By Harry McCracken | Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 5:02 pm
Earlier this week, I sought your advice on whether I should get rid of cable TV, and many of you responded with useful feedback. Now I need your thoughts on an equally major dilemma: Should I dump AT&T and give up my iPhone 3GS?
So help me, I’m not an AT&T hater. My iPhone is my primary phone, and it works fine most of the time–including at home, where audio quality is good and calls rarely if ever die. I’m aware that AT&T 3G, when it works, is speedy, and that simultaneous voice and data is a benefit. I also understand that other carriers are far from perfect, and that it’s not a given I’d be happier with something else.
This morning, I was on an important call that went fine until the significant part started. Then the connection died. And no matter how many times I redialed, it died again without getting through. Even though the phone claimed it had a full five bars of coverage plus 3G. Eventually, I lunged outside (into the pouring rain) and ran to my car. Sitting in there, I was able to get through.
I wasn’t really surprised: I spend a lot of time in the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco, and for the most part, my AT&T iPhone is an outdoor phone there. Indoors, it’s an utter crapshoot whether I’ll be able to make and take calls. I’ve lived with the situation for a year and a half, but I’m growing weary, and I have no idea when or if the situation will improve. (We know that AT&T Mobility President Ralph De La Vegas is not a reliable source of information on what to expect.)
(I also have no idea whether the iPhone itself deserves any of the blame–there are those who say that poor reception is at least partially the phone’s fault.)
Anyhow, for the first time, I’m seriously considering switching to another carrier–which most likely means using another phone as my primary handset. (Full disclosure: The iPhone is one of the most newsworthy platforms of any type we cover, so I’d keep the phone and wouldn’t cancel my AT&T account…but when I just wanted to get stuff done, I’d use a different phone.)
Here are the options I’m currently contemplating:
Verizon Wireless: I’d buy a Droid or the soon-to-be-available Palm Pre Plus. The Droid, however, is no longer the coolest, most advanced Android phone– the Nexus One, which is really a T-Mobile phone, is. The new Pre Plus, on the other hand, is the newest Web OS phone, and WebOS is an OS that speaks to me. It also works as a MiFi-like wireless router, which might let me get rid of my EVDO adapter. On the other hand, the WebOS app library remains skimpy, and Engadget’s review of the Pre Plus leaves me worrying about its battery life. And the Pre, like the iPhone, now feels like a last-generation phone when it comes to screen resolution and camera specs.
Sprint: I could buy a (no longer the latest and greatest) Pre from these guys, too, and their service-plan pricing is aggressive. I also know of folks who are fans of Sprint’s coverage and reliability.
T-Mobile: I’d get the Nexus One. (Actually, I’d spring for the $529 unlocked model so I wasn’t committed to T-Mobile for two years, and could use it overseas for cheap with a pay-as-you-go SIM card.) It’s a good phone with a good OS and lots of apps (including Google Voice!) and its future seems bright.
Wild card: I could unlock my iPhone and use it on T-Mobile, right?
Weird wild card: I could get a MiFi pocket router from Verizon, use it with my iPhone, and make calls via Skype over Verizon’s network, right?
None of these options is without its pitfalls, but if I had to do the deal today, I’d get a Verizon Pre or a T-Mobile Nexus One.
Or I might just stick with the iPhone and AT&T. If carrier support wasn’t an issue, I’d still choose the iPhone. And like I said, AT&T works fine most of the time. It’s just that when it doesn’t, that “More Bars in More Places” tagline feels more like mockery than a promise.
What would you do?
[UPDATE: Let’s turn this into a poll!]