Time has come to replace my T-Mobile Shadow. I am no longer under contract, and the phone is no longer cutting-edge technology. My wife needs a new phone as well. The Verizon Droid has been creating some buzz for a while, so I started looking into what I’d be able to get for my money right now. It did not take long for me to decide against a switch to Verizon, for a couple of reasons:
- The Verizon Droid is a CDMA phone, meaning that it only works on Verizon’s proprietory network, cannot be unlocked, and cannot be used overseas.
- Maintaining the plans and features that I currently have with T-Mobile (2 lines, 1000 minutes, 1 unlimited data plan, 400 messages) would cost me 30% more if I signed up for new service with Verizon.
There is of course the option of importing the GSM version of the Droid, which is sold in Europe and a handful of devices are on sale on ebay right now. I could pop in my T-Mobile SIM and use one in the US today, but there are some concerns about that, too:
- Cost – unlocked GSM Droids sell for $600-$700 – more than owning one is worth to me.
- Then there is the G3 network frequency issue. European networks operate in the 2100 MHz band. T-Mobile phones in the US can either use the 1700 MHz or 2100 MHz band, but it appears that most of the T-Mobile infrastructure is actually for the 1700 MHz band. This is why the iPhone cannot establish 3G connection when in the T-Mobile network. This means that a T-Mobile US phone will work safely on 3G networks overseas and domestically, but that phones imported from Europe or unlocked from other carriers will not easily work on the T-Mobile 3G network in the US, unless they explicitly support the 1700MHz band.
For a separate set of reasons, I do not want to join the herd of iPhone users:
- AT&T uses 850/1900MHz frequencies for their 3G/HSDPA service in the US. While the iPhone supports UMTS/HSDPA at 850, 1900, and 2100 MHz, many other AT&T phones will not work on European high-speed (UMTS) networks (2100 MHz).
- Everybody else has an iPhone.
It seems that the Google Nexus One will address both of these issues. It will be a GSM phone that allows me to roam or use a SIM card from a local or pre-paid provider while travelling, and it will work with both US and European G3 networks. It seems that no other Android 2 phone & provider combination will do that in the forseeable future. This is why I decided to wait. Never mind multi-touch or other marginal features – first and foremost I need a phone that I can connect with.
There are many unanswered questions, such as whether I can keep my family plan, or whether it will support S/Mime signed emails. The most recent rumors seem to suggest that the Nexus One will not be available for phone upgrades to existing plans. If this is the case, buying one without a contract from Google at full price may actually be a better idea than abandoning an existing plan. Do your math, because the saving over 2 years may be greater than the upfront premium.