James O'Neill's Blog

March 11, 2007

The mobility dilemma.

Filed under: Mobility — jamesone111 @ 7:41 pm

I’m on my third Orange C500 phone. The first got lost on a flight home from the Channel Islands at Easter 2005. It’s replacement died last November. I’ve got the phone pretty much how I like it.

  • Look and feel: I learnt how to customize the screen layout (it’s an XML file), and have my own screen backgrounds and colour schemes, plus I have the Halo Monks as a ring tone.  
  • Keyboard – I’ve got the Bluetooth Freedom Keyboard for it; though I don’t use it as much as I expected to partly because ….
  • I got One-Note Mobile working again only quite recently. Orange require a different signing certificate for applications to the one the office team used for One-Note mobile. I had to use a different unlock process for the newer phone.
  • Sat Nav. I have co-pilot to find places in the UK, and also have Pocket streets which gives me maps (but not instructions) when I’m in the US.
  • Music and Podcasts. The phone is my MP3 player – I had to get the adapter to use it in the car or with headphones. With 300MB or so free on the memory card after installing everything else there’s plenty of room.

However the design is 3 years out of date. New phones have better screens, support push e-mail, have Wifi. I expect to see a lot of Microsoft people toting the newly announced Orange E600 before long. My dilemma is do I get one too ? Why ? Because there might be something better around the corner.  As a major customer Orange give us some hints about what they’re thinking, but often that is “We haven’t ruled it in or out”. Lots of different form factors are coming out of HTC, but unless and until it goes in the right bit of Orange’s catalogue nothing is certain. And it’s what you can do with different form factors which has interested me since 2000 when I got one of the first iPaq devices in the country. I think about this as six axes.

  • Display. Sort of goes without saying but you can do more with a bigger display. The latest phones have the same resolution as my first ipaq.
  • Input. Stylus input PDAs, Vs Mini-QWERTY Keyboard PDA or phone, Vs Micro-QWERTY phones, Vs 4×3 keypad phones with T9 text input, Vs external keyboards. Without good input, documents are effectively read only.
  • Connectivity. If the display and input makes me want to download documents – then is GPRS enough or do I need 3G ? What new scenarios would Wifi on a phone enable ? Does WiFi reduce need for 3G or vice versa ? 
  • Storage  Quantity isn’t the issue it was: I can get Micro-SD cards up to 2GB today which means I can take as much music and as many documents as I need, but how easy is to get stuff on ?
  • Portability not just how small and light is the device but how long can it go before it needs to be re-charged.
  • Applications and OS. What can I do beyond making calls. Will my Sat Nav work ? How good is the mail client ? Is support for Office built in editors or a bolt-on viewer ? After reading Jason I’m pretty convinced by Windows Mobile 6.

Phones and PDAs have converged, and in the Mobile 6 there is precious little difference (a touch screen and Remote Desktop client according to this post of Jason’s). The only Windows Mobile devices that Orange have with 3G (today) are PDAs, but for me the greater portability of the phones is more important. Orange’s page for the E600 says it is “only” Windows mobile 5, they haven’t said anything about upgrades to 6 – otherwise I’d take it and that would be that. If I don’t, the HTC S710 (aka Vox), isn’t far away; a search for ‘Orange HTC Vox‘ showed HTC have already announced that Orange will introduce it as the “E650”. Would it’s slide out keyboard be better ? It’s too small to touch type and the E600’s thumb pad might be better besides, if that’s important, why not go for the PDA Option) . How long would I have to wait… by the time it’s available the 3G version will be imminent (the Wings or S730) with GPS receiver built in. This shower of questions shows that things are getting silly: I’m on point of saying I’ll wait for a device which might never be available, for the sake of 3G – which I said I could do without and integrating GPS which I’ve got already as a standalone device !

Choice is good, of course – but doing nothing offers the chance of better choices in the future, and always will. Too many choices can result in the inability to decide…

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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