Sunday, 14 November 2010

A Life in Phones

First things first I'd like to point out that I am not a phone geek. I'm writing this because I'm currently looking for a new phone and want to work out what would suit me. Also this is a *really* long post (you have been warned).

Phone 1: Nokia 3210

I loved this phone. I got it for Christmas when I was 15 and had it for over 5 years without ever being tempted to replace it. This is the phone by which all other phones are judged. I was sad to part with it but my boyfriend (tech-savvy) was embarrassed by the ancient brick I was carrying and bought me a new one.

Phone 2: Nokia 3120 (I think)

This was fine. Bit smaller than my 3210 and had a colour screen but similar in other respects. It did phones and texts. It did not survive being run over by a car...

Phone 3: Nokia 6300

After phone 2 died I decided I would get a phone with a camera! This was an exciting moment. In all other respects it wasn't really much different from what I'd had before though. I used it for texting, phone calls and occasional snaps of stuff I wanted to remember. This phone was great for me, small enough to be easy to slip into a pocket but robust and sturdy enough that I wasn't paranoid about breaking it. Sadly after a couple of loyal years, phone 3 has run away.

Luckily for me, my boyfriend seems to be a smartphone wrangler, they're just magically attracted to him and have a tendency to turn up on the doorstep. This means I've had the chance to try out a few different phones on a temporary basis.

Temporary phone 1: Nokia E5

I'd heard that this was a phone-geeks phone and was told I'd probably struggle. Not sure what they were on about, it was easy to use. Easy to
navigate around and find the options I wanted. No difficulty setting up my facebook account on it, camera was straight forward too. First phone that I've wanted to look something up and gone "Ahah! I can google it!! From my phone!!!"

There were however a couple of things I wasn't keen on. I'm not really a fan of blackberry style phones and found it a bit too big and chunky. It was good for typing emails on but was too big to fit easily into pockets. My old phones I tended to chuck in my bag and forget about. I was quite content that they could rattle around and still work on the other side. Not so the E5 - I'm sure it is fairly sturdy really but I was scared of hurting it.

Another thing I found baffling (but would get used to I'm sure) was the number layout. A phone style keypad overlaid on the QWERTY keyboard but with zero off to one side. Every time I wanted to type in numbers I got confused, expecting them to be laid out QWERTY style.

One thing I really liked was the torch! Just press a button and you have a light. I'd never really considered this as being an awesome phone feature before but found it really useful on a couple of occasions.

Temporary phone 2: Sony Ericsson Xperia X10

Serious geek-phone. I think I lot of my issues were simply that I'm not the target audience for this phone. I want a phone that I can use straight away. I liked the idea that I could customise everything, and in practise I guess that once you have it set up right it's a brilliant phone... but I kept being baffled that I had to set up every little thing. You want a keyboard to type texts? Oh you'll have to choose from myriad options. You want to use facebook, you'll have to decide which app you want to download. I never did manage to find one I liked. I ended up mostly using my ipod touch for internet.

The camera was ok but not as good as I'd expected somehow. Ditto with video, sound quality wasn't great (ok I was at a gig but still).

My major bugbear again was it's size and seeming fragility. I just don't feel comfortable sticking something that is pretty much all screen in a bag with keys. Perhaps smartphones tend to be marketed at men but still, if I can't actually reach to type in landscape mode, I'm not going to use it. I really struggled when texting. My style is to use two thumbs. With my old phones I could quite happily walk along the street texting without looking. With the X10 I had to stop and really concentrate. Then go back and change all the auto-corrections (e.g. it changed "Marzipan" to "Martian". Why would I want to ask my boyfriend if he likes martians in cake-form?) Also it seems I type too quick so it wasn't noticing half my keystrokes.

Another issue I had was how fast it ran through it's battery. Admittedly my previous phones hadn't had very heavy usage but phone 3 usually needed charging every 3 to 4 days. The X10 needed charging twice a day. It's not exactly mobile if I have to leave it charging while I live my life. It turned out this was because I hadn't installed the app to stop it burning through it's battery, or the app that lets you exit other apps (why can't they just have exit buttons?)

Oh and another thing I almost forgot - every time I tried to call someone from it I ended up hanging up on them with my ear. Having a touch-screen "end call" button just didn't work for me. Most calls I made I ended up giving up and using the landline (despite the mobile calls being free).

Also the Sony Ericsson website offends me. Do not play cheesy music and a video at me when I'm just trying to look up the model spec to write a review!

*Going to try it again with a 2.1 update - apparently this addresses a lot of the niggles I have* Or possibly my boyfriend just wants his N8 again ;)

Temporary phone 3: Nokia N8

I'm in love. Almost. I think it was a relief to be using a Nokia again. They just work! I don't know if it's due to always owning Nokia phones but they just make sense to me.

Camera is easy to use and awesome. I'm not sure I'll be able to enjoy another smartphone now. Anything with an inferior camera (i.e. every other phone currently in existence) will feel just that; inferior. The music player is also good and easy to use, as is the internet and everything else.

However, like the X10 it's just too big. In portrait mode it's ok so long as I concentrate (though not happy that the space bar isn't at the bottom of the screen - means I keep hitting the menu button). In landscape mode I like the layout (QWERTY) but again the numbers are down the middle rather than QWERTY style. The phone is just too big though. In landscape I struggle to reach all the buttons even typing with two thumbs. Being touch screen this means I really have to concentrate; if I relax I start missing.

My main bugbear though is that the phone is bafflingly right-handed. I don't really see the need in this day and age. Being left-handed I tend to put the strap round my left wrist. When wanting landscape I tilt the phone 90degrees to the right. Then pause, shake it a bit, then realise "Oh yes, it won't go that way". Take the wrist-strap off and tilt it to the left instead. The Sony Ericsson was the same - most of my photos had to be rotated through 180degrees on the computer afterwards as I apparently took them all upside down...

Future phone: a mystery

Now I just need to work out from my history what my future phone should be. Having used smartphones I do like them. However they're soo big! I don't want something that is uncomfortable to hold and use simply because my hands are too small. I preferably don't want something right-handed either.

Currently contemplating an N97 mini - touchscreen, keyboard and small! Or perhaps C6-01 - like an N8 but smaller.

The only thing I'm confident about is that I want a Nokia. So Nokia, if you want a small, left-handed person's point of view on phones, feel free to send me some to test ;)

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