Name a Better Phone

Let’s put all partialities aside.

Currently, I own an iPhone, an Evo (which I’m borrowing through work for testing), and a Pre (my work phone).  I have been a Windows user most of my life, and spent 2 or 3 years with Linux on my desktop.  In the PDA days I ran a Palm Pilot, a Handspring Visor, and a Dell Axim (Pocket PC) device.  In all honesty I don’t care what the brand of the device is that I use – I care that it gives me the best experience for my money and will provide the same for my family.  At the same time my experience may be different than yours.  You may need something cheaper.  You may not need a camera.  You may just need the phone features.  All these factors go into the purchase of a cell phone.

Yet, when Consumer Reports says that it can’t recommend the iPhone 4 as a whole simply because of one feature, when it rates it higher than the competition on every other test, I call foul.  Something’s fishy in this review.

Partialities aside, when you rate phones, as a whole, feature-by-feature, side-by-side with the other phones that I own, the iPhone 4 still outperforms them, hands down.  Even Consumer Reports confirms that. The iPhone 4 takes better pictures than my Evo.  It takes better video.  The iPhone 4 has so much better screen quality than my Evo.  I can edit my movies on my iPhone 4.  The iPhone 4 lasts at least 3 times as long in battery life than my HTC Evo.  The iPhone 4 has a better, more consistent application experience than my Evo.  There’s simply no comparison on those features.  The iPhone beats the Evo in user experience and simplicity (My 2 year old has issues with the Evo – he has no problem with my iPhone).  It has better parental controls.  It has a much smaller, easier-to-hold form factor.  It has FaceTime, and before you say the Evo has apps that do that, the Evo has not integrated it into its Operating System and phone book, and that’s a huge difference.

Now let’s look at the Evo.  True, the Evo does have better call quality.  That’s perhaps the one advantage that matters to me.  The Evo has better Google Apps integration, although that’s not as big a deal to me either since at work we don’t use Google anyway. (and the iPhone 4 is good enough)  The Evo has social integration built in, but except for the hard-core techies and Social Media geeks, this simply won’t matter to the majority of the world, and the iPhone 4 has better apps to handle this anyway.  What else can the Evo do better?

I know you’ll bring up the issue of Choice.  I’ve covered this before – it’s a valid reason, but I ask you to define choice.  Can I run my Evo on Verizon, and run Verizon Android phones on Sprint?  How easy is it for you to switch services with your Android phone?  Can I port my iPhone Objective-C based apps over to the Android marketplace?  No matter what, there will always be elements of the OS you can’t port, and there will always be limitations in choice. History doesn’t change, so long as one company is controlling the infrastructure.  At the same time, no one is stopping me from Jailbreaking my iPhone to get the extra features I might want, should I want them.  Sure, Apple makes it harder, but that’s not stopping people from doing it.  There will always be some form of choice no matter what phone you’re using.

I don’t get all the bashing by mostly people that don’t even own an iPhone 4 based on solely connectivity issues.  I use my phone with my left hand.  Yes, I notice and can reproduce the reduced signal, but it simply isn’t that bad.  Especially contrasted to all the other amazing features I get from the phone.  Yet at the same time, Consumer Reports admits they didn’t even test it with the recommended case that Apple suggested all iPhone 4 users purchase.  Since Apple suggests that to fix the connectivity issues, I would definitely just consider that as part of the purchase price – it’s still a cheap phone!

I don’t understand all the negativity and targeting of the iPhone, asking for recalls and such because of simple connectivity problems.  I still think most of the vocal critics are all people that don’t even own the phone.  For those that do, go get a bumper, for goodness sakes!

And if you still refuse – I remain to ask: Name a better phone.

When that phone comes I’ll be all over it.

49 thoughts on “Name a Better Phone

  1. I steal my gf's iPhone 4 all the time, I love it. But it does bother me that Apple is not willing to admit that yes, there is an issue, and I am sure that is what bothers a lot of other people.


  2. A MULTITUDE OF FCC/ETHICAL DISCLOSURES: I am a former employee of Motorola (and was therefore provided with Motorola phones as part of my employment), I have never used AT&T cellular service, and I have not personally owned any Apple product other than iTunes since the 20th century (although my family has).

    I'll take you at your word that the iPhone4 connectivity problem “isn't that bad.” But on the other hand, isn't connectivity the most important feature that a phone should have? Perhaps if the device were called an iCamera, then the camera features may be the most important, but connectivity should be the most important feature of a phone. I assume you'll agree that iPhone4 connectivity is not “excellent”; I don't know if you'd rate it as “good” or “fair.” If connectivity is truly “fair” (and again, I don't know), then I can understand Consumer Reports' actions. If it's actually “good,” then an argument can be made either way.

    One thing that I will say is that Apple is probably held to a higher standard than other manufacturers. If Manufacturer X were to issue a phone with a standard case required for excellent connectivity, people would probably shrug. I suspect that even if Apple were to make the case a standard part of the iPhone 4, the solution would be condemned as an atrocious design that doesn't measure up to Apple's standards.

    As for your challenge to “name a better phone,” this is (as you note) dependent upon personal issues. For me, my personal LG env3 is a better phone than any iPhone or Android or Blackberry model. Why? Because my service provider (Verizon) doesn't charge me an arm and a leg to provide service on this particular phone – they only charge me an arm. Now I'll grant that my suite of apps is limited compared to yours, since the “apps” are things like fftogo (Benjamin Golub's web site that serves as a mobile FriendFeed client), but in my particular case, the features meet my needs – and my budget.

    If I had an unlimited budget, I'm not sure which way I'd go. Other members of my family use Apple devices (though not iPhones), I have friends in the Android market, and there are probably Blackberry and Palm users in my extended circle who will swear by those devices.

    Or perhaps I'd just lease a wall phone from QLT Consumer Lease Services and be happy with it. As long as my finger doesn't get tired from twirling around in a circle all the time…


  3. When I say “name a better phone”, I'm talking about side-by-side comparison.
    Name one smart device with a better set of overall features than the iPhone
    4. If there was I'd be running it right now – there isn't, even with
    connectivity issues (which go away when you go by Apple's recommendations).


  4. I can name a better phone: the iPhone 3.

    I think the point Consumer Reports is driving at (and I think I'm probably in the minority on this by agreeing with it, at least in our community), is that the upgrade isn't worth it if the phone doesn't work as a phone.


  5. Mark, I own the iPhone 3. It's not a better phone. The thing that people
    aren't realizing is that the definition of “phone” has changed for most of
    society. For those buying these types of devices they're not looking for
    just a phone. It's stupid to not recommend it solely on phone
    functionality, especially when the phone still works fine, and works even
    better when you use the manufacturers specified instructions. Note that CR
    didn't even follow those instructions in their review.


  6. No, I disagree strongly. The definition of phone has changed for a *minority
    * of society. Most people still use a phone for texting and calls –
    something for which a smartphone is not required (otherwise, we wouldn't
    call them smartphones, but phones, since no one would own a “dumb” phone).

    Ask yourself: who reads Consumer Reports? Certainly not us. It's people
    like my dad (who's pushing his late 60s) who read it religiously before
    making a purchase. People who use phones to, you know, make phone calls


  7. In that case, those readers shouldn't be buying an Evo, or a Hero, or a
    Blackberry, or a Windows Phone, as all those are also phones, but have
    inferior features to the iPhone 4 as a whole. CR didn't recommend the
    iPhone, period. They didn't say they didn't recommend it as a phone. They
    shouldn't be recommending those other phones either.


  8. I use Google Apps extensively, and my next phone will not be an iPhone. Of course, I'm still a year or two away from buying a new phone, but Apple's continual closed nature with regard to the app store has basically driven me away from their products for the forseeable future.


  9. Otto, you are clearly developer-minded and not business-minded. Apple makes
    it much easier to make money on an app than Google does. I'm not saying
    that won't change, but that's the case now – not sure I understand your
    reasoning from a business perspective.


  10. Let me ask you something, Jesse…

    … Do you read CR regularly? I, unfortunately, have since my dad has a
    lifetime subscription, and all while growing up it was the magazine that sat
    on the tank in the “throne room.”

    The way they do these reviews is to take all the top contenders in a market
    segment and rate them against one another based on the criteria that the
    product should perform.

    For instance, in the car department, I remember a series they did on the
    emerging class of sport utility vehicles back when the Suzuki Samurai was a
    new car. The Samurai had this really bad problem that whenever you drove it
    around a corner at speeds exceeding 25 miles per hour (I believe it was), it
    tipped over.

    They found they weren't able to recommend the vehicle.

    Do most people drive around corners at 25 MPH? No. That's usually an unsafe
    speed to corner.

    Other than that, though, do the car's wheels all go in the same direction?
    Yes. Do all the amenities work well? Yes. Are there hidden engine or
    transmission problems that pop up at 25k miles? No.

    Other than the fact that it tips over when driven in suboptimal conditions,
    is it a bad car? No. Did CR recommend not buying it? Yes.

    This is the same thing with Apple.

    I agree that a recall on the product is probably a dumb idea, and a lot more
    is being made of this than is probably necessary, but I think that for CR
    and their audience, they probably made the right call. When measured against
    everything else that's out there (and previous versions of the same phone),
    they all outclass the iPhone 4 in one way: they can make phone calls
    reliably. Even if you're left handed.


  11. and this is the reason I stopped reading CR years ago. I used to be a
    devoted reader, but have stopped since they stopped paying attention to
    emerging trends and categories such as this. I still challenge you to show
    me a better device/phone/whatever in the same category as the iPhone. In
    terms of overall features and functionality, especially when following
    Apple's own manufacturer instructions and getting the Bumper with it (which
    even that isn't 100% necessary), it's the best device out there, hands down.


  12. Of course they can't recommend it based on “one feature”. It's a phone, the one thing it's supposed to do at the very least is make calls. All the other stuff is extras. It would be like buying an oven that doesn't cook, but does a ton of other stuff, or a car that doesn't move, but has a really nice radio and tv's in the seats, and on star and a bunch of other features. iPhone's have always had issues, but because of AT&T, this time it is actually Apple's deal. Most people are probably upset because they wouldn't own up to it right away. As far as the bumper goes, there is no reason a person should have to buy and extra to get a product to work. If said item doesn't work without the extra, then the extra should be a part of the products package and come with it. It would be like buying a car without a steering wheel and having to buy that separate just to get the car to work. It's bad business.


  13. I'm not saying anything about dying. I'm just saying no one buys a product that they have to buy extras for just to get it to work. Be it a car, coffee maker, a kids toy that comes in a package and you have to assemble it, anything, and I don't think a phone should be any different. I wasn't trying to say that you would “die” I was just saying it's ridiculous to sell something broken, then charge for the fix, even if it is only $30.


  14. I think it's ridiculous to ask any company to pay for something that fixes
    an issue that's not life threatening in the first place. The phone still
    works. It even has a great signal. It does degrade somewhat if you hold it
    wrong. Apple has provided a fix if that's a problem for you. If it's not,
    it will still work, and will be the best phone you've ever owned.


  15. Owning an iPhone is certainly a choice which is no different than choosing any other phone-type. If you're an Apple lover, like their company and what they stand for, Apple certainly makes good products. I personally won't be buying an iPhone anytime soon but that's my choice (maybe an iPad but I'm holding out a bit). I do believe that the Android is a much more powerful device with a vast amount of customization compared to the iPhone but you certainly do loose simplicity in the process. I don't play games on my phone, I use it to simplify my life with things like Locale which can trigger events based on conditions (something so far forbidden on the iPhone). Verizon markets the Droid perfectly as the two Mobile OSes simply hit two different types of people: simple or not simple. If you think about it, open source community has never been regarded as simple users.

    Now I know it's hard to admit but Apple has a few brown spots on this version's release (at least on some phones) and how dare Consumer Reports protect their brand's reputation over Apple's. I wouldn't call the 4G a lemon because it's not but I will call Apple's denial of a problem and removal of articles a very sour move on their part. It moves like that which cause people to question a company's image.


  16. I guess all I'm saying is, that if it were a problem with the camera I'd agree that it isn't a big deal. But I buy a phone to make phone calls, everything else is just cool extras, and they are cool extras. The software fix isn't really a fix, it just changes the display. The consumer report actually has a video they put out that measure the raw signal, not just the bars displayed on the phone. It's frustrating to me because my iPhone 3G already has a ton of problems staying connected to AT&T's network as it is, and I don't live in a huge city like most of the people that complain. It's annoying when I try and talk to my mom and in 10 minutes the call gets dropped 5 times. That's AT&T's issue though. However I couldn't see stacking an antenna issue on top of it. The iPhone 4 is a great “phone”, with a lot of great features. But I buy a phone to make phone calls primarily and everything else is secondary. Saying that, I have an iPhone, I really like the features, but I wont buy one again because it's not much of a phone. As far as the best phone I've ever owned, it wasn't even a smart phone. It couldn't launch missiles like the fancy phones can, but I could have a conversation with my mom at least. To me that's what matters.


  17. FWIW, the iPhone 4 with the bumper has much better signal than the 3GS. I
    think you would really enjoy it, even as a phone. I think CR was wrong in
    jumping to conclusions without doing at least one review with the Bumper on
    as Apple recommends.


  18. Yeah I'm not sure which phone to get next. My contract isn't up until April so I guess I'll wait and see what they have out at that time. I use a lot of open source software, so I'll probably get a phone that works well with unix or linux. I'm excited to see what they come up with in the next year or so. The phone technology is moving forward so quickly.


  19. As I mentioned above Locale (a third party app) is one great example. With Locale, you create situations specifying conditions under which your phone's settings should change. For example, I can tell my phone to do things which I'm at a specific geo location (Home, Work, Church, etc), when my battery is low, when I launch a specific app or at specific times/days. This can trigger simple things like Volume, Wifi/BT On/Off but it also allows you to write scripts using SL4A. These scripts have access to many of the APIs available to full-fledged Android applications, but with a greatly simplified interface that makes it easy to get things done. So what can this do? I can write a script to send a message to a computer at home when I'm heading home and above 80 degrees outside to turn on the A/C. I can script the launch of my Grocery Shopping App to auto-launch when I arrive at the Store. It knows my presence and needs based on some basic training.


  20. A Software app doesn't make a phone more powerful? I can't believe that you even said that Jesse as SmartPhones are 80% about the software/OS and hardware only matters for what the software can do with it. That's like saying that SocialToo doesn't add more power to the Twitter Platform! Hardware will always be on Par when two devices are released around the same time.

    I'd love to be proven wrong that a jailbroken iPhone can do similar things with the multitask limitations in iOS. I've done searches with no success.


  21. Better phone? I'd say my home phone that never drops calls and always has service (landline) is a better phone.

    Better cell phone? Probably any cell phone that doesn't have any signal issues.

    Better mobile device? Now you've got me.

    I think all Consumer Reports is saying is that as a cell phone, they can't recommend it due to signal issues, but that doesn't mean it's not the best mobile device on the market. It's like you said, it all depends on what you want in a phone.


  22. CR seemed to be comparing it against other mobile devices though, so I'm not
    sure if that makes sense. Perhaps they should have separated them before
    deciding what to recommend.


  23. I don't own an iPhone 4 yet. I'm still using a 3GS. I'd probably enjoy an Android phone if I'd never used an iPhone. The older I get the more appreciate products that are simple to use and don't require referring to the manual. I've had a few problems with AT&T but no more calls dropped than I did with Verizon or Sprint. I'm not going to switch just because a bunch of geeks from SF or NY have dropped calls. Too bad for them but how does that affect me? I don't like a lot of surprises with my phone and I appreciate Apple working to make the software and hardware perform harmoniously. I don't mind them keeping crap off the Apps Store either. I had a lot of choice when I ran Windows Mobile 6 and the experience horrendous. It's hard for me to imagine a scenario where I'd return to a phone running any version of Windows. But maybe Windows Phone 7 will surprise everyone. But for now I'm thrilled with my iPhone. If something better comes along I'll check it out. But the bar is set high.


  24. You ask “What else can the Evo do better?” Well, I have to admit I don't own an Evo – but I do own a Nexus One (and I have owned an iPhone3 – so I will answer from that perspective.

    Podcasts – I am a heavy podcast user and I love the fact that podcasts are downloaded automatically, over the air. If there is a new podcast episode, it is just there on my phone without me having to worry about downloading it. And, I don't even have to sync it with iTunes! Kills the iPhone there.

    Laptop – I have cancelled my mobile usb modem contract. no need for it anymore. wifi hotspot from the phone is all i need (and I can share that simultaneously if required).

    Gmail, contacts and calendar integration – as you mentioned, some people don't use these things – but I do and they are all baked in nicely.

    Contacts – gmail, facebook, twitter, whatever all integrated.

    I gotta get back to work, so will leave it there. But that's why I like the android OS…seeing as you asked 🙂


  25. SUPER POST! Great post Jesse you nailed it on what a lot of us iPhoners are thinking. A ton of people sent me the consumer report thing. Its a non-issue for me and your experience is the same as mine. I'm surprised you said the iPhone takes better pics than EVO I'd heard it got more MP but thats good to hear too. Many people go on about Google and embracing openness but Im not giving up the best phone now for an unfulfilled future that wont be great possibly for a few years. Also the one problem I see with those phones, is so many people are making them, the quality seems to be all over the place and I cant tell which phone is whos anymore. Apple seems to succeed in making sure the quality is kept proprietary to ensure it. I know exactly what I'm getting with an iPhone and my BRAND loyalty to it overrode the reported issues. With the Google phones, it seems every idiot phone maker is doing one. I dont know what I'm getting when it comes down to the hardware.

    I've never dropped a call holding the phone wrong. You really have to position your hand for it and a researcher showed on all mobile phones your hand can affect reception issues. The iPhone 4 is an immaculate product. People shouldnt criticize it until you've spend 24 hours with it. It so much better than the 3g I've bought over $150 more worth of apps to use the awesome capabilities it has. People abandoned the iPhone cause they dont understand these phones are issued in a leap frog pattern, everyone switched left 3gs to new google stuff cause it was newer technology not thinking that in 4 months a new iphone would likely leap ahead of everything else, which they have. I think people are angry over their decisions and lash out. Until you've spent 24 hours with the new iPhone 4 your opinion is invalid, dont bother commenting. The product is that immaculate. Everyone who I show it to and demos it is blown away. Scobleizer went back to iPhone and did a great post on how with smart phone maybe 10% of your usage may be calling. The rest of the time your working or playing on it. I have to tell you since getting the iPhone 4 I spent so much time on it I may need to see Smartphone Addiction help. LOL.

    Thanks Jesse,

    Chris Voss


  26. Mark, spend 24 hours with an iPhone 4, you'll change your mind. I had 3gs, I cant even believe I put up with what now seems like a dinosaur of a phone by comparison to iPhone 4. I loved my 3gs. Experience in real world counts I have less dropped calls with iPhone 4. Try the phone, Apple has extended their return policy on it. Its like a new world of iPhone.



  27. I have read through these comments and the post, and I come away with one thought: It's just a phone. I own an HTC Incredible, and have owned both the iPhone original and the 3G. I loved both and I love Android. If you don't even have an iPhone 4, it is okay for you to express your opinion on the phone's issues, but you should NEVER posit yourself as an Expert, since you don't have the experience of even using the phone.

    My opinion on it, is that this being blown way out of proportion by the tech news media and bloggers. I have covered it on my site too, but almost all of the people who have actually used the phone, say that even with the antenna attenuation problems, the iPhone 4 still has better signal and call quality than any iPhone before it. It is these people that we should listen to, not the ones who are badmouthing the product just because it is made by a certain company.

    As for Consumer Reports, a couple of commenters pointed to the fact that the publication is not for nerds, geeks, and tech pundits, but for older people. The people who read about the iPhone 4 in CR are of two camps: Either they have never had an iPhone, and are maybe or maybe not considering buying one, or they have owned an iPhone and have had the experience of the iOS ecosystem. If they are in the first camp, they will listen to CR when it comes to their recommendation. These people probably will never have a smartphone. This is because, even though Android is great, it still has a steeper learning curve than the iPhone. It is probably a curve that they can not overcome. If they are in the second camp, they most likely loved or hated their experience with the iPhone previously, which will shape their opinion of all future iPhones. If they have invested in the iOS ecosystem, they understand that a smartphone [especially the iPhone] is more than a phone, and that they know how to use the phone, and have invested money into applications for the system. This will make them more likely to discount the CR recommendation. If they hated their iPhone before, they don't care about the antenna problems anyways, since they would never buy an iPhone again.

    So, that all being said, the people that CR is most likely to influence, in my opinion, are people who have never tried an iPhone, and are unlikely to ever buy a smartphone of any kind.

    We all have to admit that iPhone is still the best smartphone out there on the whole. It has better hardware, it has more consistant and abundant software, and it is still the most popular single smartphone out there. Others will look at the numbers and say Weber, your an Idiot. But nay. Sure Andorid phones have outsold the iPhone. But that is 30 different SKUs (different phones) to the iPhone's 3 SKUs. If you can name one phone (a single SKU) that has outsold the iPhone you would be making it up. There just isn't one, and there may never be one with Android's pace of bringing out a new top of the line phone every 4-6 weeks. Apple sold nearly 2 million iPhones in the first 3 days. Compare that with the Nexus One, which according to many reports, failed to sell a million in more than 4 months (it may have done so now, 7 months after introduction). Even the EVO, arguably the best Android phone out there now, hasn't sold that many (possibly only because of production issues). Even then their sales in the first three days would not come close to the iPhone's 2,000,000. It will be interesting to see if sales of the iPhone continue to be strong even with the bad experiences people have had with it. Because, unfortunately it is going to be the people who have strong feelings agains Apple and the iPhone who are heard louder over the people who have had okay experiences with the phone itself.

    –Matt Weber
    @mw_3 on Twitter


  28. Simon, sort of. I make more money than I paid each year when I sell my old
    phone on Ebay, so, in essence, it does give me a free extra phone. I
    haven't lost a dime on mine yet so far. (in fact, I've made money)


  29. Weber, I can speak from experience that blogging about the iPhone 4, whether
    positive or negative, brings a lot of traffic. That's why they're doing it.
    People are passionate about these things and have taken sides willing to
    battle for their side. All I'm asking is that people step back and look at
    their features side-by-side, hopefully with a little experience on both
    before jumping to conclusions. From my own experience, I like the iPhone 4
    much, much better. I hope Android can do better at some point, but it has
    yet to provide a better experience. I don't think it's there yet. It could


  30. I don't make money by selling phone apps, so my interest is solely as a user. I can't make iPhone apps anyway, because they're closed there too. You can only make apps using a Mac. I don't use a Mac. So as a developer, I'm basically blocked from creating applications for the iPhone because of Apple's closed nature in this respect as well.

    The fact of the matter is that I cannot use my iPhone properly without jailbreaking it to install the apps I use and need. That just strikes me as somewhat ludicrous. I have to actively work around Apple's restrictions in order to make their equipment useful for me, so why should I bother getting their products in the future?

    Apple is fine, if you're willing to work within their walled garden. I am not willing to do that.


  31. Why so defensive? Everyone knows iPhone 4 is the best phone out there, but Nexus One is my choice to be able to stay with my carrier and to live my Google life.

    The funny thing is that it's like forbidden to criticize the iPhone. It seams like iPhone users takes it personally.


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  33. and this is the reason I stopped reading CR years ago. I used to be a
    devoted reader, but have stopped since they stopped paying attention to
    emerging trends and categories such as this. I still challenge you to show
    me a better device/phone/whatever in the same category as the iPhone. In
    terms of overall features and functionality, especially when following
    Apple's own manufacturer instructions and getting the Bumper with it (which
    even that isn't 100% necessary), it's the best device out there, hands down.


  34. I steal my gf's iPhone 4 all the time, I love it. But it does bother me that Apple is not willing to admit that yes, there is an issue, and I am sure that is what bothers a lot of other people.


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