24 February 2012

3G Is Good Enough

You learn a lot after spending a few months with an iPod Touch as your cell phone.  Sure, it is a hassle to have to carry around a 3G data device and your sorta-phone.  Yes, occasionally transitions from Wi-Fi network to Wi-Fi network can cause a call to get lost.  And, of course, the iPod Touch does not have the speed necessary to keep your VoIP app running while you are playing a game of Angry Birds.  However, the more important lessons are about cell carriers.

The first item relates to Verizon's network being unable to take calls and browse the web simultaneously.  This is only because Verizon is not taking advantage of their own strength.  Even over a lowly 3G connection you can be holding a conversation and using data apps at the same time, so the limitation there is because Verizon does not use their data stream for conversations.

The next note is that 4G is entirely unnecessary.  Sure - it is nice to have a faster data connection, but carriers might be smart to re-think how they are using that precious bandwidth.  In a few years time nearly every device will be eating up bandwidth, so the issue they will face is not speed but enough pipes to cover everyone.  I spend time every day on Wi-Fi networks faster than 4G and also on my 3G cellular connection, and while you can tell the difference, it turns out that it is not critically important.  A standard 3G pipe is enough to listen to Pandora, get email, make phone calls, browse the web and even update an app.  Aside from the latter (some apps are fairly big), I virtually never waited until I had a faster connection to do something on my phone.  No matter how fast the connection was it was always slower than being on a computer and faster bandwidth rarely made a difference.

For those of you wondering why an iPhone costs $650 and an iPod Touch $250, you will have to direct your question to Apple because it still does not make any sense to me.  The camera on the Touch is terrible, there is no Siri, the screen is not quite as nice and the speed is slower than the cellular equipped device - but some things are surprisingly better.  It is smaller, the battery life is better and often times my call quality was better through Talkatone than talking on an AT&T iPhone that I had for comparison.  Given a choice between the two I would rather have the iPhone - but not for $400 more.  It is the carriers, primarily, that are getting screwed in that relationship since they fit most of the cost difference (your contract technically only covers around $250 of the delta), but Apple clearly is making good money.