My iPhone Dilemma

If you follow me on Twitter (@jkuramot), you might already know that my iPhone, the OG version, is failing.

I noticed last week it wasn’t charging or syncing over USB. I performed all the usual tests to trap the problem–swapped cables, swapped ports on the Mac and on my USB hubs, swapped ports on my Ubuntu box–nada.

I was really freaking out, as the battery faded, but luckily, I can still charge it with the AC adapter, if I jiggle the connection just right.

Not a good thing because behavior like this almost always spells the end of a gadget. An hour, mostly waiting, at the local Genius Bar, confirmed my suspicions; water damage, the Genius said, was corroding the port.

Crap. I’ve never dropped my iPhone in water. However, it does rain here in Portland sometimes, and I do talk on the phone in the rain. Still, the port is at the bottom of the phone, making it tough for gravity to put rain in there.


So, it looks like I’m going to need to replace it. I can limp along for a while, but eventually, I’ll need to sync my calendar and iPhone OS updates from iTunes. Bummer.

Usually, I’d feel guiltless joy at the “need” to replace a gadget with a newer one because I love those shiny objects.

Not so much in this case because, frankly, I haven’t fully amortized that baby yet. I was one of the suckers who bought the OG iPhone at the full freight of $499, i.e. before the price cut.

And I’m out of contract with AT&T.

Before we go on here, I should clarify that I’m sticking with the iPhone, despite the numerous Android phones out there; I’m too attached to it, and the iPhone envy would consume me. I have love for Android, and the Nexus One looks awesome.

But I just can’t do it.

And no, I won’t consider a Palm or Windows device.

So, now I’m in a quandary with several options, and I’m looking for some good old crowdsourcing to help me suss out all the arguments.

The following are the choices I’m considering.

  • Buy a used OG iPhone and just swap my SIM card.
  • Buy a used or new third party (i.e. not AT&T) 3G iPhone and upgrade to the 3G plan.
  • Buy a new 3G iPhone from AT&T, upgrade to the 3G plan and get into another two-year contract.

I’m not considering a 3GS because I don’t really need video, and I’m pretty sure it will soon be out-dated. More on that in a minute.

Used OG iPhone
This is the easiest solution; all I need to do is locate a used OG iPhone and swap my SIM card. No change to my current plan, no new contract. No fuss, no mess.

Thanks to Twitter, I’ve already found a friend here in Portland willing to trade/sell me his old OG iPhone.

The only cons here is that it’s not a new shiny object, and it’s slower, both the device and the network.

This is the practical solution, but also the boring one.

Used/Third Party 3G iPhone
This solution allows me to get a new device on a faster network, and stay out of a new contract with AT&T.

The 3G data plan costs $10 more each month, plus $5 a month to get 200 text messages. So, my monthly outlay would go up $15, not terrible.

Thanks again to Twitter, John (@jpiwowar) has let me know he would sell me his used 3G at a very fair price. Even if John comes to his senses, I’m confident I could find a 3G at a decent price on Craigslist or through Twitter.

I’d also need to get a new hard shell case for it, since the OG accessories don’t fit the 3G phones properly. Not a big deal.

This plan is a nice combination of practical and shiny.

New 3G iPhone from AT&T
Finally, I could just buy a new 3G from AT&T for $99 and sign a two-year contract. The plan would still cost me $15 more each month, but the equipment would be cheaper. Oh, and I’d still need a new hard shell case for it.

I guess I’m least excited about this plan because it means a new contract with AT&T.

Other Factors
Apple is rumored to be updating the iPhone this June, which seems pretty solid, since they’ve done that two years running. Today, I saw the latest rumor that hints an update might come sooner to answer the wave of Android devices swarming the market.

This affects my decision by further burying the 3GS. I’m not about to pay full freight again, only to have a new model out-mode me within months.

I suppose I could wait, but I’m pretty sure I’ll need to sync before Apple gets around to announcing a new iPhone.

There are also rumors swirling that AT&T and Apple will be ending their exclusive agreement this year, bolstered by AT&T’s recent announcement that Android and Palm WebOS devices will soon be coming to their network.

I’m not sure how that would impact my decision, but it makes me less likely to sign a contract with AT&T. Will other networks may be offering deals to bring iPhone users to their networks? Seems risky, but possible.

The bottom line is, I just don’t know.

Find the comments and add your thoughts. Help me decide.




  1. I sympathize with you. My iPhone 3G was lost/stolen a few weeks ago. Luckily I had a spare BlackJack II that I was able to place a new SIM card in. Unfortunately, it ain't an iPhone.

    I'm interested in the new platforms coming out. The next generation Apple iPhone and tablet vs. Android 2.1 (Nexus One) and Google's tablet… I'd really like to stick to the same platform to provide a better, more consistent experience. The next iPhone will be polished and way ahead of the Nexus One curve as Android still has a ways to go. Very interested in Jan 27th to hear more about the tablet and hoping for a sneak preview of the next iPhone.

    Although I use a lot of Google services, I can still basically use them on the iPhone. They're just more usable on Android. I'll probably go with the next gen iPhone this time around, but hope that I can choose Google in the future.

    As for your problem… If the price differential between the OG and the 3G isn't too great, I'd buy the 3G from your friend… Edge is just too slow! I'd use it until I wanted to upgrade to the next gen iPhone and then sell the 3G.

  2. Interesting to note that your disdain for umbrellas has now cost you real money in addition to the medical bills for all the poked eyes you've endured.

    I certainly feel for you and think you're smart to stick with the platform. I agree that the new devices look really cool, but I think I'll probably be an iPhone user for a long time too.

    I use the over-the-air sync on my phone, but I suspect that was a feature of the 3G phone that your current model probably doesn't have, so that won't help. I guess you could just sync things with Google and use their app for accessing info about contacts, etc. That way you could maybe limp along until the update comes, whenever that may be.

    I'll be interested to know which path you take. Given the rumors about a break from AT&T, starting another 2-year sentence would be a non-starter for me.

  3. It is a great time for mobile. So funny how far things have come since the Treo and Blackberry were the top of the smartphone heap. Feels like a decade of innovation in a few years.

    I'm not convinced that tables/netbooks/whatever are worth my time. I don't think I have a use for the size between phone (fits in pocket) and laptop (carry easily under the arm), but it's an interesting space nevertheless.

    I'm leaning toward the 3G for that very reason. Edge essentially torpedos my mobile browsing, and it's not the most recent so I won't feel like a chump when the new one debuts. Thanks for the advice.

  4. Heh, it rains enough here to create an issue with always carrying an umbrella, but sure, touche.

    I think you're correct that the OG has no air-sync feature, but I'll check on that. Nice catch. That would add another option.

    The whole limping along thing might work, but it's not permanent. Plus, I'm expecting the AC-jiggle technique to fail any day. I'd rather make a call and go with it.

    A new contract just seems like a bad idea. Glad you agree.

  5. I would go with the used OG iPhone. No fuss, no muss and you get to keep using your existing OG accessories. It's already mid-January and June will be here before you can say iPhone 4.0. Just wait it out with a replacement OG iPhone and then upgrade to iPhone 4.0.

  6. Yeah, I like that option too. My only accessory is the hard case, but that's $30 of additional cost.

    My main hesitation about this plan is that the 4.0 iPhone will be another 3GS, i.e. iterative, not awesome. Sure, it'll probably have some hardware tweaks, but I doubt it will be faster, Intertubes-wise, since 4G networks aren't very common yet. They could hook it to Wi-Max to let me use Clear on it, which would totally be worth it, but that's equally doubtful, again b/c of sparse Wi-Max rollout.

    So, the hedge might backfire.

  7. I would go w/the used OG iPhone. You don't sound excited enough about the other current options, but you do sound more excited about what may be coming down the line. You also sound happy w/your current situation, as long as it's working. However, if you find a used/third party 3G iPhone cheaper than the OG iPhone, that could change things…

  8. Yeah, that plan is both easiest and most thrifty. It would please my wife too, so there's that as well. Even if the 3G hardware were cheaper vs. OG, the offset is the additional $180/year for the plan.

  9. Have you tried the Nintendo trick?
    You might want to try turning it off and cleaning the connectors with an alcohol swab (steal one from your local wings place, double score) or rubbing alcohol on a cut qtip. Leave it off overnight to make sure the alcohol dries. If that doesn't work RapidRepair can sell you a dock connector replacement for $70. If you don't feel comfortable doing it yourself they'll overnight it and install it both ways for $60. I can send you my Nokia N95 to borrow while its out of town if you need, you can swap a sim into that all day.

  10. I'm far from biased, but I'm thinking a used 3G would keep you going nicely until the inevitable kinks in the 4G firmware are worked out a few months after launch. 😉 I've never experienced Edge on iPhone, but back in my Blackberry days Edge made me question the utility of smartphones for anything serious beyond email. 3G is way more bearable when out of reach of hotspots.

  11. True, but I'm realizing I rarely leave wifi. I'm such a shut-in and that most of the time I'm off wifi is in the car. Most f the places I go around town have wifi. I also had a pretty terrible 3G experience w/my parents broadband card in the Fall. The speeds we got were about the same as Edge.

    I know different city, different network, but still.

  12. Lulz, actually I have, including my own breath and canned air.

    Interesting tips. Where did you find them? I'll definitely give the alcohol cleaning a try, and it might be worth trying a self-repair, not much to lose. Plus, the geek in me would love to see the insides of that little guy.

    Thanks for the tip and the spare phone offer. Will try it this weekend.

  13. Yup, that's fair. 3G is nice, but can be wonky, and since most of the time I'm on wifi it usually feels painful regardless. I got the cheapest possible data plan when I switched providers after moving, 500MB/mo. Current usage: 40MB sent, 186MB rec'd…since 5 Nov 2009. I think I made the right call (har!) there.

  14. Geez, that's really low. Bandwidth is funny. Comcast rolled out monitoring to Portland, and I've been surprised to see that I'm not a hog. Not even close to 100 GB each month. Still not a fan of network monitoring though, just an observation.

  15. I was somewhat surprised by the usage, too. Less roaming around, and more wifi, than I expected.
    I wish Shaw would provide users w/ info about their bandwidth usage. I'd also prefer that providers didn't monitor, but since they undoubtedly do, I'd rather see the data surfaced to customers.

  16. My iPhone Classic took one drop too many last summer, resulting in the top half of the screen losing it's touch sensitivity. I had a lot of fun and frustrations finding workarounds to get stuff done and limped along for several months (That would make a good blog post, if I ever get the time). In the end I went for an 3GS and I'm very pleased with the decision. I like the speed, the GPS, the video, the speed and the speed.

  17. I'm not against the 3GS. I just question whether it's *that* much better than the 3G, especially considering the likelihood of an upgrade to the iPhone line this year. And there's that whole contract thing too.

    BTW, Matt's suggestion didn't work. It actually caused my phone to turn on (even though it was off) and give me that “not-an-approved-iPhone-accessory-do-you-want-Airplane-mode” message, despite not being connected to anything. Weird. Further proof that it's hosed. It'll probably stop charging over AC soon.

  18. I'm not against the 3GS. I just question whether it's *that* much better than the 3G, especially considering the likelihood of an upgrade to the iPhone line this year. And there's that whole contract thing too.

    BTW, Matt's suggestion didn't work. It actually caused my phone to turn on (even though it was off) and give me that “not-an-approved-iPhone-accessory-do-you-want-Airplane-mode” message, despite not being connected to anything. Weird. Further proof that it's hosed. It'll probably stop charging over AC soon.

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