Over the last few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to have a play with some new phones. An HTC Desire running the latest Froyo 2.2 Android software, a BlackBerry Storm 2, a Sony Ericsson X10 mini pro and the ubiquitous iPhone.
So, what’s my thoughts? Phone reviews are very subjective, it all depends on what the user is looking for: ease of use, available apps, size, battery life etc. The mobile phone landscape has moved on at a pace of recent years, sure, “basic” phones exist that just do phone and text, but they now do so much more. In my view these smart phones shouldn’t be called phones, but mini computers. Based on my statement above, what are my requirements for a phone then? Well, ideally it should be able to do everything I need on the move, and that will include personal email, Company email, GPS sat nav, web browsing and a few of the usual apps that are available for most phones. Most important though, I expect it to last at least a day with normal use. I’m not going to be browsing the internet all day on it, listening to music or other things that necessitates it being “on” all the time. I’ll start using it around 6am and expect it to still be available for service until around midnight before it goes on charge.
Taking the last point first all phones except the BlackBerry fail this test miserably. Sure the others will get through if I make the effort not to use them as much, but it seems no matter how much I use the BlackBerry, it keeps on going. It’s clearly the Duracel of the phone world, the Hobnob in biscuit dunking terminology. Since the battery of the X10 mini pro is so small, I can (and do) carry a charged spare so I can see the day out, it has the advantage that changing the battery is pretty easy and quick, unlike the Desire which is very cumbersome and the iPhone where you can’t get at the battery at all (bloody stupid in my view).
One thing I forgot to mention, is that I travel abroad a fair bit, and don’t like to feel restricted on the use of the phone just because of data roaming charges. Here again, the BlackBerry is streets ahead of the competion. On a “normal” day’s use (assuming you don’t do anything stupid like stream video), I can get by with less than 2MB of total data. That goes up to over 10MB with the others, the iPhone even more (it just consumes data like it’s going out of fashion). I’ve a rough idea how BlackBerry achieve this, for example it doesn’t bulk download all your email, it sucks data as and when you decide to read the email. In additon, I’m pretty sure the data is compressed too. It all helps keep the data comsumption down, which obviously extends battery life too. Nice one RIM.
So far then, two nil up to the BlackBerry.
And now to the more subjective stuff, what are they like to use? Everyone has preferences, and I’m no different. If you’re looking for something that just works out of the box, requires very little technical savvy to to both up an running quickly and doesn’t need “tweaking” every now and again, then the iPhone is for you. Downside to that, is the moment you want to expand the envelope (technically) with it, you’re stuffed. The X10 mini pro has Android 2.1 on it, and to give it credit, it’s pretty straight forward to use. The 2.2 on the Desire is better, but those not looking hard, it’d be difficult to tell the difference. The most important bit of usability for me, is how easy is it to type on the device? The BlackBerry Storm is touch screen, and being honest, it’s not a patch on the normal BB keyboards, my old 8310 Curve is so much easier to use. The X10 mini pro has a slide out keyboard, but for an average bloke’s fingers, it’s too small. Kids or ladies maybe. The touch screen on the iPhone and Desire, once you’re used to them, are pretty easy to use, but not (in my view) anywhere as near as good as a standard BlackBerry.
The Desire is a cracking phone, excellent screen, from an techie’s point of view, so more “open” to be able to experiment with. Android seems to be all the rage, and rightly so. It’s fast, flexible and very easy to personalise to your own requirements. Judging by it’s popularity, it’s clear other people think so too. The camera on it is the best of the one of the bunch. All round top phone.
A big issue for me is Company email. Our Company uses Exchange, but will not support BlackBerry connections, a huge disappointment (and error of judgement) in my view. Instead, we have to use DME by Excitor. Sure, it works pretty well, has clients for most phones, except for, you guessed it, BlackBerry. Coming soon I’m told (having written to them), but I may be waiting a while. In my quest for carrying just one phone, this rules out the BlackBerry (for now at least).
If I stick to my original mandate, the only answer then as to what I should use, is the Sony Ericsson X10 mini pro, assuming I carry the spare battery, which is really cheating.
If I *had* to carry just one phone, it would be a BlackBerry, but that’s unlikely, since I normally carry at least three phones, one of which is always a BlackBerry. -)