Why I Didn't Buy An iPhone: The Network
2 min read

Why I Didn't Buy An iPhone: The Network

iPhoneI just bought a Blackberry 8830 from Verizon, forgoing the opportunity to be among the first iPhone owners. This decision surprised me because I had been eagerly looking forward to the iPhone after praising it as a truly innovative product, despite much tech geek snarking. And now that the mainstream tech pundocracy has weighted in, it appears that the iPhone does indeed live up to expectations — mostly.

Two minor issues that contributed to my decision were the lack of a mechanical keyboard and the lack of push email. But I could have gotten over these. For me, the big deal killer was the network, i.e. the iPhone is only available on AT&T/Cingular.

As Walt Mossberg and Katherine Boehret put it:

But the iPhone has a major drawback: the cellphone network it uses. It only works with AT&T (formerly Cingular), won’t come in models that use Verizon or Sprint and can’t use the digital cards (called SIM cards) that would allow it to run on T-Mobile’s network. So, the phone can be a poor choice unless you are in areas where AT&T’s coverage is good. It does work overseas, but only via an AT&T roaming plan.

In addition, even when you have great AT&T coverage, the iPhone can’t run on AT&T’s fastest cellular data network. Instead, it uses a pokey network called EDGE, which is far slower than the fastest networks from Verizon or Sprint that power many other smart phones. And the initial iPhone model cannot be upgraded to use the faster networks.

I have used Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Cingular/AT&T in the Washington, DC metro area and in many other cities — Verizon kills the competition. That’s why they can afford not to get taken to the cleaners by mobile device manufacturers offering hot new phones. The reduction in dropped calls and dead zones with Verizon is simply astonishing — it’s as close as a mobile network comes to actually working. And I need my mobile device to function as PHONE as much an Internet device.

Bottom line is: The network MATTERS — a lot. It matters for voice and it matters for the ultra-hyped mobile web. Verizon’s high speed network IS faster — it’s not full broadband speed, of course, but it blows away the slower networks I’ve used, i.e. the kind of slower network the iPhone has with AT&T.

So much of the Web’s promise went unfulfilled in Web 1.0 because the network simply wasn’t ready. Buying an iPhone with AT&T would be like buying a laptop that only supports dial-up.

I still believe the iPhone is a revolutionary product. The Blackberry is a highly functional business device, which is no small accomplishment, but the 8830 doesn’t fundamentally change the way I work compared to the older, more primitive Blackberry I had been using.

The iPhone will revolutionize the mobile web use, including mobile video — but without a network to support it, the revolution is not happening just yet.