Ditching the Apple iPhone . . .

I very patiently waited for the iPhone to go 2nd generation, move to a 3G network, and work the kinks out. I got one two weeks ago, and it is likely to get returned some time over the next two weeks.

Why? As a toy, it is delightful. It is a wonderful gadget which is endlessly amusing to play with. I very much am going to miss it when it goes back.

As a phone, it is all but useless. At least, that is the case in my neighborhoods, which include the North shore of Long Island, and Manhattan. (That any wireless network doesn’t have 5 bars throughout all of Manhattan is completely inexcusable).

I blamed the AT&T network for much of the problems, but I suspect the phone should also get some portion of the blame too. Apple is releasing a software fix for the 3G call dropping issue Friday.

<sigh> Its gorgeous, lovely toy. If only it worked as a phone . . .


The candy slab of delicious glass reminds me of a story from my college days. I went to SUSB Stony Brook, and near the campus was an exotic car showroom. The owner was a very kindly older Italian gentleman, who was endlessly patient with me, a poor college student. I fascinated by what looked like a museum showroom filled with very expensive Aston Martins, Jaguars, and Ferraris, and the like. I couldn’t even pay for the premium gas to fill any of them up, but he treated my like a potential customer. You could not ask for a classier car salesman.

I sometimes stopped by when they weren’t busy, and this gentleman driver — with his delightful accent, thinning gray hair and a huge handlebar mustache — would educate me on automotive history. I loved the Astons, and he showed me the elegance of the older Ferraris, and the racing dynamics of the newer machines.

One day, a white Lamborghini Countach showed up on the showroom floor. It was weird and angular and futuristic and unlike any other car I had ever seen (this was 1983 or so). I asked him about it, and he cringed. He put his finger over his lips, as he tsk-tsked, and slowly shook his head “no.”

In that charming Italian accent, he said something to me I have never forgotten: “The Lamborghini, she is like a beautiful woman that is very bad in bed.” 

Being a wiseass, my instant response was obvious: “Oh, yeah, I dated her for a while.”

We both smiled.


I have never had the opportunity to retell that story — until now.

The iPhone — like that Lamborghini — is gorgeous and exotic and unlike anything else you have ever seen. But as a phone in the NYC area, it just does not work well.  As my Italian automotive professor would say, “she is just like that beautiful woman who is very bad in bed.”

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  1. changj commented on Sep 10

    Classic story and completely true. Apple products in general in my experience have typically been more flash than substance.

  2. bc commented on Sep 10

    Good story w. much merit and many applications…

  3. tranchefoot commented on Sep 10

    so which car did you finally buy?

  4. jr commented on Sep 10

    I’m in the same boat. But I blame AT&T. 3G works fine if you get out far enough from the city, but it is sadly worthless during the work day downtown NYC. Otherwise the thing is my favorite hand held device to date.

    Posted from my iPhone (over a wifi network)…

  5. JP commented on Sep 10


  6. goodinbed commented on Sep 10

    It’s funny. I took mine back too. It was hard to part with since there are so many great features about the phone. But the true phone part of it is a disaster (I’m in NY too). What really shook me though was that it was even worse in Minnesota, Seattle, and San Francsico. Completely unusable.

  7. Mack commented on Sep 10

    I married a Lamborghini…I’ll pass on the iPhone…thanks.

  8. Donny L commented on Sep 10

    I had been with Sprint for about 10 years, with very few problems, outside of service, which I rarely used. I never lost calls, from the east side of Kauai to Cape of Massachusetts.

    I, like Barry, was waiting for the 3g, and went to the Apple store to buy 2 phones a couple of weeks ago. I just want to reiterate was Barry said; the iPhone is such fun with regard to data, email photos, text msgs, but sucks as a telephone. My reception bars rarely exceed 2 — my sprint phone rarely dropped below 2.

    I really hope the firmware patch being released on Friday will resolve these issues.

    With that said; I am data dependent. I am NO WAY going to return my iPhones and return to Nokia or a Blackberry.

  9. VennData commented on Sep 10

    What makes a woman good in bed?

    Showing up.

    — Elliott Gould

  10. Lenore Wilkas commented on Sep 10

    Great story! Great description of your issues. I haven’t heard much good about the 3G on the iPhone and have opted to wait it out and continue with my Blackberry.

  11. Noah commented on Sep 10

    its true. I got the iphone about 3 weeks ago and its dropped call and freeze outs every other day. Oh well. It certainly is a cool gadget and at times I feel like Im cheating on my wife with a beautiful Lamborghini.


  12. ali saygin commented on Sep 10

    wonderful story, thanks for sharing and making that happen.

    Blame ATT but also blame cheap RF receivers in Apple Iphones. Nokia seems to be doing a better job in designing antennas and RF receivers with better signal quality.

    Apple is all about the interface. Behind the cover is not that important.

    Get a HtC too, it will beat the Apple in very short time.

  13. Roger Bigod commented on Sep 10

    I don’t want to get into a religious war, but the complaint of lack of substance is not a good description. From the beginning, Apple products have had a friendly, toy-like feel. It’s part of Jobs’s design approach, for better and sometimes worse. But under the hood, there were some very solid things. OS X has an industrial strength Unix behind all the flashy visual effects. So some Apple products are like a spectacularly beautiful woman who requires a little effort to find the erogenous zones and g spots.

    You guys might want to check with AT&T. If they know there’s a problem and they’re going to upgrade the network soon, it might be worth a little wait. I mean, some chicks don’t realize they’re frigid.

  14. Donny L commented on Sep 10

    Apple should have never went to bed with AT&T.

    The AT&T network sucks in Southern California. SUCKS!

  15. E commented on Sep 10

    Just got my iPhone on Friday. It is the greatest piece of consumer electronics I have ever owned. I cannot exaggerate how awesome it is. I’d heard all the complaints about the AT&T network, battery life, and typing interface – but these haven’t been problems for me (switched from Verizon with a Chocolate – are you kidding me?) The plusses of this phone are just awesome.

    Go ahead and take it back. You will miss it.

    And I’m not an Apple guy.

  16. Dave commented on Sep 10

    I had the 1st gen and now the 2nd gen iphone and as a phone the 1st was much better up until a few days ago. Not sure what changed, but all of a sudden everything is working much better. No more dropped calls. I’m in the Boston area, so hope the changes trickle down to NY before you part with it.

  17. Lalit commented on Sep 10

    I have been with AT&T for roughly 15yrs,agree that Verizon is a better carrier.I picked up the iPhone roughly four days after it was initially released. Since then no problems and I love my iPhone, literally having a computer in my hand. When I go to the stores and check out the Blackberry or other competing cell phones I laugh at how anyone could possibly consider another phone.

  18. robert commented on Sep 10

    I actually love my iPhone. Am eager to see the software update but I really love it even now. I had a razr before this and did NOT have a good experience with verizon in the bay area. constantly dropping calls…

  19. Maldoror commented on Sep 10

    I’m in Japan, where the iPhone isn’t doing so well. Not because of connectivity issues (most phones are 3G here), but because other cell phones are much more advanced. They can be used to watch television, pay bills, and have a lot of doohickey’s that only Japanese people seem to understand.

  20. gavin commented on Sep 10





  21. Bob A commented on Sep 10

    It’s really a shame microsoft is taking so long to come out with a competitive upgrade to windows mobile. sprint has a great network and HTC makes great hardware but windows mobile is utterly lame and frustrating which is no surprise considering the bozos that run the place.

  22. Bob A commented on Sep 10

    “I’m in Japan”…

    yeah too bad but over here we have to dumb down our devices so even pta moms from alaska and pit bull owners can use ’em.

  23. Mike in NOLa commented on Sep 10

    I suspect it is ATT’s network. I left them for Verizon a few months before Katrina and have not regretted it, althogh Verizon’s choice of phones when I needed one at the turn of the year was crappy.

    Barry’s story sounds like what I heard from my sister in law. My daughter left New Orleans a couple of days before the general evacuation for Gustav and picked my niece up in Baton Rouge to drive to Houston. My niece has an iPhone and my daughter complained that she could not contact her when she was nearing the campus.

    They left late and everyone was concerned about them. They were traveling along I-10, which has become very heavily travelled between New Orleans and Houston since Katrina. So it should have a good signal, right? Yet, they were out of touch for long periods. My daughter has T-Mobile, which makes no claims to a great network, so I wasn’t surprised about her. Later my sister in law told me that she has had continuing problems calling my niece at LSU, which is situated in a town with a population approaching a million.

  24. josie the berry picker commented on Sep 10

    funny my wife she say she got pregnant from sitting on an iPhone…….? her sister got herpes from a tractor seat so i dont know…….apple she is a bitch.

  25. steve raley commented on Sep 11

    I made the switch from Verizon on Labor Day and have no regrets. I have a terrific computer in my pocket that also makes phone calls. We live in a rural area, so I turned the 3G off first thing. There are dead zones that none of our carriers serve, but other than that, BEST PHONE EVER!

    I have replaced my PDA, old cell, camera and avoided buying a GPS, and the expansion POTENTIAL of the iphone through the app store has me expecting even better things ahead.

  26. Huxrules commented on Sep 11

    you should probably wait till this Friday- the new 2.1 software is coming out and will supposedly take care of the call drops. If I have a major call I switch to edge. It sucks but the phone works much better. Just give the update a try. Thanks for the site

  27. J.Parsons commented on Sep 11

    As they say, your mileage may vary.

    I’m in midtown Manhattan right now. Sitting here in my hotel room, on 55th between 5th and 6th, I have 5 bars on my iPhone 3G. Had it 3 bars or better walking to 42nd and 3rd today. Worked fine in SOHO last time I was here.

    It also worked well for me in San Francisco, Portland (Oregon), Chicago, Phoenix, and Boston.

    Radio reception is a tricky thing. Two people, with the same model phone, on the same carrier, can stand next to each other on a street, and show different signal strength levels. It’s just the way it is.

  28. Namazu commented on Sep 11

    If you got an iPod Touch, you would only have to go to third base.

  29. Eric Best commented on Sep 11

    My service after upgrading from the original to the 3G began perfectly, then went way downhill (I just switched off 3G for two weeks), and is now back to what I consider acceptable.

    My work Blackberry seems boring and aggravating to use in comparison. Blackberry still wins for push, but the iphone is a TKO for everything else.

    I have high hopes for the firmware update improving reception, reliability, and backup times, but short of a disaster, I cannot see myself going back to a Blackberry or other competitor for my personal use.

  30. Better Right than Left… Behind commented on Sep 11

    Bob A Says:

    “yeah too bad but over here we have to dumb down our devices so even pta moms from alaska and pit bull owners can use ’em.”

    I am LMAO… hmmm… flashy interface with nothing under the hood. Sounds exactly like a Barack Hussein Hobama model!! LOL! You know, the kind with less experience than that Hockey Mom but gets a free pass. Please!

  31. tph commented on Sep 11


    a very nice story, Thanks for sharing.

  32. rebound commented on Sep 11

    I had an iPhone and had to take it back the next day because there was poor (zero) reception at my house. I was very sad to see it go.

    Oh, I should mention, you will not enjoy taking it in the A$$ on the restocking fee. I told AT&T they should eat the restocking fee because I kept the phone for only 24 hours and they failed to look me up on their coverage map (in the city)!!!. The customer rep had the gall to tell me I should call Steve Jobs to complain … and that he was powerless to perform a refund. I blew my top and told him to fuck himself.

    AT&T blows. The best thing Apple could do would be to allow other networks.

    Currently I’m a Verizon customer with an LG phone. The customer service and coverage in North America on their CDMA network is very good. I don’t think they compress their calls as much, and the “turn by turn” GPS directions on the VzNavigator are very handy, though I’m saving up for a Garmin Nuvi. Verizon also does not shut off tech support at some stupid early hour like AT&T does.

    I’m VERY much looking forward to the new MacBook Pro roll outs in October. I’m hoping for LONG battery life (due to the new processors) … and not so many new features.

  33. Lydia commented on Sep 11

    I disagree.

    There is no such thing woman being bad in bed. Only man can be bad in bed.

  34. John commented on Sep 11

    “Owning a Lamborghini qualifies as a hobby,” a similar salesman once told me, around the same time, “a hobby like wooden boat building, or being completely mad about golf, one that eats every bit of your spare time and money and leaves you completely friendless and insane.”

    And Lydia, I conclude from your statement that you aren’t very good in bed.

  35. Trader Mike commented on Sep 11

    Barry, I love that story and the punchline. But I’m still counting down the days until my VZ contract is up on October 11th so I can get an iPhone.

    To Lydia, all I can say is sheeeeeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitttttttttttttttttttttt! (Said in the style of Clay Davis from ‘The Wire’ — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QNB4wMH3PU )

  36. John commented on Sep 11

    The problem is AT&T’s 3G service in Manhattan. It is shaky, and likely because it is overloaded. When I’m in Manhattan, I’ve resigned to just shutting off 3G, which is a shame because a lot of the GPS apps would really be awesome running on 3G in that city. But in other cities where the 3G network isn’t so overloaded, the phone is unsurpassed.

    The other thing is that that the 2.0 software is very buggy, and hopefully Friday’s upgrade will be a significant improvement.

  37. sergtat commented on Sep 11

    The good phone is like a beautiful woman – many great features but only one or two you use mostly. :) Have an IPhone 1 for about 6-7 month. Great toy!!! I have it jailbroken and it works with T-mobile just fine. I wouldn’t touch AT&T with a 10 ft. pole, they been pickpocketing me since I came to this country 20 years ago. The phone itself has problems with a speaker the volume is too low and can’t be turned up.

  38. bluestatedon commented on Sep 11

    “Apple products in general in my experience have typically been more flash than substance.”

    You don’t mention which Apple product you’ve used, and I will acknowledge that I have no intention of paying what I think is a ridiculous price for a glorified phone. However, as a graphic designer who’s been using a variety of Mac products for most of my 25+ years in the biz, I can say that the idea of using another platform is laughable. I realize that PCs have always a much larger overall market share than Apple, but in the creative professions Apple has been absolutely dominant for a long time, and for good reason. The vast majority of my clients use PCs, and when I look over their shoulders using their systems I’m still amazed at the clunky, awkward user interface they have to deal with.

  39. dugafish commented on Sep 11

    dumping “her” aint the best solution-if she is that beautiful, and the Lamborghini Countach is stunningly beautiful, then you need to teach her how to get better-the dividends are too worthwhile to pass up that opportunity

  40. pinnacle commented on Sep 11

    My Blackberry Pearl does everything the iPhone can do, and it also works flawlessly as a phone.

  41. A. Zarkov commented on Sep 11

    I have been using a iPhone in the SF Bay Area since February, and for the most part it has worked extremely well. I switched from Verizon, which also worked well. I think the problem is mainly with 3G system. My phone being an older model is limited to Edge.

  42. which one? commented on Sep 11

    I would recommend the Touch too, but damn they are expensive. Just bought the middle model the 16 gig, for my wife’s birthday, net cost was nearly five bills with the Apple Care. Heard prices were coming down from the reporting from Macworld or whatever was in the news this week, some Apple lovefest and report on Steve Job’s health.

    Touch: Wifi access to the outside world, no camera or speakers or mic. No cell phone or access to Vonage via Wifi. Does everything else with no monthly fees. Our first Ipod, I am pretty impressed. I know I would have one if I was taking the LIRR every day, just to play with.

    It looks like they disabled/crippled the touch to not hurt Iphone sales.

    I finally “get” the Iphone’s appeal. Damn cool device.

  43. Jak commented on Sep 11

    Great vivid story.

  44. Bradman commented on Sep 11

    I came to the same conclusion when I switched to ATT in Jan, getting a BlackJack II with anticipation of switching to the 3G iPhone when it came out. Love the Blackjack II and all if its awesome features, except I couldn’t make a phone call from my apartment in chicago! So back to Sprint I went with an unexciting phone that makes great phone calls.

    BTW I picked up the touch and LOVE it. Truely wish it could be my phone.

  45. David commented on Sep 11

    Actually, I didn’t bother with the iPhone…I got the iPod touch. I wanted the toy. I already had a cell phone, I didn’t need it for that. The touch version has wifi in it, and a real browser (not a mobile browser) so I can surf the ‘net on a tiny little wafer that fits in my hand now as if it was a laptop. I’d call that powerful.

    But your comment that apple products are more flash than substance…whoa, there. Their machines now are very, very good.

  46. david commented on Sep 11

    Lydia. The first step in geting better is to admit you have a problem.

  47. me commented on Sep 11

    “You dated a beautiful woman?”

    He MARRIED a beautiful woman (Mrs Big Picture).

  48. Larry commented on Sep 11

    As far as I can tell, the problems have been on both on AT&T and Apple. But Apple is stuck with AT&T in the US for the near future.

    AT&T’s roll out of 3G has been slow (reluctance on capital expenditures). And because of the frequencies used, more base stations have to be deployed to get the same coverage. And the iPhone has been the first real stress test of AT&T’s UMTS network.

    The UMTS chipset and firmware in the iPhone isn’t exactly mature either, as users in countries with more mature UMTS networks also report problems.

    As a phone, I’d certainly agree the iPhone is sub-optimal. But I’d say the same thing about Blackberry’s. These are mobile data devices: Blackberry’s for e-mail, iPhone for web access.

  49. drew commented on Sep 11

    I’ve heard similar complaints from folks trying to use it as a business phone so I opted to pass. However, I will say that I got an itouch as a present. As a toy, I really like it and sometimes find myself listening to tunes while surfing The Bigpicture among others.

  50. TDL commented on Sep 11

    Great story. Thanks for the smile.


  51. patfla commented on Sep 11

    I’m a programmer and haven’t bought either the 2.5G (EDGE) nor the 3G (UMTS). A bunch of colleagues have bought one or both.

    My understanding of the present problem. The UMTS chipset is from Infineon which is not really experienced in making this kind of chipset.

    But part of it is the software (firmware) as well.

    So anyway some combination of the two results in the phone sending a connect to the nearest tower that asks for to much power. _In densely populated areas_ (or in principle heavily loaded towers) this will quickly overload the tower resulting in dropped calls etc.

    The point is, the request doesn’t need to ask for that much power (‘somewhat’ less will be sufficient).

    I ‘think’ firmware 2.1, out tmw Friday, will fix this to the extent that it can be fixed in the software. I’m going to wait and then watch an read boards to get a sense of how well that’s worked.

    I’m expecting/hoping this will work. Because otherwise a hardware change will be needed and that will be tricky. Apple will have to go into ultra stealth mode (or incur a huge hit from those who’ve bought 3Gs already).

    Note (from the above) the problem will be WORST in the most densely populated areas.

    AT&T’s network is not great. I experienced both 2.5G (EDGE) and then 3G on a Treo 750 that my company gave me. 2.5G, with Windows Mobile, was, imo, unusable for web browsing. 3G was pretty good. And with the iPhone’s vastly larger screen the two finger touch, zoom etc that you can do on an iPhone the web browsing (once the above problem is fixed) should be great.

    Apple products have a _lot_ under the hood. Bill Joy is legendary in the computer industry. He came out of Berkeley (as I did) and was from the start and until a couple of yrs ago in effect CTO of Sun Microsystems. Don’t associate him with Sun recently. Associate Bill Joy with SUN when Sun workstations dominated all of Wall St (and then grew into many other parts of the economy as well).

    So he’s in Aspen now doing I’m not sure what. There was an interview with him that I read. They asked him what kind of machine he was using (he wrote several key parts of UNIX). Reply “Mac tower”. “OSX is the best operating system I’ve ever seen”. Or something to that effect.

    Back to the Infineon chipset. Google something like

    iphone teardown

    There are ‘teardowns’ now for almost any consumer electronics product. They tell all the parts that are in what is being pulled apart and analyzed – which is interesting in itself. But they also tell give you the total bill for the parts and so (stock) analysts, for example, can scope out margins almost immediately.

    Anyway the point I’d intended is that Apple has been ruthless (understatement) with its parts suppliers. They change all the time even on existing devices if Apple decides they’ll get a better price/benefit ratio. The question though is not just price (that’s clear), but how is Apple measuring benefit? And in particular to maintain what’s supposed to be their ‘stellar’ quality reputation (which has now been tarnished in a # of ways).

    And now this:


    _Don’t_ (for the time being) upgrade you Windows iTunes to 8 unless you’re willing (and able) to do some nontrivial surgery after-the-fact.

    I could say more but this is too long already.

    Oh yes. Very early on Apple negotiated with Verizon (whose network and 3G is much better than AT&T). Verizon turned them down (but probably because Jobs asked too much).

    I’ll buy an iPhone once I’m reasonably satisfied that it’s “where it needs to be”. Because, once the problems are fixed, it’s in a class unto itself.

  52. kimasabe commented on Sep 11


    I think you are nuts to get one of those things. The Lamborghini analogy definitely applies here.

    Here’s why:
    1. Kill switch built in to the apps that run on the phone. Confirmed by Steve Jobs. In the initial usage of the kill switch they killed three apps. To the best of my memory one was expensive and useless but innocuous, another was free but had a competing app that was charged for, and the third may have had a copyright issue. (Hmmm, reminds me of Paulson getting the authority for a Bazooka but assuring everyone he didn’t need to use it – and then BOOM.) If there is a problem with an app (you would have thought that the experts at Apple would have caught it before it was offered for download) why wouldn’t Apple send you notification with instructions for deletion and give that power to you? Things that make you go hmmmm!

    2. The iPhone takes screenshots of everything you do. Check out this link with the story by Wired released today: http://blog.wired.com/gadgets/2008/09/hacker-says-sec.html. This was discovered and publicized by hacker and data-forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski. Where in the world would you start with this one? Bottomless pit of negative possibilities IMO.

    3. Personally, I bought an 80 GB iPod in early 2007. Does okay but about a year later it started to have functional problems and it was the BIGGEST pain to move my iTunes library to a new computer. Interface is cool, yes, but NOT efficient or intuitive IMO. Up until then I had been considering opting for a Mac but this experience convinced me to never go to the Dark Side.

    Since Apple acts like the KGB of the computing world, who would want to trust them? Steve Jobs is more like Evil Boris with a smile, no? They make MS look like saints and I’m not MS’s biggest fan. And then you have Linux and the bunch holding down heaven. No conspiracy apples here folks, just common sense and healthy skepticism.

    For my money, I will stick with the BlackBerry. Not many faults and it WORKS – really well, including as a phone.

    As far as AT&T, I haven’t had any connection problems and I consistently have the best coverage compared to friends on other carriers here in the Mountain West- in town, going through passes or on top of mountain peaks. Even picked up a call in the middle of nowhere while travelling in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles while on business. Works overseas in Europe just fine too. Perhaps it is primarily a NYC problem or check out the great technical comments by patfla above.

    Anyway, that’s my $.02! Enjoy, her looks while you can.

  53. jseabold commented on Sep 11

    Didn’t read through all the comments, but apparently Apple/AT&T oversold the iPhone and the towers are not equipped to handle the power drain from all of the 3g phones/bandwidth being used. Came across a court case about it.

  54. patfla commented on Sep 12

    FWIW the Windows iTunes 8 (BSOD) problem is fixed. But with something approaching the opposite of fanfare:


    You just redownload from usual place and there’s an (unannounced new) version that works. Or at least it hasn’t crashed my computer yet in repeated trials of connecting and reconnecting my iPod. (the problem was when you physically connected you iPod-or-whatever _after_ iTunes 8 had been installed).

    I’m not sure if this one merits a cheer or a raspberry.

    And of course the new 2.1 iPhone firmware is out. This is one of the places I’d watch for reactions and to see how it’s going:


    805 posts at the moment.

  55. patfla commented on Sep 12

    Reading the MacRumors thread. Had a good chuckle here:

    Originally Posted by FunkyCold24 View Post
    Downloading Now. 10 seconds until I install. Let’s see what 2.1 has in store for us

    Good Luck Everyone!!!!

    Yeah the big suprise when it installs and boots is that all iphones are now running windows mobile :P

  56. Steve Jobs commented on Sep 14

    I was very excited to get the 3G Apple iPhone. It is a fantastic device — unless you want/need to make phone calls.

    As a phone, it is approximately 40% better than carrying around a red brick. Its lighter and smaller than the brick, and is slightly better for making phone calls. But only slightly better. It drops 50% of the calls, doesn’t get reception in large parts of NYC and Long Island.

    As a phone, it is more or less worthless in this area.

    I plan on returning it this week, and getting some device that will allow me to make telephone calls outside of my house — you know, when I am mobile.

    I will get a mobile telephone!

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