Goldilocks and the Three Phones

iPhone 2g, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4
iPhone 2g, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 (Photo credit: reticulating)

I stood in line for a few hours the day the iPhone came out in 2007. I had been using various cell phones before then, but the iPhone was revolutionary. I didn’t have to wade through sales pitches and confusing marketing to figure out which features I needed to pay for. Everything was included for a single price, and the price only depended on how many minutes I needed each month.

Cell phone companies have recovered some ground. Monthly fees depend on how many minutes AND how much data you want, as well as whether or not you want to tether a laptop or other device to the phone (that was always off the table with the first iPhone). If you want to upgrade more often than every two years, that’s another new monthly fee. Not quite as bad as before the iPhone, but getting more complicated so you don’t realize just how much you’re paying for spotty service. Until we have real competition in the cell market, this will be our future.

I loved the iPhone also because it presented a consistent, simple interface that did what I needed. Some may complain that it’s too simple, or not consistent enough, but its faults are minor when compared to the state of cell phones at the time. There’s a reason Palm and Blackberry aren’t realistic choices anymore.

Then along came Android. It’s an open platform that cell companies could take and make their own in order to rebuild the fragmented market before the iPhone. Google relied on cell companies and  phone manufacturers to push OS updates to their products. But updates aren’t a profit center, so phones rarely get updates, much less timely updates.

I had an Android phone for a while with T-Mobile because after AT&T was granted immunity by Congress for aiding the NSA’s spying on Americans, I didn’t want to give them my money. T-Mobile was great as a network, though not quite as good as AT&T in the Washington, DC, area if my memory serves me right. After the phone froze on me one time too many while I was getting my directions from the map, I decided that I needed to go back to the iPhone. Unfortunately, that meant returning to AT&T, but I held my nose and switched. I’m still on the lookout for an alternative, and when it comes time to upgrade, I may move to T-Mobile again, but with the iPhone this time.

iPhone and Android are like VI and Emacs: users tend to become religious about their allegiance. Android users point out the freedom with which they can modify their phone. I would point out the freedom iPhone users have from broken software and incoherent parts. Both Google and Apple value freedom, but a different aspect of freedom. If you want to tinker with the phone, buy an Android. If you want a phone that does what you need without you having to spend time coaxing it, consider an iPhone.

I’m intrigued, though, by a third option: the Ubuntu phone. Based on the information on the website and the video of Mark Shuttleworth talking about his vision for the phone, it could be a happy mix of the Android freedom for users and the iPhone’s freedom from fighting the phone. T-Mobile is a member of the carrier advisory group for the phone, so hopefully they’ll carry the phone soon after it launches. I’ll probably pass on the first round of models because of my experience with Android. I know my iPhone will work, so why jump to a different platform until I can read some solid reviews?

Will the Ubuntu phone be the baby bear of cell phones?

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James

James is a software developer and self-published author. He received his B.S. in Math and Physics and his M.A. in English from Texas A&M University. After spending almost two decades in academia, he now works in the Washington, DC, start up world.