Hello. I am going to write about a mobile phone. Hopefully for the first time, and probably for the last for a while.
I am writing in defence of the Dext, which is a phone that inexplicably, Motorola has made exclusively available purely through Orange (disclosure: I work for Orange). So, I'll tell you now, this is biased, but the reason it is is because I'm rather fond of it. It also includes the usual pondering and waffle around the subject. this time waffling about Apple and iPhones, as you'd imagine.
I haven't got an iPhone, although my company now supplies them. One of the reasons is because it's closed, which I don't like at all. I don't enjoy the ubiquity it has in the market place, and the jealousy I feel when my friends rave about the latest game etc is somewhat tempered by the knowledge that I don't really have the time to enjoy the games anyway - I usually commute by bike, and I don't go out much, so location based games are pointless, as are flight games or wh'ever. Yawn. So there are practical reasons but mostly it's just the closedness/ubiquity thing. Here's my 10p. I think Apple has made a mistake, and it reminds me of their old 'keeping hold of the production of the computers AND the OS' market positioning, which led them to be a perfectly happy company, but not a BIG MOTHER of a company in the way that Microsoft did. Was that what they wanted? Anyway. They left things gently soft around the edges for iPods, which has meant that you can drag MP3's from other sources and you can drag them from your iTunes library to play on other things - it's not ideal, but it's less restrictive. With the iPhone, they revolutionised the market, again, and have built a Wall round the hardware and the software again. It just seems a bit daft to make the same mistake twice. Surely, surely they will have to open up? I mean they must see that, right?
In the meantime, the entirety of the rest of the phone market with the exception of Nokia (oh dear) are signing up to Android like nobody's business, and applying it to phones left right and centre. Super phat phones and later on this year, I would guess it'll start drifting on to every level of phone going. Why not? It's basically free. Talk about driving down your costs of production - there are app makers a-go-go out there. You can keep bare bones of developers internally, and RFP for every app you need to build for your customers. Which means that the next phone my Mother may be getting for free in some deal or other may be an Android phone. Which almost makes my head explode. Before Christmas, the UK was full of Apple, Nokia, HTC and Sony Eric ads all extolling the virtues of their Apps ("Appy Christmas" said Nokia about Ovi). I was left wondering, as I watched Londoners trudging down the road past the bus stops where these ads were shiny and waiting, what does that mean to these people? Fuck all! What the hell is an app? With the exception of iphone customers, barely anyone would actually know what an app is. One of my favourite places to phone watch is on the top of the bus from Streatham to Brixton. Sometimes every single person gets out their phone and starts twiddling with one thing or another. Very few of those phones are app phones. For the most part people are listening to music without headphones (argh), or sms'ing or even - perish the thought, just phoning their friends. The tube, meanwhile, offers a different view. Those with high end phones proudly have them on display, playing games and twiddling, reading and so forth, because of course there is no signal on the tube. How many phones? Two or three per carriage.
So a big change will waft its way across the land in the next couple of years, as more and more customers of every network going get their hands on Android phones. And a few more than have done maybe get iPhones. But Google's software packages for Android are going to be *everywhere*, and again, Apple will have helped them to their increased ubiquity. forget the phone manufacturer. That stuff will be the 'delight' factor that helps everyone to get to the OS. and yes, Apple has a very high 'delight' quotient, but then, increasingly, so will other manufacturers. And cheaper.
So. My Android phone. It's actually Motorola's total social integration package that wraps over it that I love. I can't imagine for a moment the thought of ever getting hold of a Motorola phone before now. Why the hell would I have done? But there are two things this phone does well enough to make it absolutely perfect for me. First, it completely integrates my social networks, email, contact lists and messaging. This doesn't sound as revolutionary as it feels. I'm sure the iPhone does something similar, but it's such a delight to have my Twitter updater there on the homescreen, the latest messages from people, SMS's, emails... if I go in to my Contact lists, it has absorbed everyone from all my different life streams already, and is telling me what all of them said last (needless to say, I have confidently asserted my right to not totally integrate Facebook, or the whole slew of burble soup would be totally overwhelming). It is a phone for embedded people. If you are not embedded, then you may well hate the bloody thing. It forces you to create a motoblur account before you can use the phone, which sounds awful, and it is bloody annoying but believe me, it's fine, and easy, and intensely useful.
Second... and dear God you have no idea how wonderful it is, it has a qwerty keyboard. I *hate* touch screen phones. Believe me, I test every phone Orange takes to market to see if my products work on it, and touch screen phones are usually the ones I would gladly put a screwdriver through by the end of a test session. The simple joy of being able to type actual words, quickly is for someone who lives an 'embedded' lifestyle, a boon and a half. By embedded, I mean that there is always a part of me that consciously or unconsciously, is feeling the ripples from the wave of communication coming offuv the interweb. for my part too, most of those waves tend to be textual, which brings me to my third point - and it's a bad one. If you use the phone on 3G, like many of its other friends in the ring, it eats electricity like some kind of 'Iron Man' type monster. It hoovers it from its battery to the extent that you can watch the bar go down. However, if you keep it on 2G, which is all you need for the most part, it can even last up to 2 days (which is still unbelievably shocking in comparison to any other phone I've owned in recent times). I also reduced the amount of constant updating to only the essential services - Gmail, and those covered by Motorola's "Motoblur" service. A 2G signal occasionally updating is enough to keep things ticking over such that you can experience the enormous pleasure of being able to get on the tube, get your phone out of your pocket, and read the last N hours worth of burble, without having to worry about signal. It reminds me of the old Palm V days, when you had to sync up before leaving the office, but could then read Wired, Salon and The Guardian on my way home on the train. How often do I switch on 3G? Rarely, to be honest, but then, I don't want to watch TV on my phone unless it's just in playing around with it. And I really don't like music on the move for some reason. I'm a phone and textual communications kind of gal, me. Oh, yes, with web access, obviously (and then, remembering to switch on 3G is a bloody nuisance to be fair. I often find myself dolefully watching a browser loading bar drag its arse across the page like a snail.
There are several things wrong with this phone. Occasionally if you do things too fast for Motoblur services a wee "Wait" box pings up whilst it sorts itself out. No skin off my nose. The UI could do with some tweaking. I have yet to find a decent Android directory of decent apps, because trying to find decent ones in the market place is a ridiculous waste of time. The apps are all voted for by coders, meaning, for example, a search for a decent alarm clock with a good snooze function leads one to highly rated alarm clocks that make you do maths problems before you can hit snooze. A huh huh. Very funny. Not. BUT, but, it's so much more than just a start, and the people I know who have an iPhone who have grabbed it off me and twiddled have been pleasantly surprised (ha!).
I like it. So there.
I'd be very interested to hear from any Droid users. It sells well in the US and it is obviously covering remarkably similar territory (I think that also uses the Blur service), but it looks a little more glossy and dare I say, blingy than the Dext.
(I promise to write about children and things shortly).