The uneasy switch from old to new generation smartphones

As the new generation smartphones running Android, iOS and Windows Phone take over, veteran mobilista, Mister Mo, talks about the uneasy transition.

In the world of smartphones, I have been around for a long, long time. I was using smartphones before the average person ever heard the word. You know, I actually used ancestors to the smartphone – devices like the Ericsson R380s and the Motorola A008 Accompli. I know a few other individuals who have been around for long too. And, just like me, they seem to be finding it difficult to transition from the old order to the new.

By old order, I refer to older platforms like Windows Mobile and Symbian. Of course, phones running platforms like iOS, Android and Windows phone constitute the new generation smartphones.

The Transition To New Generation Smartphones

Why is this transition so difficult for this class of people? In all probability, the reasons vary, but I can present a few – Battery life, hardware QWERTY keyboards, and OS versatility/integration for mission-critical tasks.

veterans and the new generation smartphones

I remember the days that my budding web hosting company was run entirely on a Nokia 9500 Communicator (Symbian Series 80 – anyone remember that platform?). Taking orders, processing them, setting up accounts and supporting clients were activities that the bricky 9500 handled without stress. More impressive is the fact that the battery went on and on despite the work abuse that the device was subjected to.

Years later, none of these new kids on the block provide the same functionality without needing a recharge every 3 hours. I get frustrated at the pitiful battery life on these new generation smartphones even when used sparingly. When used intensively, its just a bloody shame.

Let’s not even get started about the touchscreen craze. For serious work, a good, hardware QWERTY keyboard always does a better job. Regardless of how good on-screen keyboards are, with a hardware QWERTY, you type faster, special characters are easier to type, you make less errors and also you do not have to sacrifice half the display when typing (this is important when executing mission-critical tasks). The best-case scenario is a software-assisted hardware keyboard, which we are already seeing as implemented on the Nokia E7.

By mission-critical tasks, I mean those tasks that the average phone reviewer almost never mentions (whether deliberately or simply by omission). We are talking about smartphones and tablets as mini computers, and yet the average smartphone review ignores the nitty-gritty of tasks required by people who want to use their devices for serious work.

Take our recent sour experience with text copy-and-paste on two Android devices as an example. Try attaching a file to an outgoing email on Windowsphone 7, and you are given the option to select only media files from the gallery. Hello!? Where’s USB mass storage mode on iOS and WP7? And where’s USB-on-the-go apart from Symbian and Maemo/MeeGo?

Can someone give us a new OS that is compelling enough to let us simply get our work done? Its almost looking like the whole world only wants to play – swipe, watch video, chat on Facebook, tweet, and play music. Sigh.

Mobility Nigeria contributor, Brym!, is another individual from the old guard. He still tots a Sony Ericsson P1i running Symbian UIQ (why on earth was that platform killed off?) and a Samsung B7610 Omnia Pro (running Windows Mobile6.5). More shocking is the fact that he still finds those devices capable and can’t point out any viable upgrades in the market.

Personally, everytime I drop my Nokia N8 for a device on another platform, it does not take more than a few days before I begin to pine (to yearn deeply; suffer with longing; long painfully) for the N8 again. Dayo knows how many times I say something like, “To blazes with the fancy UI“, pull my SIM out of the offending phone and slot it back into the N8.

The question is, What does the future hold for dinosaurs like Brym, Dayo and I? Will we go extinct with this ice age, or will someone somewhere come up with a mobile platform and devices that are compelling enough for us to switch to without withdrawal symptoms?

Now, I know that I have stirred the hornet’s nest with this piece, but hey, go ahead, have your say. The comment area is all yours.

PS: Does anyone know what Nokia actually meant by Symbian becoming a “franchise OS”? I wouldn’t mind licensing Symbian and creating a new mobile line-up of smartphones tailored to meet the specific needs of mobile dinosaurs after Nokia has completed transition to WP7. Brym, what shall we call the brand?

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19 comments

  1. All I can say to this brilliant piece is, ‘they dont make them like that no more!’

    It is not just in mobile products. Automobiles andelectronics readily come to mind.

    Could be as a result of the internally more competitive business environment
    pressure to deploy products / services faster than the competition, at the best possible prices.

  2. I can feel your pain, Yomi. 100% capable and trusted phones are hard to come by these days. Nokia seems to be going in that direction now. Its a case of ”you lose some,you win some”. Manufacturers in their bid to pander to the consumers’ peachant for fancy UIs,social media integration etc, have clearly ignore the all important purpose/feature for which phones were made in the first place. This is one of the reasons why am stuck on my good old Symbian platform. The androids and the iOSs of this world may all be good to the eyes, but they cant match the ruggedness and robustness of Symbian.
    To sum it all up: ”life was easy for everyone until Apple came along”.

  3. The reason for this the craze for the new guard isn’t far-fetched-Its all the frenzy that supposed social networking has started. While it does have its benefits, its largely a tedious affair… dare I say
    pointless. Human interaction is still key, but when the bastion of people who already lack or have very little social-human interaction capability now belong to the twitteratti or the face club, it has
    become an end in itself rather than a tool.

    Secondly, money talks and … (you know the rest) Its no longer so much about how dependable, unique, ground breaking or usable your devices is, it now more of “me too” mentality with the mobile phone companies. And I can almost blame Steve Jobs for this! With the launch of the iPhone and the ensuing iPhrenzy that followed, companies such as SE (UIQ), maybe Nokia (7700 & 7710), HTC (lots of WinMobile devices) and possibly others suddenly realised they could make touch-screen devices (forgetting they already did and we were quite impressed with some) What changed the experience and its been a war ever sine to unseat the iPhone or better still…build the iPhone killer! (even if I thought at a time it was basically an iPod that could hold a SIM card) Some are so confused they do not know whether to be a mobile phone, a touch pad (these days you have too touch everything, guess Trevor T. Smith, Jr (who is he!?) saw it coming already with his (visionary) “Touch it” In the end, should you have wicklo you are in for it! (till you recover at least)

    It appears to that the more eye-candy that’s added to the New Guard of devices, the less-intelligent they are despite their Smart Phone moniker they really are…they need an update to add copy/cut and paste or to upload an attachment. A feat already possible 5 years ago with the Old Guard. And even the update arrives its in peace-meal (looking at you Android) or it nearly sucks out life your device (hello Windows Phone 7)

    I wouldn’t mind buying from the Old Guard again if I could get them new. Yes, I know its difficult but I don’t have a thing for used devices or electronics.

  4. The reason for this the craze for the new guard isn’t far-fetched-Its all the frenzy that supposed social networking has started. While it does have its benefits, its largely a tedious affair… dare I say
    pointless. Human interaction is still key, but when the bastion of people who already lack or have very little social-human interaction capability now belong to the twitteratti or the face club, it has
    become an end in itself rather than a tool.

    Secondly, money talks and … (you know the rest) Its no longer so much about how dependable, unique, ground breaking or usable your devices is, it now more of “me too” mentality with the mobile phone companies. And I can almost blame Steve Jobs for this! With the launch of the iPhone and the ensuing iPhrenzy that followed, companies such as SE (UIQ), maybe Nokia (7700 & 7710), HTC (lots of WinMobile devices) and possibly others suddenly realised they could make touch-screen devices (forgetting they already did and we were quite impressed with some) What changed the experience and its been a war ever sine to unseat the iPhone or better still…build the iPhone killer! (even if I thought at a time it was basically an iPod that could hold a SIM card) Some are so confused they do not know whether to be a mobile phone, a touch pad (these days you have too touch everything, guess Trevor T. Smith, Jr (who is he!?) saw it coming already with his (visionary) “Touch it” In the end, should you have “wicklo” you are in for it! (till you recover at least)

    It appears to that the more eye-candy that’s added to the New Guard of devices, the less-intelligent they are despite their Smart Phone moniker they really are…they need an update to add copy/cut and paste or to upload an attachment. A feat already possible 5 years ago with the Old Guard. And even the update arrives its in peace-meal (looking at you Android) or it nearly sucks out life your device (hello Windows Phone 7)

    I wouldn’t mind buying from the Old Guard again if I could get them new. Yes, I know its difficult but I don’t have a thing for used devices or electronics.

  5. @Yomi

    Reading your article brings tears from my eyes. I remember the old times. I remember my Sony Ericsson P900i, and the Sony Ericsson G900. Both good and useful phones. Why must they have to kill the Symbian UIQ. Now the symbian series60 is about to go the same way. What a pity. Good hardware, functionallity, and reliability is gradually giving way to eye candy, smoothness of interface etc. Definitely, Apple started this and since it appears as what people want (from the sales and profit figures), other manufacturers jump in to cut their own slice of the cake. Manufacturers like Nokia dedicated to solid hardware and good phones woke up to find the rug pulled off their feet. So it has to be a “lets join them” issue. Even at the expence of ditching the symbian. The important factor now is how to keep the shareholders happy and smilling to the banks.

    It is a pity, but the truth is we are seeing the end of an era and the beginning of another. Steve Jobs has become the messaih of the new era. But mark my words.This era will not last long. It will give way to another era that will incorporate the things from the precceeding one and we will be happier for it. Things always go round in circles.

    I am definitely of the old era. I keep going back to nokia in spite of having a bada and an android. I can’t seem to be able to manage with virtual qwerty no matter how good. I had no choice but to get myself a nokia C6 to satisfy this need. My motoQ is still there with solid document editor on board.

    No doubt, there is a war out there. The victors shall be those with the sweetest and most fluid UI irrespective of functionality. But as i always say, “let it be so for now…”

  6. A well written article. Brings to me so much nostalgia. But I never expected less from someone as legendery as Yomi!

    Just that I may need to disagree with the argument that typing with a QWERTY hardware keyboard on a mobile device is faster than on a touch screen. Me doubt it. During the last World texting competition that Yomi wrote an article for, last year, the fastest texter was a female using Samsung Galaxy S via Swype. What do you say on that?.

    That point noted, Symbian has been so much to some of us. Starting from my first smartphone, the Nokian 6600 during the 2002 world cuP. The 6600 was the official phone for the 2002 FIFA WORLD cup. When I reminisce, there are always a flood of warm memories.

    Some of us still feel we are stakeholders with Nokia. Nokia needs to modernize. Nokia need to revamp it’s UI. But Nokia shouldn’t do this with dis-regard to what it has been known for; Capable hardware and robustness of features in its smartphone line. I strongly hope that Nokia gets the best of both world. A suave UI COUPLED with it’s prowess in features and hardware optimization. Then Maybe, what Deoladoctor foretells above will become the new hype and market seller. Nokia may possibly the define the way the way of the Snartphones, and companies like Apple and Google/Android Manufacturers will follow suit and emulate Nokia and definitely not the other way around.

  7. It’s primarily the fault of steve jobs. And secondarily the fault of those manufacturers that chose to go with the flow.

  8. Last night while driving home late from the office with a friend, He said, “I want to buy an iPad to replace my laptop am so tired of carrying my laptop around”.
    The guy was ready to sell his Laptop, and I was like, you will still need the Laptop because the iPad will need the Laptop to sync. The story goes on and on and he decided to buy a mini laptop. He then said, how come the iPad sold 15million in around a year, and I said to him, the iPad has a very smooth UI and there is virtually and App for everything and the ordinary user outside there is happy with it.

    The main issue that we have is that, there are less geeks/nerds than ordinary users. The ordinary user wants smooth UI and it’s the power users that want total control.

    Apple realised this first and other manufacturers are just following suit.

    I have total confident that Nokia WP7 is the future and it will be packed with lots of goodies because that is the only way left to attract users. Apple and Android already has fancy UI and lots of Apps, so Nokia/Windows has to come up with more functions in addition to the fancy UI. (This will be the resurrection of good old Symbian functions)

    More and more ordinary users are looking for devices that can replace their laptop and the only one I can recommend is Nokia E7.

    Do you know of any other one? Please feel free to share.

  9. I guess one can say that life was much easier when Apples and Blackberrys were still fruits.

    With fingers crossed, i hope to see what era the Nokia WP7 births.

  10. This conversation we are having now is hardly original to the Mobile phone Ecosystem. From Football, to Politics, Education, Social Interactions, Gaming etc. There would always be those who feel the Good ol ways were better than what exist now. Each point of view with its pros and cons.

    In the Desktop Operating system, I know people who still swear by Amiga and BeOS. Some still feel windows 2000 was the best thing since slice bread. And I have met many Linux veterans who feels Ubuntu is taking Linux to the Dogs by dumping it down in the name of ease of use.

    I like to consider myself as an early adopter of the smartphone “craze” I used and followed every single iteration of symbian from symbian 1st edition (Nokia: 3650, 7650, Sendo X etc) to symbian 2nd edition version 1 and 2 (6600,6670,7610,3230, etc) and symbian 3rd ed (Nokia 6630, N70, till date) I have also used the touch based series 90 (Nokia 7710) and handled the series 80 devices. I was also a fan of UIQ and used handled p800, p900, p910 and owned the P1i, P990, and W950. One the winmo side I used the Imate K Jam running windows mobile 5 and did handle a couple of Palm OS (I can’t remember which now) I am a phone nerd and use to make extra money in uni “Pimping” phones LOL. S60 was my favourite and even though I did like UIQ and S90 I always came back to the simple candy bar experience of s60 based phones.

    Tell me what people do with a smartphone today that has not been done before (beside the superlatives) I could record a call, blacklist a call, read the latest harry potter, Chat with friends on yahoo, msn, and gtalk, use my smartphone as a webcam for my laptop, repeal mosquitoes, play augmented reality games (on the Nokia 6600 using the camera) play winning 11 soccer (remember engage?) send emails, browser websites, etc. all this were possible with just about any symbian smart phone as far back as early 2000. What the Iphone and all this new OS have done is make them easy and expose them to the average Joe without complication.

    This period many talked about here was the era when smartphone was still nitch device for the geek, and nerd among us. Many of the people who use bbs and iphones today are the people who u see by the w800, w900, samsung true i, K750i and the Sagem my X 7 etc of those days. To them all that matters is a phone that is simple and does the few things it does for them every well. The very few who own a Nokia 6600 then used it only for making calls and text msgs. Many of them could not even change the ring tone of their devices. Simply put the smartphone segment was not mainstream and manufacturers of this phones aimed it at the geeks, which was why there enabled them with so much power and features that would give a geek orgasm.

    The coming of the Iphone changed the game completely. For the first time the things we (geeks) do with our smartphones, the things that made it cool. were exposed to the average user in a very user friendly, and sexy way. I remembered when I saw the first Iphone video I was blown away. The ability to lock the screen using a virtual lock was just beyond imagination. The use of capacity screen to dispels of the stylus making phone interactions feel natural and super cool, the idea of cover flow in sorting out music, the use of threaded sms, the use of pinch to zoom. All this features were revolutionized the way man interacted with the computer, and things never became the same again. Sure the Iphone lacked multi tasking, sure you can’t send files via bluetooth, sure the UI was restricted and dumbed down to the average symbian user. But u know what? the people did not care. the target of the Iphone was not people like us to whom this things mattered. It was meant for our grandmothers and girl friends, to the average man in the street who does not care about what a filesystem is.

    The Iphone brought the smartphone to the masses and it did this by packing a lot of power into a dumbed down UI. But guess what? It sold out. soon companies started to see that indeed they was a market for smartphones if only it could be dumbed down enough for the pubic (the wider public ) to take and appreciate. Android came along and followed the Iphone model. The use of a central app store where users can just go and get what there need without having to troll through sites like Mobango,mobile9,imserba. Introduction of gestures allowing the user to interact directly with the software, that feeling alone is hard to quantify.

    As much as I love symbian and winmobile for their power and features. I feel they were crushed by their own success and inability to adapt to the needs of the non core users. The game has changed my friends,computer smart people are no longer the target of smartphones. The best that can be made is find a balance. For me that balance is android.

    Android is a free and open source operating system with Linux at its core. Initially I was going to transition to meego having used the Maemo powered N810 and N900 and be blown away by the share power and potential of the platform. However Nokia decided to kill the meego project and transform it to a glorified scientific research. My natural choice was android. Android imho is the closest to what symbian was. the fact that it runs a Linux core means I can hack it and make it mine. already there are hundreds of community built firmware for just about every android devices out there. The community built firmwares (called roms) have baked into them powerful features many of which are either disabled in mainstream android shipped by OEMS or features which has not been ported to android in the first place. It is not as low on memory and tends to be very battery hungry unlike symbian. But again its something we have to stick with until the next revolution in battery comes up. I personally feel we would see this happening sooner than we think. especially considering the huge amount of improvement and innovation we have seen in the mobile hardware space, from amazing screen technologies of the amoled screens to dual Nvidia tegra chips (who would have imagined seeing Nvidia in a smartphone one day)

    What we are seeing in the mobile space now is what happens when something which is niche becomes mainstream. its the smartphone equivalent of, how motion control for games took gaming to non gaming people, to and how fancy desktop cubes on top of the Linux shell made Linux sexy for windows and mac fan boys. how commercial rap took rap from the street and made it a hit on big screens. etc

    Eventually we would all have to embrace the inevitable. As my grandmother use to say. “if you are going to eat a frog, at least eat a juicy one” for me the juicy frog among all the others is android. which is why I am going for the samsung galaxy S as my first android smartphone.

  11. @bigbrovar, where have you been all my mobility-life?

    That post upstairs was the most brilliant analysis I have ever read.

    Pls, do stay with this site, and keep informing and educating us!

    Thank you!

  12. @bigbrovar

    Is this a comment or an article? Seem like another article in responce to Yomi’s own. Brilliant analysis, true in every respect.

    Bigbrovar has no business on this side of the desk. He should be with Yomi on the other side churning out super articles for those of us on this side.

    Just brilliant

  13. @bigbrovar, very stimulating and thought provoking piece there.

    This is just to point out something you mentioned in your comment above, and I hope it is not misconstrued as been picky. You said the Iphone brought smartphones to the masses. I beg to disagree. The Iphone was and still is a very expensive device that is way beyond what the masses can afford

  14. Concerning the franchise statement. I think that is their euphemism for saying their killing the project for scraps. Take out some of the component which makes sense and reuse them in future technologies. But Symbian as an OS is going to be killed by nokia who don’t intend on release new symbian phones down the light.

    COncerning licensing, Symbian was licensed open source and released as an Eclipse license (AFAIK) This means that anyone can download the source code and use it as he pleases. Hence you can download the symbian source code and theoretically use it to build a line of smart phones. (Good Luck with that)

  15. @bigbrovar
    Good you mentioned custom Roms cause the various Android skin is the Next Big problem. But why not Samsung Galaxy S2.

    @Dayo
    I will say iPhones brought smartphones to the masses for Us Market, certainly not Nigeria

  16. @Dayo

    Iphone sure brought smartphones to the masses if by masses, you mean non geeks (“the great unwashed”). I think that is what bigbrovar meant by the statement.

  17. @deoladoctor, I do not wish for this point to distract us from the whole point of the article. There is no other way to qualify the term masses in any context other than the vast majority of people in any society (low and medium class folks). How many of these own an iPhone? If bigbrovar had said non-geeks he would have been spot-on. But masses, NO.

    Symbian has the honor of bringing smartphones to the masses. Think of the numerous twenty thousand naira S60 smartphones that have been purchased by millions of geeks and non-geeks who certainly cannot afford an iPhone.

    @bosun99uk: In the US market specifically, the honour of bringing smartphones to the masses will go to Android (the Galaxy 5, for example, is a budget Android device that caters to the masses).

  18. When will the cheap android’s get to naija market? A thought just came to my mind…a lot of naija peeps who bought nokia 5230, nokia c5…the cheap symbians about 4months ago..what happens to them in say 8months when they are ready to change phones? Cause i dont see nokia bringing in cheap WP7 then oo…is any one at samsung or LG listening? Bring it the cheap droids!

  19. Bigbrovar…Your article sorry comment was classic .. Like Eyebeekay commented, where on earth have you been this while . The mobility crew, what are you waiting for,this guy should be a part of your great team.

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