James O'Neill's Blog

November 27, 2009

Decisions Decisions, and “When is a phone not a phone ?”

Filed under: General musings,Mobility — jamesone111 @ 2:08 pm

Someone at work (no names, no packdrill) keeps telling me I’m set in my ways, and I keep disagreeing, since I’ve always thought it’s one of my personality traits to challenge the status quo (see Apparatchik vs Autistic). But I’ve been forced to confront my own conservatism when it comes to phones.

I’ve had my E650 since April 23rd 2007. Our phones normally get replaced after two years, but we wanted to make Windows mobile 6.5 the base level for phones and so people renewing were asked to wait for the new phones to start arriving.  2 years and 7 months have been hard on my E650. Being shoved in pockets with coins and keys has done horrible things to the finish, and it’s been dropped onto hard surfaces on several occasions – even bouncing down a flight of concrete steps. When I get fidgety I play Bubble breaker, obsessively, 200 games without leaving my seat is not unknown (yes, yes, another Asperger’s type behaviour, don’t think I haven’t noticed). I’ve played just under 12000 games, and if a typical game involves 100 button clicks that’s well over a million key activations. The keypad is getting to the end of its working life.  I need 3G data only rarely but when do the E650’s lack of it is a nuisance. 

As Magritte might have said, this is not a phoneFor the moment we have a choice of 2 phones the Samsung Omnia Pro and the HTC touch pro 2 either would be a new form factor for me.The Samsung has a qwerty thumb-pad which isn’t as good for dialling numbers as a 4×3 keypad and not great for typing messages (some people – Blackberry users think this compromise is ideal. I don’t) and it can’t use a standard USB cable to charge. So I’ve ruled that out. The HTC can use a standard USB (although HTC have added the ability to output sound and video via extra pins), and has a slide out keyboard for messages and correcting documents. But no keypad on the front, and it has GPS integrated so I no longer need to worry about my bluetooth GPS puck; and the big screen should work nicely with co-pilot. It’s a nice piece of industrial design, and it’s had good reviews especially for the 480×800 resolution screen.I wrote a piece called the mobility dilemma before I got the E650, and a lot of it still applies. iPhone users seem to manage doing everything including typing messages by caressing the screen: the slide out keyboard removes my biggest objection to the iPhone design, yet after 17 years using phones with 4×3 keypads, some instinct says without one it’s not truly a phone. (“See: you are set in your ways” … “No I’m not, because of the next question”).  Why am I carrying a telephone ? These days I use my “mobile” more as a PDA than a phone – but it is designed to be a phone first. When I ring someone it is almost always using a saved or emailed number, so the lack of keypad  to dial from shouldn’t matter. My PC has replaced my desk phone thanks to Office Communications Server and communicator, so if the telephone isn’t the best template for a mobile device why cling on to it ? I’ve rationalized getting the HTC by telling myself I’m going to stop carrying a “phone” and go back to a proper PDA (I loved the original iPAQ back in 2001) – just a PDA which can do phone calls. I have a suspicion one iPhone user I know (she knows who she is) will say “A-ha you get it now. Phone calls aren’t the main function why not optimize for the other stuff”. Indeed “Phone” may turn into a throwback term like “dial” or “ring”. The order should go in on Monday and the experience should give me the material for for some more posts once it arrives.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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