Lifehacker has a great post up exploring how you can use an iPod Touch as a replacement device for an iPhone. The idea is that a new iPod Touch is cheaper than a new iPhone 4G and running things this way could save a lot of money. Noting that the hardwear and functionality for both is now identical in the 4G versions, with the exception of the iPhone being a phone, Adam Dachis walks through the things that you need to make this a money-saving reality. All that’s needed is a 4G iPod Touch, a VoIP app like Skype, Fring or Line2, a constant wi-fi connection, and a headset that can work for the iPod. Wi-Fi is easy at home and work, but a mobile wi-fi hotspot like Verizon MiFi or Clear is needed to make this actually work. Of course, adding the data plan for a mobile wi-fi device actually is where the bulk of your costs come with this setup. Dachis writes:
$10 a month seems pretty reasonable for just Line2 phone service, but if you want contant connectivity, throwing in $70/month for the Verizon MiFi is a lot. How exactly is this better than just buying an iPhone? Well, if you get the cheapest, most limited plan the iPhone offers it’s not—you’d actually be spending $10 more by getting a MiFi and using Line2 on your iPod touch. If you get AT&T’s unlimited plan for iPhone, however, you’d save $45 per month by using a MiFi and Line2 on your iPod touch. Here’s the breakdown:
So basically you can pay $10 per month more than the cheapest iPhone data & phone costs, but get a massively larger data, SMS, and talk minutes pay-out. Or you can save $45 per month from the unlimited iPhone option that people who find this post appealing likely already have.
The only other big knock that I see with this setup is that the battery life on a MiFi is not that good, while adding another device you have to worry about charging:
Battery life, however, is a bit of a problem. The iPod touch will last you all day and then some, but the MiFi will not. If you’re lucky, you’ll get four hours out of the MiFi before it quits on you, and a little over three is more likely. On the plus side, you can purchase an extended battery to give you a day’s worth of use, but that’ll set you back an extra $100 and add a bit of bulk to the wonderfully slim MiFi. If you primarily use the MiFi in your car, however, you can always charge it with a USB adapter for your car’s power port.
Another downside to using a MiFi for your connectivity is that you have to carry around and charge two devices. The advantage of having your connection separated from the iPod touch is that you can leave the iPod touch in your pocket and place the MiFi elsewhere, allowing you to get a better signal without having to adjust your position. The MiFi (with the standard battery) is also ridiculously slim. Combined with an iPod touch, they’re about as thick as an iPhone in a case. This isn’t necessarily the most elegant solution, and it’s not without it’s problems, but all of these sacrifices can save you a lot of money on your monthly cellphone bill, so they’re worth some consideration.
For this swap to work, you have to have a functioning MiFi with battery life. If you’re not on wi-fi, the substitution of an iPod for an iPhone stops working, as you can’t receive or place calls or texts.
I think more than anything, this sort of substitution is a fun proof of concept. Yes, you can save some money by going this route. But you also will be creating a more complicated mobile phone setup by taking a one device solution and turning it into a two device solution. That might not be a problem if you don’t mind carrying an extra device, but it shows that saving dollars here requires adding more stuff to the mix. It’s not so slick as to make me want to jump up and do it now, but I’d be curious to find out if anyone does make the switch and keeps it going persistently.