I was thinking about LaVar’s phone request he made last April when we first met – he said he wanted a phone with great reception and great battery life. He also mentioned he used AOL’s instant messenger in a different conversation. Then – a few weeks later when I saw him again – he had a T-Mobile sidekick. Great device for instant messaging, but a crappy phone for talking to people, and T-Mobile has notoriously bad coverage… So, why would he go out and get a phone that was exactly the opposite of what he asked for?
The same reason there are so many phones out there…
Because no manufacturer has it right! I mean sheesh – you’ve got the following basic phone needs:
- Battery life
- Address book
- Text messaging
What’s the big deal? Why are there so many phones out there? And what the heck are all the features?
The manufacturers have started cramming in all sorts of features. Bluetooth. Camera. Task lists. QWERTY keyboards. Some of these features are actually useful right now. Bluetooth for example – so few people understand that having bluetooth in their phone means they’ll be able to get a wireless headset (earphone and microphone) and be able to talk on their phone without holding the damn cord up to their mouth when they talk. How cool is that? Unfortunately – bluetooth takes power, of which the teensy little batteries’ cuppeths don’t overflow. Camera in the phone? Novelty. Sure – teens and tweens are cranking out photos on their cameras, but the quality still sucks. Maybe in 2-4 years the imaging sensors will improve to the quality of the current 3-5 megapixel stand-alone cameras, but until then – we’re stuck with quality like the infamous Paris Hilton hacked cel phone images.
What would most people think are the important things in the ultimate phone? Some people will say size matters. Some will say they need a camera. A few will say bluetooth. Another group will say quad-band. Some might say a full keyboard. And even fewer still will say contact and calendar integration with their PC or Mac. The final bunch will say instant messaging. That’s pretty much all the features you can get in a cel phone.
But, I’d say the real answer is a great design.
I mean – there just aren’t any phones that look great, have great reception and whopping battery life. I have a Nokia 6820 – a flip-phone that flips into a full keyboard. It’s got great battery life, and I love being able to SMS or IM people with a full keyboard. Alas, it looks geeky un-chic. I also use a Motorola Razr V3, and it looks stunning, has a much better camera than my Nokia (but it’s still not good quality), but has pretty poor battery life and no keyboard. Lucky for me – they both have Bluetooth, but the Nokia bluetooth is a very poor quality implementation. Long ago I had a Nokia 8860, which was one of the sexiest phones ever made (and they’re coming out with an 8801 pretty soon which promises to be sexy as well.
And then there’s the Sidekick phenomenon. By far the best IM, text messaging and email phones out there. Staggering battery life. Decent camera (for a phone). But, they’re fricken huge!
So the sidekick has great battery, crappy reception (because it’s T-mobile) and some pretty good features but it’s large (and therefore bad design).
The Razr has great design, decent reception (but not great), and average to sub-par battery life. A couple nice features (like the camera is ok, the bluetooth is nice and the dual display is nifty).
What’s the solution? What would make for a heavenly cell phone?
Small, but not too small. You have to be able to use the keys. The Razr does a good job of making it small, but the flip-out allows the keys to be big enough for anyone to use.
Great battery. I want this sucker to use a fuel cell, and last 10 days of full-on talking. 6 week standby time.
Stunning design. I’d bet provding a very nice design in a phone would go a long way. We won’t know for a while, because most of the high fashion or really svelte phones are priced well out of reach of the masses.
Oh wait – it needs to be free. I forgot the silver bullet. To be sold in the U.S. and therefore be a success – the manufacturer has to make it cheap enough that the carriers can subsidize the cost to the point it doesn’t cost the consumer anything to walk out the door (except signing your life away for 2 years).
When will we get a stellar phone here on earth? As I said – not for a while. The manufacturers seem too caught up in pushing the limits of one area at a time. Nokia is at the forefront of cool designs. A number of manufacturers are pushing the limits of cramming new features. Who knows who the current leader in battery life is. But, it’ll be years before all the technologies are at the point they can be shrunk enough and manufactured in enough quantity that some company in China will come up with the ultimate phone for the masses…
Until then – I’ll carry my Blackberry, Nokia and Motorola phones (and when I need a great camera – I’ll grab my Canon 20D).
Maybe I should take a look at backpacks…
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