3G iPhone: Skip this Upgrade

July 10th, 2008 | Posted in It's All Geek to Me!

To upgrade or not to upgrade…actually there is no question at all. The easy answer, IMO anyway, is a big NO.

That’s saying a lot coming from me, a guy who is always itching to get the latest and greatest in cool gadgets. I bought the original iPhone on the day it was released. I will not be getting this upgrade, which is being released tomorrow… in case you haven’t heard.

Why not? The cost of the new iPhone is half what they were when it debuted last year in June, and they are offering to cancel the previous contract agreement for first gen iPhone users and give them the subsidized price with a new agreement. The new 3G technology in it boasts much faster web surfing/mail downloads and it now has a built in real GPS for real time navigation and map features. The new software will allow for 3rd party applications to be downloaded and to run on the iPhone… which promises a lot of useful programs and cool stuff that will make the iPhone more productive and fun. So what’s the problem?

In short, not worth it. Not enough new and in the long run it’s much more expensive in terms of your phone plan.

Yes, the 16GB 3G iPhone is only $299.00, but the data plan for the new phone rises from $20 a month for unlimited internet to $30 a month. That’s an extra $120 a year for the same service, albeit faster IF you are in a 3G area. However, AT&T also quietly eliminated the included 200 SMS text messages a month that was previously included in all the different iPhone plans. Getting that back will cost another $5 per month, for a whopping $180 a year increase in service costs, $360 more over the two year term. You will pay more than 100% of what the iPhone itself costs in extra charges over the two years of your commitment (if you use text messaging).

Couple that with the fact that there is very little in the way of functionality changes specific to the 3G, and that extra $$ is way too much to upgrade. Most of the new software, at least that which doesn’t need the true GPS to function, will also be available and usable on the first gen iPhone which receives the same updated OS and third party compatibility. The new 3G has the same awful 2 mega-pixel camera, the same sized screen, the same basic form and function. No addition of MMS image text messaging, cut and paste,??ᬨ‚Ć instant messaging or voice dialing… all glaring shortcomings of the iPhone. There is not a lot of new and shiny here. I just read one review of the 3G that claims the GPS antennae in the new iPhone is too small to give you true real time turn-by-turn map directions. That’s a key selling point gone for me.

In fact, the only other really substantial change outside of the 3G connection and the GPS? A non-recessed headphone jack so any headphones can be used without an adapter. BTW, I hope the moron at Apple who’s idea it was to recess that jack so non-apple headphones would need an adapter is bagging groceries for a living somewhere in out-state Nebraska right now.

Nope, this is one to skip. If Apple is smart they are already hard at work on iPhone 3.0, and it will be a more substantial advance in technology. Better camera, easier to access contact list, voice dialing, more memory capacity and horizontal-capable text and e-mail keyboards would be welcome. I’ll wait for that one. My iPhone 1.0 is still doing the job admirably.


  1. SteveH says:

    Interesting Tom! I was thinking of getting my first iPhone this December when my current contract with T-Mobile expires. Think I may still do so but as you rightly say, the contracts are tweaked o be much more expensive so in the long run the iPhone is no longer as cheap as Mr Jobs boasted about. My dream scenario would be that all Mobile providers could supply a contract and then I would not have switch from T-Mobile to O2 here in the UK. Apple could really dominate the market if they let all providers supply contracts. I guess they are unable to match production output with demand if that were the case?

  2. Kirk says:


    I totally concur about the yahoo who?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s ideal it was to recess the headphone jack!

    More customization would be nice.

  3. Mark Hill says:

    Very good analysis, Tom. And I agree…if you have one, it’s probably not time to jump on an upgrade yet. As with most of Apple’s upgrades, it’s usually a couple of generations down the road where it makes really makes sense.

    Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal did his review of the 3G phone earlier this week. He also discussed the pricier AT&T monthly plan eliminating the upfront purchase cost savings, etc. –To me, that’s not a deal-breaker so much as a disappointment in terms of their marketing vision. It’s a little deceptive…not something Apple usually does. They now sound like the corner car dealer who focuses on selling you a monthly payment instead of discussing the total cost of purchase.

    In Mossberg’s tests, he also found another problem: The 3G data capability takes a big toll on battery life. He did find that data download speeds are blazing now; up to five times as fast as before — and if you need to do a lot of that, it’s worth the upgrade by itself. But be prepared to watch your battery level fall much more quickly. And of course, this magnifies the big flaw with the iPhone now and before — the battery is sealed. You cannot just pop in a fully-charged spare.

  4. cedricstudio says:

    Thanks for the heads-up about text messaging charges no longer being included. I hadn’t heard about that little wrinkle.

    My wife and I own first-generation iphones and we won’t be buying the upgrade either. The GPS and 3G would really be nice, but I don’t need them enough to justify the extra $$$ (double for us since it would mean buying two new iphones). The Google Maps feature gets me where I need to be, and the Edge download speed is certainly tolerable.

    Still, if I had never purchased an iPhone before this would certainly be a good time to do it.

    The App store is looking pretty nice too. Lots of great stuff (assuming there aren’t any third-party bugs to cause problems). I’ve already downloaded several free apps and can’t wait to use them.

  5. Tom says:

    Steve- You can always get an iPhone and “unlock” it to use with other carriers. You lose the visual voicemail feature, which for me is one the best features of the phone, but you then get your choice of carrier. Of course that voids the warranty, eliminates support, etc.

    Mark- The unreplacable battery is indeed a bad feature, especially given the new 3G’s battery sucking tendencies.

    Cedric- Actually if I did not have the first-gen I would get on board with the new one. However as the 2.0 software will be a free upgrade for me anyway, that leaves no compelling reason to get the new one.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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