Why I just purchased an iPhone 3GS, and why Android isn’t ready for prime time yet

Last week, much to my dismay, my seven year old son attempted to place my 14 month old iPhone 3G in our JBL iPod/iPhone speaker dock without lining the phone up before hand. The end result was that he managed to snap part of the inside of the iPhone where the charger/ sync plug goes into the phone so I could no longer charge it.

One week later, and running off my old 2G original iPhone (which strangely wouldn’t accept incoming calls), and I’ve only managed to find one place that will even look at repairing it, but they’re a donkey trek away. I’ve tried Apple resellers, dedicated mobile phone outlets and more, and none were interested. One said they’d look at it if it was under warranty…but it’s not (and even if it was, I doubt my son abusing it would be covered) and despite offering to pay a deposit if only to get a quote, they wouldn’t play.

If I’d tried harder, maybe I would have eventually found someone interested in repairing it, but likewise mobile phones are considered such a throw away item that a sector that once supported a thriving repair market has seemingly evaporated over time.

After a couple of days of serious consideration, I made the trek to the nearest Apple store (Doncaster…we actually have two of them here in Melbourne now) and dished over way more than I really could afford to spend on an iPhone 3GS. Id note that I had to buy the phone outright as I’m still under contract with the old phone, which in some ways isn’t a bad thing because that contract will expire just as the next version of the iPhone comes out.

As an Apple fanboy of some years standing, I shouldn’t have really given it a second though, but this time round I did. I’ve always loved the iPhones I’ve had, but likewise I’ve been following the Android phones closely, and I believe strongly in the open application platform Google is providing.

The problem with the Android phone range isn’t the OS as such (although without customization, it’s verging on as ugly as sin), but the quality and quantity of the handsets available. Besides HTC’s G1 (no longer sold in Australia,) the successor is the HTC Dream. I know people who own it and think it’s a good phone, but it puts the cheap into cheap in the looks department, and it doesn’t have great reviews. The HTC Hero is available in some markets, but not locally except via eBay, and although that’s one sexy looking phone with a beautifully customized version of Android to match, the reviews all said that it was seriously underpowered. I did seriously consider the HTC Hero though, but I couldn’t find an outlet that sold it where I could at least play with it first.

Samsung has a very pretty looking Android phone coming out that among other things has a 5 megapixel camera with flash, and an OLED screen. I did manage to play with one of these, although they’re not on sale yet here, and despite being in shops no one could actually tell me when it would be available to buy (and I’m not making that part up.) The reviews though were not great: poor battery, slow web browsing, underpowered…and no customization of Android.

Motorola has the Cliq out in the Northern Autumn (fall) but know one knows when in the United States, let alone Australia, so given I needed a phone quickly, that one was out of the question.

In the end it really came down to an iPhone 3GS in black or white, and having owned a white one previously and saw how dirty it became, I went black this time. I should mention for those who don’t own a 3GS, that everything you’ve heard about it being quicker is true… it’s quite remarkable, not just on app load times, but it even surfs the internet quicker over the exact same network as the 3G.

As much as I really wanted to consider an Android phone, there wasn’t one out there for me. That’s not Google’s fault by any stretch, but it is reflective of the slow uptake of Android phones; by not having any control, or even a say over the handsets, Android despite all its potential really still fails to deliver in terms of handsets.

I’d hope sincerely by July next year, when my contract is up and I don’t have to hand out a fortune to buy a new phone that the Android choice will be richer. Competition is vitally important, and although I may surround myself with Apple products (3x more Apple products than people in my house) Android should and must be supported by enough people to keep Apple on its toes.