Wednesday, February 26, 2014

We don't need a smarter smartphone

If you follow what is being announced at the Mobile World Congress this year, they are all about smartphones with new looks and features. Notice that it is not called Smartphone World Congress; it is called Mobile World Congress for a very good reason. It is not about telephony anymore; it is about computer-in-a-pocket.

I do not see any compelling improvements in the new smartphone that make me want to replace my Galaxy S2, as far as my telephony needs are concerned. I don't need a smartphone to monitor my heart rate, as in the new Samsung S5. I don't need bigger screen or higher resolution as I'd rather carry a smaller phone. I don't need a faster processor; mine runs fast enough. I don't need more apps; (help!) I am already overloaded with them, most of which I don't use.

I do so want to replace my Galaxy S2 though, if the right phone comes along. I want one with a week-long battery life, in a small and light body. I don't need lots of features, but low price tag would be nice. I want one with reliable internet connection, both broadband and WLAN. I want built-in WhatsApp, Viber, Line, Skype and whatever good free phone or messaging systems are out there. Built-in emails like Gmail and other popular email systems would be good. The problem is, these apps seldom come as built-in apps. Instead, you get lots of unwanted bloatware.

I now carry a non-smartphone (Nokia 210), which many call a feature phone. I don't like that term because these phone are really quite featureless phones. They are good for the intended purpose of making calls and delivering SMS and not much else. My phone is cheap, small, light, and has several days of battery life. What's more, the alarm works even when the phone is switched off at night! This serves to extend the battery life and I get to sleep with being interrupted by calls and message alerts.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Going low tech with my Nokia 210

After using a smartphone for several years, I decided to swap out my Samsung Galaxy S2 for a regular Nokia phone running on Symbian. This was prompted in part by an overheating problem on my Samsung, and in part by a desire to break free of smartphone addiction (have you noticed how people seem to be peering at their smartphone wherever they go?).

My Nokia 210 dual SIM phone seems to fit my needs very well. It can go for three days before I need to recharge. It has built-in apps for Youtube, Facebook and Whatsapp, as well as an internet browser. The processor is not very fast, so the apps are a little sluggish as compared to smartphones. My Nokia 210 costs me AUD$80, while an average smartphone at today's prices costs about thrice that amount.

The Nokia 210 does not have a touchscreen. It has a camera but not as good a one as on my Samsung S2. It can record video but at 15fps. It can accept Symbian apps but they are usually not great for running on small screen with low processing power. The 3" display is functional but not high resolution, nor does it have wide viewing angle.

So why should anyone bother with this phone? Well, I call it technology fatigue with using smartphones. It is quite liberating to go out with just a low tech phone. I don't feel compelled to fish out a smartphone every few minutes to see what is going on. I have enough features on my Nokia 210 to stay connected, but the features are not compelling enough for me to want to keep on peering at the little screen. I now leave my smartphone for use at home; I still enjoy playing with the apps and doing many things with it, such as listening to internet radio and reading the news when I am relaxing at home. But I am definitely keeping the smartphone under house arrest from now on.