On Call: iPhone or T-Mobile G1?
CNET's cell phone editor helps a reader choose between an iPhone and a T-Mobile G1. He also answers questions on unlocked iPhones and buying phones from abroad.
I'm a month-to-month
That's a a very good question, EJ, and the answer depends on your individual needs and desires. Though the iPhone is the better overall device (at least right now) a person in your situation should seriously consider the G1. Here is why.
I always tell people who are considering purchasing an
When boiled down to those three points, the
As for those secondary motivators, the G1 also does a good job. It offers good call quality with a lightning-fast 3G network. Of course, that depends on if T-Mobile has adequate coverage in your area, but our reception in San Francisco was excellent and an improvement over
But on the downside, the G1's hardware pales in comparison to the iPhone. While its interface is attractive, it isn't quite as slick. And more importantly, its physical design is pretty drab. As Bonnie and Nicole said in their
Finally, I think the G1 deserves a good look simply because of its potential. The Google Android OS marks a new way to think about the cell experience. As I said in my last column, the G1 changes the "walled garden" concept that even the iPhone represents. It deserves notice for that alone. While Android's first incarnation (the G1) may not be perfect, it's a good start.
How can I get an iPhone with T-Mobile service?
Unfortunately, your prospects are pretty slim. You either would have to buy an unlocked
Alternatively, it is possible to unlock an iPhone bought with AT&T, but that would require a significant investment and a lot of hassle on your part, so I would recommend against it. First off, you'd have to buy the phone (again, $199 to $299) and then end your contract by paying an early termination fee ($175). That is at least $374 right there, and that doesn't include either the first month of service or the activation fee. If you went this route, there are ways to unlock the phone and take it over to T-Mobile. I can't recommend any kind of unlocking service (try an online search for examples), but I can almost guarantee you'll have to pay for the privilege. And don't think that the inconveniences stop there. Apple has been very successful at clamping down on unlocked phones. Each time you download an iPhone software update to an an unlocked model it will "lock" the phone again. And while someone typically finds a way to "jailbreak" the iPhone soon after, it just adds up to a lot of time, money, and effort.
Much of the above is also true with the
Finally, there are a couple of functionality points to consider. Only AT&T supports the iPhone's visual voicemail service. If that's important to you, you'll want to stick with AT&T. Also, the 3G bands that the iPhone uses are not compatible with T-Mobile's 3G service. You'll be able to make calls, but when you're not using Wi-Fi you'll be stuck with using the molasses-like EDGE network.
I'm looking to purchase an unlocked LG KU990. Is it better to purchase the phone from a dealer in the United States or from a dealer in another country, say Hong Kong or elsewhere in Asia?
When purchasing an unlocked phone, you'll want to consider a few things before deciding on a retailer. First, you need to make sure the phone supports the GSM bands used in the United States (850 and 1900). It will work here if it supports only one of those bands, but support for both is best. Secondly, you'll want to make sure the phone supports English-language menus, and to a lesser extent, comes with English user manuals in the box. And finally, make sure you get a proper U.S. electrical outlet adapter, if one isn't included. For those reasons, I would buy the phone from a U.S.-based retailer. But if you can get everything you need from a foreign retailer, then you should be OK.