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EDGE and 3G and tripping down memory lane

My relationship with my iPhone hasn't been an easy one. On the one hand, it's an absolutely brilliant platform -- I just love programming for it. On the other hand it's a money hole. To keep it legit, I'm forking over a wad of cash each month to AT&T and from there on to Apple (not to mention the $99/year new iPhone play tax). One of my biggest decisions on that end involved giving up my data plan. Leaving the $20/month data plan behind as my "optional extra" has saved me $240 over the course of the year.

Read on for more about the iPhone and EDGE and my 3G service dilemma.

Since moving to WiFi-only for data, I've occasionally had doubts. There were times on trips that I longed for some kind of connectivity when WiFi gave out. The iPhone's WiFi antenna and reception isn't the best. When I'd be sitting at a meeting, everyone else with their MacBooks open and sucking down the WiFi where my poor iPhone refused to go above 1 WiFi bar-curve or keep a solid connection, I would think: This is what EDGE is for. Or even: This is what laptops are for.

So I was really excited to go back to my EDGE lifestyle for a few weeks after I bought the unlimited data package on my daughter's cellphone plan. I could use the iPhone while commuting, while waiting, while at the pediatrician, or at the grocery store.

But as soon as I started actually using WiFi again, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Wow, this still stinks. Using the iPhone over EDGE is painful. When you're used to WiFi responses, the whole EDGE thing seems like a bad joke. Sure you can use it "anywhere" (for large metropolitan values of "anywhere") but it's not very good. There's no comparison between a full-sized Internet connection and a tiny baby-sized EDGE make-do. The real connection wins out every time.

This is why I'm really looking forward to 3G. We're talking real internet. Real speed, real throughput, real data. Yes, it's not going to magically transform my iPhone into a laptop but it offers the possibility of non-dreadful Internet connections anywhere (again, for large metropolitan values of "anywhere").

Would I pay $20/month for 3G? Would I pay more? I'm not sure. I'd probably go the hacktivate routine (if it's still possible with the iPhone 2) and use the current Pay As You Go AT&T unlimited data plan feature pack. The plan is already 3G-compatible, so it should port well to the new iPhone assuming that hacktivation can be done. And, with PAYG, I can add it only when I'm traveling. That's a really nice option for those of us who aren't out of WiFi range all that often.

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