I really like using the iPhone, but it’s not my actual daily-use phone any more when I’m home in the US; here’s why, roughly, I had to switch away from it. (I managed to unlock my old iPhone and still use it with prepaid SIM cards when traveling outside the US, like now, prompting these thoughts.)
It was immediately obvious when the first iPhone was release that Apple had changed the smartphone game — there had been plenty of previous attempts at a smartphone that had the same or more features, but the iPhone was the first that people really wanted to use. Each successive model has been the gold standard for hardware features at the time it was released (though the competitive ecosystem quickly catches up), and each iOS release continues to be the gold standard for responsiveness and usability.
But all this comes at a price. While I like using an iPhone, I don’t really want it to be the dominant phone platform; for the reason that Apple too tightly exerts control over it. This burns both developers/partners and customers/users. Partners: The way Apple runs the App Store has been well covered; their policies have improved over time but it’s not a free market, and you may still find yourself unable to publish a useful app there. Users: Apple’s insistence on simplicity and one-size-fits-all means you get few choices. I’m aware of the tyranny of choice, and maybe we don’t need as many choices as the ecosystem can give us, but I want certain choices Apple doesn’t give its iPhone customers.
What I really want, and have wanted since the iPhone 1 was released, is an iPhone with a keyboard on my choice of carrier. What we all get is an iPhone with an onscreen keyboard on AT&T.
Keyboard… while the onscreen keyboard is adequate, maybe even pretty good, maybe you even like it, I’ve used phones with and without hardware keyboards and I know I want a real keyboard. I can type faster, more accurately, while paying less than 100% attention to typing, and with less frustration. We know that phones, and especially the iPhone, arouse emotions, so: every time the onscreen keyboard magically guesses what you mean as you mash across the keyboard quickly, missing lots of letters yet yielding completely correct words, I get a little tingle of satisfaction. Yet every time the same autocorrect intelligence turns a correct, painstakingly typed word (perhaps the name of a friend or place, perhaps in another language) not in its dictionary into one that is, I feel a stab of anger that quickly outweighs the good. And using correct punctuation (especially for parenthetical expressions) requires too many mode switches; easier done on any hardware keyboard. All this is to say, to each his own; maybe you don’t care but I do; Apple seems likely to never offer this choice. (As of iOS 4, I believe that it should be possible to use external bluetooth keyboards, but who really wants to carry an external keyboard?)
AT&T… much has already been written on this too. It’s a matter of speculation whether any other network could have handled the extreme load of all iPhone users; maybe yes, maybe no. What’s clear is AT&T can’t. The ironic thing here is that you pay, in the US, something like $300 for a brand new iPhone which you keep for 2 years or more, while paying something like $1000/year for the cell service from AT&T. If you consider capitalism as the scoreboard, you’re paying 6x the price of the phone for the service, which should mean you value it 6x more. Meanwhile, you can get more cell service (measured in minutes of voice, number of SMS, and bytes of data) from other carriers for less money, and in many areas, far more reliably. I reached a decision that there was no way I could stomach paying AT&T $1000/year to intermittently deliver a service less reliable than their cheaper competition. So. (And yes, that’s US-centric; iPhone users in other countries obviously aren’t saddled with AT&T. In my experience using an unlocked iPhone 3G in several foreign countries, it worked a lot better than AT&T in the US.)
Maybe soon we’ll see a choice of iPhone carriers in more countries, but the fact remains that I’m much better served by other phones, inferior in many ways, but which let me choose a keyboard and a carrier. Thus, love/hate.