Mobile Phone Wishlist

It seems that I’m either currently, or will soon be, in the market for a new phone. This is actually a fall-out effect from the marriage, as well as timing on getting my last phone, a T-Mobile Sidekick 3. As I’ve checked the notes I made when I last upgraded, I realized my 2 year contract extension is up in July. In fact, it’s up on July 4, Independence Day. There’s some sort of nice congruity to that.

Anyway, Cathy and I have been in the process of merging our separate lives, from bills for things like the landline & TV, to bank accounts, to now cellphones. After all, we already tend to the same network for coverage, and we’re each the primary person the other calls, SMSes, and IMs from our phones, and so it makes some degree of sense to stop paying for wholly separate plans, and start taking advantage of “family” plans. You know, since we’re now a family…

For me, part of the process involves looking back at what I’ve liked and disliked about my current and past phones, and what I’d like to see in a new one. In the interest of being more positive, I think I’ll mostly enumerate the things I’ve liked, and what I want in addition. With the SK3, I knew a lot of the restrictions going in, and while some of them I hoped would have been fixed in firmware updates, that never turned out to be the case.

So, what I’m looking for, in no real order, is:

  • GSM, most of the rest of the world uses it, I’d like to continue using it as well
  • Data connectivity such as GPRS or EDGE, because I really have gotten used to web surfing on a phone to look things up or just fill time while waiting somewhere
  • QWERTY keyboard, I’ve gotten used to having one, to the point where typing on a numeric pad is painful, in part because I use SMS a lot, and in part because I also want…
  • An SSH client, as there are times I’m not near a computer or Wi-Fi connection, and still need/want to access machines directly. Also, broadband where I live sucks and goes out in the rain
  • Wi-Fi, because there are times I am covered by a Wi-Fi signal, but have almost no cell reception, but don’t have a laptop with me (or I only have computers I don’t trust, namely ones I don’t have sole control over)
  • Bluetooth, because, well, it’s nice to not be tethered to an earpiece for hands-free calling, and my last 2 phones and current PDA have it
  • Decent battery life, I shouldn’t have to charge my phone every day if I’m not actively using it, and shouldn’t have to worry that it will completely drain if it’s sitting idle from a full charge in “airplane mode” (all radio transmitters/receivers turned off) in 2 days. My PDA lasts at least a week, if not more, with light usage on a single charge
  • PDA capabilities, as I’m getting tired of carrying around multiple devices to do everything I want/need to do to manage my life
  • Decent data sync, especially address books, calendars, reminders, etc, since I manage a lot of that through desktop apps (and use WebCal/iCalendar for calendaring, especially sharing with my wife and/or coworkers)
  • Expandable/removable storage, since nothing’s worse than running out of space. Carrying a few flash cards in a pocket takes almost no space
  • Somewhat open platform, so I’m not spending a small fortune on adding software. Yes, I knew this wasn’t the case with my SK3, and accepted it at the time, thinking I’d get around to qualifying for a developer’s key, allowing me to directly load apps, but I never seemed to find the time to write something ever-so-slightly more complex than a Java “Hello, world”, despite so many plans. It would also be nice to be able to get not-officially-sanctioned apps like the mobile Google apps or Opera Mini
  • IM clients, yes I’m addicted to IM, but it also seems to be the way I keep in touch with the majority of people I know. At least AIM and Y!IM, since that’s where the majority of the people I know reside. MSN Messenger would be nice, and a Jabber/XMPP client would be fantastic
  • Email, as I do a lot of reading/responding while killing a few minutes here and there. I’d really prefer IMAP4 (with SSL), but will settle for POP3 (with SSL). Non-SSL is likely a non-starter for me.
  • IRC, hell, let’s go for broke! This isn’t really a requirement, as I would likely just SSH into my remote server, and reattach to my screen session that’s always running irssi if I really needed to hop on IRC…
  • Media player, ideally something supporting WAV, FLAC, and Ogg Vorbis, though I can deal with MP3. I’m trying to consolidate devices, after all, and both my current phone and my PDA can both play audio
  • User-installable ringtones, since most every ringtone out there seems to suck, and the ones I can currently install on the SK3 really suck, since my tastes seem to be decidely outside the demographics they’re targetting. Why can’t I use something like the Imperial March from Star Wars for work-related calls, or some Billy Joel, the Beatles, Styx, or Nine Inch Nails, when I already have the CDs, have them ripped, and plan to listen to them anyway on the device?

Ideally, if Palm could release a GSM PalmOS-based Treo that had Wi-Fi (the Palm TX has been out for how many years now with Wi-Fi?), and wasn’t just another tired rehash of the Treo 650 or Treo 680, that would probably be an ideal phone for me, as my PDA is a Palm Tungsten|T3, so I have almost all the software I’d need/want, and could easily transfer over all my existing data. Alas, Wi-Fi at this point seems like a determining factor. I’ve considered the various Microsoft PocketPC/Windows Mobile/whatever it’s called this month phones, and I’m sort of lukewarm on the whole idea there. Sure, they’ve got the largest market segment right now, and even Palm is releasing Windows-based phones, but what little I’ve seen of the interface (and what lot I’ve read from people that have devices with it), makes me hesitant.

Symbian-based could be nice, I really liked my old Nokia 6600. Unfortunately, what I’ve heard of recent “advances” with the Symbian OS make me think that it’s diverging greatly from where I want to be, what with locking down the installation of 3rd-party software. I’m also wishy-washy on BlackCrackberries. I admittedly don’t have much of any exposure to them, so it could be entirely just my unfamiliarity with them. As for the iPhone, well, talk about locked down…updates that brick phones that people have liberated, software only installable through the just-announced App Store, and the requirement to use iTunes to even activate the thing? Maybe if iTunes were available for Linux, which will not be happening any time soon, or more likely ever…

Ideally, when we’re ready to switch, and both of us are off-contract, the OpenMoko will be in mass-production. It’s Linux-based, seems to have almost all the features I want (except maybe a keyboard), has a community already, and looks to be fairly extensible. Whether it will actually pan out or be available at that point, though, is anybody’s guess.

Looking at phonescoop, it appears that I’ve got a choice of a lot of Windows-based phones, some Symbian ones, a handful of Blackberries, as well as a few undetermined phones. Honestly, I don’t know what I’m likely to choose at this point. Maybe a few more months will produce a clear winner…


  1. Very interesting to a novice like me. I became aware of new features that are available, albeit I didn’t understand some of them. What would have been interesting would have been to have seen a priorty rating on each feature..
    eg..”essential”, very important, important, nice to have
    I suspect that categorising them like that would also help the author, as it would help him decide on the best of the bunch of phones offering. I suspect that no phone would have all the features he would like, and so categorising each part of his wish list would help him find the phone that is the best compromise. For example, the “essential feature” category would eliminate a lot of phones that had many features, but not THE one that is essential.


  2. It also would have been helpful to have a date on the article. Perhaps new technologies are now available that haven’t been mentioned in the article. etc… etc.

  3. Guy, thanks for the feedback. To address the points you made…

    Actually, there is a date on the post, apparently in the theme I’m currently using it’s at the bottom:

    This entry was written by emag and posted on March 6, 2008 at 10:09 pm and filed under …

    Though it’s a bit lighter than the rest of the text, so it’s pretty easy to miss.

    Also, the link to phonescoop has an “Edit search” link, which in this case goes to their “weighted” search page (and with all the weights that I put in for that particular link). There’s also a simpler “unweighted” search that just lets you enumerate features, but that wasn’t nearly as helpful, since some features ARE more important to me than others, I just didn’t feel like trying to come up with a definitive ranking when I was writing the blog post last night. 🙂

    As a brief followup, I’ve also been hitting Amazon, as well as the bigger GSM carriers’ sites (T-Mobile and AT&T/Cingular here in the states), but by far in terms of searching based on specific features, phonescoop is by far the best, with Amazon coming in second of where I’ve looked.

    Since my wife (that still sounds so strange!) deals with Blackberries at work, and has an older one through them, I’ve played with it a bit, but wasn’t too fond of the scroll wheel since it was basically 1-dimensional navigation. I’d expressed an interest to her in the Blackberry 8820, which she happened to actually work on today and suggested that we stop by an AT&T store so I could see if I liked it. It’s actually a lot nicer than the BB8700 that she has through work, as it has a scroll ball instead of a wheel (yay, 2-D nav!).

    I also looked at a few other phones, including the BB Curve 8310, the current Palm Treo 680, and some Windows-based phones. Interface-wise, I really liked the Treo, since I’ve been using PalmOS for 10 or so years, but it of course lacks Wi-Fi which I still consider *the* feature.

    The Windows phones, especially the Pantech Duo C810 was really neat, hardware-wise, with 2 separate sliders, one for the numeric pad and one for a keyboard, but I couldn’t really get past the Windows interface. Yeah, I’m probably really biased in that regard, but it just felt…clunky.

    The BB 8820 and BB C 8310 were fairly nice to navigate and play with, and also have added explicit “back” and “menu” buttons that made using them a bit less-confusing.

    I even, though I’m reluctant to admit it, picked up an iPhone to try out. Apparently I’m really NOT the target audience for the thing, as my very first comment had to do with all the fingerprints, and my second was something along the lines of “how the hell do I get off of this screen?” (the last person to use it had left it on some app, and it was non-obvious to me how to get back to the main icon page). It was sleek and shiny (and greasy) and had only one button (though not pressed for us before it left the factory, cf: Dilbert), and thoroughly and completely likely to be destroyed within a week in my pocket or on my belt.

    So so far the #1 contender is the BB 8820, for me. I’ve been thinking that, while a camera would be nice to have on the phone, I’m much more likely to make use of the Wi-Fi than the camera, especially since I specifically picked up a tiny 7MP camera as my “walking around” device (and use my dSLR for planned photo shooting events)…

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