| Phobile moans
||[Jun. 12th, 2008|04:33 pm]
Just over a year ago, I considered mobiles/PDAs and bought a Treo 680, a relatively hackable, well designed device on which, aside from phone calls and SMSs, I run a calendar, a to-do list (and general note-taking), an MUA, Tomtom sat-nav, Simon's puzzles, an OGG player occasionally and a few of the other 25,000 Palm OS applications. My mobile operator from 2005 until recently was dot mobile, a Vodafone reseller, which was priced for students, put minutes and SMSs in the same pot and offered GPRS at £1/MB. Unfortunately dot just went into administration and transferred me to Vodafone, whose terms are less favourable, and, fortunately or not, the 3G iPhone is about to arrive (and seems representative of the direction in which these devices are heading) so it looks like it's time for me to take another look at all of this.
I like Palm OS. The usability rivals Apple's but it's much more open: I can use any mobile operator and I've written a tablets timer for Susan without too much trouble. Unfortunately, its future is uncertain. Palm seem to have released only one device for it since mine, the 755p, and it's US-only and not much of an improvement. Palm have something called the Access Linux Platform in the works, but I'm not holding my breath. I'm also not overly impressed with what they've produced so far on that front.
Google's Android sounds interesting, but is probably even further away and openness might be an issue. As for the iPhone: the hardware is lovely; it has built-in GPS, 3G for faster net access and a big multi-touch screen. It's a shame Apple's behaving like all the other phone manufacturers, selling a locked-down device to operators for subsidies, rather than selling to end-users. I would never really be happy buying a device that restricts my choice of operator and software (Apple-approved only) and my ability to write software (currently Mac only) to the extent that the 3G iPhone will, certainly not at current prices. Unlockers may, in time, fix these issues well enough and reliably enough; it's very much wait and see.
My current device will last me a while longer, but not forever. I anticipate my network usage on this device increasing over time, and this is problematic in two ways: around the house I'm stuck with Bluetooth (no wi-fi), which never seems to work reliably (I had hoped they would improve the reliability and fix a few other bugs in a firmware update, but they haven't), and when out and about I have GPRS and not 3G. Obviously, a built-in GPS receiver would also be nice, as I could then use sat nav anywhere rather than when I've bothered to take the receiver with me (usually only in the car).
Looking then at deals suitable for my current device, they're all much the same. I'm still waiting for my first Vodafone bill, but I'm not happy with their daily-rate GPRS pricing (£1/0.5MB for the first 0.5MB each day, which is more than I typically use, and the same for any usage above 15MB each day - I'm likely to regularly use up to 0.5MB, and would occasionally use much more than 15MB if the price was sensible). I have the option of adding "unlimited" (500MB) GPRS for £7.50/month, which seems expensive (probably still more than GPRS will otherwise cost me at the moment). The current crop of
mobile broadband deals for a 3G USB device is all well and good (aside from still being too expensive), but I don't carry a laptop. I carry a phone with sensible software on it, and if the need arises to get a laptop online in the middle of nowhere, I connect it to the phone via Bluetooth.
For the moment I guess I'll stick with the 680 and
Vodafone move to O2 (see comments). I just wish I could use better hardware without it requiring such a locked-down OS as Apple's (or risking owning an iBrick).