In the Market for a New Phone

26 04 2010

If you really want to get a geek going, ask them about their cell phone.  Phones have become so complex and people have become so connected that there is rehab available for addicts, and terms like ‘crackberry’ have achieved vernacular status.  I don’t think I need treatment, but I am pretty attached to my phone at all times, and I never feel the need to take tech holidays.  As a devout follower of the smart phone industry, I have decided that now is the time to start looking into upgrading from my 2-year-old HTC Touch (Verizon VX6900) to the next latest and greatest mobile device.  I will present my current impressions below, but I would love to hear the opinion of the audience, as I am far from set in stone in my decision thus far:

VERIZON

 Apple iPhone
-Announcement: June 22nd?

The Wall Street Journal seems confident that there will be a Verizon iPhone announcement in June, an idea that is very exciting to me as AT&T’s 3G coverage is notorious, especially downstate.  I’ve chided iPhone users for the past three years about the shortcomings of the iPhone, but in reality, it’s really because I was just jealous of what an amazing device it truly is, especially as the OS has advanced to include many of the original oversights that people complained about.  Still, the iPhone lacks two key features I am looking for: free GPS navigation and tethering.  I’d rather not have to jailbreak my phone every time there is an update, but I might consider it if those features never materialize, and that is assuming a CDMA version of the phone itself will actually materialize…

 

Motorola Droid
C|Net Review
-Available Now)

The Droid is a solid phone.  I thought Motorola was down for the count after trying to ride the Razr for what seems like a decade, but the Moto Droid is truly a solid phone.  I do miss not having a real keyboard for texting and e-mailing, and, to me, that is the major draw of the Droid.  What concerns me about this phone is all the drama surrounding OS updates (link) and the slightly older processor.  Again, these issues I might be able to overlook if I eventually decide that I cannot live without a physical QWERTY.

 

HTC Incredible
C|Net Review
-Available: April 29th

Verizon was supposed to get the Nexus One, but as it is looking now , it seems as if the Incredible will be sold in its stead.  The Incredible is essentially the Nexus One with a few minor, mostly cosmetic, alterations, and, unlike the Nexus One, there is a chance you might be able to actually play around with the device before purchasing it .  Set for a release date at the end of April , this HTC Android device has all the cutting-edge components available today, including a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, Android OS 2.1 with HTC Sense UI overlayed, etc.  The device even got C|Net’s Editor’s Choice Award this month.  It’s a solid phone, but is it really compelling enough?  I guess it lacks some of the gimmickry that turns me on to some of the other devices on this list, but I definitely still can’t wait to get my hands on one come the end of the month.

T-Mobile

HTC Touch HD2
C|Net Review
-Available Now

I have been watching this phone for a long time.  It finally has come state-side (was previously sold only in Europe), and I really think you need to see this phone to appreciate it.  It is simply gorgeous.  Its 4.3” capacitive touch display will just blow you away.  The interesting thing about this phone, and perhaps its ultimate downfall, is that it runs Windows Mobile 6.5.  Now, to be clear, I have been a steadfast fan of Windows Mobile despite basically everyone telling me I’m crazy, but that’s what I’ve used for the past 6 or so years, I know it inside and out, have come to appreciate it greatly, and from a hacking standpoint, it’s the fertile-est of soil.  What would have been fantastic, and in all honesty, would probably have already sold me at this point, would have been an announcement from either Microsoft or T-Mobile, that the HD2 would be upgraded to Microsoft Phone 7 when it debuts later this year; however, it seems that due to physical requirement constraints, that will not be happening.  An aside: Windows Phone 7 is also something worthy of checking out.  MS has totally overhauled its loathed and obviously outdated UI with Phone 7 to make it much more socially oriented as well as sausage-finger-friendly (link).  Finally, T-Mobile as a carrier is not strong in Albany- I don’t think I even know anyone that is part of the T-Mob come to think of it.

Sprint

 HTC Evo 4G
C|Net Review
-Available: June 13th

Announced at CTIA this year, the Evo will be the first 4G phone available in the States.  It will use Sprint’s WiMax 4G service, which, while having the largest 4G roll-out in the country, is currently not available in Albany or even New York City.  I find this phone truly drool-worthy.  It has the same dazzling screen and form factor as the HD2, but it will run Android’s most current OS instead of WinMo.  In addition, the phone has both an 8-megapixel auto-focus dual-LED flash camera on the back capable of shooting 720p HD video and a 1-megapixel front-facing camera for video conferencing or Skype.  Icing on the cake: it has a kickstand for watching TV shows/movies, HDMI-out for playing that HD video you captured back on your HDTV, and it works as a free mobile Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 8 other devices – simply stellar.  There aren’t too many drawbacks that I see here save for: the potential price, Sprint’s spotty service in Albany, and the possibility of a delayed release date.

Conclusions:

What phone is best for you really comes down to personal preference.  All of the phones discussed above are great phones for different reasons.  (Aside: as you might have noticed, there is nothing from RIM in the mix for me; I have nothing against BlackBerry (and in fact, BB’s are the only way to get hospital mail on the go as our IT department has disabled OWA), I just have little experience with them, and really want as full a web experience as possible on my device.)  So despite watching dozens of videos and reading multiple reviews, on the fence I sit.  For me, right now, it depends on how blown away I am by the Evo 4G; if not, I’ll probably wait for the now still mythical Verizon iPhone, as long as it’s not coming out in 2012…

But I’d like to hear your opinion as well!.. Thoughts?  Disagreements?

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2 responses

29 04 2010
MikeyR

I have to say the Evo is the first thing to come along that has actual tempted me away from the iPhone. These things aren’t phones anymore, they’re mobile computers that happen to have an IP address AND a Phone number. And like all things computing, my primary concern is speed: How fast of a processor, how much RAM, how fast of a connection. Secondary to all that are productivity features like camera resolution, quantity of multi-touch points etc. Tertiary to all my hardware concerns comes my desire for a satisfying web experience, and by that I mean: a desktop grade browser AND Flash. Aside from Apple’s assanine refusal to support a web standard that accounts for practically a third of the interactivity of the web, the iPhone has managed to stay near the lead in every other category, but the Evo blows the 3GS away. 4G, a front-facing camera, HD video, a full 1ghz snapdragon processor (as opposed to the 3GS’s ARM processor which, while rumored to be capable of 1ghz, is restricted to 800mhz) 512mb of RAM, AND Flash support? These specs rival my DESKTOP in 2001! Based on the legendary sneak-peek we got of the new iPhone (I refuse to call it the 4G, because it won’t be 4G unless AT&T has done some major overhaul to their infrastructure and managed to hide it from the world) it looks promising, but I’m waiting to see the implementation. Regardless, there’s one thing we KNOW it won’t have and that’s: Flash, so I’ll continue to have the same aggravating experience which drives an ever increasing wedge between me and my iphone, and it plays out something like this: Someone who’s taste in media I respect links content in a Tweet, I click on the link, wait for my hobbled processor and substandard 3G service to process and display the web page, at the center of which is the infamous blue Lego. It is the essence of the current roadblock to a satisfying mobile experience for me right now. While I recognize this is both an infrastructure problem and a hardware/software problem, If another wireless provider/hardware manufacturer partnership can give me the convenience, integration and stability of the iPhone and solve this problem the way I think the Evo will? They’ve got my money.

18 06 2010
robstak

Follow up: Went with the EVO and I love it. Android is a spectacular mobile OS and the screen is just a sight to behold. The camera takes the best pictures I’ve seen from a mobile device.

If I had to say negatives so far, two things: Battery life and Sprint.

The battery life thing is well-publicized, but I don’t think it’s as bad as everyone makes it out to be. I mean, think about it. You are constantly connected all day, powering a 4.3 inch screen, plus gps, plus bluetooth, plus wifi… it adds up. If I just leave data on I can make it through the day without having to charge, no problem, and, in the end, that’s all that really matters, imho.

As far as Sprint is concerned, my whole experience started off great. When I first went in on ?Sunday? They were sold out already, but the guy at the counter asked me for my contact info and said he’d keep in touch. I had very low expectations, but I complied. Two days later he called me and left me a message saying that he had found one in Clifton Park. Well, by the time I got back to him (this was iPhone 4G announcement day, and I was waiting to hear the big news before making any commitments), it had sold already. Damn. HOWEVER, the following day, he called me again! They had an extra one in Glens Falls and the manager went and got it and brought it down for me; I’m pretty sure I got the last EVO in Upstate New York at this point, lol.

Since getting my EVO, however, I have noticed that the coverage is just not as good as Verizon’s. In the hospital I get about one bar less, which is really not a big deal. A few times, however, I’ve noticed that I bump over to roaming when I’m indoors (I wonder if this has to do with the higher spectrum frequency that Sprint is on?). In addition to that, I was roaming the whole weekend I was at Schroon Lake at my girlfriend’s family’s camp, and THAT was really frustrating. When you are with Verizon, you basically forget what roaming is- if you don’t get a signal, there just isn’t one there for anyone, but now I have to deal with this small annoyance. I did call Sprint about it and they assured me that you get 300MB of roaming data included each month (at least with the EVO- it wasn’t clear to me that this benefit was NOT part of the $10/month premium data charge you pay for 4G that isn’t here yet).

So, overall, I’m extremely satisfied. The phone is both glorious and monolithic and I’d highly recommend one to anyone.

-Karl

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