back to article Rethinking the iPhone

When I asked my friend Quentin recently how he liked his new iPhone, he said it was great, except as a telephone. He was right, and as a devoted iPhoner since its introduction, this made me think. My carrier’s coverage (AT&T) is lousy, the 3G connection is slow/patchy and AT&T is expensive, on average $82 a month. I love the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Or just jailbreak it.

    In Germany, it costs me 10EUR a month for 1Gb data and a PayAsYouGo. I mostly use Skype with an online number. In total, about 20 EUR a month.

    The best deal I've found so far was in Greece... "Q" offer 1500 minutes to other Q/Wind phones (which seems to be most of Greece) plus 100 Mb data and 1500 SMS for ONE EURO. And you can load that up 4 times a month. My two week holiday, phoning, texting and surfing the web in museums cost me 3 eur!

    You're getting shafted so hard by AT&T it makes me cringe.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pre-paid Android on Virgin Mobile

    Couldn't you have just gotten an Android phone through Virgin Mobile? They've got prepaid plans starting at $25 a month.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    All irrelevant if you live outside the US

    My initial outlay was a bit of a shock, but I just bought my iPhone outright, and got a cheapy contract with excellent coverage. The overall cost is less than going for one of the subsidised deals, certainly less than a load of unintegrated gadgets, and I'm not locked into any long-term contract.

    1. David Ward 1


      Especially as google voice isn't available in the civilised world!

      1. TakeTheSkyRoad

        I'm not sure I agree

        I'm very happy with my w880, ipod touch & MiFi setup actually. This is something I've quite independently been using for nearly a year and it suits my lifestyle fine.

        The phone is small, pocket sized and cheap so perfect for weekends and nights out.

        It also functions very well as a phone as far as taking calls, texting, basic camera & basic surfing (facebook) go.

        This is on a super cheap O2 "Simplicity" tarriff which nets me hundreds of minutes and unlimited texts for about 20 quid a month (I think).

        The touch I initially got for just music but the MiFi addition means I have a better quality mobile surfing experience at hand if I need it. This mostly gets used at work since they block all the interesting sites (social networking & games etc).

        I rarely go over the 10 quid a month I top up with so it doesn't really cost either :)

        Well recommended and I've gained an ipad owning convert in the office already.

        I keep looking at a new phone but I keep coming back to size.... touch screens are simply too big !!

  4. Anonymous Coward

    "Rethinking the iPhone"

    Yep - did that already - its called an Android handset :P

    1. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD


      The iPhone is way too costly where I am. (lock in contract if you don't pay upfront). Then there's his jobsness to contend with as well. I've decided, for now at least, to throw my lot in with the android camp.

      Bought a cheap prepaid android phone after considering if a smartphone was indeed the way to go.

      ONE THIRD the price of an iphone upfront.

      Not as flashy as an iPhone no doubt but to be honest, I'm hardly anywhere where a computer is beyond reach.

      Battery lasts 3 - 4 days if I use it like my old nokia 'dumb' phone. With all bells and whistles going full-tilt, it lasts a day. Smaller than an iPhone. Apparently more endurance. Less eye-candy no doubt, but does most of what I need. Gives me something to do while waiting for buses, nosh at a restaurant etc.

      I know this sounds silly but I still haven't decided which is ultimately better, a dumb phone or a smartphone with all it's liabilities.

      I still use both depending on my whim or fancy.

      Prepaid... because If you don't make that many calls and people call you, it's... cheap :)

  5. Toby 2

    MiFi in shirt pocket...

    Probably soon have a wireless heart too. A cooked one.

  6. Antidisestablishmentarianist


    Basically this is another AT&T is crap article isn't it? It's just that as the iPhone exposed that crapness, it seems to get tarred with AT&T's stinky brush.

    Were are the non-american-at&t centric articles eh?

  7. Scott Mckenzie

    Shame you get raped on the charges...

    ... as over here £35 a month is pretty much all you need and you can get an iPhone on a great network!

  8. Bob H


    In the USA your cell providers really screw you!

    I pay so much less per year in the UK and all my minutes are bundled as well as unlimited internet.

    I bought an unlocked Android Nexus One when they were released and that has now allowed me to negotiate my contract down further, from good to silly good.

    Personally I think you are perhaps missing a trick not using your cell phone as a mifi point, my Android does it comfortably. even if it is slightly against the terms of service to use a phone teathered I figure the little I do it won't hurt.

    Still, I feel sorry that you are being so screwed. When I renegotiated my contract they said I was a high-tier customer, so I could have any phone for nothing *and* I pay half your rental for a passable service.

    My sympathies to our American cousins.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    a little bit too complex...

    why o why does this sound like a good idea... ok it might be cheaper on the surface but now you have gone from 1 device to 3 or 4, the 3 or 4 extra things that will fail and or get lost. Do you work in government? this sounds like classic government thinking....

    1. Sartori

      On the other hand...

      Another way of looking at what you just said is that if all you have is the iPhone he started out with then if it dies you lose the ability to do anything. The way he has it now, if one device fails he can still use the others and not lose most of the functionality. As much as it's nice to have one device that does everything for convenience, the downside is having all your eggs in one basket.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Good for you, but a bit complicated for me

    My similar UK solution:

    * HTC Legend from eBay (£240) - although a previous generation iPhone on the o2 network would also suffice;

    * free Sim card and £10 per month "goodybag" from (silly name, but it runs on and I believe is owned by o2, so fine for your o2 locked phones);

    * Hullomail for voicemail.

    Giffgaff gives free unlimited internet with the goodybag; there are higher level goodybags for more minutes, or you can install and use Skype (especially good when in range of a WiFi hotspot or at home).

    Equates to £20 per month over two years, but without the contract lock in. If I ever need to tighen my belt, no problem because I've already paid for the phone, and I can just switch to GiffGaff's 8p per minute pay-as-you-go tariff.

    Plus the HTC Legend is actually a pretty good at being a phone, unlike the iPhone.

    I also use a Spotify premium account for all my music, with the Spotify app, so no need for iTunes either which is a blessing.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    nerds are not important

    > Like a Swiss army knife, the iPhone is good at a lot of things, but not really great at any

    Well iPhone is great at one thing: being something normal people can use and understand and enjoy - unlike almost every other bit of tech.

    I'm pleased for you that you nerds can find workarounds. But overall, what does it matter what you people can make work? Go interview some normal people, and write their stories here. Teach your readership just how much their industry is screwing over normal people. (iPhone excepted.)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Well iPhone is great at one thing: being something normal people can use ....

      Yeah, a working phone is overrated! Why should we expect such a lovely iDevice - even though it's called iPhone - to work as a phone?

      We should all lower our standards to allow this great device to take over our lives.


    2. Robert Forsyth

      The iPhone is only easy to use if you have been shown how to use it.

      I find my brother's iPhone frustrating to use: I don't know the commands/gestures, the touch screen does not respond to my finger nail or Biro cap, how would you know about voice command without seeing the advert.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        @Robert Forsyth

        Sarcasm? I really hope so, or I dread to think what your learning curve is.

        Nobody showed me how to use an iPhone, yet somehow when in the Apple store, I managed to figure it out very quickly. Fortunately I didn't try to scratch it's screen with my nails, or prod it with a biro. Guess I'm just the lucky one?

      2. DaveyP
        Thumb Down


        my 2 year old can, and does, use my phone and iPad for games, videos and looking at photos. My mum, who can't use a normal mobile because she finds the endless menus confusing, can find her way round an iPhone and has an iPad. Of course you need to understand the basics, but they're so simple that a technophobe 62 yr old and a 2 year old can understand them. That's a good operating system.

    3. Chris 211

      @nerds are not important

      Nerds run the place and I for one will not dumb down to none-nerds. Go read the manual for once. I really dont care about your so called 'normal' people, what an insult thanks very much now go back to your boring 'normal' job while us nerds get on with making the technology go!

    4. Alien8n

      iPhone touchscreen?

      So it doesn't work when you prod it with a biro or your fingernail? Ever think that might actually be a deliberate feature?

      I now have a SE Xperia and while I find as a phone and such it's just as good (if not better in some places) the iPhone still wins for 2 things.

      1. The touchscreen. No accidentally dialling people when you put the phone in your pocket and forget to turn off the screen. The fact that it only recognises your fingertip as a valid "pointing device" is actually a very clever bit of tech.

      2. The browser. The iPhone's web browser is far easier to use and the zoom function a lot more functional than on the Xperia. Forgotten how many times I've ended up zooming on the screen on the Xperia when trying to click a link that's at the bottom of the screen.

  12. Ammaross Danan

    Ping Time?

    The kbps was listed, but what about the ping time? 100ms (DSL) ping time vs 380ms+ ping time makes a BIG difference browsing the web. It won't affect downloads too much, but hitting a website that collates images and info from 10+ different web addresses can make a difference.

    Granted, none of that matters on a mobile phone since it is assumed to be somewhat laggy anyway. Maybe I just have crappy 3G service?

  13. Mike Taylor

    An interesting article

    but I can't believe - to a jaw-dropping amount - how expensive those contracts are. It's bewildering. I pay £30 a month to use my N900 and I can't imagine ever using the stupid quantities of minutes and texts I get. Ditto the data, though since it usually connects wifi, it's not an issue. $82 / month. OMG.

  14. John McEchron
    Jobs Horns


    I'm disappointed the author didn't look at any non-Apple solutions. I have a Droid on Verizon with outstanding coverage for voice and data, even in the middle of Iowa farm country, and I only pay $65/month plus tax. My voice plan doesn't have 1000 minutes, but with free nights, weekends, and calls to other Verizon customers (almost everyone I know since AT&T coverage is terrible in the rural midwest) I have never had a problem going over my monthly 300-minute talk time allowance.

    The no-contract advantage is one I can't beat. Luckily, I don't mind as I don't have any plans to switch carriers or lust after other slightly-better phones until LTE/4G is available in my area.

  15. Andy Watt
    Thumb Up


    Dear god, your tariffs suck! In the UK we've got far better ones than that (also far better 3G networks)

    On another note though - I bought a 3GS sim free in Italy last year for ~£600 and then got a great deal for a £30 tariff from vodafone.

    I think you've highlighted something here though, which is that tariffs are getting so long (24 months is common in the UK for iPhones and androids) that there's more opportunity than ever for the middleman (the operator) adding a fat layer of profit over the costs (handset, network costs).

    Go sim free and ensure you keep a competitive 12 month tariff and I think it'll work out cheaper. Another input into this is lifespan - hopefully the iPhone will last 4 years (I nursed a P990 to 2.5 years without trouble) - I've already got a replacement home button stashed away in case.

    That's the advantage of smart phones - the software update cycles, plus ability to fairly painlessly wipe clean and restart, hopefully mean the handsets will last a long time. And that's coming from a fellow geek who is getting less geek.

    1. Peter H. Coffin

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      If you think that price is horrible, try Canada sometime. CA$100 per month gets 500 minutes and 3GB of data. On a 3 year contract. And most Droid-based phones still cost $100 on that contract.

  16. Bakinarl

    hah hah

    So wait, you're advocating replacing one device that does everything with.... 4?! All so you don't have to be "tied into a contract"? I hope no one pays you for this kind of advice. ROFL

  17. morphoyle


    I am absolutely amazed by the kinds of hoops that some people will jump through just to remain one of the Apple "elite".

  18. famousringo

    An interesting exercise.

    Different strokes and so on, but I don't think most people would find it terribly convenient to replace a single mobile device with three separate devices and a single service provider with three seperate services. Even if the cost savings are substantial, there is a price to be paid in juggling all those devices and contracts.

    Or to put it another way, there's a reason why many people carry a swiss army knife around everywhere rather than a whole toolbox, even though the toolbox will do a better job of fixing things.

  19. jai

    re: Being less of a Nerd and reading more - Priceless


  20. Gordon 10


    Thank god for UK tesco mobile contracts - sim only at £10 a month. Covers all my iphone call, text and data needs

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You sure?

      Data too for £10 a month? Maybe I'm blind, but all I can see is £2 for a 7 day pass?

  21. Tim Greenwood

    How much!!!!

    This seems like a good idea based on US systems and requirements. However, I am a bit gobsmacked at how much was being spent on the iphone contract in the first place!

    I can't help thinking that carrying a phone, an ipad and a mifi around might give a better and cheaper experience, but it isn't going to be as convenient.

  22. petur


    I think an n900 would do all you want and more..

    Here in Belgium I found an affordable pre-pay solution from Mobile Vikings, costing me 15 euro/month for 2GB data (gprs/3G), 1000 SMS and 15 euro worth calling minutes.

    The n900 handles my voice needs (GSM and VOIP in one unified addressbook), internet browsing and apps. And very hackable and open (linux).

  23. Nev
    Thumb Up


    If you use jajah instead of Google voice then ther

    is probably a Java app available for your mobile that will

    initiate cheap VOIP calls directly from your phone/address book.

  24. Richard IV


    You're now using 3 more devices than you used to and think you're less of a nerd as a result?

    Coming up with a more complex but less expensive in the long run method still reads as pretty nerdy in my book. And yes, it does take one to know one...

    1. ratfox

      Exactly my take

      In my book, your nerdiness is proportional to the number of devices you have... This reminds me of the comic of Dilbert walking around with a utility belt full of devices, only to be defeated by a guy with a sat dish on his head.

      And counting the iPad as "free" because you already have one is disingenuous. Even if you already have one, you will use it more than before, which will at best bring down its battery life, and at worst wear it down sooner.

  25. Daniel B.


    I though I spent too much with my $1000 18-month contract. That's for a Blackberry though, and it includes the 18 months of BIS service.

    I wouldn't replace an iPhone with two iDevices + dumbphone, I would probably ditch it for a Blackberry or the N900. I just can't make do with a regular handset anymore, when my BB was stolen I was fumbling at sennding even SMS from my 2005 Alcatel dumbphone. Bought the replacement BB about 4 days later!

  26. Shingo Tamai

    Don't forget... put the $149 you need to pay for the MI-FI device into the equation.

    Not to mention that the ridiculous monthly fee.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    W... T... F...?

    You were paying HOW much for 300 mins? Here in the UK the worst case would be to pay around $70 (£45) per month on a long contract and get the iphone for free or a token amount. This would effectively have an unlimited number of calls and text though.

    In my case I went for an 18 month tie in to the network and got a 32GB iPhone 4 for £150 + an extra £15 per month over my SIM only cost (so real cost of the phone was £420 - about the same as a good Android handset or iPad, but I still think that's too much and too long a tie in for most people.

    Given the massive competition between the 5 networks (and their additional MVNOs) you should have no problem getting a good deal on an iPhone with only a 12-18 month contract if you only need such a small number of mins, or worst case just buy one from an Apple store SIM free - no contract at all and not much difference in price to other smart phones or your ipad..... oh hang on, you're in the US, home of the fee and with a single monopoly provider. Sounds like the US market needs to learn a bit about free trade. :-)

    So your article had nothing really to do with the iPhone at all really did it? :-)

    Ironically, I still use a Nokia in addition to my iPhone in a similar fashon, but this has nothing to do with cost and everything to do with the fact that the iPhone doesn't support HD Voice (another WTF in itself).... If you want to critisise a product, at least find a valid point.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    <columbo>Oh, one more thing... </columbo>

    "I speed test it at between 1038 and 1113 Kbits/s download, and 246 Kbits/s upload, which I’m told is equivalent to a DSL connection."

    Whoever told you that is an idiot. Probably the same idiot who recommended your bizzare communications solution. :-)

    Frankly that's not even decent 3G speed. Again from a UK perspective, here the average ADSL speed last year was around 3.6 Mbps (, but that includeds people miles from the exchange and only includes the slowest "up to 8Mbps" services.

    Quick check on my iPhone using the app.... 12.26 Mbps down, 1.68 Mbps up via rather average ADSL line connected via WiFi.... and.... via Vodafone 3G... 2.91 Mbps down, 3.01 Mbps up (strange reverse there)!

    You sir, have been misinformed.

  29. krkr8m
    Paris Hilton

    Another Android

    One more Android lover. Seriously you could have just bought an Android phone which does all of this.

    Paris. How long will it take to make a Paris android once humanoid android manufacture is perfected?

  30. Steve 13



    # iPhone - $82 per month/2 year contract/upgrade contract treadmill

    # Google Voice - free phone number/free US & cheap international calls

    # iPad - $499 for the more than adequate Wi-Fi only model (already owned)

    # Virgin Mi-Fi - $149 for the device; $40 pm for the service

    # Potentially displace home Internet service - $62 per month

    # Contracts entrapment - no contracts & not tied up for two years with early exit penalty


    # Galaxy S- £22.50 per month/2 year contract/upgrade contract treadmill

    # No need for google voice, I've got a phone

    # I can browse perfectly well on my phone

    # My phone has 3G

    # My home broadband is cheaper than mi-fi, and more reliable and faster

    # Okay, I've got a 2 year contract on the phone.

    I don't have to carry around your 3 (or was it 4) devices, the phone works as a phone, browser, probably for music, definitely for ebooks. My total monthly cost is £22.50 including 300 minutes, unlimited texts and 500 MB data (which I never come close to using).

    You also state that you get more minutes for your $ now. That's only really true if you actually make use of them. I took the minimum minutes I could get. Out of that 300 I use about 50/month!

  31. Gary 24


    you forgot an alarm clock as the iPhone doesn't seem to be very good at that, either!

  32. Tigra 07
    Thumb Down

    You could always buy a phone that works?

    What do you expect when you buy an iphone?

    You're paying for the name of a company that can't match spec and hardware with cheaper android phones.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Am I missing something?

    You wrote:

    "iPhone - $82 per month/2 year contract/upgrade contract treadmill"


    "Virgin Mi-Fi - $149 for the device; $40 pm for the service

    Potentially displace home Internet service - $62 per month" the costs of your new mobile contract on top of that...

    So, over $102 per month and having to carry around three devices is somehow better than $82 per month?

    In the UK, my contract is £30 per month and I get unlimited internet access and a large number of txts and minutes free...

    £30 is definitely cheaper than $102, so I think I'll stick with my iPhone, thanks.

  34. stu 4
    Jobs Halo


    even for an american, that is some mental logic there... al because for some reason you don't like the iphone as a phone... what's wrong with it ? mine works fine for calls.

    Proposing a solution of substituting 1 device for about 5 is mad as a tree.

    since I iphoned up last year, it has now (iphone 4 now) became my one and only device I take everywhere - 90% of the time I use it for emails, surfing and apps (the stuff I'm told I have to buy a similar resolution, less feature rich massive ipad for)... and the other 10% is calls which it does fine.

    Unless you could using it as a mobile wifi hotspot and tethered solution for my macbooks - in which case I use it 8 hours a day on client sites for that too - all one device.


    - itard (MBP17, MBA13, MBA11, imac, mac pro quad, mac mini, hackbook, iphone4, 2xipods... 2 IIc and a few mac classics)

  35. Arctic fox

    I think that we are missing something here and that is....... different geographically different the US and Canada are contra the UK. The square area of those two countries is _gigaaaaaantic_ with a consequent population density equation if one is to be a national cellphone carrier in North America that presents an entirely different scale of challenge when it comes to infrastructure costs. I accept of course that there may well be other contributory reasons but the sheer physical scale of those two nations has got to be part of the explanation at least.

  36. Michael C

    Don't know what you're all blathering about

    I'm on my 3rd iDevice. I got a Gen 1 right about the time the price dropped from $400, then got a 3GS near 2 years later to replace it, and after shattering that got a 4 a few months ago. My wife is still using the 1st Gen (until i get around to replacing the screen on the 3GS to give that to gher, still works flawlessly just broken glass...) Between the two of us, about 800 min/mo average talk time, and combined more than 3GB of data monthly, I have NO ISSUES with AT&T at all.

    In several years, I've dropped maybe 10 calls total, legitimately as a fault of AT&T (and who really knows if that was me or the other guy dropping). Not one dropped call on the iPhone 4 since purchase. Yes, there are some dead spots on freeways here where I know I'll drop a call. that is NOT an AT&T issue, that is a local monopoly issue, and effects EVERY carrier. I drop a connection there, but get it back instantly on their towers, then switch back again a few miles later. NO carrier can handle switching in and out of their network, and sprint has no access at all for those 10 miles of freeway. We all deal with this locally, and we all know the spot (there's even billboards warning of the impending call drop area!)

    Outside of the few spots, I have FAR superior coverage on AT&T all around the southeast than Verizon. I know of dozens of places Verizon doesn't work at all, more for Sprint, and not a single place AT&T doesn't have at least Edge signal, even out in farm country 50 miles from my home. Most of it is HSDPA+, and gets faster downloads than Sprint 4G. My wife was on Verizon the first 2 years I had an iPhone. She dropped calls weekly, had trouble getting signal at all where she worked, and had to go outside the house to hold a call some days. We're in one of the biggest neighborhoods in the northeast area of our city, and V has 3 towers closer to the house than AT&T does... That's pathetic that I can hold calls inside and she can't. She tried 4 different phones before Verizon stopped offering to exchange them, but would not let her out of her contract as we crossed the 30 day threshold (actually 90 days) trying to confirm it wasn't simply a bad handset.

    The monthly bill is within $5 of Verizon for the same plan tier, but i get rollover minutes, hotspots, and there's no data overage charges period (and I have gone over 5GB several times, pushed up to near 20GB on a vacation last fall).

    This summer I was in NY, about 25 miles from Manhattan. 1 dropped call in a week, and that was in an office building elevator. AT&T already fixed as much of their service congestion (it was never quality, it was a matter of AIRSPACE) issues as much as the FCC will allow until new spectrum is available. In super dense areas (4 cities, and then only some times of the day), AT&T can have issues, but Verizon does too unsurprisingly.

    Data/voice concurrency is the big winner for me. Without that feature, a smart phone is pretty useless to me. Throw in free wifi hotspots, rollover minutes, no caps, no data overages (I'm grandfathered in), its WELL worth $5 more per month. i saved a years worth of the difference on just 1 trip (Verizon would have hit me for some $75 in overages that month, just on data, I've gone over my 900 minute cap 4 times in 12 months and that would have been more than $15 each time on V too). Oh, and verizon as so totally anti-consumer.

    Yea, when the iPhone dropped, AT&T got overwhelmed. Their networks crumbled in congested areas. Dropped calls are down 1,000% in Manhattan since then. Where I live, and everywhere within 500 miles I've traveled, AT&T has better coverage than Verizon, and better speed than sprint. What's the fuss? FUD? Oh, any my new job just gave me a Sprint Blackberry. Same device is available on Verizon for less per month, but Verizon is banned by company policy since it's "unreliable in many corporate facilities."

  37. Sailfish

    Being less of a Nerd?

    Replacing a single device with a complex mixture of alien technology is not an exit strategy out of Nerdom, it's finding the swamp area and getting oneself stuck knee deep in it, methinks.

  38. This post has been deleted by its author

  39. Daniel Harris 1


    How about a £25 per month contract inc Unlimited internet and enough txt/calls

    Combined with a Nokia running Jokiuspot for sharing WiFi to your other devices...

    I don't use a Nokia, had a Blackberry for the past year, but used to love Jokiuspot (sp?) for sharing my connection. Better battery life, and cheaper than a MiFi with a dedicated contract just for that. Which are imo expensive in the UK when you already have a phone contract w/ internet

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