Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mobile Phone - Reloaded

I should have read the signs. My ancient 5+ year old Nokia 5141 mobile phone had started doing funny things on its own, like changing the ringing tone so I wouldn't recognize it. Then the keyboard sometimes would come off but even that didn't seem to bother me, I could put it back in place in 2 seconds. Beside, why changing a phone that still works and for which I had already bought a spare replacement battery? A phone is just a phone, right?

But then the inevitable happened and while traveling to a conference last Sunday, I lost it in the airport at Heraklion. That was really a surprise because I (almost) never loose things! So I have to assume that the phone wanted to disappear, leaving no traces behind. Not even a proper backup of my contacts list (damn!).

It wasn't a great phone anyway, it had FM radio, a compass, thermometer and Db meter, but the UI wasn't as good as the previous Nokias I've owned, and you had to reset the alarm clock every single day (stupid). Ah, they don't build them like they'd used to! My first Nokia 6110 was a fantastic phone, I've used it for 5 years without a single problem. Actually I still have it somewhere! (hm, should I fall back to it?)

I'm sure by now you've realized how dead boring I am when it comes to my choice of mobile phones. My requirements are basic: make calls, text messages, don't break. I wouldn't even switch outside of Nokias so that I don't have to learn another UI (funny because I worked for Motorola for a period!).

Then, you had all those smartphones that pretended to be small computers but failed miserably in one way or another. Their underlying platforms had to change so frequently that didn't make sense to me to try understand it, unless you were in the business: Symbian, RIM, iPhone OS, Windows CE/Mobile, webOS, SavaJe, Linux, etc., etc.

However, the last couple of years something did change: first 3G data networks started becoming cheaper and second Apple produced the iPhone and showed the world how a true smart phone should look like. Apple essentially set the standards in terms of UI abilities and hardware specifications. But in the typical Apple/Microsoft sense, they also went ahead with full control of the platform and everything build on top of it. You build an application and Apple might like it for inclusion in the AppStore.

As a user I'd love the iPhone for what it is, a fantastic high-end gadget and tool, but as a developer I just wouldn't buy in the Apple vision as a long term technological investment. And so far there didn't seem to be many alternatives, so the majority of my colleagues own one (along with many others that look at it as a fashion item). Well, that doesn't have to be anymore, we have now more open choices.

Android phones have reached a critical point where the platform is beginning to mature and the supporting devices are good enough to be able to compete head-to-head with the iPhone. Coupled with the versatility of Java, I think we are past the tipping point for Android in the smart-phone space. Android is at around 5% of the market now, but I expect this to change - drastically.

Or to see it from another perspective, if the "cloud" is the new computer and the smart-phones are the new-age entry level terminals, who's in a better position to shape the smart-phone space? I'll leave that as an exercise.

And so with the disappearance of my old phone the planets have eventually aligned and it was time for me to move on. I've bought the HTC Legend (look here for a nice review). It's one click cheaper from the top range HTC Desire (with the very-large-for-my-tastes screen and the faster processor), but it's equivalent in every other sense. I've already started to love it so you'll probably hear more about it from me.

The old dog is finally happy to learn a couple of new tricks.


Since my contacts list on the old phone is gone for good (what happened to that backup?), please do text me with your details if somehow I need to be contacting you, TIA.

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