Sunday, May 17, 2009

They can’t have it all, but we can…

This isn’t an ‘idiot’ guide to the universe of mobile phones / smartphones, this isn’t even a deliberate discussion in an attempt to categorized myself or any of you who love shiny new gadgets. Because being a geek who crave for new technologies each day, I found myself scraping the latest news on the net every minutes looking for the ultimate mobile device that I believe will suit the best of my needs. So do I get what I’m seeking for? Err… not at all, in fact I haven’t made the purchase even as I write this blog.

Is it because I haven’t found one? Nope. Is it because there isn’t such a mobile device for me? Nope. The problem is, because I have too much information on the latest technologies to come so I decided to postpone the purchase. Is it bad? In my own terms, it’s not such a bad idea. But not according to some people I know, who don’t care much of what new models or technologies to come out soon, but rather make a purchase because they need it right now.

For the last three months, I’ve been asked several times by relatives and friends about mobile technologies, particularly technologies in smartphones. Ever since the iPhone 3G is officially launched here not so long ago, it has captivated many mobile users and challenge the growing popularity of BlackBerry. The BlackBerry has become very popular here and can be seen being used by almost everyone, not just business men but also housewives and teens as well. There are many times where people are mistakenly recognized my Treo as a BlackBerry, and I always gladly enlighten them about Palm brand.

Basically mobile users here are torn into four choices of mobile platforms: Symbian, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry & iPhone. It’s plain to see the degrading dominance of Nokia smartphones with its Symbian operating system, lots of Communicator (E90) users are migrating to either BlackBerry Bold or Javelin. Windows Mobile is still keeping its presence known through HTC, LG and Samsung products. While the latest and newest comer; the iPhone is quickly becoming a niche mobile device to own by a certain level of consumers*.

Before the latter mobile platforms entered here, Nokia was the most favorable choice and followed by Sony Ericsson. Things were easier back then with fewer options, consumers were not burden with too much diversity across multiple platforms, which now bewildered those who don’t have enough knowledge of the differences between each mobile platform. Simple and basic questions are often thrown at me by close friends and relatives when they’re asking which smartphone is the right one for them, and upon giving them the answers I always opt for the more fundamental reasons on why this or that smartphone is the preferable choice for them, rather than trying to explain every technical details on each device.

Smart vs. dumb

This is the foremost question I asked first time whenever someone asked me to help them pick a smartphone; do you really need a smartphone and make use of its features or you just need a phone to do the usual stuffs (calls & SMS)? Because the reason is quite simple really, no matter how smart and powerful a smartphone is; there’ll be a time where it crashes or freezes after a heavy use. This is where a ‘just-a-phone’ (aka. a ‘dumb-phone’) will triumph over smartphone, it’ll do what it does best without fail when you needed it the most.

Touch vs. press

It’s an emerging old technology which is now becoming a common feature in smartphone, Palm already uses touchscreen in its Trēo line-ups since the first iteration. But users sometime must choose between a device with just the touchscreen or just the QWERTY keyboard, like in the case of choosing between BlackBerry Bold and Apple iPhone. For some people, they like better the feeling of tactile feedback from physical buttons than touchscreen but then people are beginning to adapt with the on-screen keyboard nowadays, so it boils down to personal liking and preference.

Although users do have a choice of having the best of both worlds with Windows Mobile smartphones which mostly feature both touchscreen and QWERTY keyboard in one package, but then comes the next question: do you really need them both? Because to have both means you’ll be paying more, so unless you’re going to use them then you’re just wasting money. If money is not your concern, then you might consider the extra weight of having both technologies in one device.

Simple fun vs. extra fun

I was going to say “simple to use” instead of “simple fun”, but we’re talking about smartphone here, meaning there’s nothing simple to use anymore, smartphones are designed to be capable of doing multitasks so no matter how easy one platform is made there’s always someone out there who can’t use it perfectly. Smartphone itself naturally is prepared for business use, the manufacturers only add a bit of apps inside to make it more fun to use.

There’s Media Player in Windows Mobile, BlackBerry also has its own media player, but Nokia 5800 Xpress Music and iPhone are more entertainment oriented device than the first two mentioned mobile platforms. Sure, users can install 3rd party apps into each of those mobile platforms but that somehow shows what the device can really do and not capable of. So it’s important to set your mind on what is the purpose of buying a smartphone for.

Ease of mind vs. headache

Katie turner Now this one is very important, especially for them who don’t want to trouble themselves with technical details on how to migrate from one mobile platform to another. It’s one of the most frequent questions asked: how do I transfer my old phonebook to my new smartphone?

Each smartphone with its unique platform is equipped with computer software to manage files and phonebook from your desktop computer or laptop, because of each platform’s distinctiveness, contributes a small problem which can cause a painful headache for average users: contact sync. The contacts in phonebook is essentially the most important information in a smartphone, and by migrating from different mobile platforms means one will have to find a solution to transfer the contacts into different format.

There are some outstanding 3rd party softwares out there which allow users to transfer contacts without much trouble between mobile platforms and desktop/laptop operating systems, but you’ll have to fork out extra cash to migrate into new mobile platform of your choice. This usually discourage the not-so-well informed users to get a better smartphone, which in the end these kinda users will pick an easier path by upgrading to the same mobile platform but with better hardware, this way there’ll be no hassle on transferring the contacts.

No smartphone have it all… (yet)

Every mobile manufacturers try to put more and more features into their products, the competition have brought a positive outcome for consumers and end users, but at the same time left us with lesser options to’ jump-ship’ by presenting new features that the competitors don’t have.

They say you can’t have it all, but can’t we? Can’t we wait until they finished making the perfect smartphone? Like RIM finally fix the problems in its first fully touchscreen smartphone with Storm 2, or Apple at last puts in the missing ingredients into iPhone OS 3.0, or how about if Palm really nail it all down with its most awaited smartphone: the Prē? Can we have it all then?

Last thought

Phone kills bees Many wise consultants say the key to decide when is the right time to buy, is not by waiting for the latest technologies to arrive, but by asking do you need it right now or not. That’s one logical thinking to rationalize our urge to have the latest technologies which only God (and the manufacturers) know when they’ll come out, but what if you know? Or better yet how about if you have the information on when is the exact date those new technologies will come out, will you make a purchase now or wait?

Like for an instance; I know the iPhone OS 3.0 software is coming later in June, and there’s a high possibility that Apple will also introduce a refreshed iPhone hardware along with the software update in WWDC ’09. So I much prefer wait for the new iPhone, if it does come out, rather than buy it now and own a device that’s no matter how cool it is but will become obsolete in just less than a month…

But hey, that’s just me speaking. I’m pretty sure you have a different perspective on deciding the best time to have a smartphone with the best and most complete features, good luck! ;-)

* Editor’s note: these facts are not a survey or study, only my personal watch on the current trend market of smartphone use in general at my home country; Indonesia.

No comments: