I’m going to speak for everyone and say that the worst feature of the iPhone is its exclusivity with AT&T’s overwhelmed, under-loved network. Unless you have the guts to jailbreak (and don’t mind cruising on the vintage Edge network) you’re stuck cursing AT&T, waiting for the day the Verizon/iPhone rumors come true.
Stop reading those rumor blogs (which have been on repeat since 2007) and start setting up your Google Voice number, which will allow you to shave some precious dollars off of your AT&T bill and introduce your iPhone to some next generation features.
Google Voice is free, and lets you create a new number (of your choice) and link it to your current mobile number. Calls, texting, and voicemail are all possible, linked to both numbers. This is all done Google style; call screening, in browser texting (on your PC), voicemail transcription, and contact-assignable custom voicemail greetings make you wonder why no wireless carriers have implemented these great online features.
Now to the money saving- you can actually cancel your texting plan (saving you ~$20/month), and effectively rely on Google Voice and your data/wifi connection; just make sure to give everyone your new number. Another plus – over wifi you can easily text, even without service. By default, Google forwards texts to your old mobile number (you’d get charged for these) – but this is easily turned off, and you can access your inbox through the Google web App. While an official App Store app would be nice (Google doesn’t play those games), there are no real functionality limitations and it is amazingly fast for a webapp -probably the same speed as the native iPhone SMS app before the 4.0 update. There are no push notifications, but with the ability to email texts to a separate email address, this is not a problem. There is currently no MMS support, but there are many other (more efficient) options for sharing media.
Aside from eliminating your texting plan, Voice greatly enhances your texting and voicemail. Send and receive texts with your browser (using your keyboard!) – and your phone doesn’t have to leave your pocket. With the browser extension, texting becomes possible right on top of any web page. This makes it much more efficient, and much less distracting. While Apple’s visual voicemail is great, Voice takes it a step further, by transcribing and emailing voicemail right to your inbox. The transcriptions aren’t perfect, but they are easily decipherable, and are much more convenient than checking your voicemail traditionally. The audio is even embedded right into the email .
Google Voice is a pretty easy sell, saving you money on top of doing a lot more. When you create your number, make sure you think of a good word or two for your number to spell (you can search for a number by word) – that way you can tell everyone your number is 617-The-Dude (or something along those lines).