Almost Done with AT&T

2009-December-19th

One of the things that’s worth mentioning is that as of a few days ago, I have officially been with AT&T for a year and 23 months, which means that the 2 year contract I “signed” back in January 2008 for my iPhone. At the time, one of the most common questions I received was “can you afford an iPhone?” and “is it worth it to have such a high phone bill?”

And so, let’s start by revealing what I’ve paid into Apple and AT&T. The phone itself was about $399 when I got it, which I believe was still before AT&T was putting very much if any subsidization into the device. Beyond that, I’m on the least expensive AT&T plan, which is Nation 450, and I have “iPhone Data + 200 texts” which brings the hypothetical monthly service charge to 59.99. With those numbers, before taxes and other little telecommunication fees, the “rough” estimate I had originally come up with was that it would cost about $1440 for the service, so I’d be paying just south of $1900 over 2 years to own and use an iPhone.

I spent some time in Excel, to find that my estimate was off a little bit, due to what ends up being a fairly hefty chunk of monthly taxes on the service, as well as fees and the like. Up to this point I’ve spent about $2044, and when that last phone bill comes in, I will have spent just over $2100 on the device and service combined.

In January 2008, I did think about it, and the amount of time it might otherwise take me to amass such an amount of money, and what you might use approximately two thousand dollars for. The thought was “Mac Pro,” and although it seemed attractive, I had to perish the thought simply due to the fact that a Mac Pro is a single large investment and a telephone is an investment in 24 or so installments.

However, the original question wasn’t whether or not I should’ve purchased a full-sized computer instead of a mobile phone. It was indeed, whether or not the iPhone is worth it. For all intents and purposes, the answer has been “yes.” The iPhone itself is a very capable device, and one of the best things about it, I think, is that as long as I’ve had it, the iPhone as a computer platform has changed and evolved, and the way in which the iPhone does things has changed and evolved, in such a way that I haven’t become bored with the device, and as my information synchronization needs changed, the device and its software were able to do what I needed/wanted.

The question at the end of my contract is also whether one of worthiness. One of the things that tends to be coming up in conversation these days is whether or not AT&T is worth it. For just shy of $70 each month, is the level of service I’ve been getting on the iPhone acceptable? The answer there is that the type of iPhone I have has absolutely the cheapest voice and data plan available from AT&T, Sprint or Verizon these days, with the exception of Sprint’s Everything 450 plan when it’s paired with an NAU employee discount. In that way, I’ve been pleased with it especially as in the course of two years, my finances have become more restricted.

In those respects, AT&T has definitely been a decent deal for me, and for the first half, maybe three quarters of my service contract, there was nowhere I regularly visited where I wasn’t able to get phone service. Indeed, what I even noticed during my service contract was that the service got better or became more available in some of the worst places. Unfortunately, back in May of 2009 I moved into a particularly “almost underground” part of my building, and Megan moved into an apartment off of campus, and in both of these locations, it’s impossible to have a phone conversation, and data services (such as text messages) rarely if ever work on their own. And in that respect, it’s really difficult to be able to justify $70/month for a mobile phone, especially as it’s sometimes a real physical hardship for me to get somewhere else to make or take a call.

That all having been said, I’m not going to keep using my iPhone, nor do I think I’m going to keep AT&T’s service. The reasoning behind this is best summarized by a quote that comes from a great friend of mine: “it was great, until it wasn’t.” AT&T’s service was great until I moved to the other side of the building, and the iPhone was great as a device until mine started failing, and I began to identify things I want in a mobile companion device that the iPhone can’t really do.

And so, having made the decision that the iPhone and AT&T are no longer what I need and want, what’s next? Stay tuned.