For the most part, I’ve had pretty good luck with cell phones over the years. In the nearly ten years since I bought my first one from a new defunct camera store at Southcenter Mall on something of a whim, I’m only on my fourth one so far (well, five if you count the one-month beta test of a phone for Sprint I somehow ended up in a few years ago,) and I only managed to lose one of them two weeks before my contract was up. During the last decade, there’s been a rather interesting evolution in the mobile device realm. At that time, cell phones were just barely beginning to branch out into functions other than basic calling, and although the Samsung SCH-8500 that I had as my first phone (and ended up keeping for more than four years) would be laughably primitive today, for its time it was a pretty high-end phone. It could store 229 phone numbers, could display seven lines of 16 characters apiece, and most importantly, could browse the Web… insofar as the Web could be browsed on a phone that could display all of 112 characters and a couple of cheesy 1-color graphics at a time. I could do a few basic functions like check my e-mail or grab the occasional sports score, but beyond that, it wasn’t really all that useful. Still, for its time, this phone was about as high-tech as you could get, but even then, the device wasn’t much more than a glorified telephone with a few added features.
Ten years later, the nature of wireless phones has changed dramatically. These days, smartphones (a category that didn’t even exist until the introduction of the Handspring Treo 180 in 2002) have taken over a huge share of the wireless market, doing just about everything you can possibly think of except cooking dinner and folding the laundry. Even low-end phones these days have plenty of features that just plain didn’t exist ten years ago. In fact, a lot of phones being sold these days are primarily data-centric devices that just happen to have somehow retained the ability to make a phone call as needed. And yet, even with all this technology, I always seem to find myself waiting for the next big thing.
My current phone is an HTC Mogul that I got a couple of years ago to replace an older Windows Mobile phone. During the time I’ve used it it’s served well, but at this point it’s really beginning to show its age. More and more frequently I find it becoming unresponsive for several minutes (or even hours) at a time, with not even a reset of the phone being able to fix the problem. There are several keys on the keyboard that only seem to work about half the time, and the D-pad on the front has also become problematic in recent times. Battery life also continues to get shorter and shorter as the battery ages. In short, I’m thinking it’s just about time for a new phone.
I actually hadn’t planned on using this phone for as long as I’ve had it. Originally I had planned to replace it with an HTC Touch Pro just a few months after I got this one, but was eventually dissuaded by poor early availability and reports of poor battery life on that phone. A year later (roughly the middle of last year,) the Touch Pro 2 came out which was supposed to fix a lot of the problems with the previous model, and I would have jumped on that if not for the fact that it came with a $350 price tag on a 2-year contract, which was quite a bit more than I had bargained for. This means that for the better part of the last two years I’ve been sticking to what I’ve got, waiting for the next big thing that hasn’t showed up yet (or showed up for too much money, as the case may be.)
Sure, there’s always the iPhone (as half a zillion people on just about any forum are more than willing to remind you) but I’ve been unwilling to switch carriers (especially to AT&T) to get one, and I’ve never really been a big fan of Apple products to begin with, so I’ve never really been all that interested in one. Besides, without the iPhone’s apps there wouldn’t really be much there, and most of the apps will work just fine on an iPod Touch that doesn’t require a ridiculously expensive service plan to use. Having worked at various times on the Windows Mobile team or other teams working on Windows Mobile apps at Microsoft, I’ve been inclined to stick with that platform for a lot longer than most people would consider to be sane. It can be said that Windows Mobile (or Windows Phone, as it was recently renamed) has a bit of an image problem, although I tend to think this lies more in the fact that most writers who deal with phones on tech Blogs are Apple fanatics that consider the lack of an Apple logo to be a deal-breaker for any phone than with any particular fault in the platform itself. Windows Phone 7 is on the semi-distant horizon promising to bring the platform back to relevance with a complete rewrite of the platform and a significant rethink of a lot of the paradigms that have developed in mobile phone OS design over the past few years. What I’ve seen of this certainly looks impressive, but it’ll be at least six months before anything running WP7 makes it into consumers’ hands, and I’m not so sure my current phone isn’t going to bite the dust before then.
At the same time, there’s Android, Google’s entry into the Smartphone market. Currently, the standard bearer of the platform is Google’s own Nexus One, which should soon be available for all of the major US carriers. I actually don’t have a whole lot of experience with the Android platform at this point aside from a few brief stints of testing on an Android application at work, but there seems to be some rather impressive features in this phone that led me to give some consideration to getting one… Right up until Sprint announced the EVO 4G last week. Now that looks like a serious smartphone with a 480×800 screen, a built-in 8 megapixel camera which should be much appreciated by anyone sick of putting up with the grainy cameraphone pictures that seem to be plastered all over this Blog, the ability to tether up to 8 devices off the device’s 4G WiMax connection, and the ability to output to HDMI. If not for the fact that no release date (aside from the standard vague “Summer 2010” answer) or price has been announced for this, I’d probably already be in line to get one. I do still get the sneaking suspicion that this phone is still several months away and will probably cost a small fortune when it does finally arrive, but by the time it does I’ll probably be sick enough of the phone I’ve got to finally just go ahead and get one. I just hope my current phone manages to actually last that long…