iPhone 5 and related thoughts

To begin: I’m a big proponent of Apple devices. I believe they’re the best option for people who would rather have their computing devices “just work” than to have to work to get their computing devices to do what they need. I don’t want to “root” or “jailbreak” or “hack” or choose between kernels or otherwise have to manually manage or deeply customize my computer/tablet/phone – I just want to open the box and start using it, and I want to be able to continue using it the way I did when I opened the box until the device dies. (Said device failure preferably coming 5+ years after purchase… and though I don’t expect to still be the primary user of a particular phone after that many years, I do expect it to still be working as, say, an iPod Touch for someone without a smartphone.) Nearly every computing device in my household is from Apple, from the wireless routers to the iMac, Macbook Pro, iBook, iPad, and several iPhones and iPods. (We don’t, yet, have an AppleTV. Maybe soon.)

We don’t compulsively upgrade our devices, certainly not with unsubsidized phones. We can’t really afford to. Instead, we typically wait as long as possible before updating. So, for example, I bought the original iPhone (the day after they dropped the price) and didn’t upgrade until the 3GS was available. Then I got married and, when we wanted to move Mandy over from Verizon to AT&T onto a shared plan, we never even had to put her on a contract – she just used my original iPhone, at first. With two phones, two lines, and one not under contract, it would be easy enough to buy one of the latest iPhone every year, putting every other phone line on a fresh 2-year contract – and since I’m the tech geek and last-year’s-iPhone is still a really good smartphone, just shuffle the devices so I have the newest and Mandy has the next-newest, and my sister gets the no-plan-use-it-as-an-iPod-Touch two-versions-old device. Due to other influences (including planning for possibly heading to Japan, a plan currently moved once more to the back-burner) we never did get a second contract on our account, and had nearly let mine run out entirely – though this spring when Mandy’s 3GS started going mad (I think I determined in the end it was Gmail’s fault) using 10x-100x more data than it had any reason to, we did renew my contract for 2 years to got me a new 4s and give her my 4 (my sister is now much happier with the 3GS-as-iPod-Touch than she was with the original iPhone).

So now we’re to the release of the iPhone 5. It looks great, and I’d love to have one, but it’s not necessary. The closest thing to failure on our devices is that the home button on the 4 isn’t entirely reliable – which has been a problem for years; I dealt with it, but it frustrates Mandy quite a bit. (In case you hadn’t heard, some iPhone 4 home buttons are less-than-perfect. Sometimes you press it and nothing happens. Other times you press it and it registers as a double-press. Since the introduction of multitasking to iOS, this is somewhat inconvenient.) What we’ve decided is that tonight we’ll try the anecdotally-recommended solution to the button problem, WD-40, and if it kills the iPhone 4, we’ll buy an iPhone 5 tomorrow morning (I’m excellent at waiting in lines) and do the old iPhone-shuffle. And if it fixes (or doesn’t change) the button problem, no problem, we’ll just stick with the hardware we have until something goes wrong (or there’s an irresistible upgrade, like the retina display was).

Now, some readers may be wondering about the AT&T situation. Some people really don’t like AT&T. I guess some people have terrible reception/service/whatever where they are. Or they don’t like blue, or … something. I don’t know what. What I do know is that a decade ago I was happy with AT&T Wireless, and that when I moved to Pine in early 2003 I was forced to switch to Verizon (the only carrier up there, at the time). Verizon’s service in Pine was fine, but when I moved back to Phoenix in 2004 I immediately began having issues, the most striking of which is a near-total inability to make or receive phone calls inside my own home. Step outside, even just 3 feet out the door, and reception is great. Step inside, and miss important calls, texts, and voicemails. When the iPhone launched, because it was only available on AT&T, I switched back – and haven’t really looked back, since. I get reasonable-to-great service inside my home, which is where I make and receive 90% or more of my phone calls. The only places I haven’t had service are the places I expected that to be the case, such as deep-in-Yellowstone, or hundreds of miles from anywhere, on back roads, on long road trips – places I know from experience with Verizon there isn’t much signal, either.

What about cost? Well, I still have my old unlimited-data plan with AT&T. I could even, apparently, grandfather it over to an iPhone 5 and an LTE plan: $30/month for 5GB of LTE data (and unlimited throttled data, after that). Mandy switched from the old 250Mb data option to the old 2Gb data option when her 3GS was acting up (when Gmail was acting up), so that’s $25/month. We’re on the super-secret lowest-possible-minutes plan AT&T offers for Family Plans, which is $50/month + $9.99/extra-line, or $59.99/month for 550 minutes on the two lines – because between the two of us, most months we use 120 to 150 minutes, total. And we have rollover, so there are forever 5k+ rollover minutes available, should we somehow ever exceed the 550 minutes allotted to us at the beginning of each month. Oh, and since switching her to the iPhone 4, Mandy hasn’t gone over 255Mb of data usage; she normally uses 140Mb-199Mb/month. And since I work from home, I use a similar amount. The only time we use a serious amount more data is when we travel – we’ll easily use, say, 1GB on a vacation. Between the two of us. (Because, seriously, there’s free WiFi almost everywhere, these days.) Oh, plus we pay $5/month for 200 text messages each. (Yet another no-longer-available option, there. Now you can buy texts in “unlimited” and “per-text” only, from AT&T.) I’ll typically use 40 txts/month, and she’ll typically use 60. (Except during this year’s PHXComicon, where Mandy was apparently managing her entire team of moderators via text messages, and used nearly 500.)

All told, that’s $125/month ($139 with taxes/fees) for 550 minutes (73% unused), Unlimited + 2Gb data (90%-94% unused), and 400 texts (75% unused). We could theoretically save up to $15/month by putting us both on the currently-cheapest data plans of 300Mb/month for $20/month, but most of what we’re paying for would still be unused capacity.

Since the last time I looked, all the major carriers have also launched data sharing plans, too, so Mandy and I could “share” the same pool of data. AT&T, in fact, is making their Mobile Share plan a requirement for iOS 6’s facetime-over-cellular feature (admittedly, we’ve never really used facetime at all) and they’ve sweetened the deal by adding tethering/mobile-hotspot to all their Mobile Share plans. (For comparison, we’d have to switch both lines to the 5Gb for $50/device/month plans to add mobile hotspot with our current plans, adding $45/month over what we’re paying now, for a feature that would rarely (but certainly occasionally) be used.) The way AT&T has priced their Mobile Share plans, it would cost us $40/month for the core plan, plus $45/device/month, (that is: $130+fees (probably $146/month)) for the cheapest 1Gb/month option. (Plus unlimited minutes and unlimited texts – which we already effectively have, since our usage is so low.) The next step up from 1Gb is their 4Gb plan at $70/month plus $40/device/month. (that is: $150+fees (probably $165/month))

Which is to say that, for only an additional $7/month, I could add more minutes we’ll never use, more texts we’ll never use, and take away 4Gb*/month from our mostly-unused data-access capacity, while adding the options of using our iPhones as mobile hotspots and of using facetime over cellular. (*6Gb if I get the iPhone 5, calculated based on un-throttled data access on my “unlimited” data plan.)

But what about the cost of upgrading to the iPhone 5, you ask? Well, to do so while staying on AT&T, it would cost us $299 (well, maybe $399 – I normally just use the 32Gb model, but I’ve finally begun bumping up against that, lately), plus maybe the $36 activation/upgrade fee.

To switch to, say, Verizon, since that’s what some people think would be the thing to do, the only option now is the Share Everything plan (no, really, it’s that and pre-paid, according to the Verizon site), which they price at $40/device/month plus $50/month for 1Gb (i.e.: $5 more per month than the equivalent plan at AT&T, $12 more than we pay now), and I’d have to buy out the current contract on my 4S at AT&T ($265) and buy a new 2nd phone, since despite the 4S having the CDMA capabilities built in, Verizon apparently won’t allow you to activate it on their network if you didn’t originally buy it as a Verizon iPhone. (Because Verizon American mobile phone companies sucks.) So add another $99-$299 for a Verizon-accepted iPhone for Mandy. Wow, the more I get into this, the harder it sucks. Looking at a minimum of $663-$863 up front to switch, plus an extra $288 (or more) in monthly fees for their cheapest applicable plan than we’re paying now (or $120 more than we’d pay if we switched to AT&T’s share plan), over the minimum 2-year contract. Plus maybe not have any service at home. Plus maybe an activation fee or two. Screw that. I know some people are saying it’s cheaper for them to buy out their contracts and switch carriers, but I think that’s because they’re planning on upgrading all their phones to the newest device, and have several, each with about a year left on their contracts.

Why am I blogging all this? I don’t know. It’s been on my mind, and writing it out is part of how I think through it, obviously. Still, with 1.6k words on the subject I seem to have come to the same conclusions I began with: Stick with AT&T. Probably stick with the devices we already have, but maybe buy an iPhone 5 if WD-40 kills Mandy’s 4. Think about whether we have any use for mobile hotspot, and maybe switch from our current plans to Mobile Share, but probably not.

What about you? Thinking of upgrading? Or perhaps downgrading to Android, because you like the idea of having to work to get your phone to work?

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Author, artist, romantic, insomniac, exorcist, creative visionary, lover, and all-around-crazy-person.

7 thoughts on “iPhone 5 and related thoughts”

  1. The snobbery of a dyed and true Apple fan. I want it to work and nothing else will do. Except for that pesky home button right? But I don’t hold it against you. Apple makes a great product and responds to exactly what their customer wants.  Their customer’s want their toys to work “as advertised” and they almost always do. 
    But there are some people that want more from their toys. They want their toys to do exactly what they WANT not what is they are told to want “as advertised”. They willing trade stability for customization, design control for adaptability and interchangeable parts.
    You like Apple because you like safe and that is fine. Personally, I change my own batteries.

  2. I’m not sure how you got here, what you get from reading my blog, or why you thought posting this comment was a constructive addition. I’ll pretend you’re one of the tens of thousands of people who have read or listened to my books, and try and explain it in terms of that: I’d rather spend 99% of the time I’m using a device on the task at hand, rather than on customizing, adapting, troubleshooting, or upgrading the device. I’d rather be writing. I’d rather be editing. I’d rather be doing layout, formatting eBooks, or designing covers. I’d rather be recording, editing, or publishing audiobooks. I’d rather be programming an interactive narrative experience. I’d rather be drawing comics. I’d rather be composing music. I’d rather be playing video games. I’d rather be doing research. I’d rather be surfing the web, checking email, or keeping up to date on social networks. I’d rather be doing just about any of the things I have the computer *for* than wasting my time working on the computer itself.

    I did enough of that. I’ve done professional technical support for software, for hardware, for Apple, for Windows and Windows CE, for Unix and Linux systems, for mixed networks where I had to get Windows, Mac, and Unix systems to play nicely with each other and with million-dollar printers. I’ve spent thousands of hours walking people through problems from the simple to the complex. I’ve managed teams of technicians, and I’ve coordinated bug reports between tech support and developers. I’ve taught myself several programming languages over the years, when I had something I wanted to create with one, most recently Objective C so I can design my own iOS apps for some of the interactive storytelling ideas I have (but for which no one else had yet designed a higher-level system for me to build them in). After enough years of that, I began transitioning my personal systems all over to Apple – I didn’t want to have to do all that work, I just want to *use* my computers. A couple of years later, I quit the industry altogether; I don’t want to do that sort of work at all, if I can avoid it.

    I like Apple because it works, generally, and getting it fixed is usually pretty straightforward. So, for example, the reason the home button on our iPhone 4 is still occasionally frustrating is that, for the year and a half I was its user, it didn’t bother me enough to justify taking even an hour or two out of my life to take it down to the Apple Store and get it replaced at the Genius Bar, which is a not-uncommon way for Apple to resolve any real hardware problems: Just replace the device, on the spot. No RMAs and paying for shipping back and forth (for end-users) and going days or weeks without a phone. (I’ve dealt with more than enough of that on the support end.) I could have let Apple fix the problem, but it is so minor … that all it really serves as here is an excuse to (maybe) buy myself the latest-and-greatest. Most likely, even that won’t work, as there’s a good chance a half-second spray of WD-40 will just fix the thing.

    As far as whether the iPhone does what I want … they do. Most of what I’ve just detailed for you above, you could learn by going back through the 12+ years of archives on this blog (not that I expect most people to be interested in reading a million or more words about my life), and that includes posts I made ~7 years prior to the introduction of the iPhone where I described the iPhone’s capabilities as what I wanted from a mobile internet device. I then waited ~7 years for Apple to bring it to market. Certainly there are other things I want from technology, but I’m willing to wait until they get past the point where I have to work at it just to use them: I don’t want to pilot a space craft, I just want to go to space. I don’t want to program my own robot, I want to buy one that just works. I have some ideas for some very creative projects for biotech, but I’m waiting for another generation or four of devices to pass, so I can do the high-level creative work I have in mind instead of messing with the low-level stuff, too.

    Here’s another way to put it into perspective: For my last book release, Never Let the Right One Go, I put in over 1200 hours of work, less than 4 of them (probably <2) on configuring, adapting, updating, troubleshooting, or otherwise working on getting my devices to the point I could get real work done. Based on over a decade of experience with non-Apple systems, I estimate it would have taken me an extra 100 hours (minimum, or up to another 600 hours) of fighting against my systems to try to get them to do the work I bought them for in the first place. Even just another 100 hours would have caused me to miss several deadlines. The books wouldn't have been ready in time, Comicon sales wouldn't have been possible, and my company's entire financial trajectory would have been thrown off for the year. I wouldn't be able to work on the projects I'm developing now, for want of funds. In the worst-case scenario, we're looking at losing parts of the work and having to recreate them and I'd almost-certainly still be working on those books – I've already spent hundreds of hours on successive projects, instead of losing that time to my computers. You want to be able to change your battery, and I want to write another book… You want to fiddle with the internals of your computers and phones, and I want to create worlds, and to share them…

  3. Wow, you have put together quite a response. I am flattered. Thank you for sharing. I see we share a view point, that being there is a market for each demand.  Apple and their strict development cycle creates an environment conducive to your use and the trade-off for that hardly matter, for you. My fiddling, as you call it, makes that environment far to restrictive to what I enjoy.

    But I don’t need to rehash old facts especially since we seem to be saying the same thing.

    What you didn’t touch on in your verbose response was my dig at the attitude of the Apple consumer and I would like to talk for a moment about that.

    As a general rule you guys are jerks. An Apple enthusiast generally disdains any other product and anyone who uses them. Look in the mirror, “downgrading to Android, because you like the idea of having to work to get your phone to work?” David “fiddles” while Teal “creates”. Why not just say “If your not using Apple your a fool” ?

    That is where you are wrong and I am calling you out on it.

    Maybe I am Lady Luck’s own golden child but I’ve never experienced your 100-600 hours of issues on non-Apple system. In fact I generally experience the same quantity of work stoppage problems personally and in my Tech Support work on both Windows and Mac platforms. Only with Windows I tend to find more solutions and faster (this may be owed to my higher proficiency in Windows though).

    For not being sure how I got here you are spot on. No pretend necessary, you are precisely right.  As to what I get from reading and why I thought posting was constructive the answers are similar. See things from other people’s views and share mine. I suppose I miss judged from your attitude and closing question. I apologize for interrupting your soup box.
    Keep up the good work!

  4. Addendum: Sorry to hear about the apps maps debacle. Luckily you won’t have to “fiddle” with it too long to figure out it won’t work.

  5. Since your second response seemed to reinforce that your only purpose here was to try to start a fight, I was going to let it stand ignored. Now you’re clearly just coming around, trying to be the biggest asshole you know how to be, trying to pick a fight for no reason, all while calling ME names. That behavior is not welcome here. These sorts of comments may make up the bulk of the comments around the internet, but they are NOT why I have commenting open on my personal blog. Abuse is not appropriate in any setting, but I will not tolerate it here. Any future abusive comments will simply be deleted.

    With regard to the new Maps app, I can’t say I’ve had any meaningful trouble with it – my biggest complaint is that I prefer the old app’s step-by-step directions, manually controlled, over any automated turn-by-turn directions system. Clearly, this is not the sort of problem most people are reporting, and what you incorrectly assume I’d be having trouble with. Where I am, and for my needs, Apple’s Maps app has worked just fine, so far.

    It occurred to me, some time in the last few days, how I might better articulate my perspective on the different use cases for Apple vs. Android systems: If tinkering with computers is something you enjoy, if it is a hobby, a pastime, or an otherwise intrinsically enjoyable act for you to tinker [with computers], then there is an advantage to using an Android device (or running Linux, on your desktop, for example), in that you are forced/allowed/expected to interrupt your actual work every little while to engage in your hobby. When something goes wrong, or needs to be updated, or for no real reason at all, and not necessarily with any warning, you can transition from vocation to avocation and back again without anyone batting an eye. Good on you, for finding a way to mix some of what you enjoy (tinkering) with your actual productive work. (Or, if you are an IT professional, for finding a way to get paid to interrupt other people’s work so you can enjoy your hobby.)

    This goes back to my initial suggestion, which is not a value judgement against anyone, that “if you like the idea of having to work to get your phone to work” you might prefer Android – because a lot of people do. They like to tinker. They, and probably you, actually enjoy that sort of thing. It’s a hobby. To someone with that preference, having Android (especially modded Android, or on desktops running Linux, or Beta versions of any OS) require extra work is a good thing. It gives you regular breaks from having to get any real work done. Enjoy it. But don’t come around here trying to pick fights with me because I would prefer to get a little more work done, because tinkering as such is no longer something I consider enjoyable. To me, such a thing would be a downgrade because I’d rather be working, but that’s no reason to be abusive.

  6. Sorry if I came off too strongly.

    My intent is not to start a fight. The quotes I described did get under my skin and in response seems I worded things in such a such a way as likewise provoked.  I did not intend other then ribbing and rejoinders of a type with the tone I felt had been set. At the time I felt I was responding in kind but I see now we have both put our e-feather in a dander and that has gotten in the way of meaningful discourse.

    That is tragic. I hope you can read past the parts that anger you and see the content. As moderator of your well crafted blog I welcome and encourage you to remove anything unsuitable.

    A situation occurred to me the other day that I honestly would like your input on since it involves your work and my perception with Apple’s limitations.

    I hope I am not remiss to say that you are a writer. I am sure this is near infinitely complex but I want to look specifically at the distribution part of your writing. Aiding you in this task is Podiobooks. What a fantastic service, right? I love them. Good people. Lets remember that for later.

    Yet you could (maybe do) use other services. One of the big boys being iTunes. What a well made product. It manages your subscriptions, allows you to sell and purchase, decodes and plays, and transfers said content to your iThis and iThat.

    You may have a glimmer of where I am going.

    I have not read/listened to your full bibliography but I feel I have a fair grasp of your range of style.  I would not be surprised to see a large selection of it in the iTunes store, were I to have the application. But not all of it.  Why? Because Apple applies the same principles here that they do across their business. Your more risqué writing, Apple doesn’t want to be affiliated. Sorry. Hold this thought too.

    This happens to the content provides, the App developers, even to the retails businesses that sell the product. From the minerals pulled out of the ground to the data delivered Apple exerts as much controls as they can.

    Yes, this provides a stable product but not a versatile one. Want to upgrade your iBooks memory? Nope, soldered on.  Replace my phone’s ageing lithium battery? Sure, we’ll do that. Not  you.  Plug into external non Apple projectors/monitors?  Don’t forget to bring your adapter. iPhone low on juice? Hope you buddy owns one too, no? Encourage him to.

    Yet the issue is bigger then Apple’s choices. After all, if it didn’t make them money Apple wouldn’t do it. The market exists and the market is you and people like you. You live in Apple’s world, you like it, so do your family and friends. No skin off my back.

    Yet do you really fit in the Apple world? Roll back to the first point I had you hold. Where does your risqué fit in your Apple world? It doesn’t. Even though you and your audience is past the local age of consent and what you publish is legal. No dice.

    So you take other avenues. Podiobooks and blogs. Now your content is split. Your audience looses out. Why? Because you don’t make yourself Apple safe. 12 other steps to get something special by Teal. How does that make you feel?

    Maybe your thinking it is okay for things to be not Apple? After all you have that non Apple content and need a non Apple content audience. I say great! There is room for us all.

    No dice. Apple’s aggressive market control kicks up a notch. Lawsuits left and right. HTC, Google, Samsung, Motorola. Lawsuits over the term “podcast”. Those good people back at Podiobooks? Not in a good place.

    My point being that, aside from times that Apple steps into my world as says, “Why aren’t you using me!” I think there is room enough for all. But that is exactly what your post did and it raised my hackles.

    I think there is an Apple world and if you live and iLife then you fit right in. I think that content creators, developers, fiddlers, and all users should look for what best suits there needs but not just which has the glowing white logo.

    I especially think we need to be respectful of people who choose different products.

  7. I’m only replying to clarify that you don’t know what you’re talking about, and should stop pretending to. It would be better to do some research, first. For example: Every singe book and story I’ve published is available right now through Apple’s iBookstore. If you were referring to audiobooks, Apple doesn’t control/filter that at all, Audible/Amazon does – so when my audiobooks aren’t listed in iTunes, it isn’t because Apple didn’t like the content, it’s because Audible is a pain in the ass and doesn’t understand what its customers want. (Audible’s crazy decisions, they think, are based on maximizing their income – they give no thought to content.)

    Likewise, you’re arguing against points I never tried to make. I didn’t say “only buy Apple” or “don’t buy anything else”. I blogged about *my* preferences, and in so doing, at worst, made an offhand comment expressing my opinion of working with a different style of device. You’re the one blowing things all out of proportion. You’re the one turning this into a fight. Saying “it is not my intent to start a fight” doesn’t negate the fact that you keep coming back here, trying to start fights. Trying to argue against points which were never made. Trying to attack me because of my opinions and preferences, and making up bullshit to do so, since the facts are not in your favor. I recommend you re-read what has been posted here, by each of us, until you can see what, in your communication, is failing you. How you’re picking fights without, apparently, being aware of it. How you’re making things up (rather than doing even a few moments of research) to support your “right” to pick fights. Then spend some time trying to police your own actions in future, as they affect other people.

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