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iPhone or Nokia? Help me decide.
November 20, 2008 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Yet another iPhone AskMe. Feedback needed from (US) iPhone owners: Do I want an iPhone, or do I want to just upgrade my Nokia? Specific details inside.

Sorry about the length here, but I find myself in a quandry between two shiny gadgets.

I am currently using a Nokia E62. It has a lot of features: Full tactile keyboard, hot-swappable miniSD slot, quad-band, polyphonic ringer, syncs with iCal and Address Book via Bluetooth. Different contacts and contact groups can be assigned different ring tones (MP3 or AAC). Easy one-touch switch to silent mode. It has an MP3/AAC player built-in, but I only move songs onto the phone to use as ring tones. Voice recording, voice-activated dialing (based on contact name - no programming required), Bluetooth file transfer. Contains an Office suite and there are a decent number of applications that can be added to the phone (Symbian OS).

I did at one time have a data plan for this phone. However AT&T in all their wisdom has decreed that data on a Symbian phone costs more than data on any other platform, so I dropped the plan - goddamn bloodsucking bastards. (I went cellular to get rid of AT&T, then they go buy my provider...) I do like the idea of checking my email on the phone, on occasion. It would be nice to have some web capability. I don't think I necessarily need it 24/7. I just rely on my MacBook Pro and free WiFi now, and do OK, but not having to carry the laptop would be nicer on my back.

So here's the problem: My wife wants to upgrade our phones, and wants to do all of them at once (all 3 phones on the plan are eligible for upgrade now). She suggested I move to the iPhone. I am not sure. My original plan was to upgrade to the Nokia E61i - all the same features as the E62 (sans USB port - but I don't use that anyway) but with an added 2 mp camera, microSD instead of miniSD, and WiFi.

iPhone would cost me ~200 up front. E61i would be about $100 more for an unlocked model (goddamn AT&T doesn't carry any Nokia phones except shitty featureless flip models).

What I'm looking for here is feedback from people who currently (or previously) use the iPhone: Specific questions below.

1. What features of the Nokia will I lose by moving to the iPhone? I had heard there was no Bluetooth sync - do I really need to have one more goddamn cable with me just to sync iCal? That seems uncharacteristically stupid of Apple...

2. How restrictive is the App Store lock-in - anything really useful that Apple refuses to offer? I don't intend on jailbreaking the phone if I buy it, but I also don't want to end up really ticked that I can't do X when I really ought to be able to do it.

3. What happens with my payment plan? We're currently on a nationwide family plan, dating back to Cingular prior to the AT&T buyout. For ~$80/mo we've got three phones, unlimited calls between AT&T customers (none of that dumb "pick 5" garbage for me, thanks). I thought the iPhone required a specific plan. How much is this going to cost me per month? Can the iPhone be put on an existing plan or would I have to change everything about our contract?

Last but not least: How the hell does the iPhone work, if there's no SIM card slot? I really like the idea of an unlocked phone, and while the iPhone looks like a cool gadget, I'm just not sure how much of my soul I want to sell to Apple and AT&T. My past experience with Nokia gives me a lot of trust in their phones; on the other hand, I do like my MacBook Pro. Your experiences and opinions? Good or bad, help me make up my mind. I can't decide if I want to go iPhone, stick with Nokia, or just say to hell with it all, keep my perfectly functional current phone, and spend my $200 on a EEE netbook...
posted by caution live frogs to Technology (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
1. What features of the Nokia will I lose by moving to the iPhone? I had heard there was no Bluetooth sync - do I really need to have one more goddamn cable with me just to sync iCal? That seems uncharacteristically stupid of Apple...

You will lose a physical keyboard. To synchronize Apple iPhone applications without a cable, you may want to look into a MobileMe account. Otherwise, you might consider calendaring alternatives which you could synchronize wia WiFi.

2. How restrictive is the App Store lock-in - anything really useful that Apple refuses to offer? I don't intend on jailbreaking the phone if I buy it, but I also don't want to end up really ticked that I can't do X when I really ought to be able to do it.

Unless you are a hobbyist who likes to write and compile her own software from scratch, I haven't honestly seen much that jailbreaking offers that makes it a compelling need, other than perhaps a free netatalk or SSH client. There are App Store equivalents of these, albeit mostly for-fee. Open up iTunes and take a look to find out whether what you need is available.

If you have a first-gen iPhone, you could, if you like, jailbreak your phone and use both jailbroken and App Store applications. I couldn't guarantee you wouldn't brick your phone, and applying firmware updates to get new features would be delayed, but other than that it is a doable "third way".

There are other applications that their developers have said for political reasons will never be available for either jailbroken or unbroken iPhones: Opera and Firefox are two examples. There may or may not be an Adobe Flash plug-in available in the future. If you require Flash support, better to wait-and-see approach, perhaps.

I don't believe it is yet possible to jailbreak an iPhone 3G, only first-generation iPhones.

3. What happens with my payment plan? We're currently on a nationwide family plan, dating back to Cingular prior to the AT&T buyout. For ~$80/mo we've got three phones, unlimited calls between AT&T customers (none of that dumb "pick 5" garbage for me, thanks). I thought the iPhone required a specific plan. How much is this going to cost me per month? Can the iPhone be put on an existing plan or would I have to change everything about our contract?

My best guess is that you will need to set up a separate, new account, which was at least what we had to do back in November 2007. Our family plan with two lines and data costs roughly $135 with taxes. This policy may have changed; call AT&T to find out.

Last but not least: How the hell does the iPhone work, if there's no SIM card slot?

It does have a SIM card slot. You open it with a paperclip. Presumably, if you jailbreak the phone, you can choose a GSM-compatible carrier (e.g., T-Mobile) but you may lose AT&T's visual voicemail feature.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:54 AM on November 20, 2008


1. What features of the Nokia will I lose by moving to the iPhone? I had heard there was no Bluetooth sync - do I really need to have one more goddamn cable with me just to sync iCal? That seems uncharacteristically stupid of Apple...

You are going to lose most of the features you mention:

Bluetooth sync
Tactile Keyboard (although I've grown to like the virtual keyboard)
miniSD slot, or any kind of additional storage
voice dialing (there is a kludgy app for this in the store)
BT file transfer
Office suite

2. How restrictive is the App Store lock-in - anything really useful that Apple refuses to offer? I don't intend on jailbreaking the phone if I buy it, but I also don't want to end up really ticked that I can't do X when I really ought to be able to do it.

No tethering app (although Apple & AT&T have plans to charge you $30/month for an official app)
No alternative browsers (you're stuck with crash-prone Safari)
No alternative anything that's already provided by Apple (no alternative iPod or Contacts)

Last but not least: How the hell does the iPhone work, if there's no SIM card slot?

The iPhone has always had a SIM card slot, it's just very inaccessible (requires a paper clip to eject the holder).

I would guess that if you used and liked the functionality of the Nokia, you would be disappointed in the iPhone. It's a very slick device, but not even close to a smartphone. Everything's very easy to use, but there's not a lot of solid built-in functionality.
posted by meowzilla at 10:00 AM on November 20, 2008


You Lose:
- Full Tactile Keyboard, though I've found the iPhone keyboard to be useable enough to do some pretty long texts and e-mail. You just have to learn to trust it.
- miniSD slot. This doesn't matter to me one bit, with Smart Playlists in iTunes I've got enough fresh music on my iPhone to last longer than the battery.
- Polyphonic ringer - the iPhone's ringer is all sample-based, not synthesizer based.
- Syncing over Bluetooth. If you have MobileMe ($129/year) you can sync over the air. Otherwise, it's USB syncing. This isn't terribly inconvenient because the iPhone is USB charged, so just get a few cables and leave one with your computer.
- Voice activated dialing - although I understand there are a few apps that do this in the store. This was never a dealbreaker for me, though, since I never found any voice dialing that worked terribly well when I needed handsfree dialing (like in the car).
- Bluetooth File Transfer - This is mitigated by several Apps that share out the iPhone over WiFi.
- Office suite - many document formats are readable, few are writable.
- MMS. SMS is supported, and has a neat threading mode, but multimedia messages aren't supported. If someone sends you an MMS, it will show up as a SMS with a link to a website and a login and password so you can view it. I prefer to rely on Email for my rich media, and iPhone's support for that is great.

Your questions:
1) The "another goddam cable" is also the charging cable, so I don't even count it as extra. It's an iPod dock connector on one end, and USB on the other. You can plug it into any USB jack for charging, and the "wall wart" they supply you is no bigger than the end of a regular power plug. It's like 1"x3/4"x3/4".
2) The only apps Apple refuses to post on the App Store are those that duplicate functionality built in. That means you're stuck with the built in Mail, Web browser, and iTunes. Luckily those are all very usable. That said, Jailbreaking is simple. Even if you don't want to Jailbreak the phone, it's totally viable in order to have that great fart app, or the podcasting downloader that Apple have, so far, denied.
3) I can't speak toward your payment plan. Mine, for my wife and I, both on iPhones, costs around $180/month. This is the 2100 minute shared plan. Calls between us don't cost, but we both talk enough out-of-network to have that big a plan. It's the data plan that is specific to the iPhone - it's an all-you-can-eat for $25, I think.
Last) There is a SIM slot. Unless you jailbreak it, (and maybe only for the older Edge iPhone - I've really not done any research on this lately) you can't use a third party SIM from any providers that Apple doesn't use. In other words, you should be able to use a SIM from an overseas provider that is an iPhone carrier.

Honestly, until the iPhone came about, I felt stultified, rather than enabled by the smartphone devices I had before. I'd had Symbian, Palm and Windows Mobile devices. The Palm and Symbian ones felt designed for the form factor, but suffered from heavy vendor lock-in. The Windows Mobile ones felt like a badly-ported desktop OS stuffed in a tiny device. Depending on my carrier at the time, they felt pretty closed-up as well. The iPhone has been a game changer for me.

I can't really tell you what you'd gain by switching, because I don't know your usage patterns on your current device. I also haven't had that particular device. However, I will say that my usage of the iPhone compared to my previous smart phones has included these increases:
- More regular use of the media players
- Constant use of the phone as an e-mail device, rather than occasional "when I *have* to" use. It's IMAP support is fantastic.
- Constant use of the phone as an IM and SMS device
- Constant use of the web browser
- Regular use of the phone as a gaming platform

3rd Party Apps I wouldn't have even thought to try on my old devices because of their limitations
- Social network apps. MySpace, Facebook, Loopd.
- AOL internet radio. Pandora. Shazam.
- VNC, and a good Terminal app.
- Works as a remote for AppleTV and any iTunes Libraries you have available via Wifi.
- Task Managment - OmniFocus, Things, TasksPro, Task2Gather, @Task.

On Preview, I can't disagree more with meowzilla about the iPhone not being a smartphone. For me, (and I'm a power user of every device I use) the iPhone has been the BEST smartphone I've used.
posted by tomierna at 10:05 AM on November 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's true that there's no wireless syncing unless you shell out for MobileMe. There are some 3rd-party apps that will sync over wifi to your desktop, or sync to the web, but that's another story.

The restrictiveness of the app store is perhaps more in the chilling effect that Apple's review process creates on development in the first place. Apple recently rejected a podcasting app that does over-the-air downloads, a feature Apple didn't offer (it has since come out that Apple will be offering this soon). The app didn't break any published guidelines, as far as I know. Apple also rejected a specialized gmail front end, which, again, did not break any published guidelines. The concern is that a lot of developers are going to shy away from developing anything interesting other than games. The developer of Salling Clicker, which seems like a natural for the iPhone, has all but admitted this has discouraged him from coming out with an iPhone version.

I did not use a smartphone before the iPhone. All in all, I'm very happy with it. It has made my life a little bit easier and I find it a pleasure to use.
posted by adamrice at 10:17 AM on November 20, 2008


> It does have a SIM card slot. You open it with a paperclip. Presumably, if you jailbreak the phone, you can choose a GSM-compatible carrier (e.g., T-Mobile) but you may lose AT&T's visual voicemail feature.

> Unless you jailbreak it, (and maybe only for the older Edge iPhone - I've really not done any research on this lately) you can't use a third party SIM from any providers that Apple doesn't use. In other words, you should be able to use a SIM from an overseas provider that is an iPhone carrier.

This seems to be a common misconception, so I'd like to clear it up.

Jailbreaking allows you to run arbitrary applications on the phone.

Unlocking allows you to use other company's SIM cards on the phone.

They are not related (you can have an unlocked but non-jailbroken phone, or a locked but jailbroken phone, or both, or neither).

Methods to jailbreak the Phone 3G has been around for a while now, and the upcoming 2.2 firmware has already been jailbroken.

No one has figured out a way to unlock the iPhone 3G, except by piggybacking an AT&T SIM card with another SIM card. . If you buy it from AT&T in the USA, you can only use AT&T SIM cards in it.

The original iPhone (the $500 model with the aluminum back) has been unlocked, and you can use T-Mobile or other carriers on it, but not the current USA 3G.

> On Preview, I can't disagree more with meowzilla about the iPhone not being a smartphone. For me, (and I'm a power user of every device I use) the iPhone has been the BEST smartphone I've used.

I can't believe this thing doesn't have:

- a todo list
- synchronizing of notes
- a removable battery (if you use it a lot, you'll be lucky to get 24 hours of the battery)
- appointment reminders (it beeps once and that's it)
- voice dialing (phones from three years ago had it)
- stability (seems to get worse every firmware upgrade)
- reasonable support for multiple email accounts (Exchange integration will delete everything you have on the phone)

I ran into its limitations on day one (when I tried out Exchange) and have been in annoyance mode ever since.

That being said, a lot of the apps work best if you have paid accounts for those services already, and a Mac since many of those apps are only available on a Mac. I don't have a Mac and I sync my phone with my computer probably once a month.
posted by meowzilla at 10:27 AM on November 20, 2008


If you're not tied to AT&T, you might want to look at the T-Mobile G1... look I made a hideous chart:
Feature ................... iPhone .................................. G1
Full tactile keyboard ....... No .................................... Yes

hot-swappable SD slot ....... No, upto 16G int. .. Yes, upto 16G micro SD

quad-band ................... No, only tri-band ..................... Yes

polyphonic ringer ........... Yes ................................... Yes

syncs ....................... MobileMe, not BT ....... Gmail/Gcal, not BT

ringtones/contacts .......... Yes ................................... Yes

one-touch to silent mode .... Yes ................................... Yes

Music player ................ MP3/AAC ........................... MP3/OGG

Voice recording ............. app avail. ................. Via AnyCut app

voice-activated dialing ..... app avail. ............................ Yes

Bluetooth file transfer ..... No ................................ Not Yet

Contains an Office suite .... Mobile Me? ........................ Not Yet

number of applications ...... over 3k ........................ around 300


I don't have an iPhone, so I had to google for a lot of that. I do have a G1 and the number of apps available for the G1 was pretty much a guess based on looking at the market place, but it is a growing number of apps.
posted by jrishel at 11:33 AM on November 20, 2008


@tomierna :

Polyphonic ringer - the iPhone's ringer is all sample-based, not synthesizer based.

I'm not sure if I've understood what you mean by this. But if you're saying that the iPhone can't play songs from your library as ringtones, that's not exactly correct. It doesn't offer you that option upfront, unless you actually buy a "ringtone" of a song. But the ringtone files are in fact the same file format as standard iTunes music (AAC), they just have a different file type extension, and are limited to 30 seconds long.

So you can take any song you want, crop it to 30 seconds (like with Audacity), change the file type extension, and voila, you have a custom music ringtone. No, it's not as easy as just telling the iPhone "play this song as a ringtone" - which one would think would be easy enough - but it works.

(Related though - it can't use music from your library as an alarm clock. This one really boggles me, because my iPod "Classic" can do that.)
posted by dnash at 12:28 PM on November 20, 2008


dnash, I think we both had the same misunderstanding. my chart above is incorrect, neither the iPhone or the G1 support polyphonic synthesizer based ringtones. they are all mp3/aac/ogg based.
posted by jrishel at 12:41 PM on November 20, 2008


I'm confused by the comment that says the iPhone doesn't have a to-do list, synchronized notes, or voice dialing. For all of these, there are several cheap or free apps. For example, for notes I use Evernote (free), which synchronizes on all my systems--iPhone, Mac, Windows. There are plenty of to-do apps to choose from, as well as voice dialers.

I used to use a Palm Pilot. The iPhone completely flattens it as a PDA. It syncs way more easily to my desktop, handles IMAP with grace, lets me see real web sites, and in general is more of a pleasure to use. I'm not familiar with the Nokia, however.

I agree with the suggestion that you visit the app store and see what's there. Don't focus entirely on what comes built into the phone. Thanks to apps, my phone has replaced my voice recorder, alarm clock, instrument tuner, and paper notepad, and it occasionally acts as a ruler, level, and flashlight.

The main frustration of the iPhone for me is its inability to copy and paste.
posted by PatoPata at 12:43 PM on November 20, 2008


I will bet you a dollar that if you get the iphone, you will be pretty happy with it.

The concern is that a lot of developers are going to shy away from developing anything interesting other than games.
Apple's restrictions on the app store do suck. But I have to say nuh-uh to the idea that this is the result of the chilling effect. I'm sad that some amazing apps aren't going to be made, but there are also people making amazing apps anyway. Plenty of the great ones are free. I've paid for maybe two, and I still can't believe all the stuff I can do. My new favorite is SimplyMedia which lets you stream your itunes/winamp libraries to your iphone. There's fring, which let's you make VOIP calls. Google now lets you do voice searches. Recently, my girlfriend ran low on gas and the nearest one was pretty expensive. I installed an app that looked for nearby stations and told me the prices. It was great.

There are some neat little perks, too. I can stream mp3s from websites (unless they're behind ssl authentication, for some reason) or from my email. I can work the ipod without unlocking the phone. Blah blah blah.

Some stuff is hinky. IMAP email doesn't fetch as it should right now, for example. There is some stuff missing. But there are also workarounds. No MMS - make your friends send MMSes to your email so you can click a link and see them in Safari. No sync? I can email myself most of the things I would want to sync. And there are apps that have filled in a lot of what's missing, as well.

There are still things that bug me, and I can't tell how much of my enthusiasm stems from the fact that I came to the 3G off of a 5-year old monochrome-screened candybar Nokia which synced via parallel port. That said, my friends all have smart phones of one kind or another, but when we want to know something (place to eat, when bowling was invented, etc.), they end up turning to me and saying, "Let's ask the godphone."

Seriously.
posted by averyoldworld at 1:42 PM on November 20, 2008


- reasonable support for multiple email accounts (Exchange integration will delete everything you have on the phone)

Really? I have my work Exchange account, home gmail, home personal account, and home mobileme account runnning on my iPhone.

In Calendar I have my MobileMe and Exchange account on the iPhone. Both sync over the air -- I have the choice of seeing both personal items and work on the same calendar or reviewing them separately.

If you go with syncing your Exchange Address Book, it will nuke your private address book, but for me that was a non-issue.

I was a big Sony Ericsson K800 fan until I bought my first iPhone and today couldn't imagine going back. The only thing I miss is the camera on the Sony phone was awesome whereas the iPhone camera sucks -- relative to the SE camera.

Since I have MobileMe my bookmarks, contacts, personal calendar are synced over the air all the time. Because the USB/iPod cable is what you use to charge it and sync it to your Mac, I can have my music, videos, apps, photos synced at home each night. It would be awesome if Apple would allow wifi or bluetooth to sync, it isn't a hardship to sync it when you're charging it anyway.

I too hated the idea of being locked into ATT and not being able to unlock the iPhone (I had the first iPhone and that was unlockable, bit I'd still be stuck with an ATT contract). I hated I had to sign up for another two years this summer when I got the 3G. I love using a prepaid SIM in other countries to keep the international roaming expenses down and I just can't do that with the iPhone today (with the SIM piggyback hack that isn't exactly as easy as just swapping SIMs). But I'm over that. I have my old SE K800 that is unlocked that I throw in the bag for using a prepaid SIM.

If you use iTunes for your music, iCal for your calendar, Safari as your browser, iPhoto for photos, and Apple Mail for your email, you'll love how well the iPhone interacts with your Mac since they share so much DNA. The stuff just works.

Sure Safari crashes sometimes, but the web experience is great. There's no Flash which sucks, but it also means a lot of ads don't clutter your pages. The email and web -- as well as a lot of cool apps and music -- are what I use it for and sometimes the occasional voice call.

It isn't perfect. The camera sucks. There's no copy/paste. There's no MMS (but I've used email for sending pictures for years before my iPhone anyway).

Like many 3G phones it its class the battery can run down fast -- especially when you spend a lot of time on the web. I have an old iPod USB charger at the office I will use to top of the charge while at work as well as an iPod USB cigarette adapter for my car or long flights. I'd recommend spending the $19.95 on the USB iPod cable so you can get a charge wherever you find a USB port. Not having a removable battery has not been an issue.
posted by birdherder at 1:55 PM on November 20, 2008


my 2 cents:

I have a Nokia E62 and recently bought an ipod Touch. I am with At&T and don't have a data plan. I do get emails from my gmail account forwarded as SMS. Also, I use google sms to get addresses of places I need to go to, then the Nokia maps to get directions and maps on the E62.
This all is assuming I am not in range of a WiFi spot, with my Ipod touch, or online at home.
Considering that the At&T plan for the Iphone is fairly expensive, I beleive I saved a lot of money. I feel that with the current combination the only thing I DON'T get vs the Iphone is the camera.
posted by spacefire at 8:37 PM on November 20, 2008


tomierna writes "all-you-can-eat for $25"

That might be the kicker, then. One of the advantages of the Nokia is that any data plan can be turned off - so I'm not locked in to paying an extra $300 annually for the phone.

Totally forgot about cut and paste, too.

Not thrilled about MobileMe. Apple already tries hard enough to shove that at me. Again, I don't want one more thing I have to subscribe to.

Thanks all. Pretty sure after the feedback that the iPhone is not where I want my phone to be, not yet anyway. Can't help but think that Nokia will make one hell of a touchscreen phone if they ever get around to it, but sounds as if Apple has spent a lot of time optimizing their phone for "fun" rather than "phone". I don't have a landline, so anything I buy has to be phone first and everything else second.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:41 AM on November 21, 2008


Nokia did announce a touch-screen Symbian phone this fall - the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. I have a Nokia N95 and a Nokia E51, which each have their advantages, but I'm looking to the 5800 as my next Nokia. Check it out here: http://www.nokia.us/A41271074, or use your favorite web search to find out more.
posted by Aztekker at 6:30 PM on November 22, 2008


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