Captive Audience

Photo by Sunny in L.A.

A full month after the release of the iPhone 3G, I still see lines of people outside of Apple Stores around Seattle waiting to get their hands on one. Although the new, lengthy activation process is a waste of time for customers, it sure is good advertising for Apple. Having lines out front of your store tends to make passers by curious, and curiosity often leads to attraction.

After two weeks with my iPhone 3G, however, I must admit that I’m not as happy as I was with the original iPhone. In fact, if my original iPhone didn’t have an annoyingly quiet earpiece and speakerphone (should have gotten it replaced during the one year warranty period), I probably would have returned the 3G model or not even upgraded to it in the first place.

Now, granted the original iPhone set probably the highest bar for any electronic device I’ve ever owned, but here is what is maddening about the 3G version:

  1. Battery, battery, battery. When Steve Jobs mentioned a year ago that battery life was keeping Apple from releasing a 3G version, he wasn’t kidding. Unfortunately, they released one anyway, and now even people like me who use a measly 5-20 minutes of talk time a day can barely go sunup to sundown on a single charge. It’s crippling and it’s frankly embarrassing, in my opinion.
  2. In order to mitigate the battery life issue, I have now turned off Location Services, Push email, wifi, and Bluetooth, as well as dimming the screen. It’s kind of like buying a Porsche and replacing the engine with a Hyundai to get better gas mileage. Pretty ridiculous.
  3. The 3G AT&T plans are more expensive, which sucks, but at least one can rationalize the data part by remembering that you are getting faster speeds. However, what explains 1500 text messages going from $6 to $15 a month??? Text messages? Ten cents a message as part of a plan is highway robbery. And considering most people won’t hit 1500 on the dot, it often times ends up being much more per message than that. Ok, it’s actually a penny a message.
  4. The shape of the phone has changed ever so subtly such that I can’t even use my original iPhone dock with it. Apple doesn’t include a dock with the iPhone 3G and charges $30 for their new “compatible” dock. This is an especially low blow.
  5. In my mind, neither the white model nor the black model look as nice as the old silver model and I don’t consider plastic an upgrade over metal.
  6. Location Services takes quite a long time to triangulate your location and often doesn’t work. I guess since I was forced to turn it off, I shouldn’t really care anyway.
  7. I live near downtown Seattle and a good portion of the time, I’m still on Edge.
  8. There’s a $18 “upgrade” fee for no apparent reason to switch phones.

In the end, I’d be willing to overlook every item on that list if it weren’t for the battery life issue. I’m not opposed to charging my phone every single night but when you have to think about charging it even during the day, that’s just poor product planning. I’d gladly accept an extra few millimeters in thickness if it meant a 50% bigger battery.

So in closing, I would say that if you already have a first generation iPhone you’re happy with, by all means stick with it. When the iPhone 3G Rev B comes out in several months and sports an acceptable battery, you’ll be happy you’re not stuck with the “old” 3G model.

Don’t fall into the early adopter trap with this particular product release. Sometimes we Apple fanboys are such a captive audience that we ignore the flaws of the items we purchase. And by sometimes, I of course mean always.

27 comments on “Captive Audience”. Leave your own?
  1. Paul says:

    This is why I refuse to buy one until AT&T loses their exclusivity deal. Nothing’s quite as upsetting as watching millions of people stand in line to take it up the butt. If Apple and AT&T want my cash, they can offer a replaceable battery, a more realistic data plan, and tethering.

  2. Nic says:

    Seems like you’re not the only “fanboy” who’s not impressed with the iPhone 3G: Sour Apple

  3. Chris Sivori says:

    The Apple zeal clouds judgment at times. It’s a shiny thing with a really nice display. A good technical achievement, but not world shifting, I don’t think. The iPhone is more of a milestone in the transition to ubiquitous connectivity. Better devices will come along and many will be Apple. Necessary to wait in line for the opportunity to drop some money with a two year contract? NO!

    I do find it amazing that people readily accept what amounts to a closed platform with Apple sitting in the middle of the spider web glomming 30% off software developers, for what exactly? Providing a captive audience?

    Personally, I am looking forward to Android, if anything ever comes of that.

  4. Dave S. says:

    Re: battery life

    You’re describing my first-gen EDGE phone to a T. I’ve had it for almost a year, and it’s been a consistent struggle to get through the entire day on a single charge. (Though bizarrely at one point my battery spontaneously turned magic and it was lasting for 2 – 3 days; that was short-lived however. After about a month of happiness I let it discharge fully one night and got my old crappy battery back, which is how it has been ever since.)

    I think they’ve got a serious problem with quality control on the batteries. I’d bet that most people suffering from poor performance have batteries from a specific supplier, but without the ability to open it up and check, that’s just speculation.

    I also have to wonder, given a) my bizarre and temporary turn-around and b) how when I plug in with an extremely thin slice of red it’s back up to green within seconds, if the flaw is actually in the metering software and not the battery itself. There may be some hope for existing phones, if they ever figure out what the hell is wrong.

  5. Rex says:

    You still can’t buy one in NYC without getting up at an ungodly hour and waiting in line.

  6. Nobrainer says:

    FYI, first generation iPhones are selling for up to $400 each on eBay. Right now may be a good time to sell that first gen iPhone if you’re not sure what you’re going to do with it.

    Or, if you’re waiting for an iPhone until you can avoid AT&T, most of the iPhones for sale have been jailbroken.

  7. Brian says:

    My first iPhone 3G had horrible battery, but this second one easily lasts thru the day. I’m thinking they changed something after the first couple weeks of sales.

  8. Travis Fleck says:

    Mine definitely lasts through the day if I’m not surfing on the 3G network. For me, if I’m on the web for an hour over the 3G network is is at half strength or so. Otherwise it does pretty well.

  9. Michael says:

    My wife and I waited a year so we could get a 3G iPhone, stood in line for 6.5 hours on opening day (didn’t plan to, long story) and I thought I was happy with it until I read this. Now I just want to throw it in the street and go buy a Blackberry.

  10. BF says:

    I actually use my old dock just fine with the 3G iPhone. I mean, it’s not a simple, graceful drop onto the prong anymore, but with just a little bit of force it sits there and charges fine. There’s also no scratching on the phone from doing this, either. It just takes moving a bit outside the “this is normal force” comfort zone.

  11. Lanny Heidbreder says:

    1500 text messages for $15 is $.01 per message, not $.10.

    And I can’t find the link right now, but it’s been found that while 3G battery life sucks on the iPhone, it’s better than any other 3G device out there.

    (Editor’s Note: Oops! You’re right! Fixing…)

  12. Jason says:

    I’m sticking with my original iPhone, happily. If the newer model introduced (finally) MMS and Video capture, I would do it. But sadly, it didn’t.

  13. Jason says:

    The 2.0 update to my 1st Gen iPhone killed my battery. I noticed when looking at the usage information that Usage was equal to Standby, which was ridiculous. I turned off location services, rebooted the phone, and I haven’t had the problem since.

  14. Ryan says:

    “I live near downtown Seattle and a good portion of the time, I’m still on Edge.”

    Thats AT&T problem not the iPhone. But I agree with you on everything else.

  15. John Wise says:

    I just picked up my 3G earlier this week, straight from the factory to the store, and the battery life still sucks big-time. Fortunately, I’m prohibited from bringing my phone into the office, so I can’t drain it during the day ;)

    On the plus side, most of my immediate area in Baltimore is covered by 3G. We went to the Eastern Shore yesterday & spent the better part of the day on Edge, with a few instances of no connectivity.

  16. Chappy says:

    I agree with all of your points, but still love the phone. I saw the $18 upgrade fee on my last bill and thought it was completely absurd to be charged to buy a new phone and start paying more monthly for my plan. I called AT&T and explained this and they removed the $18 charge with no hassle.

  17. Courtney Nielsen says:

    I’ve seen my iPhone (3G, didnt have 1st generation) more as a computing device than a phone, and dont expect it go get thru the day same as I dont expect my laptop to. While i’ve never understood Apple’s need to *not* have changable batteries, i’ve noticed that the battery recharges very rapidly so i have not run out of juice yet.

  18. Janne says:

    Larry, that test you are referring to didn’t include Nokia devices that easily span several days with normal use.

  19. […] Mike Davidson on iPhone 3G Battery. “In order to mitigate the battery life issue, I have now turned off Location Services, Push email, wifi, and Bluetooth, as well as dimming the screen. It’s kind of like buying a Porsche and replacing the engine with a Hyundai to get better gas mileage. Pretty ridiculous.” {via} Permalink • August 15th, 2008 • Filed under Gadgets & Gear • Tagged with apple, battery, iphone You might also like…• Regarding the iPhone Keyboard • The Seven Deadly Sins of Email • VIDEO: White Chicks & Gang Signs You are here: Davidson on iPhone… See also: archive listing – sources – about – rss  © 2008 […]

  20. JG says:

    Thank you for not buying into the hype (unlike some other commentators who seemed to focus strictly on the 3G aspect). In June, I got a first-generation iPhone two weeks before Apple announced the new phone (it was my first iPhone), and I was within the “upgrade” period to get a full refund.

    But I, too, was appalled they would take away my 200 text messages while charging me $10 more a month (not to mention a $39.95 restocking fee)! And I had wondered about the dock issue. Ultimately, I decided to stick with the old one (especially since the new one would cost more in the long run).

    Without upgrading, I have fallen in love with my iPhone, especially since the explosion of Web apps. I think “upgrading” would’ve left me, like you, less than impressed.

  21. Mike says:

    Hyundia is now advertising their new sedan as faster 0 to 60 than a Porsche Boxster!

  22. […] about overheating, unfair (and illegal?) advertising, poor developer interactions, and more, are a bit […]

  23. […] how pathetic the new iPhone 3G’s battery life is, and given that Apple recommends you essentially castrate your device in order to get more hours […]

  24. Jamie Pilfer says:

    I was in NYC last week and it was crazy seeing people lining up still for this phone. I mean people were out from 3 to get theirs @ 8. It is great marketing by Apple, as it makes it the “it” item to have….I guess i need to pump myself up to get into the hype.

  25. John Wise says:

    Why are people still standing in line for hours to buy one of these? Go to your local AT&T outlet and place an order for one, then come back when they call you (or you get the shipping notification) to let you know that it’s in.

  26. Mike D. says:

    John: Because dealing with AT&T is best kept to a minimum. They are awful to deal with on just about every matter… especially returning the phone within a year for service or replacement if necessary.

  27. Alan says:

    Here in the UK it’s O2 who has the exclusive rights to the phone and I refuse to be ripped off for airtime and have to pay for a phone that is, on the face of it, useless unless the contract is renewed.

    Apple needs to wise up – they’ve shot themselves in the foot with this and are loosing customers they could easily have retained nd who won’t come back.

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