opinion piece posted by

Smartphone epiphany

Being an account of a startling conversion on the subject of smartphone usefulness. Subtitled Sony Ericsson P800 vs Nokia 7250.

I’ve experienced something of a revelation recently, and it all revolves around the smartphone vs mobile phone question. Like many other folk I eagerly awaited the arrival of the new Sony Ericsson P800 smartphone as the harbinger of a new dawn in PDA/phone convergence. With it I could dispense with my Palm PDA which I used for entertainment and ebook access on the road, and just have one versatile gadget filling my pocket.

However having played with one for a few weeks a while ago, I gradually realised that the P800 was not my kind of product. Now, many people are happily using their model and loving it, but for me one thing became apparent very quickly. It was simply not a very good mobile phone!

Now I’ve had a bit of a problem with Ericsson phone quality for a while. I used to love them with a passion, right up to the T28 World which I found to be a miserably unreliable piece of kit. In fact it was only after I finally swapped it in total exasperation for a Nokia 8890 that I realised what it was like to have a phone that actually got a good signal just about everywhere. Up until then I’d blamed the networks, y’see?

Anyway to cut a long story short, the P800 took me straight back to my good old bad old Ericsson days. Sure it sports a fab set of specifications, and things like the music player, memory stick slot and that awesome screen are true wonders of the world. But using it as a phone was a real trial. I couldn’t work out how to switch off keylock quickly (I don’t think that there is a fast shortcut), the signal strength was pretty poor where Nokia would grab almost full bars, and dialing out was a real hassle unless you had the keypad installed. I just didn’t like it. Of course your mileage may vary, but I was truly surprised just how difficult I found it to use.

Which leads me to my big surprise. I decided to look at an alternative solution in the shape of the Nokia 7250. I’d spotted one at GSM World at the beginning of the year and it looked really nice. Petite, beautiful little colour screen, and a nifty set of Series 40 applications and features. For those of you not up to steam with Nokia nomenclature, there are two ranges of super phones being marketed by the company at the moment, Series 60 (including the 7650, the upcoming 6600 and other top end camera phones) and the Series 40 (models include the 7250 and upcoming 6220). The differences being that the Series 40s have lesser specs, and run a simplified and less powerful set of applications.

Anyway I got a 7250 in to check it out in more detail. And it was good. And this is where the big surprise happened. I suddenly discovered that all the things that I thought I wanted to do with a smartphone/PDA hybrid could be boiled down to one or two simple chores – check my email, have a rudimentary To-Do list/calendar and play some games maybe. Oh yes ideally I would like to use one as an ebook, but that’s very much a nice to have. The email is a must have.

Well, blow me down with a feather, but the 7250 managed to deliver on everything except the ebook. It doesn’t have a proper inbuilt email client – which its more business oriented brother the 6220 will have – but a little bit of hunting around uncovered the Email Viewer package ($19.99), Sirius Email package and Nokia promoted AVEC E-mail (9.95 euros). Out of these Java clients Email Viewer is probably the best, if only because it doesn’t sport a limit on the number of emails that can be retrieved at one time. It suffers from a pretty naff Reply To function, but the author tells me that will be sorted for Version 2.0.

I also downloaded a selection of other freebie Java apps from sites like Midlet, Jams and J2me and suddenly discovered the joys of the tiny Series 40. These are great phones, folks. The battery life is excellent and yet the bright screen is legible in just about any light. The inbuilt default apps like Organiser and the currency converter are superb, and there’s a growing library of useful Java freeware and commercial apps available for download. In fact the only time you remember that it is powered by a mere mobile phone processor and not a PDA one is when waiting for stuff to download via the GPRS, as it can be a little tardy. I used the 7250 to check email at various times with no problem, even replied as necessary once or twice. Used the Organiser to add in notes with alarms to help me remember, and generally used it like a portable PDA friend. And that’s not to mention the great little FM radio and digital camera included in the handset as standard.

It worked. And it was good. Sure it would be wonderful to have an SD card slot, but I’m sure that will come soon. It has been a complete revelation; that I can get just about everything I need from a PDA and phone out of something so pocket friendly sized, and for it to be such a great phone too. I’m starting to sound like a Nokia salesman here, but the phone is excellent in its own way too. The polyphonic ringtones are cool, the games are cool, and features like being able to add email addresses to the phone book are also cool. The only quibble really would be the keypad which I found to be a little fiddly. The company should perhaps have focussed more on ergonomics than looks, but then again this is classed as a ‘fashion’ phone.

The Nokia 7250 is a cracking product, folks, in just about every department. It’s got bags of memory to store downloaded Java apps and games, and as well as being a great mobile telephone, it also has features galore for the PDA minded soul. I suggest that you check it out if you’re in the market for a new handset.

Hopefully I will soon be able to take a close look at the 6220, with its inbuilt email client and beefier spec. Note: I suspect that the new Nokia 7250i has the same email client as the 6220, but I suspect that even so its fiddly buttons may drive people towards the newer model for business use.

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