To iphone or not to iphone

So iphones have just been released in New Zealand. Naturally, I'm thinking about getting one. Actually, I have been sitting around all day with my credit card itching away in my pocket.

So rather than doing anything rash, I decided to read some reviews. I was kinda surprised at the criticisms made by some of the reviews. This stuff may be old news for some, but these are the reasons I won't be getting one straight away. After reading several reviews, the one that covered the important points for me was Stuff's review of the iphone.

iPhone - Good points

Every review says the screen is awesome, it's great for surfing the net, having it automatically switch between wi-fi and 3G networks is good, and it's just like an ipod with wings. Corporate users will like the MS Exchange functionality, which means the iPhone can compete with the BlackBerry. Apparently Gmail is trivial to configure, and I assume it supports IMAP and POP for everyone else too?

And it's made by Apple - if it's as intuitive and obvious to use as the iPod, then it's heads and shoulders above most other mobile phones on that note alone (although I have to admit Nokia are very good in this area too).


So, to put things in context, here's what Im currently using. I have a Nokia 6234 3G phone with 64Mb micro SD storage, which I have connected via Vodafone to a 200Mb data plan. I use this for phone calls (obviously), checking email from my pocket when I'm out and about, checking email when I'm on holiday (so I don't need to deal with internet cafes). And browsing the web on Opera Mini when I'm in a pickle and need some info or a map - though without a real keyboard this is painful.
I also regularly connect (via bluetooth) the phone to my laptop for internet access pretty much anywhere - this has been really handy for holidays, when my home/office internet goes down, giving presentations, and when demonstrating sites to clients in meetings. Having your own internet connection is so much faster/easier/better than pluging into their network, or having to configure wireless access. Last month my internet went down for 3 days, and we had 2 people developing websites through the phone - it kept the business going when it needed to.

You could say this arrangement suits my needs extremely well. A few things I miss about this Nokia phone is the lack of FM radio, the lack of wi-fi, and decent software for playing mp3s (the software is miles away from an ipod). A little more battery life would be nice, as the bluetooth/3G is really greedy on batteries.

So currently I have the basics covered - I'm able to get work done anywhere, and can be online with or without the laptop. My monthly bill is about $70, and overall I'm happy.

iPhone - bad points

So, after about an hour or 2 of reading iPhone reviews, there are a few things I'm just not sure about. Keep in mind this is from my perspective - based on what I already have above, and are largely happy with.

3G (more or less)

Stuff's review says...
There is one problem, though. Vodafone relies on 900 MHz to supply 3G coverage in smaller centres. The iPhone doesn't support the 900MHz 3G standard (it supports 850MHz 3G), so you won't get 3G coverage for your iPhone outside Vodafone's 2100MHz network, which mainly covers the country's large cities.

This is an issue for me - does this mean there is no internet access when out in the back parts of NZ? Currently, my Nokia gets slower speeds whenever out of the main centres, but it still connects reliably and can still get the job done. If the iPhone can't get internet access at all outside of the main centres, this is a show-stopper.
On the iPhone purchase page, Vodafone says...
To purchase this product you must have "good" or better coverage in your area.

I'll need to confirm what this all actually means - and I may be misreading things - but if the iPhone can't connect outside of main centres, this seriously limit's usefulness as a mobile device. I love the fact that I can get internet access from remote parts of the country with my current setup.

iPhone as a modem

While this forum discussion may not be the authority on all things iPhone, it suggests that the iPhone can not be used as a modem. The Stuff article vaguely indicated the same, as did another review I read.

To me, this is another show-stopper. I love the fact I can use my Nokia to browse from my pocket, but also connect up to the laptop when I need a real joker's 20 inch screen (yeah, it's a big laptop). Having a cellphone that works as both means I don't need to shell out for a second 3G connection, and don't need to deal with an unreliable vodem or have a PC Card dongle hanging out the side of my laptop.

While the iPhone has bluetooth, it seems you can't use it for sharing the internet connection with your computer. Such a shame, such a shame.


I didn't really want to discuss price, because the iPhone was always going to be expensive, we all knew this. Even though (I'm told) other countries can get one for around USD$199, that was never going to happen here - not least because of the laws of supply and demand.

The 'shelf' price for the 16Gb model is NZD$1129. But big discounts are available by signing up to a special iPhone plan on a 24 month contract.

It's definitely the plans that I don't like. In order to get a (substantial) discount on the handset, you need to signup for one of 3 specific iPhone plans. These have fixed amounts of calls, SMS messages and data. The basic 250Mb plan at $80/month seems reasonable, but the 1Gb plan at $250/month is just getting a bit silly. For someone like myself who makes only a handful of calls, sends very few SMS messages, and uses a lot of data, I'm just not sure what I would do with 600 minutes of calls on the 1Gb plan. On Vodafone's YouChoose plans (which I currently use), I could pay whatever for the small amount of calls I need, and only $50 for that same 1Gb of data - much cheaper than $250. But by not choosing one of the special iPhone plans means paying between $400 - $800 more for the handset, which does rub salt in the already gaping wound.

Why does it seem that Mobile phone providers are bending over backwards to make sure you choose the wrong plan, and at the same time are on a long term contract so they can bleed you for all you're worth?

Other minor things

The Stuff review, and others pointed out a number of little things that aren't show stoppers, but still add up. Apparently the built-in Safari browser only syncs bookmarks with Internet Explorer, but not Firefox (I thought the iPhone was meant to appeal to Geeks?).

Apparently no video camera, no PXT or video messages, and the camera is 2 megapixel. I don't frequently use these features anyway, but you would expect them in something like the iPhone, especially with 16gb of space to fill. No WMA format music support, which makes it a bit harder for some Windows users to transfer their music collection.


Soooo much hype over the iPhone. I haven't bothered reading reviews until now, but I'm definitely disappointed. Not being able to function as a modem is a total show-stopper, and the plans from Vodafone are disappointing. At $1129, the iPhone needs to offer more - currently, it's not able to replace my current mobile functionality so unfortunately the iPhone isn't an option for me.

Here's hoping the next generation resolves some of these issues, and I can change my position.
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Tags: iphone