iPhone 4: Cool, but can we get a phone app for that?

iPhone 4: Fancy, but still needs a phone appAll "i"s today were on Apple's Steve Jobs, as he made the announcement everyone in Techland pretty much expected for weeks now at WWDC 2010: the new iPhone 4 is coming.

And yes, as an Apple guy, I'm fairly excited by all the new bells and whistles, as reported by our sister site Engadget: a larger battery, a forward-facing camera and Face Time video chat among them.

That said, excuse me if I yawn. Or scream. Not that you'll be able to hear either if you call me on my iPhone 3Gs.

Lest we forget, tech-savvy boys and girls, that the second syllable in smartphone is "phone," And I'm fairly amazed that Jobs did something akin to what absent-minded professors do when they stroll out of the house contemplating world-shaking equations, but remain blissfully unaware that their flies are wide open.

For as long as AT&T remains the telecom carrier for the iPhone 4, you might as well buy the one accessory they don't sell at the Apple Store: a tin can and a string.

For months now, I've been keeping a list of all the places my iPhone doesn't work well, or at all, in my home town of Chicago. And I'm sad to say that list is pretty damn long -- longer than the places where it does work. Dropped calls, lack of service, or having my voice transformed into Peter Frampton's talking guitar solo from "Show Me the Way" are the rule of the day.

Let's use appropriately archaic language, shall we? My iPhone 3Gs worketh not at my favorite coffeeshop. It worketh not at the school my kids attend. It worketh not for most if not all of the phone interviews I do as a reporter.

And least of all, it worketh not in my own house, meaning I have to maintain a land line. Where's the smoke signal app when you need one?

Oh, how I prayed that perhaps Jobs would get this, and announce that Verizon would become a carrier for the new iPhone. But without that day coming, I presume thousands will continue to to rely on the wiles of young hacker-programmers like George Hotz (a.k.a. Geohot, author of the Blackra1n jailbreak for iPhone that allows you to run it on Verizon or any other carrier.)

Now 20 years old and cute as a button he my be, but Hotz and his jailbreak promptly fried my phone to bits ... so I'm not going that route again. But there remain many cell phone stores across the land -- including quite a few in my own neighborhood -- that advertise "WE JAILBREAK iPHONES" right on the front door as you walk in.

Not that I want to steal any of Jobs' thunder. Does the new iPhone have some sexy bells and whistles? Hell, yeah. So agrees Steve Gustafson, a Chicago-based Mac expert. "It looks great," he says. "But no announcements on any new networks? That's surprising."

Gustafson is among the many who speculate that perhaps Apple is negotiating behind the scenes to allow other carriers onto the iPhone. They almost have to, he thinks, before the AT&T backlash starts to hurt the company's reputation. You know: Like a 750-pound albatross around the neck of that dude who used to be the Mac guy in the Apple commercials.

Gustafson says that among his clients, "At best, people find AT&T usable and acceptable, and at worst they hate it. They can't get a signal, complain about dropped calls, can't connect to voice mail, can't make calls and don't have any reception where it's needed."

That would be me in the "at worst" category. One thing that I did discover that helps: the popular Mophie Juice Packs that prolong battery life hurt the iPhone's reception where signal is thin. Pulling the Juice Pack off will restore some signal strength.

That said, it's hardly a cure-all. Yes, my iPhone that can shoot videos, take pictures, call contacts with one touch, record voice memos and give me a back rub if I set it on vibrate.

But as a calling device? I was doing much better with my old flip phone from 10 years ago.

Tin can and string, anyone? Or maybe there's an app for that.
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