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Apr 02, 2005: Death of a Cell Phone

WARNING: narcissism ahead

My Motorola v60i's battery is just about dead. Now I'm at a cross-roads: do I buy a new battery, or leave the world of cell phones for something more exotic?

I have no complaints with the Motorola; it just seems like continuing to use a monochrome screened phone is so late 20th century.

Then again, I really don't need a new gadget that's also an MP3 player (got one), digital camera (got one), and PDA (got one). It would be nice to have them all in one, but the only one likely to perform any better than the separate devices I use now is the PDA.

Hmmm. I guess it would be nice to have a PDA and phone integrated in one gadget. A color screen would be cool. Checking my email on this thing would be nice too, although my laptop is almost always with me, and WiFi is becoming ubiquitous.

If you were me, what would you do? Get a new cell phone battery? Splurge on a new Treo? Or something else? I should mention that I my computer is a G3 iBook, and I use Entourage (feh) for email and calendaring. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Comment: Edward Vielmetti (Apr 2, 2005)

Lou, I'd start by getting Skype and a headset for your laptop, and see if you can replace a lot of cell phone minutes with that. It's worked pretty well for me.

What's a battery cost? You can probably get a free new phone from someone for the price of signing up for a one-year contract.

I'm in the same boat right now, an old Nokia phone that works fine that doesn't sync with my iBook's address book so I never have enough numbers with me when I'm out walking with Jonathan.

Comment: Walter Underwood (Apr 3, 2005)

I went through the new phone thing last fall. Sigh.

All I want is a StarTAC that can talk to a Bluetooth headset and sync phonebooks with my PowerBook. From a provider with good coverage. Just a phone, please.

I have a Motorola v710 from Verizon. Good coverage, good RF and audio, but everything else is a disappointment. Verizon disables some of the features and charges packetwise for the rest. It should be an MP3 player, but that requires a special headset and doesn't work with Bluetooth. It will sync with my PowerBook calendar, but needs a $25 cable that costs more than that because Verizon only sells it bundled with the Windows software. Can't transfer photos over Bluetooth or the cable, so I got a teeny flash card and reader. But the camera stinks. It comes with a bunch of goofy Motorola ringtones, none of which sound like my good ol' Motorola StarTAC. And so on.

The voice recognition dialing really works. I actually use that.

Nearly all phones have cameras now, but just pretend it isn't there. They all stink. Not enough silicon for each pixel, so they have terrible noise and dynamic range. I own (and use) ten cameras, ranging from a 2MP Casio to a 4x5 view camera. My "MotoMegapixel" is the worst camera I have ever owned, even inferior to the plastic lens Instamatic I had in 4th grade. Bleah.

I one person who *really* likes their Treo, especially for the calendar.

Comment: Lou (Apr 3, 2005)

Ed, I loved Skype until recently, when SkpeOut suddenly stopped functioning. Reinstalling the software didn't help, and Skype Technical Support never responded to my ticket. Ugh.

Walter, your story is what worries me. Lots of incompatibilities, dumb carrier decisions, hidden costs...

I guess we're still a few years away from true integration and interoperability.

Comment: seth (Apr 4, 2005)

I've had a treo since they first came out and I couldn't live without it. PDA/Phone functionality goes hand in hand. I have the 600 now (waiting for the next model to upgrade) and I love it. Just make sure you get a hard case if you plan to put it in your pocket. I broke 2 touch screens on mine before finally getting a metal clam-shell case.

Comment: Thordur Arnason (Apr 4, 2005)


I guess there still a big difference between (northern) Europe and the US regarding mobile phone technology. What we have in common seems to be only one thing: the so-called cameras on our phones are a joke.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about how I use my cellphone. For starters I sync contact information and calendar events via bluetooth with my Powerbook 17" using iSync.

Secondly, I use a couple of great programs available for OS X.

The first, Sailing Clicker, lets me remote control my Powerbook over bluetooth. Why is this great? Well, let me give you two good reasons (out of quite a few): I can remote control Powerpoint or Keynote from my phone. This is fantastic in meetings when giving a presentation. Second reason is remote controlling iTunes. When I come home I connect to my Airport Express network. iTunes streams music to my stereo via the Airport Express and I control what's played from my phone.

The second, BluePhoneElite, does a few great things: I allows me to send/receive sms' and dial people in my address book straight from my Powerbook. T9 vs. QWERTY? What do you think is faster. It also keeps a complete log over calls and sms'. All via bluetooth. When OS 10.4 Tiger is released I heard one is even able to use the powerbook as a bluetooth 'headset'.

But the best thing to happen to mobile networks is the one I still don't have due to lack of drivers for OS X. My operator just announced a new 3G/UTMS service that gives me a cellular broadband service for a reasonable monthly fee. Now imagine this: half a megabit or so of bandwidth wherever you travel with your Powerbook (or more precisely, wherever there is coverage)

Comment: Lou (Apr 4, 2005)

Although there is definitely some added coolness with the Treo, I'm not sold on the benefits just yet. I almost always have my laptop with me, so phone numbers and calendar are always handy.

Maybe I should wait for the next generation of cool gadgets?

Comment: K.G. Schneider (Apr 4, 2005)

I have a Treo 650, which I love. I find myself in many situations where quickly checking email without opening a laptop is very useful. Even if you don't use the Internet functionality, the PDA/phone integration is wonderful, which you will see for yourself the first time you dial from your contacts or check your calendar without stopping to open your laptop.

Comment: Lou (Apr 4, 2005)

I know a lot of people are big Treo fans. Does the connectivity add a lot to your phone bill? I already feel like I pay Verizon too much...

(Hi Karen; nice to hear from you!)

Comment: christina (Apr 4, 2005)

I love my treo and yes it costs you. But omg it's good. it's a horrible machine and it's already so much better than anything I had before. I carry my laptop much less now, and my back thanks me (and my laptop is only five pounds) It's a world phone, so I get email even when I'm in denmark. I have used it as a camera and a mp3 player, and even though I have those devices, it's nice not to have to always carry them. Personally, i can't imagine going back. I'm lighter weight, better informed and more entertained than ever. I can't wait until the next one....

Comment: Dave (Apr 4, 2005)


I agree w/ Christina, that once you have a palm/device you start changing some aspects of your life. The 650 is my direction b/c Bluetooth is other device behavior changing attitude. I do like the person who said that they use a "regular" phone that they sync w/ their computer.

Comment: Paul Bellows (Apr 4, 2005)

I concur with the analysis of the Motorola V710 in North America (I'm in Western Canada... our telco got their deal from Motorola via Verizon). It's full of great features that are almost enabled and would be almost useful if they were. I even bought the Bluetooth headset and it's crap.

There isn't a better phone on this continent. But I think that people look crazy talking into a PDA, so I don't know if that's any better.

Comment: Lou (Apr 4, 2005)

Can you sync Entourage with a Treo? I assume you can, but I've assumed such things before and have been burned.

And is a new generation of the Treo due very soon? Soon enough to wait for?

Comment: guest (Apr 7, 2005)

I love my Motorola MPx220. It has a clamshell design, runs Windows and combines a lot of pda-type features, plays stereo mp3 files (and you can set your own ringtone), great calendar functions and much more. It also looks great!

Comment: Lou (Apr 12, 2005)

Sadly, I shelled out $40 for a new battery for my Motorola v60c, and the coverage still sucks. Maybe changing its network coverage is Verizon's way of telling me that I need to update my phone.


Comment: Gordon Montgomery (Apr 22, 2005)


Perhaps the way to come at this is to create a "persona" for your new self. what I mean is: list out the new behaviors that you want to be able to carry out. List what you don't need, prioritize the list. Don't think about phones or solutions just yet.

I'm doing something similar right now after indifferent experiences with my Treo 600 GSM world phone running on t-mobile's network. I travel globally but cut my digital teeth in Europe before taking a step back in time to US "cellphones". So I was sploit in the past and am still irritated by what my friends in London can do on their mobile devices...for free...anywhere...and don't let me get started on the $10 flights across Europe...BUT even though I had a $550 USD phone bill tmobile still worked better in Thailand last month than it does here in Austin, TX! ;)

OK. Back to your (and my) dilema:

Some questions:
**Do you really NEED to be contactable all the time? (You survive when you are in day long meetings and catch up later...)

**Do you really NEED to get e-mail on the move? (nope)

**Have you tried texting? Texting is now the world's number one communication tool and it's very cheap and flexible. (ah-ha)

**Do you need a camera on your phone? (maybe - it would have to be half-decent...1.3 mega-whatevers)

**Do you need to (want to?) surf the web on your phone? (no - coz it doesn't work most of the time and the screen is ridiculous and nobody is even designing for that interface )

**Do you need colour on your phone? (not really)

**Do you need mobile contact info beyond just names and numbers? (YES!)

**Do you need a GSM sim card and a tri-band international phone, like the rest of the planet or will a 20th century US cellphone network do ok? (a works-everywhere-phone please)

People often make the mistake of buying the *phone* when really what you are buying is the coverage that the phone *network* allows you to plug into.
The coolest looking phone soon becomes a potential projectile when it finds a network blackspot in a major city! even the Treo 650 falls foul here - it's actually for sale already btw.

So my advice?

1. Sit down and think how you'd see youself with this mythical new device.

2. Spend a week or so pretending you have the new device or just buy one - or many - (they all have no hassle 14 day returns built in). before getting my treo I taped - yes taped - my good ole palm pilot to my old cell phone and walked about saying yes I want to be able to do both "contact info" and "phoning" on the move.

3. Note down what it is you like and dislike.

4. Use your research (in your OWN context) to buy the best *GSM network* first.

5. Interview other similar users and (as you have here) solicit others experiences.

6. Buy the current most personally beneficial device on that network.

7. Buy what is most flexible because in digital-time there is always a shiny new thing and you'll be itching again in about 9 months to do all of this again. Hurrah! ;-))

Hope that helps!

(I'll post my own struggle somewhere too so maybe you can "learn" from my mistakes as well)


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