Wednesday, August 6, 2008

iPhone 3G: Rational or Rationalization?

Consider the following lines from The Big Chill:
Michael: I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They're more important than sex.

Sam Weber: Ah, come on. Nothing's more important than sex.

Michael: Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?
This quote is brought to you courtesy of my brother, who has watched me buy gadgets for most of our lives.  As he has pointed out many times, I can always cite reasons for buying them, but I really don't need most of them.

This more or less leads right to the point of this posting: I bought an iPhone 3G this past weekend.

Why? After months of reading about it and mulling over the pros and cons, it all essentially came down to:
  1. Bright
  2. Shiny
For the back story and my many rationalizations, read on.

Rationalization 1: my old phone stopped working

Last Wednesday, my venerable iPhone stopped making calls. With the new 3G phone out there, this timing seemed providential. Since it was still in warranty, the top question on my mind was:
Will Apple replace my old phone with a new 3G phone?
Alas, no.

It turns out that Apple currently still has big bags of the original 2G phones around. They don't sell them, but use them to replace defective 2G phones, such as mine. They tested my old phone, and immediately gave me a shiny new 2G replacement unit at no extra charge.

Rationalization 2: there is an easy upgrade path from the 2G to the 3G iPhone

Alas, again. The only migration path is to buy a 3G, move your phone number to it, and then sell your 2G phone.

Rationalization 3: I can use the extra memory

This one has some merit to it.

On the one hand, my old 8 GB 2G phone held more stuff than I could listen to in weeks of commuting.

However, every plane trip required an hour of iPhone prep work -- shuffling stuff on and off the phone so that I had enough room for a few trip movies and podcasts. This will be a lot easier to do with the extra 8 GB on the new 16 GB phone.

Also, even in these early days of iPhone applications, I can already see how easy it would be to fill up my phone with apps alone.

Rationalization 4: the extra 3G speed will be great

When I use it, it is nice. I live in a town with decent 3G availability, and web pages and e-mail downloads feel a lot zipper than with 2G. However, when I'm at home or work, I have much faster WiFi connections. 3G is therefore probably only useful to me for about 5% of the time. The rest of the time, it seems to suck the battery down at a sometimes appalling rate.

Rationalization 5: the built-in GPS will be awesome

We are still in the early days of location-based phone services. However, I am already convinced that these apps are a killer reason to buy a 3G. I'm guessing that 20 - 40% of my visits to the web for information require me to tell the site where I am (movie times, weather, bus and ferry schedules, dining, etc.). As I posted here before, iPhone apps like Loopt and Urbanspoon are already automating this process for me. Other apps such as HereIAm, BoxOffice and one showing my local bus routes have been equally useful. It's impressive just how much time is liberated by having the iPhone enter this information instead of me.

For the most part, the built-in GPS seems to work quite well, other than in a drugstore parking lot in my neighborhood, where the GPS repeatedly thinks I am near a cemetery in Jersey City, NJ, zillions of miles away.

Rationalization 6: I can sell the 2G phone on eBay

This is true. One current bid there for a locked mint 2G phone was $365.

Rationalization 7: 3G's are in stock right now -- who knows when they will have them again?

This is not very convincing locally, since all of our stores seem to have all models in stock every day.

The feeding frenzy seems to have died down considerably. While there are lines locally, they are short. This past weekend, I didn't get in line until about 11:30 am on Saturday morning. I had a voucher for a 16 GB phone about 20 minutes later, and had an activated phone in hand 30 minutes after that.

Rationalization 8: I can just use my old SIM card in the new 3G

Alas, no. However, a new SIM card comes with the 3G, and it only took a few minutes to transfer my old number to the new phone.

Rationalization 9: all of my email accounts, photos, etc. will transfer over to the new phone

This was true for me. However, I first read this article from the Apple support site and followed its advice closely:
This article explains how to replace an original iPhone with an iPhone 3G using the same carrier. If you follow these steps to backup your original iPhone first, and then restore the backup to your iPhone 3G, your saved SMS messages, email accounts, photos, notes, and other personal settings will be present on your iPhone 3G.
Rationalization 10: the 3G phone has plenty of battery life

I think the battery life is fine. However, with the phone, GPS, 3G and WiFi all enabled, it is pretty daunting just how quickly that battery level can drop down to 20%. However, if I run on phone and WiFi alone at work (GPS and 3G off), my battery seems to last all day with no problems.

However, the following Twitter quote by Rands (via The Macalope) really hits the nail on the head:

PEOPLE the battery life appears less because YOU CAN'T PUT THE DAMNED THING DOWN.

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