The Last 5 iPhone Questions (and Yours) | iLounge Article

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The Last 5 iPhone Questions (and Yours)

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Articles Categories: Features

With nearly two weeks remaining until the launch of the iPhone, five major questions still remain unanswered by AT&T and Apple. Here they are, with our “best guess” answers while we wait for official details from the companies. Please add your “most important” questions using the Comments box at the bottom of this article.

(5) Contract Pricing: Everyone knows Apple’s announced iPhone hardware prices—$499 for the 4GB model, $599 for the 8GB model. But no one knows what AT&T will be charging for monthly service fees, and therefore what the total cost of iPhone ownership will be over a 2-year period.

Today, AT&T’s web site lists the company’s current voice and data plans for iPhone-like devices. Its voice plans start at $40 per month, giving you 450 monthly minutes of talk time during weekdays, and 5000 nights and weekend minutes. An unlimited data plan for PDAs costs an additional $40 per month, while BlackBerry Unlimited costs $45 per month. That brings you to a minimum price of $80 per month for voice plus unlimited data, or $1,920 in total service fees over the two-year life of AT&T’s contract.

By comparison, Verizon’s pricing is a little better, offering an $80 package for 450 minutes of weekday talk time, unlimited night and weekend calling, and unlimited BlackBerry use. Both AT&T and Verizon charge $60 per month for 900 monthly minutes of weekday talk time. T-Mobile does a lot better. The same $40 per month gives you 1000 monthly minutes of weekday talk time, with unlimited night and weekend minutes. BlackBerry Unlimited can be added for only $20 per month, the same price T-Mobile charges for Sidekick Unlimited. That brings you to $60 per month for 1000 minutes and unlimited data, or $1,440 over a two-year contract. Notably, however, T-Mobile has a less expensive starter plan with 300 weekday minutes and unlimited night and weekend minutes, which costs only $20 per month plus the $20 data fee, for a total of $40 per month, or $960 over a two-year contract.

Our Best Guesses: In a nearly ideal world, AT&T’s iPhone pricing would be closer to T-Mobile’s, and in that case, your lowest cost to buy and operate an iPhone over the first two years would be $1,459, with 1000 minutes per month at $1,939. Based on its existing pricing, however, $2,419 would be the lifetime operating cost we would expect for a 4GB iPhone plus two years of AT&T’s most basic 450 minute voice plan with unlimited data access. That goes up to $2,519 for the 8GB model at 450 minutes. Step up to 900 minutes of talk time and you’ll pay $2,899 over two years for the 4GB model, or $2,999 for the 8GB model. A new activation fee will also apply for new customers. We really hope that Apple can convince AT&T to offer superior iPhone-specific prices, given the huge number of new customers that would be acquired with more T-Mobile-like monthly service packages.

(4) Phone Service Quality: Over the past week, an iLounge editor drove from the West Coast to the East Coast carrying two cell phones, one on AT&T’s network, and the other on Verizon’s, with the goal of determining how the devices actually compared in coverage. For voice service, the Verizon phone was more consistently able to access networks, benefitting from Verizon’s mixed analog and digital towers. By comparison, the AT&T phone experienced a number of major dead zones, particularly from the Midwestern U.S. to the East Coast, including a 100 mile patch in Illinois, another in Indiana, and another in a rural part of New York. At points, the AT&T phone inexplicably fell to “Emergency Calls Only” mode in areas with full AT&T coverage. Our editor called AT&T once problems started in Illinois, and was met with a generic promise that AT&T had “great coverage,” but no attempt at all to fix the phone’s issue.

Our Best Guesses: It’s unclear whether iPhone will be better than, equivalent to, or less impressive than the average AT&T phone in reception and broadcasting ability, but our best guess would be that it’ll be at least above-average. At that point, it will all come down to whether AT&T’s towers work well by where you live. Check AT&T’s Coverage Viewer to determine what promises it makes for your immediate area, and places you often travel to and from.

(3) The Battery: From a hardware standpoint, the single biggest unanswered question about iPhone is its battery. At the moment, it is apparently not user-replaceable, and it is also unclear how many charge cycles the battery can go through before requiring replacement by Apple or AT&T. Neither company has publicly explained how long iPhone’s battery will last under typical phone, music, and Internet usage conditions, how battery repairs will be handled, or how much (if anything) battery replacements will cost.

Our Best Guesses: Apple does provide general and iPod-specific guides to its batteries, noting that “a properly maintained iPod battery is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity after 400 full charge and discharge cycles,” and that its notebook batteries should retain 80% of original capacity after 300 cycles. If your iPhone is discharged and recharged daily, it’s probably fair to expect that you’ll need to replace the battery after a year or a year and a half.

We’ll have to see whether Apple provides more details on expected battery life, and how replacements will be handled. Will you need to give up your phone for several days for a repair?

(2) Rev. A Glitches: As noted in our article Ten Rules for Buying Apple Products, Apple’s first-generation, “Revision A” models of products often come with unexpected issues that develop shortly into normal use, or within the first year of ownership. Recent examples include first-generation MacBook fan noise and wrist area discoloration, first-generation iPod nano body scratching, and collections of small but annoying software and technical glitches. Generally, Apple learns about the issues and works to fix them, but it’s never a certainty that the fixes will be made available to past customers; sometimes free repairs are offered, sometimes they’re not.

Our Best Guesses: We’re hoping that Apple’s past six months of unusually public iPhone testing have eliminated all the hardware glitches; we’d guess that it has figured out most of them, and that the only question marks will be the long-term functionality of the new multi-touch screen and the device’s other sensors. We’ve had long-term orientation sensor issues with digital cameras, and would hate to see iPhone stuck in one position or the other over time. Like past iPods, we’d expect iPhone may have limited software issues at launch, but they will thankfully be remediable through iPhone software updates, and new features will be added through software as time goes on.

(1) The Keyboard: Reliability aside, will typing on iPhone’s on-screen keyboard be an acceptable way to input e-mail and text messages, web addresses, phone numbers, and other data into the device? Or will an old-fashioned keyboard accessory be in demand by the end of week one?

Our Best Guesses: In all honesty, we’re not as worried about iPhone’s on-screen keyboard as some people, and we’re inclined to believe Apple’s suggestion that it’ll take a few days to get used to and then prove both trustworthy and efficient for typing. No matter how bad it might be, we tend to think that it has to be better for typing text messages than the keypads of most cell phones, so average (not smartphone) users might consider it an upgrade no matter what. But it remains to be seen how typing will compare with the keyboards on Sidekicks, BlackBerry devices, and other mobile-ready PDAs. We’re not sure yet whether serious users feel compelled to steer clear of iPhone because of this alone, or whether they give it a chance and adapt to the multi-touch virtual keys.

Readers, what do you think? Are the five issues above the ones that are most important to you? If not, what should reviewers be focusing upon in upcoming coverage of iPhone? We look forward to hearing what you think.

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Comments

1

My question is the supposedly 6pm time on 6/29 and what it exactly means.  Will the store not actually sell the iPhone until 6pm?  Is 6pm when Apple actually start shipping web orders?

I called my local Apple store, and the employee’s suggestion was to come there instead of the AT&T store.  I’m inclined to believe him, even if it mean waiting in the morning for the store to open.

Posted by ajmiarka on June 13, 2007 at 10:37 AM (PDT)

2

Personally, I only have a cell phone to use when I’m not at home.  I have a land line for home use and a cell phone. My current sidekick is a prepaid.  So the most important for me is the pricing, battery life and coverage.  I have 2 phones to maintain plus having the iPod capabilities as well as internet access means using more of the battery.  Coverage for my area should be good but I’ll keep my sidekick for a while before I turn off the service.

Posted by Audrey McGirt on June 13, 2007 at 10:54 AM (PDT)

3

i’m curious if you could get the iPhone without a data plan (since it supports wi fi) and just sort of rely on hotspots (such as they are.) 

anyone think this will actually be allowed when signing up?

Posted by douglas j on June 13, 2007 at 11:00 AM (PDT)

4

Mr. Horowitz,
The iPhone is due out in 16 days.
That’s 16 more days for people to fall in love with the iPhone, second guess the iPhone, and make their decision on the iPhone.

I would be really interested in reading your take on how Apple annoucing the iPhone 6 months before launch has affected, and will affect, its success. (Maybe in the form of n Editorial).

Sincerely,
Jeremy K.

Posted by jeremyjk1221 on June 13, 2007 at 11:01 AM (PDT)

5

Ajmiarka,  6/29 means that it will go on sale on the 29th of the 6th   so it will be on sale on the 29th of June, they used a different type of Date format.

As for the battery, while using video, calling or web browsing, the iPhone has a battery life of 5 hours, while nothing but audio playback gives you up to 16 hours battery life.

And my question is:  So iPhone won’t work in Europe if you buy it from the U.S in June, and you can’t get a pay as you go one?

Thats sucks..

Posted by Scorpion on June 13, 2007 at 1:32 PM (PDT)

6

When could Australia see the iPhone? Asia in 2008 was mentioned, but does “Asia” include Australia, in a geographical sense? Probably not.

Posted by Japester on June 13, 2007 at 6:41 PM (PDT)

7

I’m wondering about the durability of the touch screen. Does it scratch as easily as my last 3 iPods or is it harder like the face of a good watch?
I just don’t want to worry about my iPhone if it’s rattling around in my pocket with my hovercraft keys and a bunch of Chuck E. Cheese tokens.

Posted by scott Cox on June 13, 2007 at 8:40 PM (PDT)

8

My big question: will the iPhone work with the Nike+ kit? I’d like to ditch my nano and just use the iPhone for everything.

Posted by Chas. on June 14, 2007 at 10:06 AM (PDT)

9

Looks like I will be lugging my Airport Express around with an iPhone, so I can set up a quick WiFi in my wired only work space.  I’m wondering if an iPhone can be charged with a USB cable attached to the USB port on an Airport Express base station?  This would make the Airport Express a very nice iPhone accessory.

Posted by dwielt on June 14, 2007 at 5:09 PM (PDT)

10

<Cost of owning> AT&T does not insure smartphones, so you might add the cost of an Applecare service contract to your caculation. The cost of the iphone is nearly twice that of an iPod and a phone can easily be man-handled a hundred times more than an iPod. So figure $129, maybe $99.

Posted by Gregory Thomas on June 16, 2007 at 9:29 AM (PDT)

11

I have a question about when do you think other service providers will come online with the iPhone? I know AT&T and Apple have a contract agreement, but how long do you think that will last? I’m not interested in switching providers. Verizon (as was shown above) has much better service. Now, about that T-mobile pricing… :D

Posted by BlueHUE in Nebraska on June 16, 2007 at 10:36 AM (PDT)

12

no, the biggest question is whether the sim card is user replaceable or not! there is no sim card slot and the only image showing anything points to the back of the phone where the battery is which is not ‘user replaceable’ like current ipods. i’m willing to flex with the data plans, but if i can’t remove the sim card it’s a pointless purchase. why have a GSM phone if you can’t swap between multiple phones/sim cards?

Posted by mdwsta4 on June 18, 2007 at 7:32 AM (PDT)

13

Replies to questions:
1: 6pm means 6pm. It will not be sold before then.

7: the “face of a good watch”, which costs a lot more than an iPhone, is mineral crystal or better. This will be glass. Glass is quite scratchable, although better than plastic, of course. Translation: don’t throw it in with the keys unless you are using screen protectors.

11: the AT&T-Apple contract is exclusive for 2 years. So there’s your answer: 2 years.

12: the unit is sealed. Nothing is user-replaceable.

Posted by Jeff Fields on June 18, 2007 at 11:38 AM (PDT)

14

Thanks for the reply, Jeff. I can wait two years. By then something 10 times better and cheaper will be out.

Posted by BlueHUE in Nebraska on June 20, 2007 at 8:30 AM (PDT)

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