Sunday, January 10, 2010

When should I switch to Verizon?

For more than a year, I’ve been mulling over which mobile platform (and carrier) to choose, given that my original choice has reached the end of the line — and so I’m gonna have to pay switching costs anyway.

I’ve been with Sprint for more than a decade. Since 2001, I’ve had a series of Palm OS smartphones since buying a Kyocera QCP-6035. My next phone is not going to be a Palm, given that the company has doubled down on the Pre, which was too little and too late.

It’s also not likely to be Sprint. Sprint is like other carriers in requiring a monthly data plan subscription with smartphones; however, it’s unlike the others in requiring a data plan for all phones on the family plan, and only one person (me) in our household needs a data plan.

I’ve been tempted by the iPhone and in fact would have bought an iPod Touch last summer if they’d updated the product instead of peddling a warmed over 2008 model. My one problem with the iPhone has always been AT&T.

While contemplating this, I saw the recent issue of Consumer Reports which notes that AT&T has the worst service of the big four mobile operators, while Verizon Wireless has the best. This is particularly true in the three major California markets — San Francisco, LA and San Diego — where I make 99+% of my calls and probably 100% of my data usage. (Of course, this only reinforces the recent advertising war between the two carriers.)

Sprint is only slightly better than AT&T in nationwide satisfaction, but at least (as I’ve found) it roams to Verizon. T-Mobile is second only to Verizon, but roams to the problematic AT&T network; it also has a spotty 3G network and its devices are incompatible with AT&T’s 3G services in the 850 MHz band.

So barring a workaround to Sprint pricing, my next phone will be on the Verizon network. Of the major smartphones platforms, BlackBerry is too business oriented, Windows has no attraction whatsoever, and Symbian is absent from CDMA. Although BlackBerry is #1 in US market share, two other platforms have bigger app stores.

In other words, as for so many others, it’s down to iPhone vs. Android.

On Verizon, I could wait for the mythical Verizon iPhone (rumored for June), or the Nexus One (promised for “Spring”), or buy a Motorola Droid now.

This has me leaning towards Android. My former student Rahul points out that Android isn’t particularly good for Exchange or games, neither matter to me. (My daughter might disagree on one of these.) On the other hand, the fact that OS X 10.5 won’t sync with Google’s addressbook would be a problem — since I refuse to use 10.6 — but fortunately there’s an app (workaround) for that (which I’ve already tried out.)

With a dataplan, I want a real keyboard, so on paper the Droid looked interesting. Sunday I went to Costco to try the Droid again. However, as even Motorola‘s CEO admits, it has a terrible keyboard.

Also at Costco, the T-Mobile Motorola Cliq certainly has a better keyboard than the Droid. On Sprint, the Samsung Moment has the best keyboard of these three phones. Or I could wait for the promised Droid upgrade — at which point the CDMA iPhone may already be shipping.

So that’s my dilemma. I’d be curious to hear from owners of smartphones with a slide-out keyboard (except for those drinking Luke Wilson’s Kool-Aid.)

What’s really odd for me is that on Mac vs. Windows, I’ve been 110% Apple for 26 years, despite paying a premium price and having a limited selection of products. On iPhone vs. Android, the limited selection of Apple products is worse (effectively one model), and so it looks like I’ll choose the non-Apple solution, even though it’s clearly inferior on ease of use. Perhaps it‘s because a PC is a general-purpose device while a phone (for now) is just a phone (Sorry, David.)

On the other hand, it could go the other way. My MacBook Air is not going to make it to 4 years (our college-mandated replacement cycle.) When it it dies, if Apple continues to ignore the netbook, I may end up buying a Windoze machine that’s uglier, equally speedy but one-third the price. If nothing else, I could install Safari, Firefox, iTunes and (sigh) Eudora, and have all the same apps that I’m using today.


Mike Demler said...

I agree with you that the Samsung Moment has the best physical keyboard, if that is a requirement. After getting used to the iPod Touch, I made the shift to AT&T/iPhone last year, and don't really miss it. The keyboard that is, I'm definitely missing Verizon's coverage.

Incidentally, I spoke with a Verizon executive at their CES analyst breakfast on Friday, who told me that the Nexus One is not the Google phone that is going to Verizon, though Google's new storefront suggests it.

emawkc said...

If a physical keyboard is a requirement, doesn't that rule out the iPhone regardless of the craptacular ATT network?