February 13, 2010


My Phone Dilemma

For the last week or so I've agonized over choosing a new phone. My last phone, like many of the phones that came before, proved just how not water resistant it was, as it slid off my knee into a mug on wine positioned between my legs. I immediately ripped the battery out of it and tried drying it the best I could, even gently subjecting it to a blow dryer later, and it ended up working, but now on or off with the battery plugged in it is perpetually in vibrate mode. Ah well. I was fortunately due for a new phone, but choosing one proved to be a very difficult task. I have for months and months lusted after a multi-functional smart phone, I am somewhat ashamed to say, but not being in a business related career (currently) and being somewhat frugal I just couldn't quite make the justification for the internet service plan which is required to use a smartphone, which would add up to several hundred dollars over the course of a year. I did the math, I made spreadsheets comparing all the options – I was so close to making the smart phone leap. But even with an employer discount the cheapest smart phone plan was around $850.00, over a year, while the cheapest option with a simple feature phone was considerably less, at around $540.00 over a year. The cost to benefit ratio just didn't add up.

And another thing that attracts me is the Android operating system. I was really excited about the Droid phones that came out last December, especially the less expensive and in my opinion a lot more stylish Droid Eris – made by HTC. The more expensive Droid by Motorolla does have a better quality screen, and a faster processor, and the most recent version of Android OS with free voice-controlled GPS with Google Maps; but it also had a not-so-pretty boxy design and a sliding physical keyboard which I don't find interesting – the less moving parts, in my opinion, the better, especially with my knack for destroying phones. Playing around with the Eris in person just intrigued me even more. This was the closet device to an iPhone (which I have also lusted after for some time) that I had come across. The Android OS is so sleek, simple to use, and capable of doing a lot of interesting things, especially with respect to social networking apps like Facebook, Twitter, etc. But most importantly, being that development of Android is pretty much open-source, the Android OS is wide open to developers to make whatever apps they choose, unlike the iPhone's app selection which is under the careful scrutiny of Apple (and admittedly there are some advantages for iPhone users to have Apple's scrutiny on their behalf in the sense that Apple is looking out for their interest and keeping iPhone users safer, sort of how Apple OS users are generally safer than Windows users – still the freedom of Android making possible a much wider array of apps is something I find very appealing). If I was going to get a smartphone, an Android based phone was the phone for me. But I just couldn't justify racking up the fees for Internet access.

Also to consider with the Eris: besides being not quite as powerful of a phone as the regular Droid by Motorolla, a.k.a. MotoDroid which runs Android 2.0, the Eris runs Android 1.5ish and also has a slightly altered user interface (UI) designed by HTC called SenseUI, which included some features lacking in the plain Google designed UI for Android OS – most notably including the pinch-to-zoom capability for web browsing, picture viewing, etc. which is a feature that makes the iPhone so amazing. But the SenseUI isn't really the user experience that Google necessarily had in mind with Android, and I really wanted a truly Google-designed phone.

Then not long before my phone splashed into a mug of wine, Google released a new phone sold directly from its website called the Nexus One (which by the way is clearly a clever pun on the classic science fiction literature Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, later turned into the brilliant scifi film Blade Runner, in which the main antagonists of the book and film are androids of a series called Nexus 6). This phone, more powerful than the MotoDroid, and made to Google's exact specifications by HTC, maker of the Eris, includes a just-released newer version of the operating system – Android 2.1 – with some fairly cool new features, like interactive backgrounds (imagine your finger stirring the surface of water). Not only that, I recently read that Google would be adding (or really allowing) the capability for pinch-to-zoom in its Apps, which was the leg up that Apple had with the iPhone, and the leg up HTC had with its SenseUI extension on Android. (This development might be because of a recent parting of ways between Google and Apple, two tech companies that in recent years have been somewhat allies, even sharing Bord Members) The Nexus One truly is THE Google Phone. But the Nexus One is not yet available with my cell phone carrier (although there is a note on their site indicating that it will be sometime this Spring).

Meanwhile I was teetering on the edge of getting the Eris, but then I realized that what I really wanted was two separate things, a simple phone (with a simple minutes plan), and a device that does all that Android does but without the monthly internet fee. The iPhone has this feature in the sense that it has a little brother called the iPod Touch (a.k.a. the iTouch by Apple enthusiasts), which basically is an iPhone without the phone. This is exactly what I want in an Android device. Basically what it boils down to is: I want an Android OS on an iTouch-like quality device. No Internet service fee, just all the fun and freedom of Android on a sleek powerful yet simple to operate portable device.

So the question is, how long before there is a device for Android thats as sleek as the Eris or Nexus One, but not tethered to a cell phone carrier such as is the Apple iTouch?

Dear Google, I (and I assume many others) would really like a Nexus One without the phone component (or at least not having to pay for a data plan). Can that be done?

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