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The end of the Great Cell Phone Experiment

Last week marked the end of an experiment to live on just a cell phone. I had read how so many people have dispensed with their land lines and relied exclusively on a cell that I decided it was worth a try.

It sure seemed like a good idea. I got very few calls on either line, really, since I know so few folks here in S.F. (I'm a recent transplant). It looked like a way to save about $70 a month.

At the time, I was with Verizon Wireless. However, their phone was defective. It would routinely drop audio of the caller. Not the entire call, mind you, just audio of the other person. I would be talking and poof, they were gone. The other person could hear me fine, I just could not hear them. Eventually the audio would come back.

This was annoying when it happened while talking to a friend, but given that I work at home one day a week to save on gas, it was unacceptable to have my interviews interrupted like that, not to mention embarrassing. I took the phone in to the local store and demanded a new one. They replaced it with the same model three times despite repeated requests for a different model phone, and when they tried to replace it a fourth, I told them where to stick their phone and their service.

ifail.jpgWith my defection to AT&T, I moved to the iPhone. A nice little piece of engineering, but it became obvious after one day that the 3G service was NFG. This, of course, was well-documented. Since then, Apple has made a few fixes to the phone. With the 2.1 firmware, numerous sites like Gizmodo and MacRumors rejoiced, claiming the 3G service was finally usable.

But it wasn't. My experience did not change. I could run down the battery to 20% in two hours. Last week, I went to Golden Gate Park for a company picnic but got lost and couldn't find my co-workers. Standing outdoors, in an open field with nothing around me, every attempt to call Dave Needle failed. Wouldn't even dial out. I went into the iPhone settings, turned off 3G, the call went right through and I found the crew. Here's a picture of us, taken with the phone. You might recognize that bridge in the background.

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3G will remain off. Period. EDGE network is good enough.

The last straw was one evening last week, talking to both a good friend and then my parents. Both complained about the awful quality of audio from me, with my friend asking how I can conduct business on a phone sounding like that. My mother asked me if I had a cold, which I did not.

So, the writing was on the wall. I called AT&T and restored my land line. Even got my old number back. Everyone says I sound better and there's no need to plug the phone into the wall because the battery runs down after two hours.

I often edit Judy Mottl's stories, who covers our wireless phone beat. It's comical to see all the promises from RIM, Apple, Nokia, Ericsson, etc., all the things they say their phones will do, all the features they want to cram in them.

They still can't compete with a land line. It's not even close. It's 802.11a vs. Fibre Channel. And don't get me started on cell-to-cell calls. I'd rather use a pair of tin cans and a string.

As a completely aside note, something funny dawned on me the other day at Apple's HQ, when I was covering the launch of the new MacBooks. Of course every employee in the place had an iPhone, but I didn't see one phone that was protected. Mine is completely armored, with the Contour hard plastic case and a clear plastic cover over the screen, but everyone at Apple was operating bareback with unprotected iPhones.

So , are they not worried about scuffing up/breaking their phones, or was I fool for blowing $30 to protect this thing?

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