It's been a long time since my first mobile phone - a venerable old Motorola MicroTAC but it really set the tone for many features that I consider to be valuable in a communications tool today.
Of course compared to today's phones there are many features I'm glad we've moved on from, though when it comes down to it the basic functionality is pretty hard to innovate much beyond while the form factor remains close to what the world thinks of as a phone.
Since then I've had many phones - StarTAC, Nokia 6110, 6310, 7650, 3650 and a trusty 8210, Sony Ericsson T610, Motorola A1000, Sony Ericsson P910, LG U8120 and LG U890 (I worked on TV shows that were sponsored by phone networks... it helped provide a never-ending supply of phones and paid for calls!). Then I got my iMate K-Jam (AKA HTC Wizard / T-Mobile MDA) and for a long time it's been good.
The trusty Windows Mobile device has seen me through a bunch of projects, kept me in touch (phone, email, IM and now Twitter) and since joining Microsoft it's been used to dogfood upgrades and patches to help work out the kinks before you get them. With PointUI it now even looks as cool as the new HTC TouchFlo devices (at, at least on the home screen, gives the iPhone a run for it's money!)
Time however hasn't been kind to the Wizard. The battery doesn't last 24 hours, the screen gets confused if it should be in landscape or portrait (the micro-switch doesn't always switch!) and it's generally starting to show its age.
It's time for a new phone.
But when I look around the market I find that my expectations are maybe a little hard to satisfy. Even if I'm willing to compromise on a couple of things on my wish-list there's still no one phone that leaps out and says "buy me!"
So, what does that wish list look like - and can you help me find the ideal new companion?
- Windows Mobile. A combination of loyalty to my employer, but more so I can be sure of connecting to our Exchange server with all the various security protocols in place.
- A real keypad. One of the disappointments with the Wizard is trying to dial quickly. A physical keypad means you don't have to wade through an on-screen menu with no tactile feedback just to make a call. I'd like a full keyboard as well but as long as it's got T9 or smart auto-complete I can live with it.
- A decent camera. I don't need 10MP with 25x zoom... but I do need 2MP or better, ideally with a lens cover (or some way of cleaning it) and if possible a flash. Responsive camera s/w would be a real bonus as well
- WiFi, 802.11b and g. There are some great phones out there (eg Samsung i620 or HTC Touch Dual) that are crippled because there is no WiFi.
- GPS. Not essential (if I only have to drop one thing it would be this) but I love being able to locate myself using Windows Live Search or track where I've been.
- Good battery life. Let me go 48 hours without desperately needing a charge. I want to be able to do email, check twitter etc without hearing the beep-beep-beep of a dead battery. And that includes being able to turn off the radios and play solitaire and listen to music on a flight from Seattle to Heathrow, and still have enough juice to call my brother when I land.
- On the subject of music... if I can converge my iPod and my phone in the same way I converged my PDA and Phone with the Wizard I'll be very happy That of course means I want a standard headphone jack (3.5mm) as well as good stereo bluetooth support.
- Ideally the screen and input functionality will be good enough to write quick notes to myself, dash off emails and respond to comments on my blog.
- Which leads me to web browsing. Compared to Safari on an iPhone or Opera on other mobile devices PocketIE really needs a workover. Apart from the circa 2000 UI on Windows Mobile Professional devices (SmartPhones are a little better) web browsing is the more compromised experience on these devices.
- Ideally upgradable. Windows Mobile 6 is okay, but I know I'll want Windows Mobile 6.1 or 6.5 or 7 or whatever comes next...
Annoyingly one of the best devices for most of these, apart from the critical email access question, is the Nokia N95 8GB. Most of the Windows Mobile devices don't quite get there at the moment, thought the HTC S730 is pretty darn close. If the Touch Dual or i620 had WiFi they'd be very strong contenders (I love the idea of the smaller slider, or even a clamshell, form factor) but with the other things I'd have to give up they don't quite make the cut.
I guess my Wizard will last a couple more weeks... in the meantime I'd love some suggestions what should replace it. Michael thinks the Samsung SCH-i760 is pretty cool and Frank can't make up his mind between a Treo, Tytn-II or Shadow ... no wonder I'm confused ;)