Is There Life After iPhone?

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So far, the answer is yes. I don’t need no stinkin’ App Store. In mid December, I bought a Nokia N96 cell phone from Amazon, and I’m simply in love. While there’s no touchscreen and some usability deficiencies compared to iPhone 3G, the N96 is good enough where the mobile compares and otherwise beats the Apple smartphone.

I first bought iPhone 3G on day of sale, July 11, and briefly switched because of dropped calling problems. But I missed the mobile and returned to using it a couple months back. For me, iPhone 3G was a lifestyle choice, mainly because of the App Store as killer application. I wanted to be more connected. AP’s Mobile News Network made news easily available. Other apps let me easily post to my Facebook, SmugMug photo gallery and Tumblr Weblog or tweet using Twitterrific. Apple made mobile e-mail super easy and convenient, so much that I could file away messages from iPhone 3G.

But another way, I felt more disconnected. I’m a journalist, a creative type. Apple’s mobile made consuming content easy, but not really generating content. The iPhone’s digital camera is OK, but lacks much. There’s no video capability and audio recording is marginal, even using some of the better App Store applications. By comparison, the Nokia N96 packs a 5-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss lens and dual-LED flash; there is 640 x 480 video recording at 30fps and stereo audio.

I asked myself: Do you want to be a content consumer or content creator? The iPhone 3G was better suited for content consumption, while the N96 did a little of both—and from the reviews surprisingly well.

A month has passed since the switch. It’s a good time to reflect on App Store withdrawl and whether I could realistically go on without iPhone. I’m quite satisfied taking more photos and starting to do more personal video blogging (in preparation for more for Apple Watch and Microsoft Watch). I couldn’t really do either with iPhone 3G. Apple has great supporting services in place, but the hardware is deficient compared to the N96.

Some iPhone 3G-Nokia N96 comparisons:

* Both handsets have 16GB of memory, but N96 is expandable to 24GB with storage card.

* N96 telephony audio quality is superior, at least where I live. I used to get frequent complaints when using iPhone 3G. No with the N96.

* Both phones have U.S. 3G, but iPhone supports global frequencies.

* The iPhone is locked to AT&T; the N96 is unlocked for use with SIM cards from most any carrier.

* Battery life is comparable, but N96 has swappable batteries.

The N96 is no cheap purchase—£429.99 from Amazon. An Apple iPhone 3G 16GB – unlocked is £485 from Amazon.

I contemplated switching from iPhone for about a month before doing so. Early December’s Nokia World, where the phone manufacturer announced the N97, tipped me over. Nokia is rapidly catching up with mobile services, starting with Nokia Mail and Ovi. The time had come.

The Sony VAIO VGN-Z590 laptop played into my N96 decision. On the Z590, I will be running Windows 7 as my primary operating system either until its release to manufacturing or Apple launches Snow Leopard, whichever comes first. Nokia’s PC software is far superior to its lightweight Mac counterpart. There is no Ovi software for the Mac.

About two weeks after buying the N96, I discovered Nokia WidSets, which essentially are Mobile widgets. Nokia launched the service about two years earlier. While by no means App Store, Widsets provide just enough mobile widgets to meet my information consumption and interaction needs. After all, Apple may claim more than 500 million App Store downloads, but how many are really useful? Gizmodo has a colourful breakdown of the applications.

The iPhone 3G-to-Nokia N-series exodus is now a family affair. For about six weeks before Christmas, my daughter asked to swap out her iPhone 3G for an iPod Touch and regular cell phone. By regular, she meant with a keyboard, which isn’t what she got. A few days before Christmas, Nokia started selling its N79 cell phone in the United States. The fashionable phone has strong girl appeal. I sold mine and my daughter’s iPhones to a friend, just about covering the cost of the Nokia N79 and 16GB iPod Touch. If not for the sale, I wouldn’t have made such a costly product trade.

Initially, my daughter reacted favorably to the N79, particularly for shooting videos. Like the N96, the mobile has a 5-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss lens and dual-LED flash; video capability is 640 by 480 at 30 fps. Unlike me, my daughter suffers from App Store withdrawal. She can’t get the apps on the N79, and IMing and texting a tougher tasks than done with the iPhone 3G. She has switcher’s regrets and is sorry for giving up the iPhone 3G. But she says things would have been different with a keyboard phone.

I wonder: Will I feel the same as my daughter in another month? Can I live without iPhone 3G, particularly the App Store? It’s a question I ask everyday, because so many of my friends have iPhones. One buddy started trading penny stocks, because of iPhone’s stock ticker. He had never invested before. So far, he is making money as a new investor in a bear market. Another friend runs a small business off his iPhone 3G, which he couldn’t do if not for MobileMe and several key App Store applications. Among my closest friends, right now I’m one person not using an iPhone.

My conviction remains that App Store is leading candidate for, with iPhone 3G and iPod Touch, becoming the next major computing platform. Perhaps, if Apple puts a reasonable camera and video capabilities into a future iPhone, I’ll be back. For right now, it’s Nokia N96 and me. baby.