26 Jul 2008

update on phone situation

Since my last post on phones, I’ve had a chance to play with both the Samsung Instinct and the new iPhone 3G. Also, as an fyi, my personal phone (for the last 12 months) is a Sprint Mogul (a re-badged HTC Titan).

I know, I know, I’m a linux user, and I despise almost everything that its microsoft (more than their software, it’s their tactics, and, of course, Vista).

So, what am I doing with a Windows Mobile phone?

Well, for starters, I have a now unavailable Sero plan (kinda like an employee plan) that costs just $30/month. Yes, $30!

That includes 500 minutes, unlimited internet, unlimited texts & MMS etc.. Unlimited nights and weekends starting at 7PM, and, free calls to any 3 numbers (like T-Mo’s faves).

Really, what more could I want. This plan on AT+T (for an iPhone for example) would cost around $90, and that’s without my 3 faves and nights starting at 7PM. It’s pretty safe to say that if Sprint had the iPhone, I’ve have one. But, unlike some stupid people, I’m not going to pay 3x my usual phone bill just to have one. That would just be stupid. It’s good, but it’s not that good.

Instead, I’ve been holding out until Google & Co. launch their Apple-beater, Android.

Instead of Google launching a phone, they’re just making the software, and giving it away for free. So, you’ll see everyone from Motorola, Samsung HTC etc.. using it.

This is both good and bad. Bad in that those aforementioned companies may not release hardware as good as Apple, but good in that you’ll have lots of choice, and different price points.

Back to my HTC Titan. Windows Mobile is pretty terrible. Really. It’s unresponsive, sometimes crashes, and lacks any modern features. However, since it’s so popular, there are literally thousands of applications written for it. Also, there’s a large hacking community surrounding it.

Right now, I’m using a custom bootloader, a hacked ROM from xda-developers, and a whole bunch of software. In reality, this is what makes my would be clunky phone quite good.

I’ve got a proper TomTom 7 GPS program (not just google maps, but turn-by-turn directions)

A proper Opera web browser.

A program that syncs my Google Calendar with the WM calendar (Oggsync)

A really, really good chess program (PocketGrandMaster)

A great RPN calculator (Neocal)

Yancerware software.

I also have a cool alarm program to play my mp3’s as alarms (unbelievably, the built in Windows Alarm program is terrible- how do they get such basic, necessary stuff wrong!)

And a few linux stuff like terminal emulators, ssh programs etc..

So, all in all, I have a pretty good phone, despite Micro$oft’s efforts!

For this reason, I actually like my phone. It does everything I want it to, and gives me a phone that’s more functional than an iPhone. I don’t doubt, however, that most Windows Mobile users use a bare OS with no tweaks. And without tweaks, Windows Mobile is absolute Rubbish. The interface lags when typing a phone number. That’s completely unacceptable.

Back to the Samsung Instinct. It’s the best iPhone knockoff I’ve seen. But, it’s not an iPhone. It’s doesn’t have that nazi Steve Jobs firing people if it doesn’t meat his demands on thinness. The OS is good, but inconsistent, and seems like it was programmed by two different groups that didn’t communicate. The haptic keyboard is plain stupid, and the web browser is awful. Despite this, it’s still the best alternative to an iPhone. (Also, Opera is working on getting their Java based Opera Mini working on the Instinct. When this happens, it’ll be a real decent iPhone replacement)

I’m still waiting for Android. Unfortunately, if I switch the moment the Android is released, I won’t have all the cool software I have right now. Sure there’s an SDK, but most of the movement right now seems to be with cool little open source stuff, not corporations doing GPS stuff, and world class chess engines. I get the feeling most corporations are waiting to see just how well Android does before they bother to release tons of programs for it. They’re probably busy coding for the iPhone).

At least initially I’ll have to settle for Google’s Maps, with no turn-by-turn directions. I won’t have a world class chess engine, and will miss yanceyware. But, it’s Google backed, and runs on Linux, so I highly doubt it will flop.

I’ve always said it. For years now. The future is the phone.

The future is not going to be a user with a phone, an iPod, a GPS device in his car, and a laptop.

It’s going to be just one phone that functions as all of those. Right now I’m basically describing the iPhone. Hopefully Google will provide some competition. If not, we’ll be stuck with ridiculous Apple restrictions forever!