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Is the iPhone Really All That?

Yes, it's happened, just as all the speculation for months has told us it would:Apple's iPhone is coming to Verizon. There seems to be no question that it's going to be a big hit, with current AT&T subscribers switching over as well as new converts picking up the iPhone on Verizon. Many people have no doubt been waiting for just this opportunity. And all I can think is: What's the big deal?

Here's the thing. I have no doubt that the iPhone is a great smartphone. I'll just restate that to avoid any possibility of being misconstrued as slamming this Apple device: I have no doubt that the iPhone is a great smartphone. When it was originally released four years ago, it was truly worlds ahead of the competition— revolutionary, in Apple parlance. Each new version has only improved on that original release (although incrementally, not revolutionarily as Apple might want us to believe).

However, those same intervening years have seen the release of many other great smartphones, primarily on Google's Android OS platform. I won't list all the phones; but what's important to note is that these phones have technical specs that rival or surpass the iPhone, are available from multiple hardware makers, and on multiple carriers. True, no doubt there are a lot of really bad models out there masquerading as top contenders, but it doesn't usually take much research to figure out what to avoid.

You can make the case that a top selling point for the iPhone is the Apple App Store. Not only do you have a huge number of available apps to choose from, but the applications available are vetted to assure you're getting good quality. That's not something you can ever expect from the Android Market, where you're more or less left relying on other users' reviews to judge whether an app is safe or useful for your particular phone model. When it comes down to it, though, I'm not convinced apps are a huge deciding factor in choosing a new phone, so I don't think we can say this is the reason for the success of the iPhone.

The fact of the matter is I can't really see any logical reason why the iPhone continues to hold the public's attention the way it does. As I've said (twice), I know it's a great device. But there are tons of great devices available now, with many different types of options not available on the iPhone, and it seems like consumer interest should be more divided. I'm honestly curious as to why people still think the iPhone is the must-have device.

I have to admit that even though I write for a Windows-centric publication, I've always been an Apple supporter. For personal, home computing, I've only ever owned Macs. (There's now a Dell Windows laptop in the house that my wife uses, although I think she'd rather have a MacBook.). Back in the '90s, I was even one of those guys who would tell you how superior Macs were to PCs. For my personal music player, I have an iPod and wouldn't think of using anything else. And I even like iTunes—as heretical as that seems to be to some people.

Nonetheless, this fanatical devotion to the iPhone still mystifies me. When I was choosing a smartphone a year ago, the iPhone was a possibility, which I did consider, although never too seriously. Even then, I was growing skeptical of all the hoopla—not to mention I would have had to deal with the problems of the AT&T network. And that was before the iPhone 4 release, Antennagate, and Apple's inexplicably bad response to its customers' complaints. That situation more than anything has turned me off of the iPhone, if not the other Apple products.

So help me out. Seriously: What's so great about the iPhone that you can't get on any other platform or device? Do you consider the limitations in the iPhone's mail and calendaring implementation ( as Paul Robichaux has pointed out) a true drawback, or do they simply not affect your user experience on the device? Is the app ecosystem a bigger draw than I've given it credit for? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

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