I’m in the market for a new smartphone. As I look over the market for cellphones, I’m excited by what I see. But I’m disappointed in several areas.
First, let me fill you in on some history.
For many years, I used Samsung flip cellphones. They were great. Small, reliable, simple to use. At the time, I was swimming against the stream — everyone else was singing the praises of Nokia’s products. I had owned a Nokia candybar phone for a while, but once I switched to Samsung I was done: Samsung’s flip phones were a pleasure to use.
I gave up my flip phone once text messaging became a mainstay of cell phone use. The T9 text entry on the flip phone was abysmal. And the WAP web browser was pretty bad, too. That was the point when I decided to upgrade to a smart phone.
At that time, my co-workers were all using Palm Treo’s. I had owned a couple of Palm PDAs, and I wasn’t convinced that a Palm powered cell phone would be reliable or powerful enough. And I just wasn’t a fan of the Palm interface — it was fine as a PDA, but I didn’t trust it for use as a cellphone.
My co-workers thought I was stupid for buying a Blackberry — they essentially said so in front of clients, too. But I had spent some time in the Sprint stores playing with the Blackberry interface, and it was clear I would have a learning curve, but it had a full physical QWERTY keyboard and could load apps to extend functionality. Several years later, I’m still using the same model of phone, the Blackberry 8073e.
The 8073e has been a fantastic phone. I can operate it entirely with one hand, and it has the best speakerphone performance I’ve experienced with a cell phone. The only thing I can say bad about it is the web browser sucks. Everything else has made this my gold standard for how a smart phone should function. And, funny enough, just a couple of months after I purchased my Blackberry, my co-workers ditched their Treos for Blackberries. Of course, they had to get more recent models than I had — “Ooo look, a trackball!” — but I was happy thank you very much with the model I was using.
Enter the iPhone. This game-changing cell phone really rocked the cell phone market, bringing handheld computer functionality, true web browsing, and downloadable applications through the iTunes App Store. So my co-workers decided everyone needed an iPhone. I wasn’t about to turn that down, so for the last year or so I’ve been carrying around two cell phones: one for home, one for work. No doubt, the iPhone is sexy and fun to use. But it isn’t perfect.
The iPhone is great at everything, except for use as a phone. True web browsing using Safari: fantastic. Seemless integration with my desktop: flawless. Tons of cool, entertaining, and useful apps to download and play with: oh yeah. Use as an iPod: serviceable. Use as a phone: horrible. I’ve visited the AT&T stores a couple of times, and complained that I can’t use the cell service — 3G or non-3G — when I’m at home, and they say I’ve got towers all around me. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work. And that is a shame. Sorry, Apple — AT&T let me down on that count. And if I can’t use my phone as a phone, that is a dealbreaker. Oh yeah, no laptop tethering modem, at least not now and probably not later without an extra monthly charge. And I HATE HATE HATE the on-screen keyboard. I could probably live with the on-screen keyboard if cell service worked at home. But as it stands now, with AT&T the only carrier, I’m not switching to the iPhone to replace my personal phone anytime soon.
New to the smart phone market is Google with their Android platform. I’ve been eyeing the HTC Hero, which looks interesting, but I really want a physical QWERTY keyboard! The Motorola Droid isn’t available on Sprint. The Samsung Moment is on Sprint and has a slide-out keyboard, so I need to visit the Sprint stores again and investigate that one more fully before making a purchase decision. Unfortunately, no tethering with any Android phone, at least not without hacking, which I’m just not interested in getting involved with. I want my phone to just work, not just get bricked because I tried to jailbreak it or just lose functionality because my hacks got overwritten by a system update. On the plus side for Android is the fact that I’m a huge Google user — integration between a Google phone and my Google apps would be sweet…
So that brings me back to Blackberry. The Tour and the Bold both look very tasty. Full QWERTY keyboard, software I know will just work, and the web browser is much better than the one on the phone I have now. And tethering is available without hacking the phone!
If I could live with on-screen keyboards, I might suck it up and get the iPhone or the HTC Hero. However, the Blackberry Tour or Bold seem to offer everything I want in a smart phone, even if they aren’t the hot, sexy technology right now.
So these are my options. And it is a wonderful thing to have options. The downside is no one phone gets it all just right.