A New Smartphone for My Wife: Part I (iPhone 4)

March 5th, 2011

By Dr. Jim Taylor

About a month ago, my wife decided it was time to join the 21st century and upgrade her Palm Centro (with no data plan) to a real smartphone. I had just completed her transition from separate phone contacts and calendar on her Palm and another set of email contacts in her Yahoo! account to a fully integrated system in gmail. As a busy mom who also works part-time, it was a no-brainer that she be more connected.

The next big question was what smartphone to get her. Because I write about the Psychology of Technology, I’m a pretty tech-savvy guy and know my way around mobile phones. But with all of the choices out there, from Android to Windows to Blackberry to the latest Palm devices, the obvious choice was the iPhone 4. Everyone who has one loves it (including my wife’s mother who is hooked on hers) and it seems to be especially suited for non-techie suburban moms.

However, I’ve never been a fan of Apple products (I’m an Android guy, at this moment with an HTC Aria). Yes, Apple produces elegantly designed and engineered products. But I don’t like the authoritarian control that Apple asserts over its products and I don’t like the way it forces people to use its stuff the way Apple wants them to rather than how people want to. Apple puts consumers in a beautifully wrapped box, but it’s still a box!

But, based on what so many said and thinking I was acting in the best interests of my wife, I bit my tongue and purchased an iPhone 4 at our local AT&T store. I have to admit that I had never really sunk my teeth (metaphorically speaking) into an Apple product, so I was looking forward to being suitably impressed. But after a day of setting the iPhone 4 up for my wife and learning how it works, I concluded that I was not impressed and don’t understand what the hullabaloo is all about.

Of course, there are well-worn criticisms such as no SD card and no replacement battery. And there’s the lame UI (if you want to call it that; really just an app launcher); so little information on the home screen. Speaking of UI, there are a ton of icons that can’t be removed (e.g., Game Center, Utilities), only dragged to the far nether regions of the screens. No readable clock, weather, or detailed calendar.

Everyone raves about the ease of the keyboard, but I think it stinks. Any time I want to use punctuation (which is all the time for anyone who is semi-literate), I have to switch to the number keyboard and even then all of the punctuation isn’t available and you have to switch to a punctuation keyboard.

Let’s talk about that one button. What a pain! What if I don’t want to go back to the home screen?

Other complaints I had:

  1. It will be outdated in June when the iPhone 5 is released;
  2. Not 4G capable;
  3. Proprietary plug;
  4. Most apps aren’t free;
  5. No direct dial icons.

I know I could have jailbroken (jailbreaked?) the iPhone, but heck, it’s my wife’s phone, not mine. And, by gosh, this is America not China and I should be free to do what I want with anything I buy!

Bu the most important consideration was what my wife thought of the iPhone 4. Thankfully, she found it as irritating as I did and she too couldn’t understand what all the iPhone love was about.

So, I returned the iPhone to the AT&T store a few days later (30-day return policy, but I hate the $20 restocking fee which doesn’t exist when purchased on line or over the phone) and bought a, well, you’ll have to wait for Part II in my series to find out. Stay tuned.

(This article was also posted at Dr. Jim Taylor’s Blog.)

(Visit Dr. Jim Taylor’s YouTube channel to see TV interviews and Prime topic discussions.)

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3 Responses to “A New Smartphone for My Wife: Part I (iPhone 4)”

  1. Nico Crispi |

    Not to forget Steve Jobs’ ongoing war against Flash and the iPhone’s inability to play that format.
    I returned an iPhone 4 after two weeks of frustration and I am now enjoying the Android Motorola Atrix which runs more circles than the Daytona 500 around the Apple product.

  2. Anonymous |

    Wow! I can’t believe that Tom posted this less-than-incisive post on the site. But I guess I am expressing an opinion.

    Thanks for the input, Nico. You’ll have to wait till my third and final post in the Smartphone for My Wife series to see what she ended up with.

  3. Tom Carter |

    Nico, I haven’t tried a smartphone yet — I’m still satisfied with a phone that makes and receives phone calls, plus takes pictures once in a rare while. I suppose it will do other things, but I never bothered to figure them out.

    In my experience with Apple (iPod, iTunes) they’re much more restrictive and proprietary than Microsoft, which gets all the flak.

    Jim, I assume that’s you — I don’t think it’s less than incisive. I’ll probably end up with a new phone before too long (regardless of what I said above), and your iPhone review is very useful. I probably wouldn’t have gone that way anyway, but now I won’t for sure. I’m pretty much decide on an Android, if I ever get around to it.

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