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Mobile Needs

What a timely coincidence (actually, there are no coincidences, there is only synchronicity, but that’s a different entry):


Tim Bray on mobile needs was quickly followed by Jeremy’s mobile needs to which Russell responded.

Being pda-less after my vacation and T610-less after a roller coaster-ride, I have reverted back to my trusty SonyEricsson R520 and no PDA.

The thing I miss most? My calendar and all my addresses. That’s why I need a PDA again soon. Phone and SMS is handled well by the R520 (and I actually like it’s large size and protruding antenna because I can pull it out of my coat pocket by the antenna).


I have had various experiences with mobile applications, and so far, I’m not convinced. I realize that times change, and that mobile apps are the future. But most of the things being built in the mobile market are geared towards the YAF (Young Adult Fun) target market, and their perceived needs. (A new study from Cap Gemini (see also TechBiz) comes to the conclusion, that the TelCos are offering too many services, instead of focusing on things the customers really want. And customers want cheap telephony)


As a customer of Swisscom Mobile I’m in the unfortunate situation to pay 0.10 Franks for 10 KByte of GPRS data I use. This is just as brain-dead as the recently unveiled mobile unlimited (a 3-in-1 GPRS, UMTS, WLAN PC-Card that automatically selectes the best connections and does the switch from one network to the other seamlessly). The downside? The prices of course. Even on their cheapest plan, 1 MB of data transfer will set me back 1 Swiss franc (which is about $0.80). That’s plain and simply ridiculous. When I use WLAN from Swisscom I pay CHF 72 for the first two hours per month and an additional CHF 4.80 / hour after that. After my holidays in Denmark where I had to do support using my Laptop and GPRS I got a bill of > CHF 400.– for about 20 MB of GRPS traffic.

I will plain and simple not bother to do any wireless data stuff at these rates, even if it is compelling to have an always and everywhere connection to the net.


As far as devices go… I’m not sure. There are the two schools that beat each other up. The everything-integrated-into-one-device and the a-device-for-each-function.

I have some experience with both. Let me try to describe what I see as advantages and disadvantages of each:

all in one

I had the SonyEricsson P800 and it was a mixed blessing. I liked the integration, I liked the small form factor, I liked the power and the extendability. I liked that I could use Opera on it. I got used to having a camera and being able to post directly to my blog. I had a bunch of useful programs and I did some programming for the phone in standard Java. Big pluses.

But on the downside, this phone did nothing really well. I won’t bother you with all the problems, the most important one was, that it was to slow. Searching for a contact in my 300+ contacts took forever. Switching applications took too long. Sometime it ran out of memory and reset itself hard. Synchronization with my PC never quite worked. As for multimedia… Actually, no, I won’t go into it. In my eyes this is a joke. Battery life sucked. The phone had to be recharged nightly.


I then switched to a T610. Nice, small, works. Extremely long battery life. And a Palm T3. And an Apple iPod. I have a Bluetooth headset too. The camera in the T610 is a sick joke, but I have my Canon Ixus for quick photography.

With this combo I was able to look up and dial a number about three times faster than with the P800. Surfing was much easier thanks to the T3’s huge screen. Writing was done with the external wireless keyboard. Listening to music - the iPod is by far better equipped due to the sheer volume of music I can carry around. The T610 easily lasts for a week on one charge even with bluetooth enabled.

The downside? When I travel I have to carry chargers for every device which is a royal pain. I have more moving pieces, but each of them only provides one piece of functionality, so I’m not completely lost if I forget or loose one of the devices.


So where does that leave me for the future?

I’m all for mobile net access - but not at the price I have to pay now. I like highly integrated devices (the coolness factor) but I haven’t seen anything that really does it all. The upcoming Treo 650 might just be the device I’ve been waiting for. (but then, it’s screen is too small for any decent web browsing or so it seems)

I have seen some of the upcoming mobile phones and I’m not impressed. But I guess, I’m not the target market.

I’m considering to resurrect my Handspring Visor (or go for a Zire) and just live with it and the r520 and save the money spent on a new gadget. I have the feeling that save for the missing coolness factor I have everything that I need for my current mobile needs. And the saved money would go towards a Apple PowerBook.

Hmm - sounds like a plan to me….

Update: The GPRS price is actually CHF 0.10 / 10 kb, not per 1 kB as I originally wrote.

Jens-Christian Fischer

Maker. Musician