What Phone?

Anyone who knows me well will tell you about my avid fascination with mobile phones.

I have been an advocate of the Windows Mobile platform, having preferred non-touchscreen devices for a long time. The HTC Touch was the first touchscreen device I got along with, eventually deciding to invest in a HTC Touch Diamond which really raised the bar with its TouchFlo 3D UI and has been my device of choice for quite some time. My trusty Diamond is now showing its age and this has seriously got me thinking about changing my phone.

Windows Mobile has gone through few interface changes since well before the release of the Diamond. HTC’s latest UI overlay is thicker than the thin veneer on my Diamond but it is still exactly that – just a veneer.  The lack of finger-friendliness of Windows Mobile, when you get past the veneer, has been my number one peeve since I started to use it.

Windows Mobile 6.5 brings no real improvements in the area of finger-friendliness and it is quite clear that until Microsoft releases Windows Mobile 7 sometime apparently late in 2010, that is assuming Microsoft delivers on its promises, there isn’t any value in replacing my current handset with one running a Microsoft operating system any time soon.

This leaves me with three choices each of which has its flaws:

First up is the iPhone. My iPod Touch proves that this would certainly be a compelling device, ticking all boxes bar one. It is rather unfortunate that to develop applications for the device I would have to make a significant investment in Apple hardware. I have no reason to move to a Mac – I actually get on with Windows on the desktop just fine, thank you Mr Jobs.

I do find it interesting that Apple have monetised application development on the iPhone and iPod Touch and used the opportunity to drive up sales of the Mac platform – a great move by Apple from a business perspective.

The proprietary nature of the iPhone hardware platform means that there is no competition any other vendor in the iPhone space, and hence no external force to drive further innovation from Apple. Decent support for Microsoft Exchange and a converged platform for my music and my telephony can only be described as very tempting.

If Apple were to make the iPhone battery last 2 days under intensive use, give the device 64GB of storage and make it as thin and light as the iPod Touch then I may reconsider!

Next up is the Palm Pre. Having had a chance (my wife has corrected me, so several chances would be a more accurate statement) to play with one during a visit to an O2 shop in Ireland on Friday (and Saturday), I have to say I am quite impressed. WebOS is beautiful, very smooth and very easy to use.

Development of applications for the Pre is a cross platform affair, relying on HTML, XML and Javascript: technologies that I believe myself to be both familiar and competent in.

The Pre’s slide out keyboard, whilst making the device thicker, does increase the screen space available for the actual display making it unnecessary to cannibalise it for the on screen keyboard – a good thing as the screen is smaller than other comparable devices. Research tells me that Microsoft Exchange integration could be described as iffy at best and Due to its rather small capacity it certainly won’t be the device that would give me a converged solution and cause me to ditch my iPod Touch.

Besides the Pre’s dodgy corporate e-mail support, my major problem with the Pre is that it is a Palm device. One of my colleagues summed it up by saying “Palm are like R&D for the industry”, meaning that they never really capitalise on the innovation they bring to market, made worse in my opinion by their relatively poor performance as a company that always seem to be, if my recollection of the media is correct, on the verge of collapse.

This is a real shame given that, in my opinion, WebOS could rule the smart-phone world if they would open up the OS to the rest of the market – Palm, you should allow other manufacturers to license WebOS for free whilst allowing the community to contribute with fixing and improving it whilst you concentrate your efforts on building a revenue stream through a burgeoning App Store.

The geeky side of me can’t help but to love sweet little Palm Pre innovations such as the induction charging although I wonder if I would wake up every morning with a partially charged device because I have woken up in the middle of the night, checked the time and then not positioned the device appropriately for charging for passing out again.

The final choice is an Android handset.  Unlike the other two choices Google’s operating system is actually closer to Windows Mobile in its distribution model.  The operating system is licensed to a number of manufacturers who will all manufacture devices to go head-to-head and fight for market share.  What this strong competition means is constant innovation.

Currently, the majority of Android devices are made by HTC but there are constant reports of devices by Asus, Acer, Motorola and even Sony Ericsson.  Navigation is also finger-friendly and always improving.

Android’s open source base means that the OS is under constant development and not a day goes by without some news as to how Android is improving.  Application development is also done Java and XML – Java has always been my language of choice.

Android is seriously lacking in intrinsic Microsoft Exchange support – an absolute must in my world at the moment.  This has been done for obvious reasons – Google want you using their e-mail platform but unfortunately in the enterprise Exchange is still king.

It seems I just can’t win… does anyone build a phone for me?

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