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Justifying the iPhone

Casey Liss debates Verizon-vs.-iPhone:

My wife and I are currently Verizon Wireless users. We’re due to get a $100 credit on new phones at the end of January, thanks to Verizon’s “New Every Two” program.

Unfortunately, things haven’t changed much in that Verizon has (in my opinion) far and away the best network.

I’m not sure how they compare where you live, but in the NYC metro area, Verizon and AT&T have been similar enough in service that I can’t say either network is better overall than the other.

This applies when I travel as well: in some fringe areas like the mountains upstate, Verizon works and AT&T doesn’t. But in others, the opposite is true. For the vast majority of the places I’ve been, if one carrier has coverage, so does the other.

However, they also have awful phones.

In the now-starting era of ubiquitous mobile computing, I have serious gadget lust/envy over the iPhone. I think it’d be nice, and extremely convenient, to have the ability to look up anything, map out any address, and send e-mail without having to have a computer nearby.

If you only ever want to make phone calls, and never want any other features, Verizon’s dumbphone lineup is adequate. But if you ever want to do anything data-related, every choice is absolutely miserable until you get to the smartphone category. (In all fairness, this applies to every carrier, as every dumbphone sucks at anything data-related — Verizon just makes it worse with their “consistent”[ly bad] red interface.)

So it’s really about comparing smartphones. Much of this is personal preference: people who have grown accustomed to Palm or BlackBerry software frequently criticize the iPhone unfairly because it’s different and unfamiliar, not because it’s actually worse in whatever criteria they’re selectively choosing to completely dismiss it with. (The iPhone fans do this to them, too.)

So, I’m standing at a crossroads. Most of my friends, and my in-laws, use Verizon. Thus, it’s free to talk to them. My family, and a handful of friends, use AT&T.

Unless you talk to the Verizon people a lot, this will probably be a toss-up. It wasn’t an issue for me because I rarely talk on the phone for more than a few minutes at a time, and I’ve never come anywhere close to exceeding the lowest minutes-per-month allocation.

I genuinely like Verizon, but if I’m going to get a new phone, I’m going to want one like the iPhone.

Then you need an iPhone. Verizon has nothing “like the iPhone”. Nobody has anything “like the iPhone”.

Now that you’re a recent Mac convert, you’ll understand this: nobody else has anything “like the Mac” either. You know those guys who run crazy experimental desktop-Linux window managers that are themed and skinned and hacked to hell to look like OS X? Calling that Mac-like is about as accurate as calling any other device iPhone-like.

(I was going to lump Windows Vista apologists in there, but I don’t think there are any left.)

What’s the right answer? Drag the missus over to AT&T, which is admittedly an inferior network, just so the self-proclaimed king (me) can have his useless iPhone? Is it really worth all that for a toy?

If AT&T really isn’t inferior in your region, or the difference is too small to be noticeable, is there any hesitation left?

Further, am I really lusting over just a toy, or is the iPhone really more than that?

It’s much more than that. It’s an entire computing platform. It won’t replace a laptop, but it’s a very capable, robust platform with a lot of great software and capabilities, and it’s always with you, ready to be whipped out of your pocket at any time for quick reference, calculation, or entertainment.