2-1=1 or How I Came to Choose My Smartphone

In earlier articles I outlined my requirements for a Smartphone and the models I was considering; the Treo 650 and the Sony Ericsson P910i.

The P910i won over the Treo 650 for one reason only – the Treo’s weight and bulk. The Treo is awesome but just too heavy and bulky to carry around in your pocket. Then I had to ditch the P910i as it just would not sync well with my Mac.

I’m now using the Nokia 6680 which I am very happy with.

So what was good and bad about each device and how did I end up with the 6680?

Treo 650

The Treo was amazing. The Palm OS has been extremely well adapted for one handed operation with any activity being carried out with the 5 way d-pad and the keyboard. The Treo 650 is still touch screen but I only used the stylus to reset the Treo after installing software.

One very impressive part of the Treo experience was the lack of initial configuration required to set it up. I popped in my sim card and switched it on. I went to the Preferences section to set it up and found that it had configured itself based on my sim – excellent.

The Treo 650 has a fantastic screen, the keyboard is great – much easier to use than it looks, Bluetooth works well and being Palm OS syncs very well with my Mac and has a huge range of software available.

Sadly the Treo 650 was just too heavy and bulky to carry with me at all times. As soon as Treo develop a lighter thinner version I’ll seriously consider using one again.

Sony Ericsson P910i

The P910i is only marginally smaller and lighter than the Treo 650 but feels more compact in the hand and in the pocket.

My first reaction to the P910i was a real dislike of the user interface. Where the Treo was magnificently one handed in use the P910i was very much two handed with virtually nothing being possible without using the stylus and touch screen. Of course this is how UIQ was designed.

The P910i is a Symbian based phone. Symbian build the core OS but do not build or include the user interface (UI). I’ve always thought this a mistake but that’s the way it is. There are two UIs for Symbian currently used in mass market phones; Sony Ericsson’s UIQ (originally owned by Symbian but spun off ) and Nokia’s Series 60. UIQ is designed as a two handed UI and Series 60 is a one handed UI.

I think because I went to the P910i from the Treo 650 I was focussed on using the mini thumb board. This looks like a great addition to the phone but is actually useless. Once I’d started using the stylus driven character recognition for data entry I got on better with the P910i but still struggled with UIQ.

UIQ feels very dated and very clunky with a number of inconsistencies in how you interact with the device. The fonts used are horrible and aren’t anti-aliased (there is no cleartype or other sub-pixel rendering) so they look terrible and the display itself is not great. Most of the tasks are accessed from drop down menus which is pretty poor.

I think I accepted the P910i as a fait accompli for a Mac syncing Smartphone. However, once the P910i started throwing sync wobblers with my Mac on most syncs it was time for it to go to the technology graveyard we call eBay. The best thing about this was that I made 25% profit on selling the P910i… nice.

So where did this leave me? For a short time I thought I’d go back to two boxes with my Motor RAZR and my Palm but really that’s what I wanted to get away from.

Then I fell in love with the Sony Ericsson K750i with its auto-focus 2 mega pixel camera so decided to pick one up.

The K750i is a great phone and the camera is awesome by sadly the construction of the phone is poor. The way the rear of the phone has been constructed to facilitate the sliding lens cover makes it very weak and both the examples I had creaked and squeaked as you used the keyboard. Not good enough and so it was returned.

Nokia 6680

I then became aware of the Nokia 6680. I hadn’t really looked at Nokia’s for years having hated the old Series 40 UI that came on all the pretty crappy phones that employers had foisted upon me. I also think that Nokia designed some of the dullest phones on the market although they now seem to be having a Motorola RAZResque renaissance whilst Motorola are losing the plot… Q anyone?

Once Apple added native ISync support for the Nokia 6680 I decided that it had to worth a look. After reading a number of reviews online and then getting my hands on one in a store I decided that it was the Smartphone for me.

The Nokia 6680 and the latest version of Series 60 deliver Smartphone power with mobile phone ease of use.

I’d looked at Nokia Series 60 Smartphones in the past but been put off by their uninspiringly designed exteriors and overly designed keypads.

The 6680 is a refreshingly conventional for Nokia candy bar design with a good sized screen and easier to use than it looks keypad. It is smaller than the P910i but larger than a normal ‘dumbphone’.

This extra size is partly accounted or4 by the fact that the 6680 is a 3G phone and includes two cameras allowing easy video calling. 3G wasn’t a key driver for me in choosing the 6680 but once I’d experienced it whilst trying out the phone I was a convert. Even when the phone drops back to GPRS it is still quick enough for basic browsing and email.

Series 60 and Symbian combine to deliver a very easy to use but very powerful Smartphone. The built in applications are on the whole very good with the usual calendar, contacts, messaging with SMS, MMS and email etc. In addition to the usual suspects the 6680 comes with Quickoffice which allows viewing of Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents, Adobe Acrobat viewer, video and music players and more.

One of the pluses of Series 60 over UIQ on Symbian is the much greater range of software available. See with Symbian not including the UI and there being two different UIs for Symbian developers have to develop two different versions; Nokia have the biggest market share and so developers develop for that UI.

Another reason that I was very keen to have a Series 60 smartphone was to use TomTom Mobile 5 GPS satellite navigation software. I’m using this with a Slim III Bluetooth GPS receiver and it works brilliantly. This is the first tech purchase my wife has ever spontaneously approved of as she now no longer needs to navigate.

Opera have released version 8 of their browser for Series 60 and it works fantastically; bringing a very close to desktop browsing experience to a handheld.

The only gripe I have with the phone is the homescreen that Orange have added to their versions of this phone. Nokia have developed a good active standby screen that provides easier and quicker access to many more functions all of which a easily tailored to your needs but sadly Orange have ‘branded’ the phone with their in-house design. There is no way to switch off this homescreen and as it is part of the firmware; the only way to remove it is to have the phone updated to the latest generic Nokia firmware which I will have done as soon as I can find somebody to do so and stop dropping it in my coffee.

The Nokia 6680 is one of the best phones I have ever used and I’m very happy with a one box Smartphone solution.