Saturday, December 27, 2008

iPhone killer? Maimer? Tickler?

I was a little surprised by the lack of "awesome tech" unleashed this year for Xmas. Usually November means the onslaught of more new tech goodies than you can shake a stick at, especially in the cell phone arena. I was particularly interested this year, because my Verizon contract is up in January and I've been considering the jump to AT&T to finally enjoy all the glories of the coveted iPhone. I was even given "permission" by the Queen on my birthday this year ("yes, you can get an iPhone" --she even made me a temporary placeholder out of an apple and a chocolate candy eye --apple eye phone, get it?).

The biggest problem I face is that we kind of (and god I hate to say this) "need" Verizon. Most of our family and friends are on Big Red, so if we switch, we're going to take a major hit to the minutes. I'm talking over 2500 minutes a month that currently go to "shared" minutes on the Verizon network. This is in addition to around 1100 "regular" minutes, and about 900 "nights and weekend" minutes. Those "in-network" minutes would now be regular minutes, meaning we'd have to go to a much, much more expensive plan. I like that AT&T has the rollover minutes, but I don't think that will come anywhere near to making up for the discrepancy.

So while I really, really want an iPhone, I'm not sure that I can afford to switch to AT&T. Therefore I'm left with what I see as three viable options: the Samsung Omnia, the Blackberry Storm, and the HTC Touch Pro (the Diamond looks like a crusty, old terrapin so it's out).

From the reviews I've read, the Omnia is kicking the Storm's ass on speed and the user interface. The Omnia virtual keyboard, while physically smaller, is also more accurate than the Storm keyboard. The Storm seems to have a better screen, but the Omnia screen isn't bad, so I think I can probably live with it.

Both report fairly major problems of "stickiness," lag when moving from screen to screen or opening apps, which is incredibly disappointing, as I see myself throwing a very expensive piece of hardware against a wall when faced with such lag. I guess I should just make sure I get accident/breakage insurance.

Every phone's interface is where each falls sorely short of the iPhone. The iPhone's flow is just so tasty and quick, and this alone means there is no such thing as an iPhone killer out there right now. Argh.

The Omnia does have a 5MP camera with video, so these two features beat out the iPhone in those categories.

The Omnia also sports 3G and EV-DO as well as Wi-fi. Very nice.

The Verizon phones also have removable memory media (microSD), which is extremely convenient and sorely lacking on the iPhone.

The Omnia can only sport GPS via VZNavigator, which costs an extra $9.99 a month, so that sucks, but this would be the case with any phone on Verizon (bastards). I'm wondering if there's a hack out there somewhere.

I like what I've seen of the features and interface on the HTC Touch Pro, but the hardware itself is pretty clunky. It had been at the forefront of my list, due solely to the dedicated actual keyboard, but that's slowly fading into the background. Size (or lack thereof) is becoming more important the more I really think about actually carrying this thing around.

I saw a couple weeks ago that someone had Android running on the HTC Touch, but they couldn't get the phone itself working with the platform. So while it was fun to watch someone navigate with Android, what good is a phone that you can't actually, um, call someone with?

So... I need to go use an Omnia.  It seems to be the current winner in the "I can't switch to AT&T" phone universe.  Hopefully it won't fall sorely short of the sexy-sexy that is iPhone.  I'll let you know what I find.


Anonymous said...

Hey, I feel your pain. Being similarly tied (shackled?) to Verizon by corporate and family connections and with my NE2 just available, I went with the Touch Pro. It has some nasty quirks that have irritated me and the lag was troubling, but one nice thing about it is that the Windows Mobile OS that runs the phone is very manipulable and has a dedicated app development and tweaking community ( and are golden).

With a little effort and some third-part apps I am getting happy with the Touch Pro. Is it Android? Nope, and I am sad about that. Is it an iPhone? Nope and it won't ever have that "flash" to it. But it works well for my needs and I have found I can do a lot of customizing and tweaking. I have great web browsing, a decent gps navigator (the vzw pay service), a full office suite, email, and a few other nifty apps as well.

I don't think any of the Verizon smart phones are worth the $$$ out the box compared to what an iPhone or G1 gets you, but after you tweak/hack/customize an Omnia or Touch Pro, I think you could have a darn fine device.

The Invisible said...

Thanks for chiming in, Anonymous. Good (??) to know that there are others who feel the pain. [smile]

I'm hoping that the Omnia will provide a little of that "customizing and tweaking" that you speak about via Windows Mobile 6.1, though the lack of apps for the Omnia and Verzion's typical choke hold on their phones leaves me a little doubtful.

I'll definitely dig into some of the Omnia forums before I go ahead with my purchase.

I still cringe thinking about the lag knowing the iPhone is so smooth and sexy.

I did look at AT&T plans against Verizon plans yesterday. AT&T plans are slightly cheaper at first glance, but the data plan that's just for the iPhone is $30, so tack $30 a month (period) onto whatever plan you get from AT&T. Plus extra for text messaging (kwa???).

And then Verizon has their "premium" family plans that include VZ Navigator (so no "extra" fee for that), Unlimited Text, Picture, Video & Instant Messaging, Mobile Email, VCAST VPak (so what), and Unlimited Mobile Web (via Mobile Opera on the Omnia). It's $159 for the 1100 minute plan vs. AT&T charging $90 for 1400 minutes, but then $30 for iPhone data and $20 for unlimited text.

That takes the plans to $160 (Verizon) vs. $140 for about the same thing... though the AT&T site won't let you do a "two iPhone" plan online, so I'm not sure if you have to get the $30 iPhone data plan for both iPhones (which would obviously make the AT&T plan more expensive).

The 2100 minute AT&T plan is $160 ($109 plus $30 plus $20) vs. $180 for the similar Verizon plan.

The Invisible said...

I just realized there is a "connect" plan below the "premium" plan that also includes unlimited web data. It's even cheaper at $140 for 1400 minutes and $160 for 2100 minutes. So that's the same price as the AT&T plans.

It looks like the only major difference between the two plans is that you don't get VZNavigator or VCAST VPak (so what) with the "connect" plan.

So now the question is how important is VZNavigator.