Lessons for an iPhone Newbie

You don't know how you'll use an iPhone until you get one and most likely you'll use it a lot. So it's wise to pay up for more storage and make smart choices with a data plan.

Covering the iPhone for so long, I often forget what it's like for someone entering Apple's iWorld for the first time. But the truth is, there will be many iPhone newbies this holiday season.

My sister got her first iPhone last week after years of toiling with cheap cell phones running on AT&T. You know the ones, cell phones with tortuous text messaging and reading. She still thought of a mobile phone as a device chiefly used to make and receive phone calls. (Ah, such innocence.)

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"Is this a big iPhone?" (Not my sister.)

Apparently, she got sick and tired of everyone telling her to "tech up!" – and so she bought an iPhone 5.

To her credit, she had staved off the iPhone temptation largely out of principle. She'd catch me staring into my iPhone all the time and warn me of my Internet addiction and self-imposed solitary confinement. Most of all, she'd lament the state of our screen-driven society.

Well, Sis, get ready to be blinded by the light of the battery-draining liquid crystal display.

So what's this got to do with you, iPhone newbie?

Listen up, there are lessons to be learned. The first question she asked me was, "How much memory should I get?" The second question, "What kind of data plan do I need?"

Here are my answers:

My anti-techie sister just couldn't imagine buying up screen-filling apps, playing games or doing much more than text messaging on an iPhone. She had a relatively small collection of songs on iTunes. In all, she could get away with a 16GB iPhone.

The problem, though, is that no one really knows how they're going to use an iPhone until they get one. By the time they realize that they should have gotten a 32GB or 64GB version, it's too late.

My sister also travels a lot for work. She'd learn soon enough the magic of watching movies on a flight with her larger-sized iPhone 5 with Retina display. Movies cost memory. Music and videos take up a lion's share of memory, 5.9GB and 5.6GB on my iPhone, respectively. Put another way, 11.5GB of 18.3GB used.

She ended up getting a 32GB iPhone, which is a good thing, too, because she's been downloading apps and playing on her new iPhone nearly every night since she got it. Slowly but surely, she's becoming an iPhone addict. And if my sister can head down this treacherous iPath, then so can you. So spend the money and get the iPhone with more storage.

On the data plan side, my sister had heard horror stories of giant phone bills caused by exceeding data limits. She wanted an unlimited data plan. Of course, she couldn't have such a thing because AT&T squashed unlimited data plans for the iPhone some time ago.

(With AT&T's past unlimited data plan, I'm grandfathered in as long as I don't make any changes to my plan, such as adding the hotspot feature.)

For some reason, she wanted to stick with AT&T. There's absolutely no reason to cling to a carrier these days given number portability and no more time left on a two-year contract. Oh well. AT&T data plan options: 300MB for $20 per month, 3GB for $30, 5GB for $50.

I told her not to worry about not being able to have an unlimited data plan. In the last 10 months, I've used about 2.7GB of data for an average of 270MB per month. I told her to go with the 3GB for $30 plan. Of course, if she does get a giant bill, I'll be in big trouble.

Speaking of trouble, there's one more thing: Now that you've got your sweet iPhone, you're now a target for theft as smartphone swipers are on the prowl these days in urban areas.

So, dear sister, don't go playing "Angry Birds Star Wars" (which I know you're going to get sooner or later) without being aware of your surroundings, lest the virtual world and real world collide.

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