July 2, 2007

My Miserable iPhone Experience, Part 4 — A Happy Ending

Filed under: Apple, Gear, iPhone, Technology — Tom @ 7:02 pm

Here it is — the resolution to my long road to AT&T’s network. You can check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 to see how I got to this point.

It seems my problem all stems from the fact that I took bad advice early on from an AT&T rep and activated my phone in Oregon. Unfortunately, mobile telecom is still mired in its landline origins. Area codes are still area codes tied to a specific geographic location.

Mobility creates problems. As frustrating as this experience has been, I’m not particularly angry about it. Businesses like AT&T want to know how much revenue they generate in a certain region. States want to collect taxes. Cities want 911 fees from residents paying phone bills. I’m sure the city of Chicago isn’t going to cut Portland a $15 check just because my billing address has been here for the last year.

In 2003, local number portability was mandated by the FCC for wireless numbers in metropolitan areas. It was never intended to create a lifetime phone number; the purpose was simply to reduce end-user switching costs between carriers within a market. AT&T’s porting system is just strictly enforcing the rules.

Still, I’m not big on rules. They don’t always make sense. There are countless laws still on the books that seem silly or bizarre today. Just because tax rules and government regulations haven’t kept up with the way society uses mobile technology, that certainly doesn’t mean that I have to play along and just deal with the major hassle of changing the phone number that all my business associates and friends use.

But now things appear to be fixed. I can make outgoing calls and caller ID shows them coming from my Chicago number. The transfer from T-Mobile appears to be under way. Here’s what happened:

First, if you haven’t activated yet and you’re living in a different region than your area code would indicate, try the trick laid out by AppleInsider.

It was too late for me — I’d already contacted AT&T and been advised to just activate the phone and port the numbers after. So I went to the AT&T store today and said that I needed a way to keep my iPhone — if I can’t move my number, I’m returning it. The AT&T guy was really nice — as everyone has been, even when they couldn’t find a way to help me — and wanted to help.

I discussed the AppleInsider tip and asked if he could move my account to Chicago so I could get the port to work, or perhaps I could cancel the account and just start over. He thought that I should call to cancel, where I’d be put through to a special group tasked with trying to hold onto departing customers. He said they’d ask why I was leaving and might be able to resolve the issue. (I’m guessing some of their compensation may be based on hanging onto customers — maybe this could tip the balance in my favor.) I asked if I’d need a new SIM card if I had to re-activate; he said I would and gave me one just in case.

I called AT&T and ended up speaking with a guy in the cancellations group (or whatever they call it). I kept getting put on hold as he tried to find out how to fix it. We had some false starts when he thought I was having a problem moving a Chicago AT&T number, and momentary panic when he said they couldn’t move the T-Mobile number. But he went back to it and eventually he put me through to a girl in relocations. She would help me with my move; she would then put me through to porting who would move my number over.

She also got a bit mixed up at one point. But she eventually found the right process, cancelled my new Oregon account, created a new Illinois account and linked it to the new SIM card. She transferred me to porting. He initiated the port, told me to put in the new SIM and connect to iTunes.

He didn’t think any re-activation through iTunes would be needed (he was wrong); by now I’d been through enough to cover my bases. I confirmed that if I did need to re-activate in iTunes, that I’d be selecting the option to use the iPhone with an existing AT&T wireless number.

We briefly discussed trying to port over my girlfriend’s number and completing the whole family plan thing, but agreed that’s best left for after my phone is up and running. We hung up. I’d been on the phone for an hour and forty-five minutes.

The iPhone recognized that the SIM had changed and insisted that I re-activate. I plugged into iTunes and things went smoothly, although I now got the option to add a data plan to my existing plan rather than select one of the iPhone plans. Now I’m just waiting for the port to go through.

There will still be some clean-up to deal with — who knows what’s going to come of the cancelled Oregon account, Illinois account created to receive the port, how I’ll get on the correct iPhone plan, and what will happen when I try to port over Diane’s number. But I think the worst is over and I’m keeping my number!


July 1, 2007

My Miserable iPhone Experience, Part 3

Filed under: Apple, iPhone, Technology — Tom @ 9:40 am

I’m already wrestling with whether to return my iPhone, given the difficulties described in Part 1 and Part 2. Now I’m finding that I’m not getting some text messages. Nothing my girlfriend has sent from her T-Mobile phone has made it to the iPhone, even when replying to text messages from me. I tried sending a text message from my old T-Mobile phone and that never arrived, either.

Anyone else experienced problems on a new iPhone account with text messages coming from outside the AT&T network?

June 30, 2007

My Miserable iPhone Experience, Part 2

Filed under: Apple, iPhone, Technology — Tom @ 11:17 pm

Yesterday, I did what a lot of people did — I stood in line to buy an iPhone. Here’s my bittersweet tale of the last 24 hours, and the story of why I may be taking my iPhone back. In Part 1, I talked about some of my purchasing experience and activation woes.

Using the iPhone

I’m happy with the iPhone and, like many others, feel that it lives up to most of its hype. I’ve found some things I love and a couple quirks that bug me.

Great Stuff

  1. The iPhone has some built-in rings that are really, really nice. I think people are driven to annoying ringtones because the included rings are so obnoxious themselves. I’m using the Xylophone ring — if, for some reason, I can’t have my phone on silent, I don’t think it’ll bother anyone.
  2. Despite the hand model scandal, the iPhone seems smaller than I expected. And it feels great. I think this is because the device is so slim — my Sony Ericsson P910i has almost exactly the same footprint but is thicker and feels a lot more awkward. The design of the iPhone is just fantastic.
  3. The interface is great. Really great. I’ve found a couple spots where the lack of a traditional menu has left me puzzled about how to get back where I came from, but in general it’s very intuitive and easy to work with.
  4. Most of all, the iPhone pretty much works as advertised. There’s not much I can add to that — people have covered the features and design to death. The keyboard works pretty well; I’m still adapting but think that I’m going to be fine with it. (I’ll note here that I’ve never been a high-speed texter; I’ll leave it to the Crackberry addicts to discuss the finer points of texting on the iPhone.)

Not So Great Stuff

  1. EDGE really is painfully slow. I’m not super let down by this. I’ve been using GPRS with my Sony Ericsson P910i for a long time, so I didn’t have very high expectations. For me, I really find the iPhone to be unusable for Internet functions over the cell network. Mail, YouTube video, general web browsing — it all takes forever. This isn’t a dealbreaker for me. I didn’t expect to scour the web via EDGE. Wi-Fi performance is great and that’s when I’d be checking multiple mail accounts or looking up something on the web. (Although even Wi-Fi seems a bit slower than a normal Wi-Fi device. Maybe it’s just me.) And EDGE will be fine for a quick look at the weather or whatever.
  2. I’ve run into some bugs. While browsing, I’ve been bumped several times to the iPhone’s main menu. And we’re not talking about pushing the boundaries of the web — even when using the built-in Google Maps link, I’ve had my page unexpectedly exit and the main menu appear. I’ve had the same thing happen in Mail while rendering messages with some large inline images. The phone’s even locked up once while rendering an image-heavy e-mail and I had to force it to restart. This is pretty disappointing, given some of Steve’s comments about how other phones lock up. Hopefully we’ll see a software update that addresses this stuff.
  3. Apple placed a convenient silent mode switch right on the side of the iPhone. But in a decision I don’t understand, “silent” isn’t totally silent. I was at a restaurant and the waitress asked some questions about the iPhone. I was showing her the interface and how videos play and Ask a Ninja starting blaring out of the speaker of my “silenced” phone. Be forewarned — “silent” doesn’t appear to include any of the iPhone’s iPod functions.
  4. The Podcasts item on the iPod is really for audio podcasts. Video podcasts show up in the podcasts list but playing them just gives you audio. To view the podcast, you need to go to Video where they’re lumped in with all other video content.
  5. Holding the iPhone

  6. Multitouch isn’t always multitouch. Multitouch really works only in the specific examples that have been demonstrated — zooming in and out of photos, web pages or mail messages. When selecting something from a list or pressing a button, the iPhone only reacts to a single input. This isn’t a big deal; I’m not even sure what I expected here. I was just a bit surprised when I was scrolling through my contacts list (oh, that beautiful scrolling), placed my right thumb on the screen to stop the list, then tried to select the contact I wanted with my left index finger. That won’t work. Check out the photo at right. Even though my thumb isn’t over anything that could be selected, it’ll keep the iPhone from registering a touch with another finger. This has only been a problem because so much of the iPhone is screen — it limits how you can hold the iPhone while navigating.

I think that overall Apple’s done a great job with the iPhone. I don’t think any of these are more than minor quibbles; some will say that they can’t live without 3G and I’d agree that leaving it out is the iPhone’s biggest deficiency.

Porting My Phone Number

But wait! I’ve been playing with the phone but still haven’t dealt with my phone number. Here’s where the real disappointment comes in.

As I said in Part 1, I’ve been using my Chicago number here in Portland for over a year on T-Mobile. Before that, I’d used my AT&T Wireless number from metro DC in Chicago. So I called AT&T Customer Care and explained my situation. “I want to move over both numbers from my T-Mobile family plan to an AT&T iPhone family plan. Right now I have one iPhone that I just activated with a new number because I couldn’t move both numbers using iTunes activation.”

No, she said, you can’t do that online. You should have activated the additional line at the store.

But they weren’t doing any activation at the store. They told me I could do it all at home, and then I couldn’t, so I’m calling you.

Well, where is the second number going? You have to buy another phone and get a SIM card.

I have plenty of phones. I know I need a SIM card. Can we do the transfer and you can send me a SIM card?

She says I need a SIM card for the transfer. She asks what numbers I’m transferring and I give them to her. Your area code is in Illinois, she says.

I felt we were making progress. We had found something that we both agreed with 100%. My phone number definitely had an Illinois area code.

You’re in Oregon, she says.

Yes! Exactly! Now we’re really getting somewhere.

Well, you can’t do that, she tells me. That won’t work. You’re not in the same region.

But my phone works fine here. Everyone’s told me this won’t be a problem. Area codes seem kind of quaint — my phone rings no matter where I am. Everyone has this number!

I really don’t think we can do that. Let me see what we can do. Do you have an Illinois address? Maybe we can use that.

Now I do still have an address in Illinois. We could try that if necessary. But this all seems to be so ridiculous. And everyone has this number!

Eventually she comes back and gives me the bad news. They could probably port my number over but eventually AT&T would deactivate my account; it would be flagged because more than half my activity would be coming from “out of region.”

Out of region? What the hell’s that? My phone says I’m on an AT&T network. Isn’t it all AT&T?

Apparently it’s not all AT&T. She explains that there are five regions and a midwest phone number can’t be used for a western account. If I’m permanently in Oregon, I have to get a new number.

But how can this matter? What about people who travel all the time — when I was on the road, almost all my activity was business and took place when I was far from my home region. What does AT&T do to them?

I want to believe that some archaic regulations associated with wired telecom cause things like this. But since this isn’t based on state boundaries, I thinking that’s not the problem. “Regions” sound suspiciously like crappy corporate bureaucracy — we’ve got an org chart in place and we certainly can’t have somebody using a phone number that falls under Jack when the guy lives in an area that’s controlled by Bob.

So AT&T wants me to drop the number I’ve had for five years, that I’ve given to tons of friends, colleagues and clients. I’ve certainly had old clients call up after several years and need some help; they’ve been able to reach me because my mobile number is my number. The idea that it needs to change because I’m in a different location — well, does AT&T even understand what the “mobile” part of mobile phone means?

I’m going to call AT&T again on Monday and see if I can get someone else who can help me out. If they can’t, I need to decide the hassle factor associated with changing my number; I may have to return the iPhone and stick with T-Mobile.

Man, AT&T sucks.

UPDATE: AppleInsider seems to have the workaround for out of region number porting — spoof the porting system with your old address. I think I’ll try this on Monday with Customer Care.

So what about the rep’s ominous warning of deactivation? I didn’t have a problem with this “out of region” usage on AT&T 5 years ago — has anyone experienced this on Cingular? And I imagine that the people moving to a new state and keeping their old mobile numbers are legion. So is this an AT&T Customer Care bogeyman?

Not that my hassles are over. Part 3

My Miserable iPhone Experience, Part 1

Filed under: Apple, iPhone, Technology — Tom @ 5:21 pm

Yesterday, I did what a lot of people did — I stood in line to buy an iPhone. Here’s my bittersweet tale of the last 24 hours, and the story of why I may be taking my iPhone back. It’s also the story of how AT&T — even as it tries to make itself over as some kind of new hotness — remains at its heart a tired, stodgy member of one of the most hated industries in America, the cell phone carriers.

A Little Background

I’ve never really been for or against any mobile provider. They’re all bad. For a long time, my job involved a lot of travel and I’ve found that they all drop calls somewhere, they all have bad reception somewhere.

For context, we only need to discuss my last two carriers. I signed up with AT&T Wireless in 2000. I didn’t have any real problems and I had good experiences around the country and with AT&T’s roaming in the United Kingdom and France.

I relocated to Chicago and continued to use my old number (a Virginia number, just outside of DC) for a year. Then I moved into a new place and my new condo happened to be in an AT&T dead spot. I couldn’t get any real answers on how that might get fixed from AT&T, so I switched to T-Mobile because I could get a signal in my living room.

Now I live in Portland. I’ve been here for about a year and I’ve continued to use my Chicago mobile number. My girlfriend and I have a T-Mobile family plan and we’ve both kept the old numbers.

Buying the iPhone

The buying part went pretty smoothly. The line at the AT&T store wasn’t too long when we arrived around 4:15 — there were maybe 45 people ahead of us. The doors opened promptly at 6:00 p.m., AT&T brought people inside in an orderly fashion and things moved pretty fast. We were inside by 6:45 p.m.

I clarified a couple things about what I needed to do — I have a family plan at T-Mobile and will be bringing over both numbers to a new AT&T family plan, I said. No, we don’t need another phone; we’ll unlock the Motorola PEBL my girlfriend uses, use a phone from my previous stint with AT&T, or whatever. We’ve got a half dozen phones at home, most already unlocked.

I was told all activation will happen using iTunes. Sure, I can bring over both numbers. Yes, I can keep my Chicago numbers. I left happy, one iPhone in hand. The whole thing went well.

Activation Hell

Let me preface by saying that everyone I dealt with at both AT&T and T-Mobile were really polite and did their best to help me. They were well-informed, or they managed to find an answer with a minimal amount of time on hold. The voice mail systems were a pain, as always (I found T-Mobile’s more irritating), and it took time to get to the option for a person.

Activation didn’t go so well. I downloaded iTunes 7.3, plugged in my iPhone and it promptly appeared in my iTunes devices list. As a new AT&T customer, I had the following options:

1. Activate one iPhone now.
2. Activate two or more iPhones on an individual or FamilyTalk plan.

Huh. I don’t see the “create a family plan with one iPhone and one other number” option. OK, I’ll activate this as an individual plan and deal with getting the other number moved later.

So then I get the “Transfer Mobile Number” screen. I put in my number, my T-Mobile account number and my zip code. I’m told that the number can’t be transferred.

So I call the AT&T store. They refer me to the Customer Care line, who they say can help me with something like moving my Chicago number although my billing address is in Oregon. Customer Care sends me to the iPhone Activations Line, who tells me to call T-Mobile and find out why they won’t let my number transfer. T-Mobile sends my call to the transfer service center; after 15 minutes on hold I’m summarily disconnected.

OK, so I’ll just activate the phone and port the number later. I uncheck the little box, remove my number, my T-Mobile account number and my zip code, and proceed. Pick my plan, enter my iTunes login, add some additional info, submit… AT&T is processing my activation! It may take up to 3 minutes!

So I wait. Another minute. Finally!

“AT&T requires additional time to complete your activation. You will receive an e-mail when your activation is complete.”

What?! So now I’m checking e-mail like a lab rat pressing a button for more crack. That doesn’t seem to speed up the process. I call the AT&T iPhone activations line again and ask what this means and how much “extra time” is involved. She tells me (again, very politely and very helpfully) that they’re overwhelmed and activation may take 24 hours. Nice planning, AT&T. I head off to bed, dreaming of 12 shiny icons on a black glass screen.

In the morning, I find an e-mail stamped 6:46 a.m. that tells me my activation is complete. Woohoo! I’m in iPhone heaven!

Part 2: What I find good and bad about the iPhone, and why AT&T tells me I have to give up my phone number. Portability — yeah, right.

May 28, 2007

iPhone Hysteria Spawns Dumbest Study Ever

Filed under: Apple, iPhone — Tom @ 9:46 am

The iPhone is magic. Many are lusting after it. Many more are talking about it. And really dumb speculation abounds.

But the latest is over the top. In a report issued by a company called Strategy Analytics and getting picked up by numerous blogs, they claim that 90% of mobile handset owners prefer the iPhone experience over their existing phone. Wow! 90%!

There’s no mention that Apple participated in the study in their press release. They say they “explored the appeal of iPhone features, developed comparisons with current products, investigated the nature of the iPhone experience, and gained insights on design criteria for future devices.” In other words, they speculated about what it would be like to use an iPhone and then got a bunch of people to discuss their speculation. And then they issued a press release.

Here’s the secret — the study appears to be a ploy to get people to register at the Strategy Analytics website. Registering and downloading the study gets you a document that links back to information on Strategy Analytics and their services. Searching for the report on their site shows that the latest iPhone report is dated February 28.

So this is little more than a press release about a discussion with some people who use mobile phones. If I was a professional in the wireless telecomm industry, registered for this report and found their was nothing behind this study? I suspect I’d do my shopping for strategic analysis elsewhere.

May 1, 2007

Ballmer Says iPhone Has “No Chance”

Filed under: Apple, iPhone, Technology — Tom @ 1:24 am

The Unofficial Apple Weblog reports that Steve Ballmer has pulled out his crystal ball and made another prediction of iPhone failure. He said there is no chance the iPhone will achieve any significant market share, adding that, “They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60 percent or 70 percent or 80 percent of them, than I would to have 2 percent or 3 percent, which is what Apple might get.”

If you remove his total speculation about Apple’s chances, it looks like all he’s saying is that he’d really rather see 780 million Windows Mobile devices sold than 26 million. This is the kind of bold thinking that Microsoft needs. Sell more! Of course! Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?

I have no doubt that Steve would prefer that 60% of smartphones were Windows-based — recent numbers show Microsoft a distant second with 14% of the worldwide market. Symbian continues to dominate with a 67% market share. (I’ve seen a variety of percentages reporting, all citing the same Canalys data. I’m going with what’s quoted at the site above, but recognize that these numbers may be off somewhat.)

There seems to be plenty of room for Apple. Symbian’s market share is split between different versions of its OS. The software to synchronize my P800 and P910i with my Windows computer was a disaster — a hodgepodge of different applications that would sometimes lose track of whether my phone was plugged in or not. (Maybe it’s an omen that the best syncing experience has been — take a guess — once I started using the P910i with my MacBook Pro. I haven’t had any problems using iSync.) Both phones ended up with trips back to Sony Ericsson for service. The software on the phone has its fair share of quirks — I’m particularly irritated by the oddly short fields in the calendar application (vital information is always getting truncated on the phone) and the terrible web browser. As much as I love my P910i, there’s enormous room for improvement. And it made the iPhone’s pricing look like a bargain.

Palm — now called the Garnet OS — could also be an easy target. Incredibly innovative when it was first introduced, the Palm OS is now looking a bit tired. They just haven’t kept up and their market share shows it. Garnet OS has an enormous catalog of applications available for it but they trail with a paltry 5% of the market.

I’ve had only limited exposure to Windows devices and RIM devices. Windows Mobile seems to have come a long way from the early, crash-prone Orange SPV I saw years ago. And the Blackberry interface drives me crazy. I know many, many people love these things but they’re not for me.

There aren’t many people — least of all Apple — claiming that the iPhone is going to take over the mobile market. Apple does say that they think they can carve out a small chunk of the existing market. There’s a lot that says they can — I don’t need much convincing to give up poor syncing, awful email programs and unusable web browsers. How far can they ultimately go? We’ll have to see how well that multi-touch display works. I’m pretty used to dialing one-handed by touch.

March 17, 2007

More iPhone Talk

Filed under: Apple, iPhone, Technology — Tom @ 11:15 am

Seth Godin’s new blog for his upcoming book talks about iPhone pricing. His point is that Apple had to get through the resistance to paying much, if anything, for a great mobile phone.

Obviously, I’m a big fan of the iPhone. I think Seth’s right and that if Apple really has created the best mobile in the world, the high pricing (and let’s face it, nothing’s final until these things hit the stores) isn’t going to be a major issue.

I think I’m going to buy The Dip. (This is a sponsored link — you can also find links directly from Seth.)

January 26, 2007

iPhone Bash Round-Up

Filed under: Apple, iPhone, Technology — Tom @ 1:35 am

Thursday was a big day for iPhone-bashing. Really stupid iPhone-bashing.

First, a couple analysts want everyone to understand that the iPhone is not a smartphone. At least according to their definition, which requires that the OS is open and supports third-party development.

For me, a smartphone has always been a phone that incorporates a fully-functional PDA feature set and a browser. The fact that my Sony Ericsson P910i allows additional applications to be installed was never what qualified it as a smartphone for me. But I’m not a fancy analyst like Stuart Carlaw and Philip Solis at ABI Research — I’m just a guy who uses a mobile phone.

Still, I think Carlaw’s prediction — “Consumers will not be willing to settle for a second-rate cell phone just to have superior music” — is way off. His description of the iPhone as a “feature phone” ignores the biggest feature of all. The phone’s interface has gotten raves from everyone who’s actually managed to touch one. And the OS X system can obviously run other applications.

The big question is how additional applications will get on the phone. Right now, it seems Apple is going to tightly control development. That’s a bummer, but still doesn’t mean that the phone won’t get a broad range of new features under Apple’s supervision.

Carlaw seems to be looking for the standard cell phone entry — take the base features of existing smartphones, rework the keyboard, add a dash of ingredient X (3G data services? MP3 player and FM radio? Instant messaging device?) and voilà. The UI? Well, they’re all pretty bad, so just do the best you can. Web services? Stick a WAP browser on there and let Opera fix the problem.

Apple’s decided to try and deal with a lot of things that make mobile phones suck. Is it going to be perfect? Of course not. I’m still disappointed that there was no mention of voice recognition dialing, for example. But I continue to think the iPhone is going to be a big hit. And when it is, please tell me where to report for my analyst gig.

Not to be outdone (outwronged?), John Webster, an IT advisor at another research company, makes some observations in a Computerworld article republished at Macworld.com today. Webster says the iPhone reminds him of Ken Olsen of DEC because Olsen was concerned about the PC and it’s potential for distracting software and the possibility that anyone could swipe sensitive data with a disk.

Webster reminds me of an analyst stretching to find some historical reference to support baseless fearmongering. He says:

How secure is the iPhone? What kinds of data does it store? Any data of a personal nature? How secure is that data? It’s way more portable than the PC and way more fun. But what could happen to you as an owner of the iPhone if it winds up, even momentarily, in the palm of the wrong person?

I’m trying to figure out Webster’s point. Is there one? There’s really no comparison with Olsen’s views on the move from dumb terminals to personal computers. And the concerns Webster raises are so old news they’re laughable.

I already carry around, every day, the kind of data an iPhone will contain in the form of my mobile phone and my iPod Nano. Am I supposed to be worried about — gasp — someone finding out that my music collection includes some Ace of Base tunes? Or see the photos of my dog that I carry with me, or scroll through my calendar? This is all stuff they can steal from me today — in the future, my thief will just be able to browse through my music library using the iPhone’s nifty cover flow view and will probably enjoy the entire stealing experience a lot more.

And really — haven’t enough stolen laptops containing sensitive info made the news for this to be a rather mundane observation?

No, Mr. Webster, I’m afraid the biggest tragedy of a misplaced iPhone will be that I’m out $600.

Finally, Rob Enderle posted some utter madness that is really beyond comprehension. John Gruber has some discussion at Daring Fireball about it. You really need to click through to Enderle’s article and see the photos of the concept phones that he thinks the iPhone has copied. Only then can you appreciate the depth of the insanity.

January 24, 2007

Mobile Phone, Reinvented

Filed under: Apple, Gear, iPhone, Technology — Tom @ 12:28 am

Seth Godin recently blogged about how the iPhone doesn’t really “reinvent” the cellphone very much. And while he makes some good points about what a reinvented cellphone would be like, I think that Apple may already be ahead of him on this.

Apple’s iPhone

There’s been a lot of criticism of Appe’s decision to tie itself to Cingular for the first couple of years. But once you get past all the whining (come on, people, phone exclusivity isn’t exactly a new model in the cell phone world), the decision starts to make a lot of sense.

It looks like Apple didn’t want to just build a device and throw it out there — they want to change the market itself. The iPod was successful because Apple did more than market a device. They provided a tightly integrated music library management tool and a fairly seamless user experience. (I’m not forgetting the store, but that came about much later.)

My hope is that Apple chose to partner with someone because they have features and services in mind that require more than a nifty phone — they require changes to the cellular network. Visual voicemail is the first of these but probably not the last. The kinds of features that Godin imagines, like using a group to distribute a voice mail or make a conference call with multiple people, will also require changes to how the cell network handles calls.

As to the question, “Why Cingular?” Why not? Does it matter? So what if you hate Cingular — you’re a cliché. Everyone has a story about the cell carrier that done them wrong that they’ll never use again. The bottom line is that Cingular’s the biggest — the second runner-up is as much as 20% smaller. Why partner up with number 2 when number 1 would be happy to have this dance?

Only time will tell whether Apple’s strategy pays off or whether they really have a series of cell phone innovations planned for the future. I’m guessing that it will, they do, and I am.

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