Wednesday, December 16, 2009

There's a map for that... with nothing but toll roads on it

I've been thinking about getting the Droid to replace my iPhone 3g for a while.

Not that I don't love my iPhone; but we're moving next near, and the area we're moving to doesn't have AT&T 3g service yet.

We'd been planning on moving to either Verizon or Sprint, who both have 3g in that area (t-mobile doesn't either); and since Sprint doesn't have any phones we like (and is going out of business rapidly... but they'll be acquired soon... probably by Verizon if the regulators allow it), and Verizon has the Droid, and Droid Eris, they were our default choice.

I've played with a friends droid for a bit, and I like it. I don't like the keyboard or directional pad, or the feel of it in the hand; but I like the OS, and the actual open source apps... overall, I think its a pretty good phone.

It's not as good as my iPhone 3g, but it is pretty good, and it's getting better.

Then yesterday, my iPhone broke.

Oh, it's still functional, but the plastic casing on the back has a couple cracks.

As it happens, I use my iPhone with several docks (one at my desk, one by my bedside, one for my home stereo, and one in each of our cars); and the many times a day the thing came in and out of those docks torqued the plastic around the connector enough to crack it, and to widen another crack that I put in the back when I dropped it one day.

This is no weakness in the phone; this is me beating the hell out of the thing for 18 months (almost to the day actually), and it finally showing it.

The thing is perfectly fine, so long as I just use it with a cable, and don't use my docks.

However, as I said, we were looking to replace our carrier with Verizon anyway; so this looked liked a good time to grab a Droid for me, and a Droid Eris for mel ($199 and $99 respectively if you buy online, and Mel prefers the shape and feel of the Eris).

So I went to the Verizon web site, entered in the phones we wanted, and went on to the voice and data plans...

That's where things started going bad for Verizon.

Our current plan on AT&T is a 1200 minute family plan, with rollover (so unused minutes roll onto the next month), 2 lines of service, free family calling, 200 texts each line, and unlimited data on each line; for which we pay $127 a month including taxes, after our $20 a month discount for my employer.

It's a great deal by the way. Everybody who works for my company gets the discount, if they ask for it. You have to tell them you work for us, then ask, and you'll get it starting the next month. We also get a additional reward points on our cards if we pay our AT&T bills with our employee credit cards.

If you work for a company that has a corporate phone account with a major carrier, you should ask that carrier if they offer a discount to employees of your company. A surprising number of companies get these types of discounts.

With Verizon, I could get a 700 minute plan without text or family calling (and no rollover on any verizon plans), and add unlimited text, mms, video, and family calling for $20 more. Or I could get a 1400 minute plan with family calling but no text for $20 more, and add unlimited text, mms, and video for another $20.

Ok... none of those were particularly good deals, but I chose the 1400 minute plan, with family calling but no text. I have no interest in MMS or video, and I'm not willing to pay $20 a month extra for it.

However, we do use text, and texts are either $0.50 a piece, or $5 each phoneline, for 250 per month... or $20 for unlimited. They REALLY want you to pay the extra @0 upfront to get the voice plan with the unlimited text, mms, and video.

Visual voicemail was $3 a line extra, so I declined it (I want it, I love it on my iPhone, but I'm not paying an extra $6 a month for the feature. Insurance was $9 per month per phone (at&t has a $70 one time charge per phone) so I declined it. Then came the real killer...

Data...

The whole point of having a smartphone like the Droid is to have unlimited data, wherever you are, whenever you need it.

Data was $45 per line, per month, for a total of $90.

Or, you could get just unlimited email and web (but no data for applications), for $30 a month per line... Yeah I don't think so.

$90 it is then.

Added together, the whole package, was $189, plus $18 in taxes and fees.

$207... vs. $127 a month for AT&T... Thats frikken $80 a month difference... 66% more expensive.

Oh, we get a Verizon discount too, that same $20 (but without the extra credit card reward points)... so I guess it would only be $60 a month more... Plus the $300 for the new phones of course; and that discount wouldn't apply for 90 days after activating new service.

Now, as it happens, I am eligible for upgrade pricing on the new iPhone 3GS with AT&T; but I still have six months left before I can terminate my contract without penalty (smart move for AT&T, making the upgrades available before you can terminate. Gets more people to roll over since they can get a new device). If I terminate now, I owe an $80 etf.

And I've still got 3 billing cycles left until we move; which would be a $240 savings, plus the $80 etf... $320... on top of the $300 for the new phones...

We just checked the coverage map again today, and there's still no 3g coverage where we want to move to; but AT&T HAS put coverage in along the major road leading by there, and the major towns north and south of there... And they're expanding coverage in the area generally. They may have full 3g coverage up by the time we move.

If not, they have a femtocell available, that lets you extend the 3G coverage to 1/4 mile around your own house, plus the phones have WiFi; so as long as we had our home internet connection, the only place we wouldn't have 3g or better coverage is the 5 miles between where we want to move, and the main road...

And Mel misses her iPhone.

She smashed it up a few months back (well and truly crushed it, dropping it onto the screen, on concrete, while the case was off), and we just grabbed a cheap prepaid phone and swapped sims; expecting we'd be upgrading when we moved anyway, and not wanting to pay the $250 out of warranty repair charge.

But Mel doesn't use those docks like I do... and superglue and a new thin hardcase that keeps the back supported, and my cracked back iPhone 3g is completely good to go...

So we decided to use the upgrade, and I swapped out my iPhone 3g with Mel, and upgraded to an iPhone 3gs.

Basically, it's just like the 3G, except it's a fair bit faster (it's very noticeable), has slightly better battery life, a much better GPS, a much better camera; and the new oleophobic screen coating is AWESOME, and completely gets rid of the smears and smudges of the old iPhone.

All in all, we're very happy with this choice. Even if we can't get 3G when we move, they're still useful as iPod touches; and the cost of the 3GS is actually LESS than we'd have to pay in early termination fees and the extra cost of going to Verizon.

So, Verizon.. Can I hear you now? No... not over the roaring of that extra $80 a month you want to extort out of me thanks.