2021’s Bad Decision

I didn’t expect to be able to do it, but, well..

This is the first time I’ve preordered an iPhone. I took a 13 Pro, 256GB in Sierra Blue. 

This post is just going to be a…thing…where I talk about the whole uh, thing.

The Experience

I’m no stranger to launch day fun times, I waited in line for my iPhone 3GS and 4S (and actually waited “in line” for my 8 with a good friend. There was no line because everyone was waiting for the X). The 3GS was also arguably back when launch day actually meant something, as it’s the last time I can remember the Apple Store employees actually congratulating you as you walked out with your new shiny gadget.

(And the 4S was…meh. I waited in line at a Sprint store and got jebaited because I told the Sprint rep I wanted a 32GB model, but all they got were 16s. That sucked.)

For the 13, though, I wasn’t actually trying to do anything. It was really a snap decision after the window had opened. Around 5am, I was like “You know what? I’m just going to do a trade in, apply for financing, and see if I get it.” I didn’t expect to get in because 1. I’m already paying off an iPhone SE2 through Citizens One (the bank providing iPhone loans in this case). And before anyone gets on my case for having two phone notes, the SE2 is only a few bucks a month due to Apple giving me $WAYTOOMUCH for an iPhone 8 trade in. No big. Well within my means.

…and 2. My credit isn’t the best. I’m still working on getting it to a better place after taking it seriously in 2019. It’s way better than it started off as, but I still have a long way to go.

Snag the first was hit pretty soon on: the Apple Store app couldn’t reach T-Mobile’s systems to verify my account. (If you’re doing iPhone payments through Citizens, you have to have it backed by a carrier.) As is usual, T-Mo’s systems were on fire. Never to fear, though: After the third failure, I was told “We can continue, however this device will not be connected to a carrier.”

Assumed I was toast at first, but nope, it still let me proceed with applying for Citizens’ iPhone loan. After my trade in, I was looking at $24/mo, which isn’t bad at all (considering full price is $45 or so a month). After allowing the application to proceed…Citizens approved it. Well, damn. I didn’t expect that.

Tax and first month paid up ($130. Ouchies), we were finished around 5:08-5:10 and still got a ship date of September 24th. Nice.

The Rationale (From multiple directions)

Why not just sell the phone yourself?

Believe it or not, this was the original plan. I have a beater iPhone X that was sent through the wash by my roommate and she just took it as a sign and upgraded to a 12. I opted to revive the X and found the proximity sensor had gone bad. With that fixed, I had an X that was very well loved and used but still worked. My plan was to just move over to the X, sell my 11 Pro Max, take that money and buy a 13 Pro through T-Mobile.

Except this would have been a huge leap of faith that would have required some trust in Apple’s stock levels and T-Mobile’s systems to not absolutely screw me somehow when time came to go buy the 13. And knowing how T-Mobile’s systems can be…I don’t have a lot of faith.

My 11 Pro is worth roughly $700 on Swappa, and if I factor in fees, I’d probably be taking away around $650. Apple gave me $500 for the phone. So that’s a $150 loss, but I think it’s acceptable considering 1. This route allows me to keep using my 11 Pro until I take delivery of the 13 Pro, and 2. It gets me an unlocked phone whereas going through T-Mobile would give me a phone locked by their draconian unlock policy.

For $150? I’ll take the convenient route, thanks.

Why the 13 Pro over the 13, though?

Cameras. That’s really the long and short of it.

I’m a hobbyist photographer. I like taking pictures of things. And the iPhone is the camera that’s always with me. So investing in a better camera experience isn’t a hard sell for me. I know there are other features like ProMotion and such, but those are just the cherry on top of the proverbial milkshake for me.

The 13 really isn’t a bad phone, and I was really considering leaning that direction. But I really do use the camera a lot so my game plan was to get the Pro if I had the means. (And I did.)

The macro camera is also going to be very nice as I do a lot of hobbyist soldering, and I don’t have the room nor the money for a microscope. It’ll be super nice to check my work with a macro camera rather than having to digital zoom and hope I snap a sharp enough picture to see what I’m looking at.

Was the 11 Pro Max really not doing it for you?

No, absolutely not. The 11 Pro is still an awesome phone and still works great! 

Believe it or not, the thing that pushed me off of it? 5G. I know, kind of shocking, right? Considering I used to be a huge 5G skeptic. Though to be fair, that was when the techbros were absolutely fellating themselves over what 5G means and how many giga-butts you can pull down from a cell phone. Sub-6 5G (aka the stuff that’s most like traditional cell networks range-wise, more of this later) is the real deal and I was definitely wrong tarring it with the same brush.

The problem is this: I live in a town that is heavily congested across all carriers through most of the day. I have AT&T backup service on a tester Galaxy S21 (that I got free from a promo) and during the day it falls over on itself around the same time T-Mobile does. Verizon is just horrible all around here.

T-Mobile has lit up 5G on the other side of town, and they’ve indicated they’re working on bringing it to our side of town soonish. And I can confidently say that 5G makes a world of difference when it comes to congestion. In the city center, I can actually pull usable speeds during rush hour when on LTE things are usually completely stalled.

(This is also why I’m for the most part sticking with T-Mobile despite the horrible service. For whatever reason, Verizon and AT&T are betting the farm on mmWave 5G, which is the “gimmicky, no one’s going to realistically use this” 5G that gets interrupted if so much as a piece of paper crosses between you and the tower. T-Mobile’s going in on sub-6, which is 5G that has similar if not better range to LTE, albeit slower and still very good speed.)

On this note too, it’s a good thing I never got a 12, because apparently the modems in the 12 are a bit behind the curve and have some bugs that Apple still hasn’t ironed out (but may be as of iOS 15), but the modems in the 13s are pretty competent performers.

Bringing this section to a wrap, though, the 11 Pro Max made it 14 months before being replaced, so that’s still a decent run for me (before my iPhone XR, I was switching phones every few months. I’m starting to settle down a bit).

Which leads into the conclusion quite nicely: I plan to make AT LEAST a two year run with the 13 Pro. If 5G and the new cameras weren’t convincing me as much as they are, the 11 Pro Max honestly would have hung on an additional year if not more. It’s still a good phone, nothing wrong with it! It’s just that unfortunately, I live in an area where 5G is going to be less of a nice-to-have thing and more of a required-to-have thing unless I want to hate myself.

My next phone achievement is to have one so long I need to pay for a battery swap. And I hope to achieve that with the 13 Pro.