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Richard Clegg

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New phone thoughts [May. 19th, 2010|11:05 am]
Richard Clegg
OK, so I'm very much in the market for a new phone. Because O2 consider me a "gold" customer (that is, I spend stupid amounts on mobile phone calls because of gotchas with local numbers, foreign multimedia messages and other things that I think are covered -- "gold" in other words is a synonym for "stupid and wasteful") I can get an upgrade early. Unfortunately, it seems like all the phones O2 offer right now are what technical people call "a bit cack".

I really had my heart set on a lovely N900 -- I've a ridiculous desire for a phone with the Maemo system and having had a play with one the other day, I'd really like one. However, it turns out O2 don't offer them or indeed any phone I particularly want.

Here's their list http://shop.o2.co.uk/mobile_phones/Pay_Monthly/all_phones/all_brands

Now then mobile phone experts (I know I have a few), for my purposes are any of these phones not crap? My current phone is an aging N95 8Gb and while I did like it it's aged enough that I'm starting to hate it. Symbian has really has its day as an OS.

Requirements for phone are:

1) Good camera (not necessarily brilliant but good) and ability to send picture messages.
2) Able to use wifi
3) Can use email (preferably better than symbian does) to an OKish degree.
4) Robust enough to stand up to living in my pocket with my keys.
5) Not massive/problematic form factor for carrying in pocket (probably not blackberry for example).
6) Reasonable calendar and organiser feature (preferably sync to desktop or gmail calendar).

Desirable for phone are:
1) Not entirely reliant on touchscreen (I don't like pure touchscreen interface hence N900 good)
2) Reasonable ways for me to write my own code for it should I want.
3) Good source of free apps.

I was looking at the palm but buying from Palm does seem like violating a corpse these days. Anyone techie got any comments on the usability of the HTC. WTF is an LG POP? Probably the right answer is to wait two months and switch to Vodafone where I can get an N900 free and also buy their SureSignal box -- but I'm impatient for shiny goods.
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: alexmc
2010-05-19 10:11 am (UTC)
Nothing helpful here but I'm keen to learn more since my requirements look almost exactly the same as yours.
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-05-19 10:23 am (UTC)
Do you have a current lead contender? The N900 looks my best bet, I like the fact it has a reasonable form factor and an actual keyboard and I love the idea of a linux-based OS with many open source components. I'm worried that the touchscreen won't be robust enough though.
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[User Picture]From: andrewducker
2010-05-19 10:26 am (UTC)
HTC Desire ticks all of my boxes, and will be being delivered to my home later today. I know a few people who have one, and they're all very happy with it. The only problem I see with it is that it's a touchscreen, which is going to put you off.
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[User Picture]From: thepaintedone
2010-05-19 10:48 am (UTC)
I really think that touchscreen is the way most devices will operate in the future. Some of the technology implementations I've seen are currently ropey, and there is a definite learning curve that needs to be overcome, but once you have the right tech and become comfortable wit how to use them I find it far and away the best small device interface to use.
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[User Picture]From: ladymoonray
2010-05-19 10:28 am (UTC)
I'm not usually a supporter of Vodafone because they cause me so much hassle at work (my personal phone is with T-Mobile), but Suresignal is an absolute winner. We use it here to boost signal in the basement, and it works brilliantly. At the moment Vodafone are the only company providing it, but I'm sure the others will catch on eventually.
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-05-19 10:53 am (UTC)
Yes, it's absolutely the sure signal that won me over. I have no idea why other companies are being so stupid not copying it.
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[User Picture]From: thepaintedone
2010-05-19 10:34 am (UTC)
From it's complete absense in your mail, I suspect this is not the phone you are looking for, but I can't recommend my iPhone highly enough.

It will meet all your requirements bar three.

4) Robust enough to stand up to living in my pocket with my keys.

The iPhone can be a bit fragile and a case or skin of some description should be taken as a must, rather than a nice to have. Especially as one serious knock invalidates your warranty forever. These are cheap and easy to get though.

1) Not entirely reliant on touchscreen (I don't like pure touchscreen interface hence N900 good)

It is of course completely reliant on touchscreen, but then I would argue that thier touchscreen is streets better than everyone else's. Certainly it's significantly better than any other I've tried and I actually now prefer the touchscreen keyboard to the physical keyboard on my work Blackberry, or any previous phone I've had. There's a learning curve, but once over that it's very useable. When I have to use other devices these days I find myself automatically trying to use the screen and getting frustrated at having to use clunky old buttons.

2) Reasonable ways for me to write my own code for it should I want.

Yeah, this probably isn't going to happen. It is possible, but you will need to enter the world of Apple to do so and then somehow get it into the App store. Unless you want to Jailbreak it that is. I'm not interested in that, but you may be. On the flip side, the iPhone has more apps than all the others put together and then some, so there may be less need to write your own.

The bottom line is that the iPhone is a really nice bit of kit, and providing you don't want/need to be too much of a power user, and are prepared to accept some of the odd compromises inherant in doing things 'Steve's way', it really is the mutts nutts. Put it this way, I've been a lifelong Microsoft weenie, and wouldn't allow the apple logo over my door on an almost religous basis, but this device has completely sold me and right now I wouldn't look at anything else.

If you really do want to do the power user thing, and don't want to go down the warranty nulling jailbreak route, it may not be the device for you, but I'd strongly advise trying one out (and for more than just a minute or two in the apple temple if you can), as IMO the upsides are a pretty heavy counterweight to the down.

In fact the only hesitation I'd throw your way is that were I buying now I'd be holding fire for the iPhone 4 which is due out next month.
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-05-19 10:58 am (UTC)
The iphone can't send picture messages either as I understand it. It can send emails with picture attachments but that's different and I like the ability to send a picture right now to friends who aren't smart phone enabled. Until my friends I share picture messages with are also email/phone enabled I lose that instant "here's a picture of what I'm seeing right now" thing.

The touchscreen thing may be a problem for me -- see message above but it may be something I can live with. I've owned a couple of touchscreen devices and I quickly became vexed with the lack of tactile feedback. To use a touchscreen you have to look at it (in my experience) where as I can text on my regular phone without looking at the screen.

The lack of free apps for the iphone also bothers me -- it's in the world of appstore bought and paid for as I understand it. With my nokia I can get the same stuff and not pay for it.
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[User Picture]From: sara_lou
2010-05-19 11:50 am (UTC)
Phil just got an N900 with vodafone and loves it. It looks really really clunky and not pocket-friendly to me though. But then I have been seduced by my shiny and completely predictable iPhone.
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-05-19 12:25 pm (UTC)
Ah... I'll chalk up a recommend for N900. The form factor for the N900 I'm fine with. The blackberry very square and wide thing might be annoying.
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[User Picture]From: hiromasaki
2010-05-19 01:00 pm (UTC)
I'm going to toss in another vote for the HTC Desire. I've its older brother, the Dream (but T-Mo US calls it the "G1") and I'm rather happy with it. I've been trying to not use the physical keyboard on my Dream as much as possible, and it's very frustrating in portrait mode, but in landscape it's just fine.

WiFi works fine.

GMail app is the bee's knees, but the regular mail app you'll likely want to swap out for a 3rd Party one. Calendar is just a synced copy of the GMail calendar.

If you're going to pocket it, I would suggest some kind of padded sleeve to keep scratches off the screen, but otherwise it should be fine. My G1 came with a padded sleeve, so I would imagine the Desire does too?

The other nice thing is the app store... They check each app for mal intent, and that's about it. Lots of free apps, lots of relatively cheap apps, and the apps are tied to your Google/Gmail account, so the purchases move from phone to phone.
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-05-19 01:02 pm (UTC)
The HTC dream with physical keyboard looks pretty cool though. Why are you trying not to use it? I take it the desire is "no keyboard"?
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[User Picture]From: aca
2010-05-19 03:40 pm (UTC)
Just go get an iPhone. You'll thank me later.
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-05-19 04:45 pm (UTC)
*laugh* I really really wouldn't.
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-05-19 09:10 pm (UTC)
Very attracted to android. The Dream was a keyboard android but I'm told not so good as it was new tech. I definitely like the openness of the android framework for devs.
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[User Picture]From: vin_petrol
2010-05-20 07:45 am (UTC)
Alternatively:

1) Get the most expensive phone on O2's list as your upgrade right now.
2) Don't even open the box. Leave it sealed. Sell it on ebay (BNIB).
3) Use the money you get towards buying a Maemo off ebay.
4) ...
5) Profit!

You will probably have to fork out the difference of "some cash", but then you get the phone you really want.

What sort of handset insurance deal do you have though? You'll need to at least be aware of the parameters of that.

Edited at 2010-05-20 07:45 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: andrewducker
2010-05-20 08:35 am (UTC)
That's a fantastic idea!

Can't believe I didn't think of it.
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-05-20 03:33 pm (UTC)
Someone earlier said they're great for email but less good (compared with iphone/android) for web browsing.
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[User Picture]From: randomstring
2010-05-20 04:28 pm (UTC)

Very ticky. A HTC Desire ticks all your boxes (it's what I intend to replace by E71 with shortly) but it's touchscreen.

Personally I'd rather have the nicer web/email/app experience and live with sligtly slower texting. As a device for txt/email and satnav, the E71 is hard to beat but it's symbian so no apps and the screen is too small for happy web browsing.
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-05-20 04:57 pm (UTC)
What do you mean "symbian so no apps" -- there's a huge number of apps for symbian -- they're just not controlled through a central store and you can write your own if there's something missing. When I want an app for my phone I google it and it's never failed yet to find a version which is usable and free. Admittedly some of the twitter clients are a bit shit but there you go. I certainly prefer the symbian app model to the iphone one. I'd also be moderately confident that there are actually MORE symbian apps than iphone apps, it's just harder to sort the gold from the shit.

(I remember friend with iphone being excited "ooh, I can play sim city on my phone" and being kind enough to not say "yes, I deleted it from my phone having played it to death a year before your phone came out".)
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[User Picture]From: andrewducker
2010-05-24 09:50 am (UTC)
Having had a week of playing with my Desire now, you don't want one. While the text error correction is great (correcting words to the one you most likely typoed, with user control over that) it's not as good as typing with an actual keyboard, especially on the move. I can certainly type as fast on a bus with my Nokia numberpad, and I'm fairly sure that that holds true even when not on the move.

It's absolutely lovely in lots of othr ways, but if text entry is your big thing then you don't want it.
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[User Picture]From: steer
2010-05-25 05:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks -- I suspected that would be the case. I'm pretty fast with predictive text and I strongly suspect will be much faster with that than with a "touch" keyboard. I use my phone for texting more than anything and would probably use email just as much given a fast way to type them and a reasonable interface.
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