Seven iPhone Selection Criteria

Last Updated Aug 20, 2007 6:20 PM EDT

The Apple iPhoneThere are only two days left until the iPhone emerges. So are you going to get one or what? I know more than a few people who answered with a courtroom-style No! just a few weeks ago, but as the launch date approaches, at least one has changed his mind. It's a tough choice that requires either due diligence or unwaivering faith in Apple. With an unproven multi-touch interface, a mandatory 2-year AT&T service contract and a slower data network, the iPhone purchase decision is worthy of at least an informal cost/benefit analysis. Maria Godoy with NPR Technology put together these seven points to consider before this Friday:
  • The Cool Factor: As is true for many other Apple products, the iPhone's biggest "I want that" factor is its sleek styling.
  • Multimedia Mojo: It's a cell phone, it's a music player, it's a camera, it's a Web browser, and more. Ask yourself if you really need all that high-tech bling. (According to Forrester Research, most consumers say that what they want in a cell phone is that it actually work, last long and be easy to use.)
  • Interacting With the Office: Then there's the straight-laced stuff to consider, such as how well you can work on the iPhone. If you're a Blackberry user who's always sending e-mails back and forth while away from your desk, getting used to the keyboard-less typing could take some time.
  • Internet Ease of Use: Because the touch screen essentially spans the length of the iPhone, users will get a wider viewing area than what the typical Internet-enabled phone offers. Speed is another issue altogether. In wireless hot spots, getting online is a breeze. Otherwise, you're forced to rely on AT&T's wireless network â€" and that can make you "long for the days of a dialup modem," according to New York Times columnist David Pogue, who's tested out the über-gadget.
  • Cell Phone Carrier: The iPhone can only be used with cell phone service from AT&T, and Pogue says his biggest gripe with the iPhone is AT&T's wireless cell phone and Internet service, which he calls "not good."
  • Price: The iPhone will set you back $499 for the 4-gigabyte model, and $599 for the 8-gigabyte version. Beyond that, there's the service plan to consider. AT&T announced this week that its iPhone service plans will start at $59.99 a month, with a minimum two-year contract. There's also a $36 activation fee.
  • Other Options: If you're ready to spend at least $500 for a cell phone, what else should you consider? In the $500 to $800 range, try the HTC Touch, LG's Prada-branded or the Noka N95, which has a 5 megapixel camera -- 2.5 times larger than the iPhone's. Sony Ericsson, Motorola, and Nokia also have phones that triple as MP3 players.
If you haven't made up your mind by Thursday, you're probably better off just waiting for an early-adopter friend-type figure to buy an iPhone so you can play with it first-hand. In fact, people in New York are already lining up for the device, so waiting for the frenzy to die down is likely a smart choice even if you do decide to take the iPlunge.

(Image of iPhone by Apple)