A phone is not just a phone anymore

by Volker Weber


A mobile phone lets you make phone calls. We take that for granted. Visit the US, and it is not so obvious. But here, it just works. Or at least it should. I am having some difficulties with phone calls on the G1 and I am still trying to find out what's wrong. The call isn't dropped, but the other person "disappears".

Funny thing is, I don't care that much. The mobile phone is less of a phone to me, but more of a mobile computer. Email, Twitter, News. Some weather and stocks. Once in a while a photo. That's what I use it for. And in this respect there are three winners: Android, BlackBerry, and iPhone. And two losers: Symbian (Nokia) and Windows Mobile. Both platforms feel "old".

Update on Android apps; I am using Mail, Twidroid, Newsrob, Browser, AccuWeather, Evernote Mobile and a clock and battery widget on my main screen. On the left canvas I have the Google widget, Contacts and Gallery, Orienteer, Maps, Sky Map and Wikitude. The right canvas has Finance, Quickpedia, Settings, Market, ShopsSavvy, Barcode Scanner, Calculator and Shazam.

Btw, I think we can stop using the moniker "smartphone". Almost all but the cheapest phones are smart nowadays.


Well sort of. My home phone is still just a phone. I have wifi in my house, I have access to charging points nearby. I would think the market for a landline based phone with iphone like function would be huge. Where is this device?

Andrew Pollack, 2009-05-19

Well, around here people start dropping their landlines. And as mobile Internet access becomes more affordable and powerful, I think we will even see people dropping broadband landline in the not so distant future.

Volker Weber, 2009-05-19

@Andrew - an iPod Touch with a Microphone and Skype isn't much of a stretch in technology terms. Steve, if you're listening; I'd buy one.

@Volker - in NZ, the telco is aggressively guarding their monopoly; you can't have ADSL without a landline. We were promised naked DSL last year, but its yet to surface.

Colin Williams, 2009-05-19

Used to be the same here. Today you can buy DSL with VoIP.

Volker Weber, 2009-05-19

Looks like you're quite satisfied with the G1/Android. Right now i'm using an E71 and are afraid of switching to a completely other OS, although i share your opinion that Symbian feels old and "from yesterday" and i know how easy it is to code for Android since having done this as a "Studienarbeit". So do you miss anything from Symbian? Does it make sense to use an Android device to "unlock" with a Google-Account, but not using the account?

Andreas Heinz, 2009-05-19

I thought I just wanted a “smartphone” with the ability to make the occasional call. But as an ex-Nokia user, I was taking it for granted that the phone side of these things would be dandy. Not necessarily so!

Is there anything consistent about when the G1 loses the call? FWIW, my BB drops calls made after around two minutes—they just fade away…

Ben Poole, 2009-05-19

I am experiencing bad quality of voice with my iPhones, dropped calls, long waits to reconnect to the network after, say, being in a underground parking, people who are talking with me using theirs, are hardly understandable to me, using my Bluetooth headset impedes them understanding me. Finding a particular mail is a royal PITA, the missing functionality to edit a number before dialing it (think americans, never even bothering to mention the +1 in front of their number) is plainly ridiculous.

The iPhone is still my preferred phone, as it integrates with exchange and I can actually read the screen...

Armin Roth, 2009-05-19

Andreas, the E71 is a much much better device than the G1. Don't drop it so quickly. There will be a lot more Android devices in the next 12 months.

As for the software, I am not missing anything from Symbian.

Volker Weber, 2009-05-19

Thanks, you answered my question intuitive more correctly than i asked my question ;)
The G1 is not an option for me. I was just curious about Android vs. Symbian.

Since you're testing so much devices: what's actually you're personally preferred/used system/device?

Andreas Heinz, 2009-05-19

Very hard to answer since I have so much choice.

If I really, really need to be mobile, away from power outlets and Wifi, I would say the BlackBerry Bold. It's the last thing that would break.

For the best software support and ease of use, the iPhone. I only have the original one, and my carrier does not provide EDGE service, so it's too slow without Wifi. But that would change with the 3G.

Both are not great phones. Too wide to comfortably hold to your ear. The iPhone is also very delicate and breaks easily if you drop it on the floor. Two in three of my friends who have an iPhone broke at least one of them.

The E71 was my favorite phonephone, until I returned it to Nokia. I believe it's the best device they make. The E75 has better software, but I prefer the E71 hardware.

Android G1 is my preferred toy at the moment. Battery life is ridiculous. The new HTC phone that Vodafone sells, isn't that much better. And I am missing the keyboard, as I do on the iPhone. So I am staying with the G1. And charge it whenever I am near a USB socket. Which I am a lot.

Volker Weber, 2009-05-19

@Andreas, the Android phone is just half the fun if you don't use the Google account.

Calendar and the GMail app are essential to the G1 experience and won't work without the Google account. I hear the standard non-Gmail mail client sucks, but I never tried that myself. Maybe(!) K9 is an alternative?

I am sure that Android will get more valuable outside the Google world in the future, but is not there yet. I believe Cupcake (the currently rolled out release of the Android OS) allows you to activate the phone without owning a Google account.

@Volker, regarding tracking battery usage (and net usage and some more things), there is built-in functionality in Cupcake to do that. You can even see which apps consume the most battery, net traffic etc.
I believe to remember that the Activity is called "Battery History". Only thing is that you can't directly access it. There is no "GUI entry point".
You can surface this and other functionality though when using an app called Any Cut (or a similar app).
It sounds more complicated than it is.

Mariano Kamp, 2009-05-19

How cool is that? Immediately created a shortcut to call Ute. Thanks!

Volker Weber, 2009-05-19

When i combine your answers Volker&Mariano it sounds like one of the next devices using android combined with cupcake and hoping that battery life will improve over time may be the solution if you want to use Android.
@Volker: i share your opinion, that the E71 is the best Nokia device so far and i also wouldn't want to miss a qwertz-keyboard.

Right now i'm searching for a full-touchscreen-device with slide-out qwertz keyboard with open(source) operating system.

So we'll see which Android devices appear this or next year :)

Andreas Heinz, 2009-05-19

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