Not quite smart phones

by Volker Weber

My requirements for a mobile phone are not very basic. I want a phone that works as a phone, it should be able to receive emails unattended. I want a camera capable of taking useful pictures, I need to be able to reply to email and send attachments, especially pictures. Finally I want instant messaging if possible, and a way to post to would be nice to have. Stellar battery performance is not an issue as long as I can make it safely through the day. I want a 3G radio if possible, and it should be able to connect my Mac to the internet. Syncing addresses and calendars from the Mac is a must.

However, none of the phones I currently use is able to do all that. In alphabetical order:

BlackBerry 8100 Pearl: Does not have a 3G radio and does not work as a modem with the Mac. Receiving email is perfect, answering is not so perfect due to SureType instead of a full keyboard. Syncs with the Mac, albeit not through iSync. Can send pictures as attachments, but is unable to play wav file attachments (BIS limitation at my carrier). The phone is currently broken and RIM does not have a replacement for me. Was my favorite phone before it broke.

BlackBerry 8800: Does not have a 3G radio and does not work as a modem with the Mac. Receiving email is perfect, as is answering. Syncs with the Mac, albeit not through iSync. No camera. Biggest downside: does not work with my primary USIM (limitation introduced in 4.2.1). RIM knows about the problem since March 15, but I am unable to get status updates on this issue. Even without a camera it would be a serious contender for vowe's choice due to the fact that it has working GPS receiver.

Motorola RAZR: Dumb phone, works reasonably well. No 3G modem. Works with the Mac as a modem. Supported by iSync but does not store enough contacts. Receiving email means polling your mail server. Replying is inconvenient due to the phone keypad. Camera is useless,

Nokia 9300: Does not have a 3G radio but works as a modem with the Mac. Receiving email is good, but the mail client is way too slow compared with current devices. Unsupported in iSync and has issues even after I added a working driver. Very good phone, no camera, excellent battery life. Excellent screen. You can read it in bright sunlight. iSync issues and the slow mail client made me drop this phone.

Nokia N70: Has a 3G radio that works as a modem with the Mac. Excellent camera for a mobile phone, no BlackBerry Connect support. Unattended email means fetching periodically from POP or IMAP which is too expensive. Replying is inconvenient due to the phone keypad. Terrible battery life, especially in 3G mode. Drops of the 3G network without giving any indication. Callers are told you are not online, although the device says you are on. Can be switched to 2G and works well there.

Palm Treo 750: Has a 3G radio that works as a modem with the Mac. Usable camera. Fast mail client with BlackBerry Connect and Direct Push support. Very limited functionality, for instance no "mark all messages as read". Unsupported by iSync, unable to store all contact information from Mac. Do not dare to sync both ways. Battery life is terrible. Absolutely terrible. Worst in this set. Turns itself on for no particular reason, so don't let it sit next to your bed or it will wake you up. Has a one to two second delay when setting up an incoming call. Calling party will be unable to hear your first words.

If you work for Nokia, Samsung, SonyEricsson or any other company that makes fine phones, and you are able to send me a newer device, let me have it. I am going to say nice things about stuff that works, and bad things about stuff that does not. Your call. :-)

Oh, one thing: no more Windows Mobile phones. The Treo is the best of them, and it ain't good enough.


What about that Nokia E61i? Does all you need, *and* has stellar battery performance.
Currently testing it, and as far as smartphones go, this is the best of the crop. Build quality hugely increased over previous version.

Frank Koehntopp, 2007-04-23

How to use your BlackBerry Pearl as Bluetooth Modem under OS X:

Stefan Domanske, 2007-04-23

I have similar requirements for a smartphone, except I don't need a camera, but the phone MUST fit in my jeans pocket, without any risk of it breaking/making unauthorised calls without me.

I know this breaks your requirements in two places, but my current device is a Sony Ericcson m600i. No camera, and Mac support is poor, but the rest works. Its big brother, the p990i, has a camera. Although I ruled out this phone due to its thickness. The M600i is very slim, and not that much thicker than my ipod Nano.

Incidentally on the subject of Synchronisation, I use a SyncMl/Web2.0 type website ( to sync my M600i with all my other stuff. M600i is synched with Scheduleworld (using the standard SyncML client supplied with the phone). I then use Scheduleworld to sync with Evolution on my Linux desktop, and also with GoogleCalendar. GoogleCalendar is then used to Sync my MacBook (just iCal so far I'm afraid). Works suprisingly well. But a bit of a pain to setup and contacts do sometimes get duplicated (never lost one yet though!). The great advantage of this is that it will work with any SyncML capable phone. So I can replace my phone at anytime and not have to reconfigure software.

I'm coming up to the time when I can upgrade my contract phone, and I'll be following other smartphones you review. I was tempted by the Nokia E61, although the lack of a touchscreen would annoy me.


Chris Lindley, 2007-04-23


das Nokia E61i funktioniert auch schon mit den iSync phone plugins von uns ;-) Solltest Du einmal testen!



Jan Fuellemann, 2007-04-23

Man braucht nicht unbedingt Euer Plugin. Nokia hat auch eins und da ist das Icon bestimmt schicker. :-)

Ich habe noch kein E61i, aber schon mal bei Nokia angefragt.

Volker Weber, 2007-04-23

I would suggest the Nokia N95 or wait for the BlackBerry 8300, both should do everything you need

David Guillaume, 2007-04-23

David, unfortunately your are wrong. The BlackBerry 8300 does not have 3G.

Abdelkader Boui, 2007-04-23

I'm pinning my hopes on the E90....look forward to your review of *that* device. I like the E61 (posting this from it now, having just landed. My wife's raising her eyebrow at my choice of my first 'hit' of the internet since doing so) but it's as slow as the slowest thing and other quirks in it's operation drive me mad. I like the sound of the E90 with its camera, radio and GPS, but am resigned to being disappointed in some regard.

John Ash, 2007-04-23

David, the N95 is a consumer device which would be terrible as an email client. John is suggesting the E90 as the newest incarnation of the Communicator series, but I am as reluctant as I am with the E61i. I have yet to see a Series 60 phone quick enough for my liking. Finally, the 8300 is interesting because it combines camera and full keyboard, but I find it quite ugly and it also does not have a 3G modem. And until RIM fixes 4.2.1, the Pearl is the latest model I can use.

Volker Weber, 2007-04-23

Funny to see Volker thinking similiar to what has been going on in my head for the last couple of weeks. Not that I do need so much the email funcionality at the moment - but searching the web, the question came to my mind - why has not one of the major phone vendors built a real phone for business people that does it all (the funcionality itself is largely available).

My whishlist:
- decent phone (ok - obvious)
- 3G capability
- Integrated GPS module (preferably via SIRF chip)
- usable with Navigon software
- Syncs flawlessly with the Mac (absolutely imparative)
- large screen, similar to the display quality of my 9300
- input method via full keyboard or even touch screen device (but not just regular phone buttons)
- usable camera
- blackberry capabilites if required
- good build quality and pleasing to the eye (and my shirt / or jacket pocket)
- mp3 ? - nice but not a must....

I haven't touched the N95 yet; it seems nice but I the input method would be rather weak - I find the blackberry 8800 also quite nice, but missing a lot - so an improved version could become highly attractive. I doubt that Apple will make the first iPhone release in Europe feature complete (3G?) - because in essence - wouldn't a fully equipped iPhone all that we ever wanted....?

Sorry for the long text - it could have easily been written as - "Seems that Markus is going to keep his 9300 for a while...."

Markus Heyl, 2007-04-23

The Treo 750 can do all that. Minus the GPS.

Volker Weber, 2007-04-23

I *hear* that the E90 is quick. I just hope that it is!

John Ash, 2007-04-23

Yes, I'd second Volker's list as well. There are 3G RAZRs, but similarly to the normal RAZRs they fall short with a solala interface and screen as well as no full keyboard. When I got my 3G RAZR early last year, I had hoped that the Motorola TXTR will come soon, but it never did. Pity.

Moritz Schroeder, 2007-04-23

.. jetzt haben wir aber auch die Original Icons ;-)))

Jan Fuellemann, 2007-04-24

I would prefer a 9300 (form, display, keyboard) with a BlackBerry 8800 inside plus 3G

Otto Foerg, 2007-04-24

I've been testing the E61i for a week now and it is by far the fastest Series 60 phone I've had yet. Clearly faster than the N73 and way faster than the N70. Solid build with lots of features means you need to look at this one re your list of demands. So-so camera, though.

Frode Baekken, 2007-04-25

If you'll forgive a little bit of a (relevant) plug -- I was the editor for this huge article -- you might find the following interesting: The Business-Savvy Smart Phone Review: Nokia E62, BlackBerry Pearl, T-Mobile Dash, Palm Treo 750: CIO compares four of the hottest smart phones available, from the perspective of four experienced IT executives. Our whole emphasis was on deploying smart phones in an enterprise, rather than "look at these cool features."

Esther Schindler, 2007-05-01

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