Did I Buy an iPhone or a Blackberry?

As many of you know I, like many of you, have obsessed over what kind of smart phone might enhance my business and personal life. About two months ago, I finally made a decision – this after almost a year of investigating Blackberry and dealing with rumors about the availability of an iPhone.

The entire process was agonizing and I thought I would share with you what I learned because I am convinced that mobile smart devices will be a major delivery system for content in the music-related media going forward.

I was concerned when my friend Bill Tanner, the brilliant program consultant, gave up his Blackberry (of six months) for an iPhone. Bill had a lot of coverage problems living in the Hollywood Hills, but the early-adopter in him couldn’t resist trying the iPhone.

It was cool enough, but a letdown as far as the email component of the iPhone. I had just about made my mind up that I would go for the iPhone until I heard from Bill.

Still, he didn’t get rid of his iPhone. He just couldn’t use it. So much for coolness, I thought.

Then, all those lunches and dinners I had with other Blackberry owners who found it important enough to whip out their phones and put them right next to their water glasses concerned me. I didn’t want to turn into one of them – an obsessive, compulsive user of email even while people are talking face-to-face. So much for the Blackberry, I thought.

I owned a Motorola V-series phone with no bells and whistles on it. All it did was fit into my car and allow me to talk on the phone hands-free through the stereo system. I rarely used it. And when I did, I left it in the car and had to hunt it down when I realized I was without my phone.

I fly between Phoenix and Los Angeles every week -- can’t use my Motorola on the plane, but if I had an iPhone, I could make it my iPod – two in one. Less to carry, I thought.

My calendar is on my Mac laptop. That has worked well for me. I use Entourage. I always have a to-do list, but I’ve never found a digital one that easily allows me to rank my tasks on the A-B-C system I have used all my life. Neither does Blackberry or iPhone so it’s a wash, I thought.

Then, there’s the issue of coverage area. I was a Verizon customer and while it was better than other cellular companies I had tried, I loathed their service.

But the mother of all issues was AT&T. AT&T’s Edge system is as slow as radio stations adopting an Internet strategy. The word Edge strikes fear into my heart. What if I buy an iPhone and it takes considerably longer to do the basic things I bought the phone for. I am not a patient man, I shamefully thought.

Blackberry has push technology. The iPhone does not. That settles it. It’s a Blackberry.

But the Blackberry’s keys seemed too small and it didn’t feel cool enough. Hey, why should that concern me. It should concern my students, right? I’m cool, I thought – after all these years.

It's an iPhone.

Then I went to the AT&T store to look at the iPhone but I was horrified to find out how badly they wanted to sell me a ...


I thought that the AT&T people were supposed to be as cool as the kids who work in the Apple store. They’re not cool, I thought.

So I went to the Apple store and they knew nothing – and didn’t want to know anything – about how to get service on an iPhone. Just take it home and register online. My Hoboken background made me suspicious. We’re all suspicious up there.

I waffled back and forth between the two phones and then I decided to go with the iPhone. I went to AT&T because I have a vanity phone number from South Jersey that ends in four-sevens like my friend Rick Sklar’s phone number did (God rest his soul). Anyway, the AT&T staff told me they had to seal the bag with my new phone in it before I walked out of the store -- Apple policy directly from Steve Jobs. How cool, I thought. I have a sealed bag from Steve Jobs. Forget what’s in it.

I had trouble the moment I got the iPhone, but I had two weeks in which to take it back. (If you haven’t scrolled to the end, this is either gripping drama or you’ve got nothing else to do).

Maybe I'll trade the iPhone in for that Blackberry.

Believe it or not The Wall Street Journal technology guru Walt Mossberg was nice enough to walk me through the early stages. He gave me a great hint – after all, he got rid of a Palm Treo for an iPhone. I felt more confident now. Mossberg has an iPhone. Oh, what Walt told me was, if I had an Earthlink email account, use Earthlink’s outgoing server instead of the Cingular server AT&T provided. And thank God Walt gave me that advice because it was taking one to two minutes to send a single email on the iPhone. At that rate, I’d have no choice but to get the Blackberry.

Prior to getting the Earthlink outgoing service I took the iPhone to USC with me and had more problems. This phone is going back, I thought. All the while I’m hearing the voice of future past in Bill Tanner who is too smart a guy to ignore. Maybe Bill was right.

Finally, the last straw!

Steve Jobs cut the price of iPhones by $200 and offered a $100 credit at Apple stores. But, I only owned the iPhone for four days – I had two weeks for a full refund. I charged into the AT&T store ready to fight, but they asked for my credit card and gave me the $200 difference without a moment’s hesitation.

I’ve got a week and a half left at this point to test my decision and if all else fails, opt for the Blackberry. I wouldn’t even have to tell Tanner!

The iPhone is not a Blackberry so while I could do email, I didn’t become a rude, offensive, obsessive-compulsive “crackberry” addict. I didn’t put my iPhone next to the water glass at lunch or dinner. Mission accomplished, I thought. Then, I remembered who is famous for saying “mission accomplished” and I thought again.

Okay, iPhone's email was acceptable, but I realized that if I purchased a Blackberry I would have a hard time giving it up for the iPhone. The iPhone is not a Blackberry. It’s a cool device, but it's not a Blackberry.

I liked the iPod feature on the iPhone better than the iPod on my iPod. But I don’t get to listen to music as much as my students do and those expensive earphones my son got me didn’t work in the iPhone because the plug didn’t fit. The iPhone buds were horrible. No wonder iPod users have to turn them up to hear the music.

Maybe that's a case for the Blackberry. Not too late.

Hey, I started liking seeing my calendar and a rudimentary task list (not the kind I like on a legal pad) on the iPhone. I have a picture of my beautiful wife as my screen saver. Family pictures of my son and daughter on iPhoto. Syncing was seamless. Apple does software updates that made me feel that I would be on the cutting edge of the future and, of course, how cool could I be if I kept it?

Did I use the phone more? Not really.

Did I email more? Just a few more urgent ones while waiting at LAX.

I liked the Safari browser with that crisp, clear iPhone screen, but I still do my browsing at home on the laptop.

But if I kept this iPhone I felt that I would be keeping a part of the future.

Radio is dying. Satellite radio never really took off. HD radio? Don’t get me started. The next generation that I do know a little something about lives online and on-the-go with their mobile devices. When I passed my iPhone around the classrooms, all my students wanted one of them from mom or dad this holiday season.

A "crackberry" or a “cool” baby boomer intrigued by how primitive the iPhone really is but how representative of our mobile future.

Time’s up.

Take it back for a full refund or buy the Blackberry.

For all the above reasons, I am now the proud owner of an iPhone.

Very cool and very much the future.

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