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The joys (not) of searching for a new phone December 24, 2009

Posted by CK in Mobility.
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I have already mentioned in the past that I am not too fond of my Nokia E71. Practically since I bought it, I’m thinking of selling it and buying something else. These days, being the fool that I am for nice new toys and Christmas presents to myself, I thought of looking at my options. From the beginning, I have written off all types and incarnations of Windows for mobile devices as well as Symbian and anything building on it. I looked at various phones, and here are my conclusions.

The first phone I checked and liked after playing with it a bit, was the Samsung Jet (S8000). I liked using it quite a lot: The interface was prompt and beautiful (although I know others despise the inconsistencies in the TouchWiz 2 UI, for me it wasn’t really a problem). I initially thought it was Android-based, it turns out it is using Samsung’s proprietary OS. Samsung is about to release Bada, an open platform that I presume is basically this currently-proprietary OS opened up. Until that happens though, and until it attracts enough developers, the owners of the Jet are constrained to the applications that Samsung releases for the device with its firmware upgrades (plus J2ME applications). In the times of Apple Store, Android Market, and Palm App Catalog, this is a serious limitation. So I had to move on.

Then I looked at the Palm Pre. I’ve been a loyal fun of Palm devices for more than 10 years now, so I was very excited when it came out. It’s available in Germany, and I could even do with the QUERTZ keyboard, if it supported the Greek language (which, to the best of my understanding, it does not yet). This is an immediate show-stopper, so that’s out of the list too.

The iPhone and Android-based choices are basically the only options by now. I find the former to be terribly expensive, and I am much bothered by the way customers are tied up: No replaceable battery, no memory extensions, device sold only by specific telecom providers. I have been spoiled by option so far, and I have a serious moral problem with getting myself restricted in such a manner. On the other hand, it has the most complete application list by 3rd party developers, it synchronizes seamlessly with Mac OS X which I am currently using, and it offers a beautiful, consistent user experience.

From the various Android devices out there, the HTC Hero is quite nice and complete, and the price is reasonable for what it offers (still not cheap though). I also like how Android is open, but on the same time I am much bothered by its strong ties to Google and things I’ve been reading about how one can’t get rid of this integration. Unfortunately, I had no chance so far to take a close look and see if these phones are actually usable without a Google account. The Android Market also seems to be catching up with the Apple Store as regards applications, although still a different league. One issue about the Hero in specific, is that it’s more than 6 months old and is about to be replaced — typical HTC release cycle…

So at the end, I’m still trying to decide between the two (iPhone and Hero), or maybe just wait. Ideally, I’d like something as complete as the iPhone, and as liberal as the Android-based phones, minus the strong coupling with Google services. It feels like one is going after my money, the other one after my data, and I don’t like any of the two.

Maybe I should just forget about 🙂

Plastic Logic’s Que December 13, 2009

Posted by CK in Mobility, Productivity.
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For the last few weeks, I’ve been contemplating about buying an ebook reader. Seeing the Kindle ad every time I was visiting Amazon, certainly helped a lot. The truth is, I’ve collected a large amount of books and papers over the last few years, and I’ve only read a small percentage of them. There are two important reasons: Lack of time, and the fact that I don’t like carrying books around — my backpack is already very heavy with the laptop et al. Although the problem of time would not be solved, an electronic reader would certainly help as regards the mobility of reading material.

The price of Kindle is now at $US 259, quite attractive indeed, and the approaching Christmas made the temptation stronger. Although I arrived twice at the checkout screen, I eventually decided I should do some more research. I’m glad I did. Kindle’s support for PDF is unfortunately suboptimal (granted, PDF’s static nature doesn’t help to deliver the reading experience that Amazon has achieved for its own digital format), and all my reading material is PDF-based. Especially for papers this is a problem; I’ve read many reports saying that the conversion to Kindle’s native format leaves a lot to be desired when formulas and tables are involved.

So I set out to find something better for reading PDF documents. I don’t care about wireless delivery and the such. Eventually I found that the offerings of Irex are currently the closest to what I need. A choice between 8.1” and 10.2” displays, native PDF support and a touch screen you can use for notes and annotations! Nevertheless, the price is just too large. The cheapest product costs 540 euros, which is more than double the price of Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and basically pretty much anything else there exists out there. Also, they all are quite heavy, apparently (430g for the Iliad, more than half a kilo for the Digital Reader).

So I kept searching, and stumbled onto a product still unreleased, but about to be officially presented (on Jan 7): The QUE, by Plastic Logic. This is brand new technology, and the QUE is the first product to feature it. This video from All-Things-Digital made me drool; the device is super-thin, apparently very light, and the display seems to be at least on par with everything else. I hope they price it reasonably too!