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Computing and Communications February 2011

iPhone vs. iPhone? Get An Android
By John R. Quain

Unlike the AT&T model, the Verizon iPhone cannot simultaneously pull down down information from the Web and let you talk. It's one or the other. So if a friend on the phone suggests meeting at a restaurant, you can't check reviews for the place or its location without hanging up the phone, surfing the Web, and then calling them back.

The other drawback is that because Verizon uses a different cellular phone standard for its network, international business travelers will discover the phone doesn't work in much of Europe, Australia, or Africa. (On the other haMazda iPhone Appnd, at the rates AT&T charges international travelers, you're better off buying a phone overseas.)

Far and away the biggest problem with the new/old iPhone, though, is that it's already obsolete: It doesn't work with the latest, high-speed wireless networks. So-called 4G networks are rapidly becoming the norm with Sprint and T-Mobile in the lead, and Verizon and AT&T now making a major 4G push (never mind whether T-Mobile's and AT&T's service is technically 4G; it's still faster than 3G). But the iPhone 4 doesn't work on any of those networks.

So why would you want a 4G phone? Just ask anyone in New York or San Francisco who habitually uses their phone as a wireless computer. It can be agonizingly slow unless you can find a Wi-Fi connection, a problem Apple clearly recognizes by the fact that its video calling service only works on Wi-Fi and not over a cellular connection.

The critical point now for those of us spending our hard-earned money is that an investment in a new smart phone is analogous to an investment in a desktop computer just a few years ago. It's a necessary business instrument and a daily communications tool that you are going to have to rely on for the next two years. Once you've spent your money, you don't want to be saddled with something that doesn't meet your needs in a few months or a year from now.

So should you jump?

- If you have to break a contract, absolutely not. It can cost you hundreds of dollars to break a cell phone subscription and in a couple of months what you've bought will be obsolete.

- If you're on a budget and don't want to spend more every month, absolutely not. There are plenty of better models for making voice calls from the likes of Samsung and Nokia (some of which are free with a contract).

- If you want the latest technology and don't want to be left behind, absolutely not. There are some excellent 4G phones already on the market based on the Android software platform, and Android has the momentum.

Sprint offers the HTC EVO and EVO Shift (it has a keyboard!) Android phones for $200 and $150, respectively (with a 2-year contract) with more features, such as a replaceable battery, expandable memory, more free apps, HD video, etc. T-Mobile offers the very capable MyTouch 4G for just $100, with similar features (but a smaller screen). Furthermore, AT&T and Verizon are about to offer some powerful 4G Android options themselves.

The 4G Motorola Atrix is poised to appear on AT&T and takes the idea of a smart phone to a new level: It comes with a much faster processor and can double as a desktop computer by using a docking station (prices and availability have yet to be announced, though). Verizon is set to introduce the HTC Thunderbolt for its 4G network (as early as this month), offering both sex appeal and speed. Expect prices to match anything Apple offers.

Still, 300,00 apps and millions of Apple fans can't be wrong. Right? Well, even if you're one of the iPhone love lorn you should wait at least until Apple comes out with an up-to-date 4G version. And Apple is going to have to introduce a 4G version of the iPhone, sooner rather than later (probably in the June-July time frame). While sales of the Verizon iPhone will no doubt be brisk, Apple is falling behind the Android phones in terms of technology and speed, and the company can't allow that to continue for much longer.

A new 4G iPhone will also most likely offer additional new features. Near-field communications--which allows you to pay for items at checkout using a wave of your phone and a virtual credit card--is a feature the company has hinted at, for example. One may also expect to see the type of docking feature Motorola has announced, assuming the iPhone 5 is fast enough. And novel designs, such as the dual-screen Kyocera Echo coming on Sprint, are sure to shake things up.

Incidentally, the iPhone deal with Verizon is not exclusive. So if you want a less expensive monthly voice and data plan, there's the distinct possibility that new iPhones later this year may be available from Sprint and T-Mobile--for less money. Just another way that a modicum of patience can save you money, and heart ache.

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