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29 July 2011 @ 11:42 am
smart phones  

Okay, I’ve talked myself into a smartphone, but I don’t know much about them. Here’s what I want in a phone; I’m sure somebody out there can tell me what phone I want. :)

- a better-than-smartphone-average camera
- either a qwerty keyboard or a highly convincing explanation as to how touchscreens are easy enough to use that a qwerty’s not necessary
- good battery life (not having to charge it every night would be nice)
- wifi

From *looking* at the phones, possibly a Blackberry with a slide-out keyboard is what I’m after. But possibly someone with more smartphone experience can tell me otherwise.

(x-posted from the essential kit)
Nicholas: oracnwhyte on July 29th, 2011 10:47 am (UTC)
I can't speak to other brands (except Android, of which as you know I have nothing good to say) but my Blackberry fulfills all those requirements I think - the pictures in this post were taken with my Blackberry Curve.

One of the lessons for me from the Android nightmare is that I should have tried out the touchscreen keyboard for size before purchase.
kitmizkit on July 29th, 2011 03:57 pm (UTC)
Curve looks like the right price range. The (so-called) fullsized QWERTYs are horribly expensive. Hrm. Thank you!
Laura Anne Gilmansuricattus on July 29th, 2011 11:07 am (UTC)
I love my Motorola Clicq - and before that was surprisingly fond of the G1. Android (as an OS) has been very easy to use, mostly intuitive, and consistently works better than Geoff's iPhone.

I'm also strongly in the slide-out keyboard camp: for those of us who type a LOT, it reduces the learning curve to almost nothing. Touchscreens are easy but tend to limit speed.

The battery issue... I'm not sure I've found a smartphone yet that wasn't an energy beast, unless you barely use it. Mine's a mini-office, so I routinely plug it in when I go to sleep.

Edited at 2011-07-29 11:08 am (UTC)
Megabitchmegabitch on July 29th, 2011 01:42 pm (UTC)
I listen to audiobooks a lot on my iphone, so I have a speaker-dock plugged in on my desk where my phone lives when I am at home - the dock charges it as well. I think the only time I have gotten a flat battery on it has been when I have deliberately run it down (either playing games while alternating reading ebooks in bed because I couldn't sleep or just to drain it completely because it's good for rechargeables to be completely flattened every so often).

I have no problem with the touchscreen keyboard, but I have tiny hands (think the the size of hands of a 9 year old), I also don't use the phone for things that require a lot of typing... that's what my netbook is for :) Trying to bat my eyelashes at my husband and convince him that something like an iPad would be oh-so-useful but, so far, it hasn't worked *grin*
kitmizkit on July 29th, 2011 03:58 pm (UTC)
AFAICT they don't *have* Motorolas over here. Not with the company I'm with, anyway. Huh.
Mary Annepers1stence on July 29th, 2011 08:16 pm (UTC)
If your service provider lets you, you could order a phone online from over here and have it shipped to my house, and then I could forward it to you. Costco lets non-members buy phones from them online....

In my FB crowd-sourcing queries about new phones a few folks liked the Samsung Fascinate, as an alternative to the Motorola Droids or iPhones (which had its fanatical adherents, unsurprisingly).
Mary Annepers1stence on July 29th, 2011 11:20 am (UTC)
Screen size is something I hadn't thought mattered too much to me until I switched to my druid. My old Samsung saga; like many blackberries had the smaller screen which really was limiting. The larger screen really does make a difference for almost everything, not just multimedia stuff. The droid 2 by Motorola has a slide out keyboard. I love it but it does need charging every 36 hours and required a bit of fiddling to get it set up; downloading apps to make the calendar to work how I want; etc. And pretty much none of these smartphones come with detailed enough manuals but google was my friend for finding answers about settings.
Lauraskeagsidhe on July 29th, 2011 01:08 pm (UTC)
I'm with Mary Anne on this one. I have a blackberry (for work) and an iPhone (for home). While I don't think an iPhone would meet your needs at all, I think the tiny screen and lack of app diversity in a blackberry (and the fact that compared to other phones, 'net access is super-slow) would annoy you. There are some droids that would probably work better.
kitmizkit on July 29th, 2011 01:13 pm (UTC)
I don't, you understand, have the foggiest fuckin' clue what one does with apps, except say "I bet there's an app for that." :)

The slideout keyboard Blackberries don't appear to have significantly smaller screens than other smartphones...?
Megabitchmegabitch on July 29th, 2011 01:57 pm (UTC)
Apps examples:

AroundMe - it uses the location facility in the iphone to work out where you are and then pulls from various directories detaisl of what is around you. You're in Cambridge and you've never been there before... you want to find a coffee shop? Hit "coffee shops" and you'll get a list (and a map) of all the coffee shops, within a set radius of your exact location, that it knows about (I'm not sure what directories it pulls from, but it always seems spot on when I have cause to use it).

Various translation apps - at least one of which allows you to use the camera to take a picture of some text and will translate it for you (menu in a foreign restaurant? sorted, package in a supermarket? done).

National Trust (as with AroundMe, uses your location info to show you what NT properties are nearby);
GoogleMaps (very handy for navigating, we don't have a GPS in the car so it's just me and my iphone);
BBC iPlayer;
IMDb (for when we're watching a film and going "who _is_ that actor? What have I seen him/her in before??");
Keeper (a secured password-locked app that you can put your various computer login IDs and Passwords in if you're prone to forgetting them of have so many that keeping them straight usually means writing them on a piece of paper pinned to the monitor! This way, just remember the one password at least. I use it as a reminder, most of the time I can remember all of the ones that I need to.)
Tesco shopping (allows me to take a pick of the barcode on an item and add it to my shopping list if the local Tesco has it in stock - it checks for that as well)

And that's a handful of the ones that I have and doesn't include all of the games (lots of games).
Megabitchmegabitch on July 29th, 2011 01:59 pm (UTC)
gah, tyops galore... oh well, I hope it makes sense anyway.
Mary Annepers1stence on July 29th, 2011 02:00 pm (UTC)
I would say, get the biggest screen-ed phone that you can tolerate carrying around.

Apps that you can download that you might find useful would include things like list managers (shopping, to-do, etc), weather "channel", entertain-the-inconsolably-fussy-toddler-while-in-lines games/videos (I know *lots* of parents who find this a god-send, even the folks who try to minimize screen time for their children), e-book readers for unexpected moments of waiting, exercise and food tracking applications, solitaire (or your game of choice), movie finders (what's playing and when).
shadowkindrd on July 29th, 2011 03:23 pm (UTC)
I like my Droid, but it's first generation. Huge touch screen, slide-out keyboard. If I don't use it much, it'll keep a charge 2-3 days. The link is to the current model.

Mspiritdance on July 29th, 2011 04:19 pm (UTC)
I'm on an android phone (HTC Evo); I thought I'd get a slider phone until I tried both phones side-by-side in the store, where the slider phone felt, for lack of a better way to say it, like it would be more fragile in use. And the touch-screen keyboard was better than I thought it would be.

Since then, I've actually tried several keyboard apps, and now have one that lets me type, swipe (drag your finger across the letters, and the keyboard gives you a selection of words you might want), OR I can use the voice recognition option (and I can use any combination of the above, without changing anything in the phone settings).

As to battery life, I don't think you are going to find any smartphone that can go longer than a day without charging, unless you turn off everything besides the phone itself (no internet, no checking email, no text messaging, no pretty screen backgrounds, etc). An exception would be if you get an extended life battery, but that will make the phone a bit thicker. In my case, the phone is about 40% thicker with the extended battery, but my battery life went from about 5-6 hours to 20+ (on an average day). I think it's worth the trade-off.
The Renaissance Man: Techno/geekdomunixronin on July 29th, 2011 05:35 pm (UTC)
I actually get a couple of days at a time from my Droid 3, as long as I have the wireless (11n) and GPS receiver turned off, which I do except when actively using it as a GPS navigation device. In that mode, you really want it on a car charger, or it'll drain its battery in a few hours.
The Renaissance Man: Techno/geekdomunixronin on July 29th, 2011 05:32 pm (UTC)
My recommendation? Motorola Droid 3. It has the best physical keyboard of any phone on the planet, and a nice large clear screen. Like almost all "smartphones", you'll want a headset if you want to intend to actually use it seriously as a phone. You'll also probably want the extended-capacity battery.

I actually took the plunge and bought the Droid 3 because buying my own Android phone was the only escape from the Blackberry issued to me by my company. When they first came out, I thought the Blackberry looked interesting, though I had doubts and reservations. After nine months attempting to use one, I find the English language is insufficient for the task of adequately and accurately expressing the depth and breadth of my burning hatred for the infernal device. One could be forgiven for speculating that active user-hostility was a stipulated design goal of the accursed thing's OS, and the keyboards are utterly horrible.
Geek of Weird Shit: weldinggows on July 29th, 2011 06:01 pm (UTC)
I've got a Droid X and love it. It's got a really good camera, lasts a good day and a half or so unless I'm obsessively checking email/LJ/talking/texting. I'm in the habit of plugging my phone in each night, but if I forget or am travelling it's not dead by morning or anything.

One consideration for you--which is the same consideration I had when I was thinking about a slide-out keyboard--is that Blackberry thumb (tendonitis/DeQuervyn's syndrome) are Very Real Issues. With you writing and having a toddler, your hands are already working overtime. The Swype function has been awesome and I can use it faster than I can the touch-type screen, either small (vertically held) or large (horizontally held).

I love the Gmail synch, as most of my email accounts are on that platform, but I'll bet there's an app for it for other phones. ;)

This is my first foray into smartphone territory. It's been several months and I still haven't read the owner's manual or played around with many of the apps, but I'm quite happy with what I do have.
hegemony hedgehog: microscopeagrimony on July 30th, 2011 03:45 am (UTC)
Can't say what would be best for you but if they have things like the equivalent of a verizon or AT&T store in Ireland, I'd totally suggest going and just handling some different phones and trying them out.

That said, I love my iPhone to pieces. I wasn't sure right up until we went to get our phones if I'd be going for iPhone or a droid. I actually intended to have a phone with a physical keyboard, but when it came down to trying the various models out, I found the physical keyboards all various levels of awkward to use, and I found the iPhone's touch keyboard easier to use than the Droids that I tried (this is likely a personal preference thing, as I know people who have the opposite experience with the Droids working better for them than the iPhone).

Apps, as mentioned in other responses, are many, varied, and sometimes amazingly useful. I've even got a camera app I downloaded that lets me do some functional editing of images I've taken (like applying different filters for different light conditions).

My iPhone can generally go all day with moderate usage - that's with me IM'ing through the skype app a lot and playing games or checking the browser. I don't like the mail interface as well as I did on my blackberry, but the phone is so much faster and more responsive than my blackberry that it's no contest on anything else.

I do plug it in every night to charge it, but that's for a couple of reasons. 1) Of course, because the battery is usually pretty low by the end of the day. 2) My regular alarm clock is an app called Sleep Cycle which uses the accelerometer built into my iPhone to monitor my movement in sleep and graphing it and using that info to try to wake me up in my lightest phase of sleep within a half hour window before my absolute wake up time. (So if my alarm is set for 8AM, I will actually be woken up somewhere between 7:30AM and 8AM, but no later than 8AM, depending on my theoretical wakefulness based on movement.) It's probably entirely hooey science, but when I'm using it regularly I do tend to wake up less exhausted than when I don't.

Plus, if you get a droid or iPhone, you can probably get Words with Friends and we could play that together and you can kick my butt like everyone else! :)
Chrysoulachrysoula on July 30th, 2011 07:45 am (UTC)

When I got my smartphone in April, my requirements focused primarily on the camera. I mean, obviously, no smartphone camera is great (except some available only in Japan) but it's amazing how many of them go for many megapixels but neglect a flash. And I wanted something to use to take my picture-a-day and upload directly rather than via SMS.

Anyhow, because I also had an iPod Touch, I didn't feel the need for an App Machine. This led me to Blackberry. I've got the oh god I don't know, it's purple and a flip phone and a keyboard, not pull-out, not a Curve. A Style, I think. Kevin has a very sexy expensive Android of some sort and Raymond has some sort of extra-rugged Android.

I have extensive experience with a touch screen keyboard (on the ipod) and a physical keyboard at this point, both from the Blackberry and my husband's old windows phones, way back when. I started out as a physical keyboard fan. These days, I... don't know. Blackberry is definitely the only company I'd trust for a physical keyboard; every other one I've used has felt... weak. But Blackberry has a lot of experience making keyboards.

That said, I don't know that it's easier to use than a touchscreen. In fact, thinking about it, it's not for me. I need real leverage to press the physical keyboard, while I can type on the ipod while lightly holding it in my other hand. The extra bit of pressure required for the Blackberry keyboard definitely slows me down. On the other hand, there's fewer typos.

Hmm. I could probably get better at the Blackberry keyboard with practice at thumb-typing. But my computer keyboard skills don't seem to carry over very much.

I think charging a smartphone every night is a fact of life. My husband started using his as his alarm clock (it helps that his wonderful expensive Android came with a kickstand), so plugging it in is a matter of course. 'Good battery life' means it lasts through heavy use during the day. Mine almost always lasts through the day, especially if I remember to quit from apps I'm done with (since running background software eats up battery life).

If you aren't that interested in apps and games, and you want a qwerty keyboard and a decent camera, I do think a Blackberry is the direction to go.

Android has a weird kind of touch-screen macro thing where instead of typing you slide your finger across letters and it just works. I tried it and thought it would mess me up, but Kevin seems proficient with it. It's optional, not required.

An iPhone will have the best camera, hands down. (Outside of the stupid Sony Ericsson thing available in Japan, maybe). I don't know of any other reason to get an iPhone at this point, unless you generally like the Apple experience.

The Style's screensize doesn't bother me, but I also don't use it to read my RSS feeds or do random web browsing at home; I use the iPod for that. The way it handles non-mobile webpages is not particularly great but it does work for everything I've needed it for.

pgwfolcpgwfolc on July 30th, 2011 09:10 am (UTC)
I'll say this for touchscreens: They allow the pop-up virtual keyboard to become context-sensitive. It's done subtly, so you generally don't even notice, but it's not uncommon to have dozens of different layouts based on what you're doing. Work on addressing an email, and it'll add a readily-available @ key, for example.

A touchscreen also makes a difference when you're using smartphone functions. It functions as a mouse when you're web browsing, and can simplify the interface of various apps and games. And if you're not going to be browsing the web or using apps (a general term referring to any program designed to run on a smartphone) then you have no need of a smartphone.

That said, the touchscreen interface can take a little getting used to. You can't physically feel where the buttons are, and your finger covers them as you're about to press. It depends on the phone and the size and quality of the screen, but it can leave you a little fumble-fingered at first. (Then again, those tiny buttons on the slide-out keyboards aren't necessarily much better...)

If possible, I'd suggest going to a place that sells phones and actually playing around with the interface for a few minutes. See what feels comfortable and natural to you.

I'd also suggest checking out the reviews on cnet.com if you haven't already.
irishkateirishkate on July 30th, 2011 09:06 pm (UTC)
I look forward to hearing about your final decision and reviews afterward. I want to go there but can't afford to just now.