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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Two thirds of a day with an iPhone

When I'm committed, don't let them take this away from me.

We didn't do much yesterday afternoon and evening but play with our new iPhone. This is the 21st Century equivalent of gazing at one's own navel. You get nothing done -- you're not anywhere near as productive on routine tasks as on a regular day -- but your hands are full figuring out the interesting and fun stuff you can do with the new toy. And as with any of the day's technological marvels, you spend a lot of time getting the thing set up to work the way you want it to.

It's a great gadget, but I'm taken aback by my own reaction to it. I feel as though my sense of time has shifted. I can surf freely and do e-mail anywhere, any time? Heck -- maybe I should ride the bus more often, for efficiency's sake.

My first iPhone call: to my mom. She had no idea what I was babbling about with regard to the phone, but without saying so expressly, she confirmed that our communication is what makes the thing important.

The next phase of this adventure is figuring out how to make room in the family budget for the two $30-a-month data lines we had to open up with AT&T to get the juggernaut rolling. I hate to say it, but that subscription to the hard copy of every day's New York Times is looking mighty expendable. As the marketers say, there's an app for that.

We can't ditch the basic land telephone line, but that land line long distance contract is vulnerable. We can talk for free on the iPhone, since we never seem to get close to maxing out our allotted monthly minutes. The Times and the long distance might get us two thirds of the way to the $60, at least. I sure would like to take a nick out of that hideous bill that we get from Comcast every month for cable TV and internet service. That would be a sweet way to get to the budgetary goal. We'll have to see.

Comments (31)

Technology is poised at the moment to make the current iPhone an antique in the not so distant future.

Moore's Law is going to take us vertical in the information gathering capability. Vertical as in ∞.

A pretty remarkable toy/tool. I didn't have the experience so much of lost time. I was dazzled at how quickly and easily it initially sucked the contacts and calendar files and music off my computer, and even set up my e-mail accounts without so much as a push of a button. It wasn't until I discovered the App Store that I fell into the abyss. iPhone was launched two years ago with no "officially recognized" programming interface for third parties. Last year, Apple launched this little corner of iTunes; since then it has delivered more than 1.5 billion (yes, that's a "b") third-party applications for the iPhone. Apple's talent for creating new markets is stupefying.

I got my wife one and I guess I am impressed. For doing media stuff, it is pretty good. For business stuff not so much. You have to add a 3rd party app to do stuff like look up a contact and make an appt (Windows Mobile that's one step.)

In addition, having iTunes manage everything on the sync is a pain. If you update file and want to refresh, its cumbersome or if you want to drag-n-drop files to keep things simple.

Still, all in all, for someone who wants to cruise the Internet or listen to music, its a rpertty good solution.

Ditch the landline for VOIP. My plan is $15/month for 500 outgoing minutes (I'm not much of a chatterer), including long distance, caller ID, voice mail, and a slew of other features that Qwest would ream you for, if only they offered them. Most of the unlimited plans are $20-25 month. Sound quality is great and I wish I'd made the switch earlier.

I second the VOIP routed, did that myself and haven't regretted it one bit.

I've had mine for about two weeks, and I'm absolutely loving it. I've been reading more off it, because text files are tiny, and like they say, there's an app for that (Stanza). Battery life is an issue, but not a fatal one.
Just one thing - the darn things are slick, so invest in a case that gives you a good grip.

With the right help, commitment won't be necessary. Yes, I'm aware of the pun.

Liberate yourself from the cable TV and keep the newspaper. Cable - Talk about a time and money suck.

Why do you need a landline at all? I have VOIP for a while but got rid of it three years ago and haven't regretted it. The cell phone is way more empowering. No more push polls or telemarketing. You can get also apps to block calls from certain numbers or from no-caller-ID calls.

Supposedly you need a land line for emergencies, but the internet is way more reliable in emergencies in my experience. I've failed to get a dial tone about four times in my life, all during emergencies. However, I've never been unable to send an email from home.

I am on the cusp of major changes. My desktop is older and ready for the junk heap. So is my laptop, and I am ready for a replacement. My 2 year Verizon contract is expiring, and my verizon phone barely works. My comcast bundle is expensive, there are so many tv stations on cable I never watch, and I have a land line that I never use. I hope I can move smoothly into the future, but I may need a consultant. I can't say that I miss my first cell phone in a suitcase or my first $4000.00 low grade computer, but I am finding it harder to keep up.

Jack, on the VOIP route, you can purchase the Ooma system right now through CostCo. The advantage to this system is that (while the upfront cost is just north of $200), you pay nothing at all, long distance is included, and for a small monthly fee (around $8) you can even port your existing phone number over to them, thus people who have had your home number for decades can still reach you there. I think the Cost-Co deal includes 6 months of the premier service, which allows you to keep your current phone number.

Here's more on Ooma

VOIP scares me because I'm a bit of a technophobe, so I went with Comcast Digital Voice bundled with my exisiting cable and internet service. It was a seamless transition from Qwest, still works with my burglar alarm service, and Comcast always seems to have some sort of incentive offer out there. I get unlimited long distance and I think it's $20 or so cheaper per month (with the bundle) than with the old land line.

One more vote for VOIP - I turned to Vonage, they have various plans - ALL TONS cheaper than traditional phone bills. Quality - excellent. Setup - piece of cake. Savings - wonderful. Oh, and something unusual in this day and age - technical support and help - wonderful.

Just ditch the land line (including voip) all together. I kicked Qwest to the curb a year ago and have not missed it once. My wife and I have cell phones, why do we need a land line? I don't even have a land line (or voip) at my office. I have a e-fax number for the dinosaurs who don't have a scanner and do everything else on cell or internet.

I wouldn't give up my paper NY Times unless forced to do so. I have found no substitute for the real thing. Of course, in the places I like to read it, a computer would be a trifle dangerous. We've been unable to give up our land lines because of my wife's profession and the need for a wide bed scanner to be able to send copies of 11 x 17 and larger X-Rays to other wide-bed scanners located at the hospital where she works. We've void no digital substitute that works reliably for this. Of course, we ditched the Oregonian long ago, and we've stopped a few other ameneties to make life a bit less "crunched". The iPhone has been a major time saver for both my wife and I. One warning. Do NOT, I repeat Do NOT, take it on a foreign trip unless you keep in airplane mode and turn off "foreign roaming" - both easy to do from the gear on the front screen. I've heard horror stories of folks getting $8000 roaming bills by forgetting to do this while traveling in Europe. The iPhone will work in most foreign countries (because it is GSM) and it is very tempting to take it along. If you want wireless abroad and don't want to carry a laptop, pick up a refurbished iPod Touch, which is the iPhone without the phone. It will work on any free (or paid) wireless network anywhere in the world.

Thanks for helping my daughter's college fund. I think you'll be happy with your choice.

So what are your favorite iPhone apps, Jack? I got my new iPhone two weeks ago - totally addictive. I love Twitterific, Manifesto (RSS reader), Facebook, Slacker Radio, PDXBus (free Trimet app), Public Radio Tuner, Moxie (word game), on and on...

Land line's hard to get rid of if you've got a monitored house alarm system. Sure, they've got cell phone adapters for the things, but they charge an arm and a leg for them.

My favorite iPhone game is, uh, Bedeviled: The Most Diabolical Sliding Puzzle Game Ever.

Battery life was an issue for me until I got a Juicepak. It clips on the phone like a case, and doubles my battery life. They say.

I'll be happy to let anyone know the outcome.

Steve, not sure why you have to use a 3rd party app to add a contact or make an appointment. It syncs seamlessly with my calendar and contact list on my Mac at home. Way easier than any experience I had on Windows.

Not sure why Jack thinks its a time waster. I use it primarily for business. All my calendars stay synced, all contacts are available, email easily when I'm out of the office, read news when needed, even get on the web easily. I've become more productive with it, not less.

For got to add that I ditched my land line over a year ago and have never missed it. Seems to me that the land line is a waste of money for individuals these days.

"not sure why you have to use a 3rd party app to add a contact or make an appointment."

In WM, you tap a contact and the pull-down says set an appt. In iPhone, you need to create an appt and then manually fill in the contact info. Not a big deal, but I don't think the iPhone was designed primarily for biz types. Tasks are clumsy also compared to WM.

God forbid, if you get the sync messed up also. Since you can't really drag-n-drop (there are workarounds) you have to use iTunes to put info into the iPhone. It is a big footprint of code.


One more possible way to reduce your ATT cost. I wouldn't be surprised if L&C has a contract with ATT - PSU does. It gets you a business discount on the basic service, not the data plan. But the discount covers about half the cost of the data plan. Also, if you have a family plan, the combined cost is less than the cost of two separate accounts.


Get invited into the Google Voice plan. It will work with landlines, VOIP, cell phones. It gives you a local phone number, though not in the immediate metro area. Heck, you can even choose an NYC number if you are so inclined just to confuse the world. When people call the Google Voice number, it rings on the phone(s) you designate. It is a nice way not to reveal your real location. Some days I like to give out my Google Voice number to those people who want a phone number, but attach it to a real phone number I never answer, like my FAX line. It is kind of fun that way.

We need to keep our basic land line for our alarm system, and are unwilling to lose our land line phone number. But that Google thingy sounds interesting for different reasons.

Speaking of Google Voice...

My "little" brother installed and maintains the VOIP system for NASA. Here's his take:

So ok......There are a lot of companies offering this technology right now and it is a GREAT idea on paper. However IMHO I would wait about a year before diving into this if it for your main means of communication. If you are using this for the occasional local/long distance call that you can place at your leisure etc I say go for it. The real hold up on VoIP in the home is that the service is only as good as your internet provider. If you have service that is up, down, slow etc. Expect your phone/voice to do the same. The other major thing effecting this is there are a lot of vendors and equipment (new and old) that comprise the WAN that will run these phones. QoS (Quality of Service) is a MAJOR player in VoIP. Your typical MAN (Metro area Network) network is made up of a several different service providers, a pile of equipment from different vendors (again new and old), running across copper that is being transitioned over to fiber yada yada yada. If they are not all on the same page with their QoS settings who knows what the call quality will be on any given day. VoIP QoS settings are really just now becoming standard and stable as VoIP has become popular. A lot of the vendors that run internet stuff are using busted old ass equipment that don't even allow for QoS settings. So they are now all running around replacing old tired ass equipment with new really cool geeky stuff. When transferring data no one cares about QoS....well they do but that is a long story. My point is with Data who cares in which order packets are sent or received? As long as the completed file is sent/received.... all the packets will align themselves in the correct order so the final result is a properly aligned doc, pic, vid, whatever. Voice on the other hand cannot follow the same path. Any VoIP packet out of sequence results in garbled transmissions. QoS is a MAJOR factor. Soooooooooo if it were me I would probably hold off about a year until these guys can get their collective s**t together and produce a robust enough infrastructure to guarantee good quality voice all the time instead of some of the time. Imagine trying to place a 911 call while some asshole has just dug up the neighborhood fiber cable while digging a new septic line. However if this is for the occasional call that can be made on a days when everything seems to be humming right along and is not your main form of communication I say go for it have fun and experiment. I mean this stuff just gets better and better by the day. It isn't going the other direction that's for sure. Just my 2 cents. Hope this helps but if you need more info just let me know. -D.

QoS is waaaay too much info, suffice it to say voice uses a different port than data.

With all due respect, you can just install Skype on your iPhone and use the WiFi connection now.

Ditto on the business plan for discounts. You'll want to ask your L&C IT or phone folks for a FAN (Foundation Account Number) or Premier number. Another way to determine it is to go to the business part of the website, and send an email to ATT using your L&C email address. If they have an agreement with L&C, you will get a return email with links to the business discount.

Saves quite a bit, and support telephone number is different. We have 3 lines (3 voice and 2 data), and my son's iPhone line IS discounted - voice and data.

IMO, the iphone locks you into Apple's tedious computing for the village idiot model. And WTF is up with not being able to replace the battery or convert itunes proprietary format? EVIL!

My dell netbook running linux and wimax runs circles around the iphone's achingly slow 3g connectivity. All the apps I use are free and my netbook can play HD video on my teevee. Try doing that on a greasy crash-prone iphone!

First, ditch the alarm monitoring and save a few more dollars. When has it done anything for you. Just set the audible part.

Second, you can transfer your land line number to your iphone.

I've always been a technophobe, so I've been stunned at how much I love my iPhone. My employer bought them for everyone In the office, and they pay the monthly bill, so I have the best deal of all. I'm typing on it now!

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