Yesterday on TechCrunch, Mike Arrington posted a rant article proclaiming that he “Quit The iPhone.” I began reading the post with the usual trepidation, since lately it’s just not possible to predict what Arrington might do in what seems to be an endless bid for the world’s attention. My fears were indeed confirmed as he went on, after several self-affirming pats on his own back, to explain how the monumental injustice (allegedly) perpetrated by AT&T and Apple against Google in regards to Voice has simply left him no other option. In fact, given the high school angst flavoring of the piece, it reads much like a suicide note might read.
It’s interesting to note that most suicide notes are written in desperate attempts to get noticed.
This comes at a perfect time, since only a couple of days ago I posted about my thoughts on Apple, AT&T, Google and Voice. I postulated that AT&T may have actually had nothing to do with the blocking of the app, and that it was simply a row between Apple and Google. As updates became available I later added that not only is the FCC as interested in this as we are, but that AT&T has officially denied any role in the drama.
I also poked fun at the fact that many of the loudest to complain in this case are those who have never actually used Google Voice, and were simply regurgitating hearsay and often bad information when drawing their conclusions. Conclusions which seemed to unanimously point the finger of justice at AT&T.
Which brings me to the core issue: I didn’t expect to be forced to the conclusion that I was, that I would be made to believe that Mike Arrington has not actually used Google Voice on an iPhone, and possibly has not used it at all. Sure, he’s got knowledge of it, he cites his own blog’s posts about it several times, posts which are several months old. He nearly always refers to it as “formerly Grand Central.” That’s all well and good, but it’s not Grand Central anymore. It’s Voice, and the myriad of problems Arrington rails off through the article all seem to be from some alternate reality where I don’t have my iPhone in front of me, with Voice at the ready, proving him wrong at every turn.
What finally put me over the edge? It wasn’t the routinely dropped calls, something you can only truly understand once you have owned an iPhone (and which drove my friend Om Malik to bail). I’ve lived with that for two years. It’s not the lack of AT&T coverage at home. I’ve lived with that for two years, too. It certainly isn’t the lack of a physical keyboard, that has never bothered me. No, what finally put me over the edge is the Google Voice debacle.
Most of you won’t know what I’m talking about, so I’ll explain.
Yes Mike, AT&T has spotty coverage at best, and we all hate dropped calls. The grass is always greener though, isn’t it? Because last time I checked, customers of other wireless service providers were complaining about the same thing. But that’s not what I want to point out in this excerpt, the last line is: “Most of you won’t know what I’m talking about, so I’ll explain.” Really? Well thanks Mike Arrington, because I was sitting here completely befuddled by the moonspeak you were spewing. Please, go on.
Google Voice is a call management service that lets you determine what calls get through to you based on who’s calling and what time of day it is, among other factors. It has amazing features, like automatically transcribing all your voicemails. And you can forward calls to any other phone easily and automatically. Here’s an overview of the service if you aren’t familiar with it.
What I want to note here is that the article he links to supposedly explaining to us simpletons what exactly Google Voice is, is in fact from back in March.
I’ve always wanted to use Google Voice but there’s a big switching cost – changing your phone number. Too many people have that phone number and use it to call in great stories. There’s no way I’m giving that up. And there’s another problem with Google Voice. When you make outbound calls from a phone, it (obviously) doesn’t use your Google Voice phone number, so recipients don’t know it’s you calling. Those were two hurdles I wasn’t willing to jump over.
There it is. “I’ve always wanted to use Google Voice but… …hurdles I wasn’t willing to jump over.” Wow. He’s just basically admitted that he is speaking entirely out of his ass. And these unavoidable “hurdles” he names? Not so much. I think it’s nothing short of amazing that the great Mike Arrington is willing to bestow such “obvious” knowledge upon us. Especially since it’s completely wrong.
When you set up your Voice account, you choose a phone number. This will be your Google Voice number for as long as you choose to keep it. It does not replace the phone number attached to your iPhone, that’s AT&T. Your friends who have this number saved will still have the number saved, and will still see your face when they dial it. If you want them to start using your new Google Voice number, you simply give them the number and tell them so whenever they call you. What a hurdle!
As for the second revelation, that when making outgoing calls your phone “(obviously) doesn’t use your Google Voice phone number” (and that your friends will have no idea who is calling if you should try it): This is absolutely ridiculous. All I have to do in order to make an outgoing call is to hit a contact’s name or enter a number to dial in the web-app furnished by Google. I am called by my own Google Voice number, I answer, and the system connects me to the party I’ve dialed. They see my Google Voice number in their caller ID, just like normal. All the Google Voice features are enabled, they work by touchtone during the call, you still have a dialer and a finger. It’s really no different than any other call once you get past the act of not initiating it with the dialer.
But now Google is planning on rolling out number portability, so I can move my mobile phone number to Google. None of my friends, family or contacts have to store a new number.
That still leaves the problem of outbound calls, though. I can move my mobile number to Google and then get a new iPhone account, but outbound calls won’t be identified because they are on the new number. Google has a solution for that too, though. They are releasing apps for a variety of handsets that effectively take over the native dialer, address book and call log. Problem solved. I can use any phone I like, or a bunch of phones, and just choose the one that makes sense at any time. I never have to be tied to a carrier and their restrictive contracts again.
Or so I thought. Apple and AT&T are now blocking the iPhone version of the Google Voice app. Why? Because they absolutely don’t want people doing exactly what I’m doing – moving their phone number to Google and using the carrier as a dumb pipe.
So I have to choose between the iPhone and Google Voice. It’s not an easy decision. Except, it sort of is. Google isn’t forcing the decision on me, Apple and AT&T are. So I choose to work with the company that isn’t forcing me to do things their way. And in this case, that’s Google.
Where do I begin? I’ve already covered his being obsessively wrong about the outgoing calls business, so that’s done. In doing so I’ve now covered the use of the web-app, so that’s taken care of. Earlier in my last post I covered the issue of AT&T’s involvement (or lack thereof) in the blocking of the native Voice app, something which Arrington believes he can simply state as fact (as he does everything else). So all that’s left is his plaintive cry for help, because he’s been so unreasonably forced to choose between his iPhone and Google.
Don’t misunderstand me, if there were ever an actual moment that truly did force such a decision, I would choose Google over my iPhone. Mike Arrington has not been forced, in any way whatsoever to make this choice. Mike Arrington has shown that he has no idea what he’s talking about, and that he simply wants attention. In this case, he probably expects to get a free iPhone 3GS from Apple, because he probably believes he has that kind of clout. He very well may. Too many people have placed laurels on the head of this man, and the combined weight of all that crowning glory seems to have caused a severe over-inflation of his ego. My suggestion to Mr. Arrington is this: If setting up and using Google Voice is too much of a hassle for you, maybe you should indeed put down the iPhone. While you’re at it, give the people at JitterBug a try, they might be more your speed.