It's been a long time since I had an iPhone. I've spent a few years wishing I had one again. But now that I do, I'm not as pleased as I expected to be.
Years ago, I had an iPhone 3. I didn't wait in line to get it the day it was available but I did get it before the next generation iPhone 3S came out.
I loved that phone -- and I was crushed when it got stolen. I was too cheap to buy a new iPhone in the middle of my contract, so I went with a Motorola Atrix instead. At the time, it wasn't a low-end phone, but Android fans weren't exactly drooling over it either. I chose it because I thought it would be a solid business phone, it had just gone on sale, and I was interested to use an Android phone as my everyday phone. It was meant to be a stopgap until my contract was up and I could get a better phone at a subsidized price.
I hated that phone. Everything about it -- apps and hardware -- was crappy. In under a year, it started to slow down so much to become unbearable. Almost any action, from opening an app to opening an email, took an age.
I would have liked to switch back to an iPhone, but if you can't already tell, I'm really cheap and I kept stumbling on free phones. A friend had a new-ish Motorola Atrix 2 he said I could have, so I used that for a stretch.
Then a friend had a BlackBerry Z10 that he wasn't using and offered it to me. I had that for over a year until the battery life made it unusable. Some days, it was dead by noon. I tried everything I could think of and could never figure out if there was a particular app that was sapping it.
In late May, a friend offered to sell me an old iPhone 4S for $25. I took it.
What bugs me
Now that I finally have an iPhone again, it's a bit of a disappointment.
Some things don't work the way I remember. I dislike that when I open Safari, it doesn't present a cached version of whatever I was looking at last. Instead, it reloads the page, eating up my data plan and my time.
Because I have Facebook set not to use cellular data, if I unlock my phone outside of Wi-Fi range I have to hit OK on a popup message alerting me that cellular data is off for Facebook before I can do anything at all. Every time. I hate that.
I miss the BlackBerry Hub that showed me on my lock screen if I had new emails, texts, voicemails, and other new messages. On the iPhone, there's only space for three or sometimes fewer alerts on the lock screen.
Did I idealize that first phone? Is my memory off? Do I just need to spend more time setting up my phone the way I like it?
It's possible. But looking back over time since my first iPhone, I can make a couple of observations about my current disappointment.
First, I was so enamored with that first phone because it was so radically different and awesome compared to anything that came before. I've been writing about cell phones since the Motorola StarTac. I've tried every miserable attempt that Nokia made to develop a usable smart phone. When I got my hands on my first iPhone, it was a lovely piece of hardware that automatically worked in ways I didn't even know I wanted.
Now, however, the differences between phone platforms are more subtle. Back then, there was nothing that even compared to an iPhone. Now many phones are in the same ballpark.
It's not just the iPhone that suffers because of this. There was a stretch of a few years when friends asked me for advice on a new cell phone, I'd always advise them to buy the latest and greatest. It wasn't worth it to buy a slightly older model just because it was on sale. The phones became obsolete so quickly, if you wanted to keep it for two years, it was really worth it to buy the most expensive model on the platform you wanted.
That's not the case any more. While I'm not as enamored of my iPhone 4S as I hoped, I'm convinced I wouldn't be much happier if I had a 5S. I couldn't care less about the fingerprint scanner or the color gold. I know the 5-generation is supposed to offer much better performance, and the 4S can't connect to higher-speed LTE networks (I'm stuck on 3G, which AT&T rebranded as "4G"), but I actually haven't noticed any particular slowness with it.
I do love that I have loads of apps that I didn't have on BlackBerry. I can deposit checks using my bank's mobile app, order a Lyft ride, or find the nearest Car2Go.
But with the BlackBerry Z10 still in recent memory, I can say that my ideal phone would have the BlackBerry Z10's form factor and some of its software capabilities, plus all the apps available on my iPhone. One can dream.