Searching for My Next Phone

As I sit here waiting for some maintenance work to be done on our Mazda, I’m enjoying the free WiFi and doing a bit of research on new mobile phones. I’m due for a new one in a couple of months, and given that the iPhone is a no-go here in Verizon country, I wanted to check out some other options.

Here’s a short list of the features I’m looking for, along with how much weight each has in my decision:

  • QWERTY Keyboard (Important): I do a fair amount of texting, so having a nice keyboard is important. This becomes even more of a need if/when I do start doing mobile email.
  • Bluetooth (Important): This is pretty much standard on any decent new phone, but Bluetooth stereo isn’t yet. This would be great for listening to podcasts.
  • Camera (Important): Having a good camera in the phone has become increasingly important to me over the last couple of years. I don’t use it every day, but when I do, it’s usually important.
  • A decent web browser (Important): The browser on my Motorola Razr is completely worthless. I’m not hoping for the iPhone Safari experience here, but something fast and usable would be nice.
  • Operating System: I’m an operating system agnostic when it comes to computers, using Windows and Linux during the day and the Mac OS in the evenings, so I’m not against trying something new. Unfortunately, most mobile OSes are pure crap, and their user interfaces are even worse. I hate the UI Verizon slaps on most of its phones, and I’d rather not use Windows Mobile unless if I didn’t have to.
  • WiFi (Nice, but not important): This would be a luxury, but isn’t very likely given that Verizon doesn’t have many (or any?) phones with built-in WiFi connectivity.
  • EVDO (Nice, but not important): Most of Verizon’s higher-end phone have the ability to connect to their high speed network, but since I’d have to drive at least four hours to get to the closest EVDO coverage, this isn’t a high priority. Verizon currently doesn’t have any EVDO connectivity in the state of North Dakota, but if and when they do, I’m in.
  • GPS (Nice, but not important): I don’t consider myself a world traveler, so having built in GPS isn’t a big deal to me. But, if two phones were exactly the same except one had GPS and one didn’t, sure, I’d go for the with GPS.

Out of Verizon’s current batch of phones, there are a few that almost meet my qualifications. The best straight-up phone is probably the new Razr 2 by Motorola, but it lacks a full keyboard and is plagued by Verizon’s horrible interface. The recently released Motorola Q music 9m looks like it’s a decent smartphone and is supposed to have a great keyboard, but it’s running on Windows Mobile, so that’s a negative. Finally, the Blackberry 8830 “world edition” looks great: awesome keyboard, good user interface, the ability to run Java applications, and awesome email features. Unfortunately, since it’s targeted toward the business market, it’s missing a camera.

Thankfully, Verizon has a ton of new phones coming out this fall. The Samsung SCH-i760 looks unique, with a full, slide-out keyboard, but it too is based on Windows Mobile (maybe I just need to get over that). Palm’s Treo 755p is coming to Verizon too, but the Palm OS is so outdated that I’d take Windows Mobile over it any day.

That leaves the new Blackberry models. The Blackberry Pearl 2 is unofficially scheduled to be released sometime in November. It’s a more consumer oriented device, with a nice camera, all of the usual Blackberry features, an audio player and stereo Bluetooth, and GPS too, I believe. The only real downside is that its keyboard is somewhere in between a full QWERTY and a regular phone keyboard, so some smart software is used to predict what you’re typing. Less certain is the Blackberry Curve, which is basically a Pearl 2 with a full sized keyboard. There are currently rumors of this one, but nothing firm. If it is coming to Verizon, it’ll most likely be sometime next summer.

So, it looks like my best bet will be to give the Blackberry Pearl 2 a shot when it comes out this winter. It just looks too good to pass up.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Are you tied to Verizon? I’ve had sprint for years now. It has always worked for me and now there’s even coverage in Brooks & TRF.

    And though I didn’t hit EVDO when I was at your place it was only 1/2 mi to I29 before I did have it. The EVDO around GF was spotty, but I’ve had no trouble with service.

  2. **note that I only run my phone over “sprint only” connections.

  3. You know, except for the lack of EVDO in the North Country, I’m actually pretty happy with Verizon. Their coverage here, and especially within ND, is unmatched. Also attractive is being “in the Network”, so to speak – I’d say about 80% of my friends and family are using Verizon Wireless, so all calls to them are free.

    I haven’t used Sprint myself, but looking at their coverage map on their website, it looks like they have some weak spots, even on the interstate. Interestingly, they also show that their nearest EVDO (Sprint Mobile Broadband Network) is in the St. Cloud area.

    Twice I was a customer with Cellular One, years before they were bought up by Altel. Their service area was remarkably craptacular, even within Grand Forks at that time. I can only assume they’ve improved since then, but they’re really not offering anything compelling enough to make a switch.

    This just made me remember a fairly neat website where people can post their mobile phone receptions on a map. It’s called Signal Map.

  4. you know, I can’t remember now, but the connection software may be misleading. I have noticed that sprint is fairly conservative with their mapping. Thanks for that link.

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