What better way to spend a cold rainy Saturday in Seattle than shopping for a new iPhone 5?

Actually, I can think of a number of better things to do with my time than brave the malls during the holiday shopping season.

Like going to the dentist.

You see, I’ve got an aversion to shopping malls, and shopping in general. Simply put: I hate it.

But it was time for our family to upgrade. My wife’s iPhone 3GS, an old hand-me-down, was on its last legs. With a cracked screen and unable to accept incoming phone calls, it was time for an upgrade.

This shopping trip actually started in my driveway … on the phone. Curious about Wal-Mart’s $127 promotion for the 16GB iPhone 5, I called two area Wal-Marts. (Yes, my wife gave me the lecture about how Wal-Mart plays a role in killing both small and big businesses, an especially touchy subject for our family since we both hail from Wooster, Ohio — the former hometown of Rubbermaid. See: Is Wal-Mart Good for America?).

I didn’t think the Wal-Mart promotion would extend to the heavier duty models, the 32GB or 64Gb iPhones that I wanted. But, I nonetheless, thought I’d do a little price comparison before hitting the road.

So, with the family in the car waiting for this festive holiday shopping trip to begin, I called the Wal-Mart in Bellevue’s Factoria neighborhood. The customer service representative was helpful, asking which carrier I wanted. I told him AT&T (more on that below) and he promptly notified me that they were sold out. Furthermore, he mentioned the most dreaded words in shopping: long lines.

With that info in hand, I then called the Wal-Mart in Lynnwood. After about five minutes of waiting to get connected to the mobile department, I hung up. Wal-Mart was off the table for me — thus eliminating a potentially thorny ethical dilemma.

So, with the family cruiser packed, we set out on our drive to Northgate Mall where I’d have three options to peruse iPhone 5s (Best Buy, Target and the AT&T store). Knowing that this voyage would likely not end well, my wife bluntly asked: “Do you really want to do this?”

No white iPhone 5s were in stock at Target.

Yes, I did. We didn’t have anything else planned, and I thought I had done a good job of mentally preparing myself for the day.

First stop: Best Buy.

With laser focus, I found the mobile kiosk. Amazingly, the line was short. However, they did not have my first choice— the 64GB device — in stock. Since I use my phone as a reporting device for photos, videos and audio interviews, storage capacity is a big deal. In fact, I had started to run out of capacity on my 32GB iPhone 4, and with the more powerful camera on the iPhone 5, I thought I’d be in better shape with the Ferrari of iPhones.

I decided to move on, knowing I could come back to Best Buy for the 32GB if all else failed. Total shopping time: 5 minutes.

Next up: Target.

Luckily, Target is just a short elevator ride away from Best Buy. So, with my son in my arms and my wife tagging along, we headed to the upper floors.

I had only recently learned that Target carried the iPhone when a colleague arrived with one in the office, telling me of his own rather painful shopping experience at the downtown Seattle location.

Amazingly, there was also a short line in the mobile department, and I quickly set out to find if the 64GB device was available. The manager took a look in the back store room, and emerged with a black 64GB iPhone 5.

It was the last one in stock. The white iPhone 5 was already sold out, which wasn’t a big deal to me.

So, why did we limit our carrier choice?

Our family actually could have switched, but I decided to re-up with AT&T. Now, I know what a lot of you are thinking out there.

But, one of the things I love about the iPhone is the ability to toggle between voice calls and apps simultaneously, checking the calculator or email while continuing a phone conversation. (Yes, I do still use my phone occasionally for voice communication).

That functionality, from what I’ve read, is not available on Sprint or Verizon’s LTE Network. Given that, along with the fact that AT&T’s network has gotten better in my experience, I decided to stick with them for another two years. (In fact, I actually used the simultaneous phone call and mobile  browsing capability when on hold with Wal-Mart, multi-tasking away by researching terms like “iPhone 5 deals Seattle.”)

The Target sales rep put the hard sell on the $100 extended protection plan, Apple Care+.

“Say, for example, that this thing goes swimming,” he said while pointing to my new iPhone 5. “If you want another 64(GB), that’s $900.That’s why the $100 for the Apple Care is not too shabby.”

I opted to skip the program, though the Apple Care program has proved useful with my MacBook Pro since it took care of a one-time power cord issue. Guess I’ll just hope my son doesn’t toss the new phone in the toilet. (What do you think? Should I have added Apple Care+?)

Without Apple Care+, my total bill came to $382.14, with taxes. (Excluding the puzzle and memory card game that my wife picked up in the toy department of Target. It also excluded a $40 iPhone 5 case that I ended up buying at Best Buy).

Total shopping time: 45 minutes.

That wasn’t too bad, and I made it through the mall with only a few bouts of surliness. (My wife will likely disagree with that statement).

My initial impressions of the iPhone 5 are positive. I did struggle a bit with setting up my two Gmail accounts, encountering some issues because of the Google 2-step verification system that I had created. I’ve also hit some roadblocks with getting the most recent versions of my apps downloaded on the new phone, but that’s a relatively minor deal.(Why do I have to resign in to Pandora?)

The iPhone 5 isn’t revolutionary by any means, but it is lightning fast. And the camera, something I use often, is far superior from the old iPhone 4 that I was using (and has now fallen into the hands of my wife).

In many ways, even though I’ve moved to the iPhone 5, I think her upgrade to my old phone is the bigger deal in our family.

The only thing: Her phone now works, which means she no longer has an excuse for not answering my calls.

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  • Puzzled

    Not sure what this guy “saved”. Cudda just ordered the same thing, same price online. And by now, after 100s of reviews, we know all about its features.

    • johnhcook

      Yeah, I could have purchased online, and probably have gotten the same price, perhaps even cheaper. The fact is, once I get my mind set on buying something, I immediately need to make the purchase. In other words, I can’t wait around for shipping.

      • Guest

        Same way mysel

    • http://twitter.com/sib1013 Scott Blanksteen

      If he had ordered it online at AT&T or Apple, it would have cost $399 + tax, or about $439, in Washington. So, at least compared to that, he saved > $50. Target doesn’t seem to carry the 64GB model online, or maybe they’re just not in stock.

      • johnhcook

        Whoa, good to know Scott. So I actually saved some money! I thought readers would be jumping in here at this point to tell me what an idiot I was for buying at retail because someone found some smoking hot deal online that I didn’t know about. That makes me feel better. But I am still wondering if I made the right choice on not getting Apple Care+.

  • http://www.compassionateactionnetwork.com dakini_3

    John what I am interested in knowing is HOW you like the Video on that unit. I am currently using an HTC One X which *I love* for Video & Photos. However, this handset has a terrible battery life and on outstanding issue receiving Text Messages – HTC says its an ATT issue, ATT says its a hardware issue. Bottom line – I love love love Droid world and its easy integration into my Google Apps, however the HTC handset, which can boast amazing Video/Audio/Picture taking capability is not robust enough in either battery life or basic communications to support a serious user. Looking forward to the report back on your Video experience. PS *I ALWAYS buy Apple Care for handsets!* … I’ve had two prior iphone handset failures.

    Happy Holidays to you and your family. Jeris Miller

    • johnhcook

      So far, I love video on the iPhone 5. Far superior to my previous iPhone 4, which I stuck with my wife. :) I’ve not given video enough of a test to give a full review or endorsement, but compared to what I had before, it is way better. I don’t, however, know how it compares to the HTC One X.

      Also, one thing I am liking about the new iPhone 5 is that the speaker quality is way better. Got to say, this was probably one of my biggest beefs with the iPhone 4, so I am glad they, at least here at first listen, appear to have fixed that.

    • Taylor Soper

      Nice post, John.

      Man, people love these types of personal experience stories similar to Todd’s Surface Diary. Very relatable and honest.

      Also, if Emily has time, she should write more female-focused, geeky tech stories. Liked her post, and it was good seeing girls comment. I think there’s an opportunity there.

    • http://WiredPen.com/ kegill

      Jeris, I can’t speak to a hardware comparison – but this was shot in low light with no external mike: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fYe3_HhwPk And I have amazing video from Seattle Rock Orchestra’s Led Zeppelin show that I’m happy to show you (but I don’t have online for obvious reasons – I shot the video because Mike was in Oregon).

  • okkimoto

    Best Buy has a $50 off plus a $25 gift card promotion on iPhone 5’s right now. And not to mention their price match guarantee. So if a competitor (online or a store) or even Best Buy itself drops the price down, rest assured you get the adjustment necessary. Best Buy also ordered my phone for me and when they got it in the called me and totally helped me out. I purchased their Geesk Squad Protection that covered accidental coverage, the Apple Care plus was a little cheaper but what they don’t tell you is that they charge you a deductible for every incident (damaged) that you turn in your phone for. And also Appl Care plus limits you to 2 or 3 incidents (damage) a year. The Best Buy one has no limits and I can choose to pay monthly (14.99 a month) or upfront for 2yrs. Very convenient and Best Buy has been really good to me. Actually when I bought my iPhone 4 from Best Buy and I dropped it they just replaced it for the iPhone 4S because they were out of stock on the iPhone 4. Good luck trying to run out of older models with the Apple Care, I’m sure they have thousands of old unwanted versions in their distribution centers.

  • http://WiredPen.com/ kegill

    Yes, you want the extended Apple Care for the phone. My 3GS went swimming (dog’s water bowl, last day of a week-long car trip). I loved the 4 but it was an expensive upgrade. And I love my iPhone5 – yes, the camera is awesome. The video is amazing -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fYe3_HhwPk

  • Pepe

    Just add computer equipment coverage to your home insurance. I got it for $18/year and cover all my iphones/ipads and computers up to $5,000 with a $50 deductible.

    • Mike

      Which home owner insurance do you have

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