Friday, April 17, 2009

Do You Want Apps With That?

In marketing parlance, I'm what's known as a laggard. I don't rush out to buy the next big thing as soon as it hits the market.  Especially when it comes to technology. It's a given that it's going to be over priced (known as market skimming) and full of bugs.  So I wait, sometimes years, and let the dust settle.  Back when I was still a PC owner, I went straight from Windows98 to XP if that gives you any idea.

When Apple came out with Intel Macs, I went into interview mode and talked to everyone I saw in coffee shops. The honeymoon lasted about five weeks, and then the bugs started to crawl out into the open. I waited about a year, and then I caught the tail end of the caboose and upgraded, mostly so I could have my Mac and eat Windows too.  In fact, I'm typing this in Windows right now.

For the past two years, I've managed to maintain a comfortable indifference to the iPhone. I wasn't a hater (except of AT&T), but I wasn't pining for it either.  In fact, I've been remarkably anti smart phone since they came into wide spread use.  I never succumbed to the lure of the 'Crackberry' because I never felt the lure. As a jobless student, and before that a typical paycheck to paycheck American, I couldn't really justify it. Plus, I didn't like the idea of having so much stuff in one place.

I like my phone to work as a phone thankyouverymuch, a fact I confirmed after a brief stint with Verizon's TV phone, which may have let me watch ER, but couldn't allow me to understand someone on the other end of the phone line.  If my phone gets lost or damaged, I still have my camera and my iPod because they're separate devices, which do what they do quite well. As technologies get smaller, creators get more and more mashup fever, which I don't think is necessarily a good thing.

But, a few weeks ago, Jess noted that my contract expire date is coming up in a few months and started casually mentioning the iPhone.  As the weeks went by, the hints become more like hammers: "If you had an iPhone, you wouldn't need to print those directions." I promised her that I would add 'research iPhone' to my growing spring break to-do list.

Financially, I was surprised to find that the monthly cost wouldn't be much more than we're paying now--thanks to Jess's discount through work and our paltry need of minutes (aren't phones really just for texting now?). We both started asking everyone we saw with iPhones how they liked them.  The answers were mostly the same: people are by and large completely pwned by their new best friends.

"Do you like your iPhone?" I asked a classmate last week.

"Yes and no."

"What's the no part?" I asked.

"I'm addicted to it."

Other answers are variations on the theme.

"Does it drop calls?"

"Yes. But I LOVE it."

People admit to being antisocial. They no longer need books in waiting rooms. They hate AT&T but they can't live without the iPhone.

Finally, on a sunny day when we were riding bikes around town, we went to the Apple store and kicked the tires a bit, sent each other text messages, made calls and pestered the sales person with questions. What I heard about the upcoming software upgrade made me feel better. The whole 'not sending pictures with text messages' thing seems so very basic, and it's finally going to be fixed.  Not having that feature was one of the main things that helped me keep my ' yeah, I don't really need that' cool.

The next night, Jess found a movie of the March presentation from Apple about the new 3.0 features and we sat up watching way past our bed time, riveted by all the new possibilities and Apps.  A geek from Harvard with strong music foo demonstrated his Leaf Trombone app, playing a duet of Phantom of the Opera with his colleague by blowing into the microphone and sliding their fingers up and down the screen.

About the only thing they didn't show was a hologram of Princess Leia, begging Obi-Wan to help her. Maybe next year, and you know the light saber app won't be far behind.

So now I've gone from my carefully cultivated calm indifference, to gotta-have-it-now impatience. As of this writing, I have 88 days left on my Verizon contract.  Jess is already free and clear, and threatening to phone divorce me, so she won't have to wait. 

I actually looked at the Verizon web site to see what the penalty would be for breaking my contract--and then reminded myself that I really should wait for the new version of the phone to come out. It's not really early adoption if it's the third version of the phone, right?

Since the test drive, I've reconciled the fact that I'm about to sell my soul to the devil for at least two years.  We've heard rumors that Apple might one day escape from the clutches of AT&T, but we're not willing to wait.  I'll miss my nice clear calls (the few that I made anyway) on Verizon, but I'll console myself by viewing bike routes for camping trips with GPS maps and playing bluetooth connected backgammon with strangers on the train.

Oh, Jess and I said we'd look into comparable smart phones of the fruitier variety, but we never did. The writing is on the wall, and I decided that if I'm going to drink the Kool-Aid, I'm not going to complain about the after taste. 

When the time comes, I'll sound a hearty little "Baaaaaaaaah!" as I sign on the dotted line, and then we'll go home and hang photos on our walls using the iPhone to make sure they're level--cause there's an App for that.


Nate Lawrence said...

I guess that means you're not typing this from Windows 7 RC1, then. :)

Give Seadragon Mobile a whirl when you get your iPhone in your hands. It's awfully useful for pulling up images of any resolution for quick reference.

Kronda said...

Thanks for the tip Nate. You all done with finals?

Anonymous said...

All phone companies are evil... I'm holding out for the pre-paid iPhone agreeing to a 2 year contract for a paltry discount is extortion IMO