Smartphones: vowe's choice

by Volker Weber


This is of course a moving target, but I just want to answer a question I get asked a lot: "which phone would you recommend?" In short, all of the above. But I arranged them in three rows. Top row are the two phones I used every single day. Second row are the phones I like to use once in a while, but always quickly replace with the ones from the top row. Third row are the phones I'd like to be better than they are.

I can live with any of them. They are good phones, let me check my mail, sync events and contacts, let me connect to Twitter and Facebook. And yet, there are differences. Let's start from the bottom and work to vowe's choice.

  1. Nokia E71, bottom right: this is the best phone Nokia ever made. Very solid, thin, longest battery life in the batch. Symbian S60 v3 is long in the tooth but it gets the job done. Slow compared to the other phones, lowest screen resolution. Works well in direct sunlight though.
  2. Nokia N97, bottom left: this was supposed to be the Nokia flagship, but it fell behind the competition, mostly because of its screen and the awkward Symbian S60 v5 (1.0). Nokia followed up with the N97 mini and then with a software update, but both were too little, too late to beat the competition.
  3. Nokia N900, middle right: a computer with a phone, not a phone with a computer. Excellent integration of Skype and VoIP with the "regular" phone. Fast. Real multitasking. Open everything. Poor battery life, big and heavy. Does not have a real future.
  4. Palm Pre, center: small, but chubby, the least solid hardware of the bunch. Slow, worst battery life. Very good user interaction and multitasking. Not a lot of applications, but excellent when they do exist. I could use this phone a lot more, if I would not wear out the battery before the day is over.
  5. iPhone, middle left: you would think this is the best, but it isn't. It's very solid, works well across the board, there is an app for that, yada yada yada. Why am I not using it? It won't update me on Twitter or Facebook when I'm not in that app.
  6. BlackBerry Bold 9700: this is the parachute I wear when I leave the ground. It's always with me when I travel. Very few people know the phone number since I hardly ever use it to place phone calls. So I can leave it on, even when I present on a stage or when I take a nap. It always works, it runs days on a battery charge. Why is this not vowe's choice? It's too boring and it has an awful browser.
  7. Nexus One: top left. This is it. It does everything the other phones do, with the exception of Skype. It's thin and light, it holds very nicely in your hand. I always survive a day on a full charge. There is an app for that, actually some apps you will not find on an iPhone. The integration into the Google cloud is best in its class. There are still some annoying bugs with a runaway digitizer and difficulties connecting to Wifi, but I have learned to quickly work around those issues.

So the Nexus One is vowe's choice. Not without the BlackBerry Bold as backup though.


I don't get the luxury to evaluate a wide range of smartphones, but the Nexus One hasn't disappointed me during the last few months I've used it. It is the first hardware that lives up to the software potential of Android that was there since the G1. And make no mistake, the Skype situation will be rectified. Know any good developers in Sweden?

Jeff Gilfelt, 2010-03-22

My facebook updates me when i am not in the app on my iPhone.

Mark Hughes, 2010-03-22

Have you had a chance to try the Sony X10? It is coming to Rogers here in Canada, and I'm wondering if I should hold out.

Alan Lepofsky, 2010-03-22

Mark, do you mean push notifications? Way too obnoxious.

Alan, no, I haven't. I only speak for the ones above. I would not hold out for something from SonyEricsson if I could get an HTC today.

Volker Weber, 2010-03-22

Yes thats what i meant, and your right i was thinking, why would he want those push updates for twitter and facebook, very annoying.

Mark Hughes, 2010-03-22

How much better would be the E72 compared to the E71 (if it's better at all)? I am considering to stay at E-Series phones.

Mathias Ziolo, 2010-03-22

The E72 has a few advantages: newer software, a 3.5mm headphones socket instead of the 2.5mm. But I like the E71 body better.

Volker Weber, 2010-03-22

Man, Volker. You must be wearing army pants and a heavy duty belt to carry all those devices around. And I'm glad I'm not you when walking through airport security checks ;-)

Jens Bruntt, 2010-03-22

Don't worry. I usually only carry one phone, if I am away for a day. If I'm away longer, than I pack a second one. As for airport security, I could probably carry all of them. Customs might be a problem then.

Volker Weber, 2010-03-22

If you want more customization of the iPhone's notifications, there is a crazy app called Prowl which can tie push into the Growl notification service on the Mac. It takes some doing, but you can have it notify for practically anything.

That said, I don't use it anymore, since, as you say, the notification system is so annoying. I have trimmed down notifications to only the standards (email, phone, sms), sports (with sportacular), and IM (meebo).

I am hoping that iPhone OS 4 gets a) better notifications (something like the Pre's would rock) and b) a more customizable home screen system.

Kevan Emmott, 2010-03-22

I think I need to clarify that I like the iPhone a lot. That is why it holds the #3 spot. I just happen to like the other two better.

Volker Weber, 2010-03-22

I have switched to Opera Mini ( Just try it.

Bernd Steidele, 2010-03-22

Uhhps, I forgot to mention, i use Opera Mini with my Blackberry Bold device.

Bernd Steidele, 2010-03-22

I did. And I just did again. But Opera is not my cup of tea. Never was.

RIM is going to fix the browser this year. I am not so sure it is going to fix "boring". :-)

Volker Weber, 2010-03-22

Nice writeup. I have the HTC Hero and whereas it's a great phone, the Nexus One feels far nicer, as well as being a lot snappier.

chris lindley, 2010-03-22

I use Nimbuzz on Android to connect with Skype.
That works quite good and surely will improve now as Skype made their codec open source.

Nimbuzz also works with a dozen of other IM services, so it got the only IM client I have on the phone.

Patrick Bohr, 2010-03-22

My Collection is almost the same. But i never had the chance to use an android and hope i will have one soon for a first "playing".

So BB 9700 is on my first place and instead of the Nexus i pick a Nokia 6310i as my backup phone :-)

Marco Koch, 2010-03-23

My first choice is also the great Nexus One. Thanks to Thomas Lang for selling me his Nexus One.

I use Nimbuzz, fring and Skype Lite on my Nexus One to connect with Skype.

Actually getting my mails, calender entries and contacts from Lotus Notes/Domino via ActiveSync with Touchdown on my Nexus. Still waiting for Lotus Traveler on Android.

My backup phone is the Nokia E71. Also thinking, that the E71 is the best phone Nokia ever made. It has never abandon me.

Tamer Alipek, 2010-03-23

Very nice input as I'm looking for a new phone. I'm still using my E51 which I think is still nice for making phone calls but is lacking in the online part.

After Bochum I thought I'll give a different manufacturer's product a chance with my next phone. So it won't be an N900. And they've practically killed Maemo already.

Blackberry somehow doesn't 'click' with me (as I also like to play around with all the app candy, so it must not be 'boring'!) although the battery uptime seems to be impressive.

Leaves Android and the iPhone.

I'm a bit astounded that everybody praises the cloud syncing. I thought Google was evil now by amassing all my personal data? So I'm wary to have my emails indexed and analysed as they may contain some client's data. Is this (not) a concern and am I too paranoid?
Also, I can't officially buy a Nexus One here in Germany yet and the Motorola Milestone has an encrypted bootloader and may be slow with Android updates compared to the Nexus. The HTC Desire looks nice (as the Nexus does) but it has Sense which may also delay Android updates.

Looks like it will be the iPhone. Am I wrong with my concerns re. Google?

Tobias Hauser, 2010-03-23

Tobias, as for Google and your data, you might want to read Jeff. He explains it much nicer than I could.

Volker Weber, 2010-03-23

I am still looking for a new phone and I will most likely buy one next month.
Right now the Milestone seems to be the phone I will buy.
The Nexus One is still not available in Germany, as Tobias pointed out, and it will probably take quite a while. You can buy it from import traders, yes, but the price is ridiculous.
As for the HTC Desire, it will be available in the next few weeks but the price will be similar to the Milestone and as far as I know the hardware is also not that different, apart from the missing HW keyboard. I don't think that I'll need a HW keyboard, but if I can choose between getting one and not getting one for the same money, then the choice seems obvious, doesn't it? :)
Yesterday I had another look at a few phones in a store. The HTC Legend seemed also quite nice, but it doesn't have a high resolution display like the Milestone/Desire/ and costs about the same as the first two. The store also had the Samsung Galaxy in stock, which is refreshingly inexpensive, but unfortunately Samsung decided not to release an update to Android 2.x, so that phone is out of the question for me. With 2.x Android I would probably have bought it by now.

Daniel Haferkorn, 2010-03-24

Jeff's text is a good read with very fitting observations, thanks for the link Volker. His observations are revealing and I would agree with him that privacy will be viewed differently over time on a broader scale.
I thought a good while about it after reading the text. The article encourages openness and I'm not overly shy with my own data online. But I'm still undecided if I see a problem where i.e. engineering/prototype data is sent to me as their privacy policy reserves the right to 'process the information in your messages for various purposes'.
But yes, I think I'm pretty close to wanting a Nexus One now. Let's see once they materialize over here (I know you can import them but I'd prefer to have the guarantee as the price will be more or less the same either way).

Tobias Hauser, 2010-03-24

I know, Volker, that you're not living in an enterprise environment. But you certainly know about those... One thing that's important for me (and probably others here as well) is calendar and address book synchronization with corporate infrastructure (in my case LN8.5, in other cases probably often Exchange).

How does Android play along with this? I've seen some apps that claim to do it, but maybe you have practical experience somehow? And I wouldn't want my LN synchronized calendar entries to show up in Google. Contacts maybe ok, but probably I wouldn't even want those to show up in Google. I would like to keep my private GMail access though (only mail, not necessarily calendar). My feeling is that this is not how Google wants me to use Android and thus it won't be a supported use case. Is my feeling correct?

Ragnar Schierholz, 2010-03-25

The clincher for me between Android and iPhone last year was media: I knew I would be using the phone to play a lot of music and some video, and the iPhone was a no-brainer in that regard; I wonder if it still is?

Ben Poole, 2010-04-08

I believe it is. At least if you live in the Apple ecosystem.

Volker Weber, 2010-04-08

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