The Dilemma of a Mobile Enthusiast

Posted by Mister Mobility

Am I the only one or are there people out there too who agonise over the choice of phone to purchase? In or around April every year, I go mobile phone shopping. Yes; every year. But the problem is that each time, it is almost a painful process to narrow down the available choices to arrive at that single device that meets my needs the best.

I won’t waste your precious time by dancing around issues. Here is how it is currently going for me. My brief:

I need an up-to-date smartphone (preferably released in the last 15 months) with a good hardware QWERTY, a large landscape display, an above-average web browser, has good multi-tasking abilities and that handles Gmail without issues. I do not care what mobile OS platform it runs, and if necesarrilly, I can do with a non-smartphone as long as it meets all the other criteria.

See; my requirements are not high and mighty; are they? You are probably already ticking off a number of phones in your head; aren’t you? I can help you with a quick list too, and in order to make this as short as possible, I’ll add why each of them does not make my list. Here:

Symbian


  1. Nokia N97 – Low RAM hampering multi-tasking; using Gmail terribly slows down the messaging app; I’m not a fan of S60 5th Edition
  2. Nokia N97 mini – using Gmail terribly slows down the messaging app; not a fan of S60 5th Edition
  3. Nokia E75 – I’ve used this one before, and using Gmail terribly slows down the messaging app

Android

  1. Motorola Milestone/Droid – Not seen this in the Nigerian market yet; QWERTY not so good but I’d be willing to buy anyway
  2. LG GW620 – Not seen this in the Nigerian market yet either

Windows Mobile

  1. Sony Ericsson X2 – same 528MHz processor as on the X1 makes this a sluggish device
  2. Samsung B7610 – low RAM issues hamper multi-tasking

Maemo

  1. Nokia N900 – my preferred candidate actually (the web browser and keyboard rock), but some users also report the same Gmail issues that I have experienced on Symbian devices

There! All my nominees have one issue or the other.


**If the Gmail issue sounds strange to you, here is a link to one of my articles on the subject: Smartphone blues: S60 and Gmail.

And from another source, this time a Nokia N900 Review of Email:

If I login using the Gmail account, the app becomes too slow. I will often get a “not responding” warning and force quit the application. I think it is trying to download all my emails since a couple of years ago, but I could be wrong.

I faced this same issue on the E90 and the E75. I will not risk spending on a device like the N900 only to be bitten again. Symbian/Maemo devices are therefore ruled out for me unless I can find a fix for this. I have read that the issue may be due to the presence of Gmail folders with a huge amount of mail. Perhaps if I do some archiving to split up my mails into more manageable bits…

I’ll try that and see if I can borrow someone’s Symbian or Maemo device for a quick test.

The good news is that I have never faced the Gmail slowdown issue on any WindowsMobile or Android device, so they are my best options for now. I also have an S40-based Nokia 3600 and Gmail works fine on it without issues.

I would love to consider a BlackBerry, but the web browsers are not as capable as I would love to have them, and the screens are not so large. Still, I am toying with the idea.

This is my dilema. Did I miss out any phones that meet my criteria above? Do you have any phones to suggest?

Oh, and please, don’t suggest third party applications to resolve one or more of the above-listed issues. If a manufacturer expects me to pay the kind of money that I am willing to pay for my mobile computer, the least they can do is ensure that basic functionality works out of the box.

Its not like I’m going to die if I don’t buy a Nokia N97, N900 or a Samsung B7610 😉 Comments!

38 comments

  1. Right now am all so in the same dilemma, take a look at HTC touch 2 that should do the magic am also thinking along that line. Best of luck

  2. Timmy,

    Thanks, but the Touch 2 does not meet my requirements – it lacks a physical QWERTY keyboard.

    Cheers.

  3. The htc touch 2 if it is the same as the htc touch pro 2 does have a physical keyboard, I actually used the htc touch pro 2 for like 2 weeks, it has the most comfortable keyboard in the world and my only real issue was the battery life. The skyfire browser made the htc touch pro 2 wonderful also. I am suggesting a htc touch pro 2 a little pricey but it is nice.

  4. Quam,

    Yes; I have the Touch Pro 2 on a fall-back list. Thanks. The Touch 2 is not the same as the Touch Pro2 though.

  5. @Yom have you tried the blackberry bold 2
    please any idea how much one can get the HTC touch 2 and where i can get it
    @ HTC phones are on the high side i wonder why

  6. Tough choices! Why not go for the Samsung B7610, that 3.5 ” AMOLED display should be a killer. Besides it has the same 256MB RAM as the X2, Droid and N900, so what is this talk of low RAM issues?

  7. Timmy,

    I mentioned in my post why BlackBerrys do not meet my brief: smaller displays and the not-so-great web browser

    Brym!,

    I find the B7610 attractive too, but here are the problems:

    1. the AMOLED display does not shine as it should because of WinMo’s 65,000-colour limitation. But this is less of an issue for me. The real issue is with RAM and performance

    2. WinMo 6.5 seems to eat up a lot of that 256mb RAM, resulting in poor performance. The B7610 performed better under WinMo 6.1. I remember how none of the available custom 6.5 ROMs performed well on the Xperia X1 when I had it. The X2, with the same RAM and running WM 6.5, is reported to be a sluggish device too

    Cheers.

  8. The issue you mentioned earlier about not been able to access your Cpanel or WHM with the default BB browser can be fixed by using the bolt browser. I also manage several domain names but with the bolt browser I am able to access my control panels for my hosting as well as my various shopping carts.

  9. Prices from Omafones are so on the high side that Slot prices now look attractive. TouchPro 2 sells for N90K at Slot.

    Yomi, since you went sans physical keyboard with Samsung Jet, I really thought you’ll naturally progress to the bigger Samsung Omnia II. Did you really miss the physical keyboard?

  10. Hi Yom, What do you have against 3rd party applications? If they have no negative effects on the phone, I’ll advice that you go for any phone that meet your hardware needs then resolve any software issues with 3rd parties.

  11. brym!, its either that or Omafones do not update their website regularly to reflect current prices.

    With regards the Jet/Omnia II, it is not quite the keyboard that is the problem. The problem is this crazy accelerometre thing that rotates the display even when you would prefer it in landscape. With a hardware keyboard, usually the display stays in landscape so long as the keyboard is slid out. The hardware keyboard gives me control over the display layout. I need that control.

    The Omnia II would be a logical upgrade. I’m just tired of touch displays that have a mind of their own.

  12. Kay123,

    I have nothing against 3rd party apps. I use them where it makes sense to, but I believe that as much as possible, 3rd party apps should not be used to replace core phone functionality.

    I do not believe that it makes sense to pay N80,000 for a device only to need a 3rd party app (free or paid) to do something that a device of N25,000 does well out of the box.

    If a device is marketed for its email or web capabilities, I should not require a 3rd party app for email or web on that device.

    But then, maybe its just me 😉

  13. @ the fundamental level, a phone is a phone, just like car is a car, just like a laptop is a laptop.

    The level of service you get from a device is a combination of the outofthebox facilities AND the array of apps available for that device. That is why it is vitally important to note carefully the platform on which your device runs. It goes without saying that it MUST be a smartphone.

    Kay123 could not have put it better and more succintly.

    Why spend (waste?) N80k on a top of the range phone if you can buy a far cheaper phone that will give (close to) the same level of functionality with the right software (especially if you are technically minded?)

    Many of the outofthebox functionalities are actually software solutions.

    There are things that software can not do on a phone (poor battery life, a poor camera, low memory, poorly designed keyboard, poor display), but there is PLENTY that software can adequately address!

    In looking for the right phone (especially if I am a geek), I would follow Kay123’s suggestion. It is a masterpiece of brevity Then get educated as regards whether there are apps to take care of the little dysfunctionalities in your lessthanperfect phone. The perfect phone (for every body) does NOT exist…

  14. EyeBeeKay,

    Thanks for the speech. I appreciate your point of view. However, this topic is not to debate what point of view is better. I have given my brief. Now kindly be a good sport and make suggestions based on that brief. I want a phone that gets the job done out of the box, and my brief reflects this.

    For your convenience, a recap:

    1. …an up-to-date smartphone (preferably released in the last 15 months)
    2. a good hardware QWERTY (accelerometre-driven touchscreen QWERTYs have a mind of their own)
    3. a large landscape display
    4. an above-average web browser out-of-the-box
    5. has good multi-tasking abilities out-of-the-box
    6. handles Gmail out-of-the-box without issues
    7. mobile OS platform is irrelevant, so even a even non-smartphone that does all the above will do

    If you can put on the table a phone that meets the above brief (not your own brief) but costs much less than N80,000, you will be helping this fellow, and I will buy it in a heartbeat.

    But if you want to preach and rant, this is the wrong place and time to do it. Appreciating your suggestions in advance. Cheers!

  15. bily,

    Thanks. The Motorola Milestone is indeed a sound choice – only if I can find a retailer who stocks it.

    Anyone knows where a guy can pick one up in Lagos?

  16. So far, it does not seem that there are any other devices to add to my list above (except the fallback option: the Touch Pro 2).

    As of today, my position is that if I am unable to lay my hands on a Milestone/Droid, the next closest device to meeting my brief on that list is the Samsung B7610 OmniaPro. Essentially, it is an Omnia II with a QWERTY slapped on. I just read a Samsung Omnia Pro B7610 Review on Tracy and Matt, and no mention is made of RAM-challenged issues. Perhaps its not so serious an issue.

  17. Update:
    I got the opportunity to try out Gmail with archiving on an S60 5th Edition device, the Nokia 6760 Slide, today.

    With my mails archived, Gmail worked fine without slowing down the messaging application. I only had a few minutes, so I am still somewhat skeptical. Still, this sort of puts at least the Nokia 97 Mini and N900 back in contention. No; I won’t touch the N97 and I have used the E75 earlier and won’t go back to that.

    The 6760 seems a decent device too, but I need a larger display than it has. All I have to do now is decide which of the “finalists” become my primary device for the next one year.

    PS: I also ran into an LG GW550 – a WM 6.5 device at Ikeja. Its candybar form with a QWERTY keyboard. Looked classy and felt solid too. Will hunt for more information and probably do a small write-up on it sometime.

  18. Computer,

    Free RAM after bootup on both devices – if you have updated to the latest firmware – is 55mb. Note that to get that 55mb, you need to remove the Facebook and AccuWeather homescreen widgets or available RAM is even lower. Whatever Nokia was thinking when they designed these devices.

    Knowing Yom, we really doubt that he can live with these sort of limitations. If he buys an N97 mini, we predict that it won’t last one year in his service.

  19. Txn alireta…only wish nokia can produce a phone that looks like my e75 with the following features…256mb ram,16 to 32gb inbuilt memory, support upto 16 ext memory,8mp camera,and has all da nokia e75 has.

  20. Gmail issues on Symbian, i have been using it for ages on all my phones (nokia fanboy) and i haven’t experienced those issues on any of them even on my 2630.

  21. Alireta says

    “Knowing Yom, we really doubt that he can live with these sort of limitations. If he buys an N97 mini, we predict that it won’t last one year in his service.”

    Seriously, will any phone last one year in his service? I’m hoping he buys the Samsung B7610 so that I can pick it when he gets bored with it…within 2 months. 🙂

  22. brym!

    Haba! I’m not that bad. Most of the time, I change phones that often in order to have materials to review. But with our new partnership with retailers to provide us loan phones for reviews, I really won’t need to change phones so often any longer. That will (thankfully) cut down on what I spend to keep this site running too.

    If all goes well. Hopefully.

  23. What you want from a mobile phones is available,your indecision is as a result of seeking for perfection in a mobile phone (wake up there’s no such phone). I have a soft spot for nokia phones (very reliable), i would advice you to choose n900 and use a third party application.

    Honestly i dont know how anyone can use a phone maximally without a third party application, its a necessity and most of them are FREE and excellent anyway so why not?.

    Still not satisfied? Use a laptop and quit whinning.

    Just my opinion.

  24. Funmi,

    Honestly i dont know how anyone can use a phone maximally without a third party application, its a necessity and most of them are FREE and excellent anyway so why not?

    I’m not surprised that you don’t know how. For the records, I have used certain phones maximally without any third party applications. They simply got the job done out-of-the-box. Excellent devices, if you ask me.

    3rd party apps a necessity? Where have I been all this while? You’ve got the theories; I’ve got the experience.

    Still not satisfied? Use a laptop and quit whinning.

    No; thank you 🙂

    By the way, welcome to MobilityNigeria!

  25. Dear yom,

    you have use a phone maximally without a 3rd party application? Please do tell.

    I may not know what i want in a phone but am not about to use my nokia phone web browser (very pathetic with a mobile network in Nig). :yank:

    do you know some new nokia phones are now bundled with Opera mini ?.

    Ever consider the reason why mobile phone companies releases new versions almost every month (your experience should come in here).

    Please do list some “out-of-the-box” type of phone you have used, i might give myself an early easter treat afterall.

  26. Funmi,

    I am using one now – the Samsung Jet – and it isn’t even a smartphone.

    I wouldn’t dream of using a browser like Opera Mini as my default browser. Despite its pluses, it doesn’t serve my needs and won’t get my work done.

    The Nokia E61i was another phone that worked out-of-the-box for me. So were the Nokia E90 and Sony Ericsson X1. When you say that my list may help you, you are missing the point about consumer usage patterns – especially the fact that each person’s needs and usage patterns differ.

    Why phone makers release new versions continually? To get some of your money continually, of course. Many of those new devices don’t hold a candle to some of the old dogs.

    For example,the veteran E90 still puts some newer devices to shame in several areas. Same goes for the Touch Pro2. We do not necesarilly need the newest, latest devices.

    I could add to my list of phones that got the job done out of the box for me, but the above are sufficient.

    Cheers.

  27. brym

    You seem so in love with the B7610, inspite of the laggy UI that I mentioned. Check out this PhoneArena video review of the B7610 on YouTube to see it in action. An example is when you slide out the keyboard and the screen/display is just staring at you for a few moments before waking up to the reality that its supposed to turn.

    You’ll notice the same lag in other actions as well. Let me know what you think after you have watched the video a couple of times. I am still watching it to see if that laggy interface is something I want to live with.

    Cheers.

  28. Seems like the video review has been removed. Well, if speed is still an issue with the retail unit, that’s unfortunate. Trust me to take my unit to the ROMs operation theatre and load a clean custom ROM that will address the lag.

    Anyway I’m actually hunting for an affordable 3.5″ WinMo device; new or used. I even went retro looking for the HTC Universal at GSM Village a couple of weeks back inspite of the small RAM.

  29. Yom,
    Nice phones btw . Not to be indecisive, do any of those phones have screenshot application (i necessity imo)? Or do have to use a 3rd party app

  30. brym!

    Try the YouTube link again. I just tried it 4 times now and it worked.

    Hmmm… you just got me thinking though. I’ll see if I can find custom ROMs for the B7610, and if I do…. your guess is as good as mine 🙂

  31. Funmi,

    Why do you consider a screenshot application a necessity? I don’t. I only use them once – when doing a review, and almost never use them again.

    In answer to your question, No; none of the above phones I listed have screenshot functionality built-in. You’ll have to install a 3rd party app for that – or use a camera to take pictures of the screen.

  32. Well when you are a mobile app beta tester a mobile screen shot with screen resolution of not less than 340*240 becomes a necessity.

    And for someone who consider booting up a laptop frequently to stay updated an hardwork with the exception of downloading or uploading large files or stuff that involves a desktop view other 3rd party apps is important.

  33. Funmi,

    Ah, I see. Well, there’s very little you can do about that without a 3rd party app. Almost all mobile OS platforms require a 3rd party app for screen capture.

    Cheers.

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