Smarter phones and the need for convergence

So, once again I’m coming up on buying a new gadget and I turn to you, the fantastic blogosphere. My thinking is getting a new phone, a smartphone.

Newton and Pilot

Now, let me first give you some background. I am an old Newton fan, Palm user and I’ve been sporting mobile phones since somewhere around 1997. I’ve tested several systems over the years, and currently use an iPod touch as my game device and PDA.

So, let’s first take a quick look at what I will not get: An S60 phone, or (gods forbid), a Windows Mobile phone. Sorry Nokia, I’ve used S60 and quite frankly I feel it would have been fantastic five years ago… I have a friend who just got a Nokia 5800, an I was not as impressed as I had hoped I would be. Windows Mobile? I just can’t stand it.

Blackberry was a contender ’til I had the displeasure to try one. I just can’t get my head around it, and the apps seems wicked expensive. So no, thank you.

What does that leave? Well, iPhone, Android and webOS. And here the questions starts to pop-up.

I have a relatively good grip on the iPhone, being a heavy iPod touch user. I like the OS, I like the apps, I’m drinking the Apple kool-aid and like it. But, I still want some apps to multi-task. Like web-radio, chat etc. I want to consolidate my messaging, mail, sms etc. I want it to integrate better with Facebook, Twitter etc. Though the Facebook app for iPhone is very nice. This leads me to consider other alternatives.

Android

Let’s start with Google Android. I am drinking tons of Google juice already. I love Gmail, Google Calendar, GTalk, Google Reader, Google Notes etc. I love Google and the kind of University type fun the often prove to have in droves.

The downside is Google is a very engineer-driven company. That makes it very cutting edge, but design is lagging in many ways. I mean, come on, very few Google services would win any beauty contest. Clean and simple, yes. Beautiful? Not really…

Android has suffered a little from this too. Enter HTC Sense. HTC seems to have made a great job with beautifying Android. However, this probably means you get a less consistent OS? It is, according to test on Engadget and Gizmodo also slowing things down. BUT, it is open, always connected and looks more fun. It is also much more customizable and I don’t care what Steve says (I know, the gods might smite me…) but some things on a phone SHOULD multi-task!

webOS

Palm is an old love affair with me. I’ve always loved their stuff, bar their Windows Mobile phones. webOS seems to be an awesome platform. Sort of mating Android with the iPhone and getting only the good genes! However, I’m still to test this in reality. They are not sold in Sweden yet, and it seems the Swedish operators have a very stand-offish position to Palm. It seems I could probably buy one from the UK, but still. It kind’a sucks.

Another thing with the Palm, is that both the Pre and the Pixi are using hardware keyboards. As a resident of a country with umlaut characters in the local alphabet, I’ve hated hardware keyboards for a long time. Software keyboards are a little tricky sometime, but at least I don’t need to press anything extra to get åäö!

Downsides?

The downside to both these platforms is I like using iTunes and only the iPhone syncs. Does this matter? Well, no. It seems Songbird has actually reached a level of maturity where I could live with it as my main jukebox. Calendar? Syncing via CalDAV and Google Calendar would solve that. Thank’s to open source and the cloud it would seem I could live with either.

But there is still the undeniable fact that the iPhone is very much more mature than the other two.

What is it I do not like about the iPhone. People go on and on about it not being open, in my opinion that is a non-issue in the long run. Phones and Apple have mostly been rather closed, and both are doing well. No, my gripes are of a different flavor. I am a self-confessed web 2.0 aficionado, and as such I am naturally a joiner…  This is where the iPhone lucks-out big time. It does not support convergence in any way. Ah, but it does, you might say. It supports MobileMe Sync and Microsoft Exchange. Ehh, yeah. One is something like $100 per annum and the other is distinctly corporate news. No, I mean I want on place to handle chat, sms, mms, email. Where I can see all my contacts no matter if they are on Facebook, Gmail, AIM etc., in one place. Palm understands this, and HTC seems to also be aware of this. Apple? As much as it saddens me, no. They don’t even include a flippin’ chat client! Also, more and more I am dependent on Google Calendar, and have to sync that with iCal for it to get on my iPod touch. Not convenient.

What to do?

The iPhone is a fantastic product, don’t misunderstand me. But I feel Apple is a little bit in their own world, and unlike when it concerns computers, their vision is not quite the same as mine. I guess I may be a fringe case, and I am painfully aware of the greatness of the iTunes App Store. But I do still have a very nice iPod touch. Arguably I could go with an HTC or Palm device and still have the best of both worlds?

What do you think? Where would you go, especially with these factors in mind:

  • The Android phones available in Sweden are priced the same as an iPhone 3G, and frankly I want the 3GS.
  • I have a very nice 8GB iPod touch.
  • Increasingly, I live in the cloud, not on my laptop.

Thobias Vemmenby

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Good writeup. I don’t think your position as a customer in the market is unique – unfortunately it’s unique enough for phone-makers not to pay enough attention to you. Anyway, interesting points. Look forward to seeing what the final outcome is.

    I’ll say this for the iphone:
    -Say you get an Android phone. What will you do with the ipod touch? Could you give it up? You *could* carry two devices, but you’d be marginally better off than you are now.
    – I’m pretty sure google calendars & contacts sync to the iphone no problems.
    – I know we’re not seeing push-chat-apps yet, but we should be soon. And when we do, they will do just as well as multitasking chat apps – but consume less battery life.
    – iphone battery sucks. But I’ll bet the others suck even worse. That’s the main reason apple didn’t put multitasking in there to begin with. Could be wrong though.

    Not to complain on the other devices – I’m sure they’re great in their own right, and in their own way. As an iphone user, I thought I’d mention those things in case you hadn’t considered them already.

    Reply

    • Posted by Thobias Vemmenby on September 11, 2009 at 10:14 pm

      Thank’s for the comment! I love it!

      1. I could carry two devices, yes. That is what I currently do. But obviously you shouldn’t have to do that. The ultimate goal would of course be to carry only one device.

      2. I haven’t searched around for it, but if you find a way to get iPhone OS to sync with say Google Calendar and preferably Facebook without using a mediating computer, that would be fantastic.

      3. Yes, the battery life. I’ve been thinking about that. Is that just a percieved thing? All the tests quoted by Apple seems related to Microsoft Windows Mobile. I’ve heard Android’s not the best in class on battery, but it seems webOS mostly gets the same life iPhone OS does. Maybe that has more to do with MS than the others? But essentially yes, that would solve it. BUT, I would still want to be able to run web radio in the background (you know like Pandora, AOL Radio, ShoutCAST, Y! Music). But I admit, it’s a minor thing.

      4. Batterylife on a feature phone sucks to, if you use it as a smartphone (ie. checking email, using gps, surfing, shooting pictures and video etc.). When I “use” it I usually squeeze a day out of my Sony Ericsson C702. So that is about what I expect.

      I have been thinking about this quite a lot. But so far I’ve seen no REALLY compelling reason for either. Maybe it’s just me wanting to not be the number one Apple fanboy in everyone’s books… 🙂

      Reply

  2. Lol. Try as you might, you will always be the apple fanboi – that stigma never goes away 😛 Some people looking to buy computers, I’ve advised *not* to get a mac. When they still do, and stuff goes wrong, they call me wondering why I told them to get a mac. X-P (to be truthful, they’ve all been pretty happy with the choice in the end).

    Google sync uses the exchange protocol, and hence works with iphone (as well as others
    http://www.google.com/mobile/products/sync.html#p=default

    RadioBox is a nice app for internet radio. But, as you point out, it doesn’t run in the background. True, apple would need to open up multitasking to allow that.

    Reply

    • Posted by Thobias Vemmenby on September 13, 2009 at 11:43 am

      Yeah, the “stigma” is hard to come by. The thing is you seem to get it just by owning a Mac and nowing stuff about computers. Someone in class called me the High Priest in the Church of Mac the other day right out of the blue! I don’t get it… 😛 I don’t really mind, though I would like to know why everyone seems to naturally assume I am such a fanboy! 🙂 It’s fun, but I would like to point out I’ve always been a fanboy in the David Pogue way, if they deserve to be slammed, I will. For instance, there are several Linux flavours I like, and Windows 7 seems to me to be the most attractive Microsoft product since Office 98 for Mac!

      Anyway, I’ll check that exchange sync. I’m syncing via iCal on the Mac using CalDAV which works fine, but I can’t edit those calendars on the touch. And frankly, Google Calendars mobile interface still has some way to go to be really usefull.

      I haven’t tried RadioBox, I use ShoutCAST and Y! Music mostly, but as you too say, Apple need to allow some apps to multitask I think. In many ways this is the original Mac all over again. Jobs didn’t want it to multitask, for memory but also for no particular reason. The coders managed to persuade him to allow deskornaments, which were like widgets you could run on the side, but they weren’t full on apps. Reminds me of push notification. The push stuff is greats, as were the ornaments, but some apps need to multitask for a pleasant experience. Such as anything music related!

      Reply

  3. Posted by shylove on September 28, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY 🙂 THANKS! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contests. Keep up the good work.

    Reply

  4. Posted by shylove on September 30, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    THANKS! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contests. Keep up the good work.

    Reply

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