This month, I finally joined the rest of the world in the mad dash for the iPhone which everyone else partook in last year. This lateness to the party was no fault of my own other than the fact that I was stuck in a phone contract that was two years long.
My contract began three weeks before the iPhone came out and actually ran through June of this year. While this type of contract is not unusual, it has been a topic hotly debated on all levels of society including the government. High cancellation fees for cancelling contract has been a subject of most government discussions and the one thing despised by phone users all over the US.
What is most bothersome is the fact that other than the lousy service provided by most cariers today, the phone carriers add no real value to the phones, yet they expect us to give them hundreds of dollars of our hard earned cash. This in spite of the fact that most people who cancel their contract are cancelling due to the poor and in many cases, non-existant service that the companies are providing.
Having used many serrvices including Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and even Deutche Telecom, I can testify to the spotty service. When our offices were in Allen, Washington, which was very rural, the service frame ended 200 meters from my house. This did not change for any of the services we had at the time. The quality or lack of service was the same. Bad and non-existant.
Yet, if you were to believe the commercials you see on TV, you would think that the phone services were covering everywhere. Of course, there have been battles in congress and in the media about who is telling the truth about service area coverage. From the chair I sit in, none of them are telling the truth.
This makes the multiple hundred dollar charges for cancellation not only insulting but ridiculous that these companies could even get away with charging such fees in the first place. But while, we in the US think that we have the only screwed up system in the world, then we only need to look at our neighbors to the north or the ones on the otherside of the Pacific.
In Japan, those fees are charged by calculating how many months are left on the contract and charging a premium on that amount. My contact had 1 year left when I first inquired in June of last year, and the company wanted 52,000 yen or $550 USD to end the contract. Obviously this was not a pheasibile plan, especially to change to the iPhone and spend another $500 to $600 USD for the iPhone unit.
So as luck would have it, I waited until February to cancel it and wound up only having to pay 19,000 JPY or 220 USD. This was much more pheasibile and the fact that I had enough points built up in SOftbanks point system from all the international calls I make to essentially make the iPhone unit complete free. (23 JPY or 25 cents per mont which is just about a fair price).
The other area of the phones that absolutely floors me in the US when I am there is the fact that is you have a cell phone and someone calls you, you get charged for the call. If you receive 50 calls plus a day like I do, then this can add up extremely fast. In Japan, we only get charged if we make a call which is the way it should be. Thus, the end result of all the contract and fees is that I now have an iPhone. The really cool bit about that is the fact that I had to wait meant that Apple released another version of the iPhone. This meant that all the growing pains that people were talking about last year bypassed me completely.
While I have probably rambled on far longer than I should have this month, I must say that what I have seen of the iPhone 3Gs is quite a bit better than the last phone I had. I only have a problem with the keys and my football player hands dont line up at all on it. I am hoping that the iPad will resolve this issue for me, which brings me to my next item of discussion for this month.
I have heard many people talking about the iPad, both good and bad. While I have obviously looked at it as a big iTouch, which is perfect for me, many people are complaining about the fact that the iPad lacks multitasking and a camera. Along those lines, there are two items of business that Apple should be paying attention to.
A camera should be included that is facing the user. This obviously was lost on the iPhone designers who only thought of it as a camera that one would shoot photos and videos with. This makes Apps such as those video conferencing apps for the iPhone completely useless. If the iPad is to succeed as a business tool and appeal to the masses in a major way, this lacking must be addressed and in a very timely manner. Obviously, the multitasking is more of a wish for those who really dont want to stop a session of an app to answer the phone or to make a call on Skype or such. Also being able to get URLs for an email would be easier if you could have multiple sessions. While not a complete show stoppper, multitasking is a nicety in this era which is almost expected on any type of machine.
Finally, the pricing. While Steve Jobs got this part of the iPad right, the fact that you cant really make phone calls using the 3G model of the iPad is a bit of a downer. I for one would gladly give up my iPhone if I knew the iPad would also handle phone calls. Now, instead of only having to carry one machine or the other, I will need to carry both, which makes me almost wish I had not given up my old phone as it would have allowed me to have a regular phone instead of one phone capable iTouch and one 10 inch iTouch. But obviously, I too will be one of those fools standing in line for the 3G model of the iPad the day that it comes out (not April 4th).