Friday, October 29, 2010

Phones: What Drove My Selection

OK, so I needed a new phone. What drove me to choose the phone I did choose?

Primarily, I use a phone as an internet device/PDA and not so much as a phone. I'm not a talker, and it irks me when I have to burn two minutes to retrieve a voicemail. I'm not worried about call quality or anything like that.

I do love email.

I am not interested in playing games, so processor speed isn't a big worry as long as it lets me type as fast as I can. I am not interested in streaming HD movies over 3G, or anything similarly bandwidth-intensive. I have 35/35 FIOS at home, two laptops and a HTPC for anything 'heavy'.

My main consideration for hardware was whether I should get a phone with a physical keyboard or not. I have mixed emotions about physical keyboards. They make the phone thicker, and I'm not always keen on the keyboard layout. I've never used a virtual keyboard long enough to get used to it. I have had a few people with Droids tell me that they use the virtual keyboard, even though they have a physical keyboard. In the end, I decided that I would go with a phone without a physical keyboard.

As far as OS goes, we have Symbian, WebOS, iOS, Windows Phone 7 and Android.
It seems obvious that Symbian has been totally outmaneuvered by iOS and Android and they are now trying to play catch-up with more modern OS designs. I suspect that Windows Phone 7 will also gain share mainly at the expense of Symbian. Nokia seems to have lost their way with smartphones, and my last two Nokia phones didn't stand up to my use very well, so I didn't even look at Nokia hardware.

When it launched, I was very hopeful for WebOS, but I was disappointed. (I've been disappointed by Palm for years and years, but that is a a topic for another blog post.) WebOS was too little, too late. I don't see Palm being purchased by HP as a very positive thing. WebOS might have a bigger future in printers than phones, and phones are where all the action is these days. If HP wants to sell a tablet with no developer support (because the developers are all busy writing for iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7), they can go ahead and try. WebOS will be a niche OS at best.

For me, Windows Phone 7 is too new to rely on. I have been using Microsoft products for over 20 years and the "wait until version 3" strategy is deeply engrained in me. Worse, I was very disappointed to read that OneNote Mobile, which ships with Windows Phone 7, does not fully support OneNote 2010. I use OneNote more than any other piece of software from the Microsoft Office suite. I already have a good deal of OneNote data up on my SkyDrive, and I'm not sure if what I have there is compatible. It is as if Microsoft is telling me to use Evernote.

(I don't want to have to wonder about what OneNote features I can use and what features I can't use. Additionally, this makes me feel like I'm paying Microsoft to use beta software. I can get weird, buggy software for free from lots of folks.)

I do not want to jump on the iPhone bandwagon. I think that Apple is the new Microsoft, or maybe AOL, but they keep pretending that they are not. (Microsoft is the new IBM. That's a topic for another day.) I don't think that Google is as hypocritical as Apple.

Android seems to have a good deal of momentum, as evidenced by Motorola's latest quarterly results. Android seems to have all of the important application categories covered as does iOS, perhaps without the same depth as iOS.

Android has the best integration for any of the data that I have which is hosted on Googles' servers.

I have been on ATT (and before that, Cingular) for many years. I talked to Verizon about switching carriers and I was disappointed with the monthly pricing, and on top of that I'd be paying $200 for a phone. Swapping carriers would have increased my costs by a $200-$300 a year.

Since I'm grandfathered into a reasonable monthly rate, I want to stick with ATT. The Android selection for ATT is anemic, so I went for an unlocked phone rather than locking into a contract in exchange for a mediocre but subsidized phone.

I spent quite a while looking over phones, capabilities, radio frequencies, etc. Eventually, I settled on a Motorola XT701. This is not a cutting-edge phone but, based on comments from Newegg and elsewhere, it should be sufficient for my needs and work well on the ATT 3G network. The XT701 does not have a physical keyboard, so I am making a bit of a leap.

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