Thursday, 5 January 2012

Time for a new superphone?

They're not being called 'smartphones' any longer - they're now 'superphones'. Alluring and slickly-designed hand-held gadgets, with stunning screens and amazing capability to make playtime or practical communication fast and easy.

In the last couple of months some of my friends have replaced their old phones with new devices. One had to, when she went freelance; one could afford to upgrade, and did; one felt she should join the modern world, and has discovered the benefits - and the fun - of owning a hi-tech phone.

Whether it's the latest from Apple or HTC or Samsung, they are all accomplishing impressive - and sometimes very practical - feats on their new devices. They are all waggling their fingers over the gesture-sensitive screen like conjurors, or prodding it. And then things happen, such as a music video flashes up on the TV; or a video call is made to a friend in Australia who just happens to be standing standing by some natural wonder, and can show it as the call is made; or the time and cost of the last train is looked up in seconds; or all the local job offers are called up for someone like me to consider. And constantly Facebook, Facebook, Facebook.

My SIM-free Nokia E71, a Symbian device, is now nearly three years old and seems rather dated compared to these modern marvels. And the battery is showing signs of fatigue.

But in the Nokia's defence, it's small and elegant - all white plastic and shiny stainless steel - and still unblemished in appearance. I can use it one-handed. And while the Vodafone SIM card deal - £25 a month for 600 free calltime minutes, unlimited texts, unlimited internet access and fixed-price world roaming - is hardly inexpensive, it's rather cheaper than what I might have to pay if I committed myself to a monthly plan with one of the latest gadgets.

Common sense suggests that I should stay with the Nokia unless the battery fails or it breaks. After all, as a communication device it does the job: voice calls, texting, emails, blogging - all handled either acceptably or quite well. And it's good at the only other thing I use it for, as a music player.

All the rest - personal data (encrypted of course), my diary of events and things to do, and the practical apps I use, even the version of solitaire I prefer playing - is on my other pocket device, a Hewlett-Packard iPAQ 214. It's not connected to the internet in any way, and can't be attacked from there, which I feel is an advantage in terms of security. It's nearly four years old itself, and won't last forever. But it's a proper pocket computer, running Windows Mobile 6, and it works seamlessly with my PC. It's a quality bit of hardware that is looking good and still going strong, with a recently-purchased extra-large battery to make it even more suitable for extended use. It might easily go on working faultlessly until I eventually need to replace my PC, which may be some years away.

Of course I presently have to carry two devices in my handbag, instead of just one. It would be much nicer to combine the Nokia and the iPAQ, save weight, gain space, and have something more capable than either.

Which new device, though? As ever, the choice seems confusingly wide, but is actually confined to just a few models, none of which are perfect for my needs.

An iPhone would be my only Apple device, which raises compatability issues with the rest of my equipment; and it hasn't got the high functionality the iPAQ has for word-processing, spreadsheets and organising one's life. Nokia has now moved away from Symbian, and embraced Windows Mobile 7, a reinvented new platform that may or may not succeed...and I don't want to risk backing a dead duck.

That really leaves only Android. Samsung and HTC are the major players there. Last year's Gingerbread and this year's Ice Cream Sandwich versions of Android look very capable, and full of attractive features. But the office functions are still handled by QuickOffice. Hmmm. Long ago, when I used Palm devices, I ditched QuickOffice because it was clumsy and glitchy. It isn't good on the Nokia. At extra cost I can have the Pro version, but that may still be inferior to Windows Office. I must, whatever happens, have my many Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, to sync to the PC and back again without formatting problems. Can Android deliver that?

And do I consider a normal-sized Android device such as the Samsung Galaxy S II, or Galaxy Nexus, or something with a bigger screen that my old eyes can see clearly, and my clumsy fingers can prod more accurately? Such as the oversized Samsung Galaxy Note? Or simply wait for whatever 2012 brings forth?

But should I spend the equivalent of five months' savings (or half of this year's holiday money!) just to have something that will lighten the load and look a bit more trendy? Indeed, is it prudent to spend money on anything not essential? Just now, as matters stand, not unless I gain something very important. And I don't think these dazzling playthings, and what they can deliver, are really 'very important'.


  1. Lucy,
    I have been using a Windows Phone for over a year and I love it! It does everything I need it to, and it is easy to use. I think it will be around for a while.

  2. Personally I think you have to need the phone to justify buying one so it is something that only you can decide. I have a 3G phone, a Nokia, it is a freebee device given as part of my contract and gets upgraded every so often free of charge. Each time I get it replaced the next model has more features and gizmos than the old one but they are wasted on me. All I ever wanted was a phone, perhaps texting as I rarely use text anyhow and nothing else. I simply do not want to be connected to the Internet on a phone even though there may be benefits as I am seldom in a position where I would need to be on the Internet when out and about. I wish they would simply offer me a phone so that people can speak with me. Even I do not phone people often, it's by far more people phoning me. So it is down to lifestyle and what is important to the individual and how they live their lives. At the end of the day, for me anyway, I prefer to remain free of unecessary gadetry in my life. This computer is enough for me.

    Shirley Anne xxx

  3. I'm very happy with my Android phone, but I'd be the first to admit that it isn't at all trendy. I have an aversion to speaking into a box that rivals the size of an old Filofax, so the LG GT540 - all 4" x 2" of it - does me fine... for now.


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