issue Wi-Fi vs. 3g network access will be for me. I anticipate that most of the time I will be using my iPod Touch at home, work, my cottage or other places within wireless range. If I do find insufficient Wi-Fi availability to be a problem (could be annoying when using GPS app), I will probably get the Verizon Mifi (http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/05/verizon-mifi-personal-wi-fi-coming-this-month/) and carry around my own personal little Wi-Fi hotspot in my pocket. When combined with my current Verizon phone plan, adding a data plan for the Mifi is still less than the AT&T phone + data plan and can also be used for Wi-Fi access for my laptop when in non-connected places — I can foresee this being especially useful when traveling/camping. Technically, the iPod Touch + Mifi + a VoIP app (i.e. Skype) + a headset/mic *almost* equals an iPhone (http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/08/myfi-plus-ipod-touch-almost-equals-iphone/), but I probably won’t mess with trying to dress it up like a phone because honestly, it’s just not that important to me to be able to make phone calls on my i-Thingie.

On the plus side for keeping my phone separate from everything else is the fact that the iPhone still has some ground to cover when it comes to background apps running smoothly. Granted it does seem to be a high priority for Apple to improve this capability and while it is now possible to talk on the phone and use another application at the same time, especially with the help of various third-party applications, it is still kludgy… besides, I’m just not sure I am coordinated enough to be simultaneously doing two things on the same device, especially when one of the functions requires that I hold the device near my head. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I can handle talking on my cell phone while doing something else on a separate device that is on my desk, on my lap or in my hand.

Admittedly, having a single device that does everything would be optimal and easier than carrying around 2 devices — 3 if I end up needing the Verizon Mifi (although the Mifi is about the size of a thick credit card and can easily live in my wallet except when charging). But it’s really more of an inconvenience than a significant issue as I am rather used to it, having carried around my phone and my iPod for a few years now. The only other annoyance I foresee is that I will need to keep my contacts list on both devices so they are accessible to both the phone and for email/texting on the iPod Touch, but this is simply a matter of syncing and being disciplined enough to keep one set of contacts as the “master” that I use for updating information.

Overall there are far more positives than negatives:

1) keep my cellular service with Verizon and continue to benefit from Verizon-to-Verizon calling with family members, Verizon corporate discount, as well as superior Verizon coverage area
2) don’t have to deal with AT&T (evil)
3) the iPod Touch unit price is less than iPhone (although this would be negated if I have to get the Mifi)
4) the Ipod Touch is lighter in weight and smaller than the iPhone (love that sleek, slim profile)
5) iPod Touch has been proven to have faster internet access than the iPhone since it does not have all that internal cellular stuff going on in the background
6) draining the battery for web surfing, apps, etc. will not impact my ability to use the phone since they are totally separate devices
7) ability to talk on the phone and do something else at the same time would not require growing eyes and fingers out the side of my head (which is not an attractive proposition as it would most likely scare my grandchildren)
8) I can do it now and not have to wait for my current contract to expire!

The only remaining questions are, what size and which model? Given that I have a huge music library and will be downsizing from an 80gb iPod, I really don’t think anything less than 32gb is even a feasible consideration. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I don’t need the 64gb as I recently restructured my iTunes to sync only selected playlists rather than everything (I outgrew the 80gb iPod) and am now consistently using only about 18gb of the space on my iPod for music, videos, podcasts, an audiobook and some photos. So I’m thinking the 32gb size would suit me best.

Both the recently released iPod Touch 3g model (3g here meaning third generation, not to be confused with 3g mobile networking) and the older 2g model offer a 32gb device. Aesthetically, the newer model is identical in design, size and appearance to the older model. Functionally, the two models are pretty much the same except that the 3g adds voice control navigation capability (nice, but definitely not a deal-breaker). Technically, the newer model has a faster processor (800 MHz vs. 533 MHz), twice as much RAM/memory (256 MB vs. 128 MB) and a few other chip/circuitry differences that could possibly be tied to additional features and functionality in future software releases. On the negative side, the 3g has slightly inferior battery life than the 2g. There is a nice comparison between the iPod Touch 2g and the iPod Touch 3g here: http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/consumer_electronics/ipod_faq/differences-between-ipod-touch-3g-and-ipod-touch-2g.html. But of course, the newer model also carries a higher price tag. I am tempted by the improved performance and future potential of the 3g model, but I’ll need to shop around a bit because I’m not sure those factors alone are enough to justify the additional cost.

Posted by Deb  

Topics: needful things, geek speak

One Response to “The Saga of my Blackberry vs. iPhone Debate…”

  1. Linda Kazel Says:
    September 28th, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    Deb, my boss got two mi-fi hubs for the company through Nextel/Sprint the second they came out and so far everyone who has used them gives them a big A+. I have one of the old wireless cards that actually works at my mom’s in the middle of nowhere where only Verizon works…sometimes. The card works great and I’m going to grab one of the mi-fi’s next time to see how it compares. I’ll let you know. And yes, I have had I-Phone lust for a while since my plan is set to renew soon but…just hate the idea of paying for the $$$$ data plan through AT&T. *Sigh* Maybe next year.

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