Well, after 9 years of solid service, the Nokia 3310 I’ve been using finally bit the dust this weekend. And so now I’m getting my wish list together for what I’m looking for in a new device.
One thing that gives me the irrits is companies trying to tell you the customer, what one wants.
The phone I had, was bought outright (I think for something like AU$350). It replaced an older Ericsson A1018S which had been bought a few years earlier on a pre-paid service… that phone sat in its box unused and the prepaid service expired. When I came to use it, we bought a new ~AU$10/month service through Telstra… and I’ve been pretty much plodding along with that.
My needs are basic … I send the occasional text message, and make the odd phone call, but normally the phone will remain dormant. I rarely go over $30/month on a phone bill.
One feature of the Nokia 3310 I thought initially was a gimmick, was the voice tags facility in the phone book. With a hands-free kit plugged in, you pressed the answer button momentarily, then announced the names of one of the contacts in the phone book. It would then try to match that to one of the voice tags, and on positive match, would dial that number. This was invaluable on the bicycle, as it turned out. I had the headset embedded in the helmet, with the PTT button on the handlebars for communicating via radio … the same rig plugged in the phone, the PTT became the answer button, and it meant that in order to dial a frequently used number, I didn’t have to take my hands off the handlebars at all.
Looks like I’ll have to learn to live without this feature. The other thing was the older phone had a monochrome LCD screen … reflective type. Much easier to read in broad daylight than today’s back-lit colour fancy affairs. It was also less prone to damage than touch-screen devices.
One thorn though; the 3310 had no external antenna jack. If you were in a bad spot, tough luck. And there have been times I have been in such locations. If you can plug in an external antenna, you can either get a higher gain antenna/directional antenna, or put a low-gain antenna up high, and get better performance. A dipole may not offer much gain, but it should do considerably better than the minimal thing built into the handset, and of course it will do much better up high where the handset can only be as high as the user’s head (or their hand, if using a headset).
Now that the phone has died, I’m in the market for a new one. The phone I am using for now is a ZTE T7. Not overly bad, I suppose it’s taking a bit of getting used to.
Something I’d like to investigate is the possibility of being able to develop applications for these more modern phones. While I traditionally criticised the more modern phones with all the bells and whistles, I recognise this is where industry is moving.
I don’t care for a camera on a phone. The GPS devices on some of them are pretty minimal in functionality and are inconvenient to use – at least the T7’s one is. The T7 GPS will only give you latitude and longitude, maybe altitude and speed, and has no track-log ability, and certainly no maps or navigation. Plus you can’t refer to it while on a call.
I can make up for some shortcomings in a phone if I can code applications to run on it. With the modern smartphones, this is a possibility that didn’t exist back in 2002 when we bought the 3310. These days, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Maemo and the like are all the rage. The T7 appears to have Java on it, probably J2ME… I’ll have to research this. (Update: it does… MIDP 2.0)
For me to make use of the features, I’d really need to be able to develop the applications using the (mostly Linux-based) tools I have, or can get easily. Microsoft Visual Studio is something like AU$1000, and I really disliked WinCE 5.0 so there goes Windows Phone. Apple iOS has all sorts of strings attached to it, and while the development kit is only $5 (if you can pay)… it’s a 4.5GB download! No thank-you.
Android and Maemo however are quite viable for my needs.
However, the key thing for me, having a phone that can work in regional areas, and can be enhanced with an external antenna, is more important to me, than having all the software bells and whistles. When I look at what’s on the market today, it seems one cannot purchase a ruggedised Android-based phone, which features an external antenna jack. In fact, so far the only devices I know of available to me, look to be a small subset of the ZTE range, or one (non-Android) Samsung phone.
And no, don’t even bother mentioning capacitive/inductive coupling cradles… the 6dB gain I might get from a decent antenna will be lost in the very lossy coupling. They are a very poor workaround, they are not a solution.
As an open-source enthusiast, something which at least respects this would be in my favour. If I can adapt what’s there to suit my needs, this makes life easier. Calendaring, for instance, I can code up something on my web server to share a calendar with my device. If I can make my own software, it can use any protocol I like… otherwise I have to work within its confines. Okay, I can live with that, but only if I am told what those confines are. If I have a specification of the synchronisation protocol used between device and phone, I can possibly do something to scratch my own itch (and possibly others’), but if it’s all in secret, I am powerless to do anything.
It seems the assumption on the part of the mobile phone manufacturers as a whole, is that if you live or work out in a regional area (or even if you only travel out there on rare occasions), you’re obviously too stupid to care. This assumption I greatly object to. The assumption that, because you’re a dumb user, you only know of a two-OS IT world, where anything that isn’t plastered with Windows logos, must obviously be emblazoned with a piece of fruit that has a chunk missing from it.
I’m still continuing to look around. Needless to say, I’m getting pretty disgusted by the lack of choice out there.