I thought it would be both fun and informative to do an article on my smartphone of the year 2009. It was unfortunate that we didn’t get good participation for the MobilityNigeria 2009 Phone Awards. Thanks to all those who did drop their nominations.
Anyway, in this article, I will list all the smartphones I used in 2009 and do a sort of countdown to my top smartphone for the year just gone by. Here goes!
The contenders, in the order that I came in touch with them:
- Nokia E90 communicator (October 2008) **
- T-mobile G1 (May 2009)
- Nokia E75 (June 2009)
- Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 (August 2009)
- Samsung B7320 (December 2009)
While I got the E90 in 2008, I did use it for several months in 2009, so it qualifies.
I loved the keyboard on this device, being one of the most functional I have used, but the choice of colour of the keyboard area made reading in daylight difficult.
The Android user interface got me hooked too. Download, installing and updating applications from the Android Market was a joy. But while the G1 had USB charging, its battery life was one of the most appalling I had experienced on a smartphone. With the G1, my eye was constantly on the battery indicator. On an average day, I had it plugged to the mains more than not.
Email management was flawless on the G1, and web browsing was good, though the browser wasn’t as capable as Opera Mobile or S60 Web.
Again, the G1 could not be tethered without the use of a 3rd party app (or having to root the phone), had no Bluetooth file transfer, and – the straw that finally broke the camel’s back – no built-in office viewer/editor. The available 3rd party viewers were plainly underwhelming.
I love Android and look forward to its maturing. Then, you can be sure that I am game.
The E75 was a good piece of hardware and felt solid to hold and to look at. The keyboard was good, but in my experience did not match those of the G1 or the E90.
While it had a 3.2 megapixel camera specified same as that on the E90, the camera did not perform as good. Whenever I needed good pictures or video recording, I kept going back to the E90.
Web browsing was standard S60 Web, but for some reason, Nokia had still not sorted out the issues with its messaging/email client. The E75 let me down at critical times in the area of email management. In my line of work, that is unforgivable.
The X1 had a good camera. Being Sony Ericsson, I wasn’t expecting less. The keyboard was not as tactile as on the E90, E75 and G1, but it worked.
Email management on the X1 was flawless and I had no issues with web browsing. As a matter of fact, there was little to dislike about the X1. But those few include a not-so-loud loudspeaker and the lack of a built-in task manager,which was annoying.
Being Windows Mobile powered, the X1 allowed for customisation by way of custom ROMs from XDA Developers.
At number 2 is the venerable Nokia E90.
Ah! A 3-year old smartphone that still rocks. Excellent 5-row keyboard with several shortcuts, glamorous huge display, very loud speaker, and a really good camera, it is hard not to like the E90.
With a keyboard like that, a huge screen and oodles of RAM, web browsing was a joy on the E90.
Also, the E90 feels as sturdy as a tank. Holding one in a corporate setting is good massage for the ego. It simply feels good in the hand.
Unfortunately, the email client was again plagued with issues. For some reason, setting up Gmail on the E90 simply brought the mail client into a comatose state.
To compensate (and because the E90 was really hard for me to part with), I used Gmail’s mobile app to handle my personal mails and notifications. Of course, having to do that was a kludge. I had to manually check for mails at intervals.
Note that I also tried out Nokia Messaging, and it worked well for a while before the same issues popped up.
I love the E90, but I found a new love.
My smartphone of the year 2009 is nothing short of a miracle. It is testimony that good things are not necesarilly big or expensive.
- Older version of pocket internet explorer
- No flash with the 3.2 mega-pixel camera
Just two, and those two are not quite earth-shattering problems. There are other smaller niggles, of course, but certainly nothing that 3rd party apps didn’t fix. The B7320’s key strengths are:
- Very good battery life
- Very good loudspeaker
- One-handed use and interface
- Highly functional QWERTY keyboard with preset & customisable shortcuts
Before you go on about Windows Mobile not being user-friendly, note that there are two versions of Windows Mobile – Standard (non-touchscreen devices) and Professional (touchscreen devices). The B7320 runs Windows Mobile Standard and has no touchscreen. I found it surprisingly intuitive to use, different from the Professional edition that.
The screen is large, though much smaller than the E90’s, and the keyboard packs a wallop – very tactile and usable, and with several preset shortcuts. You can also set your own extra shortcuts for your favourite applications.
On the negative side, I am disappointed at Pocket Internet Explorer. No multiple tabs here and rendering is not as good as what obtains on Opera Mobile or S60 web. But it gets the job done for most of what I need to do. Where it is restrictive, I use a 3rd party browser.
Email management is flawless. Both my corporate mail and Gmail work flawlessly, with audio notifications as mails arrive.
The camera is good, but performs badly in low-light situations because of the absence of a flash. Forgivable. The speaker is also quite loud.
Oh, and since there is an ongoing discussion about one other particular manufacturer skimping on RAM, the OmniaPro comes with 256mb RAM in all, and has about 175mb RAM free after booting. I run between 7 and 10 apps on the OmniaPro at a time and still have about 120mb free.
I’ve never gotten one of those out-of-memory messages yet. I’ll try running 30 apps and see 😀
Lastly, and very important, this is one smartphone that I have not had to worry one bit about the battery life. The battery simply goes on for days, even with an always-on 3G connection for email and web browsing. Even the E90’s battery life pales in significance.
The B7320 has 90-95% of the E90’s functionality packed into a small, handy and lightweight device – and at less than half the price. That’s a pretty good deal. Guess who’s happy?
I am looking forward to trying out a couple of new devices this year. Hopefully, Palm will release the GSM versions of their Pre and Pixi this year. I really want to try out the Pixi. Perhaps also the Motorola Milestone. 2010 is promising to be a year of the Droid, so maybe other manufacturers will give us a candybar Android with QWERTY?
I am waiting for Windows Mobile 7 and trying not to fret while at it. The guys at Redmond need to hurry! As for Symbian, perhaps we will see something really good from the old guard too, though I am not so excited at prospects from that direction (for reasons I have already stated on this site). Some announcements have been made at CES 2010 already, and I expect more when Mobile World Congress 2010 holds.
What is your smartphone of the year 2009? And which smartphones do you have your eyes set on this year?