I’ve been helping a client setup a Treo 600 to send and receive email and I started getting curious about these devices. I’ve owned two PDA’s over the years, but after I got rid of my last one a few years ago, I vowed to wait until I could better integrate the device with a phone. I just wasn’t going to be one of those guys who carry a PDA, a phone, a laptop, a thumb drive, etc… you know who you are, guys.

So, I jumped online to see what the latest offerings are and I have to say I’m very disappointed in what is available.

Camera Options: First, If I’m going to buy a phone with a camera, I’d like it to take some halfway decent shots. 1.3Mp is a crying shame and worthy only for photo-blogging. There hardly seems any reason that no cell phone manufacturer couldn’t integrate a 3.1 mega-pixel processor into a phone. While the lens and zoom features would be very limited, I’d gladly sacrifice that for a processor that actually hold some detail and resolution. There is rumors of a 2 MP phone being sold in Japan somewhere, which means it is probably a year away from being introduced into America. While Japan is definitely an overly gadget-oriented country, this just strikes me as common sense. You would think there would be a veritable foot race to get a 3 mega-pixel camera phone into this country. First cell-phone manufacturer to do it would reap huge benefits. If the phone is outrageously expensive, they could always just offer 3 and 4-year contracts to help abate the costs for the millions of consumers who would switch at the first opportunity. If I can’t get a decent camera on the phone, then what is the point? Skip the camera and save the weight and battery life.

Email Options: I don’t really understand the phones that are offering email access, but have tiny screens and no real keyboard. Instead you are supposed to use your phone keypad to write messages? Most of the Real People can barely add someone’s contact information into their phone via this method. I hardly see how they are going to use a phone keypad to send all but the most tepid responses to email. Of course, maybe the trend, as I’ve suggested for some time, is to simply get email - not respond to it. Typing on any device takes time and people are just information hungry, not interested in giving as much as they are receiving. I’ve stated before how this will eventually boost the information providers of this generation into positions of power - very Orwellian, I suppose. The huddled masses will be surfing for information from an increasingly fewer providers. Outside the topic of this article, but I do wonder why more phone and device manufacturers aren’t incorporating full keyboards into devices.

Memory Options: The lack of memory available on most of these phones is appalling. Full-blown, top of the line Smart-phones are coming with 32Mb of memory installed. These are phones that have a built-in camera, a built-in MP3 player and miniature version of Office applications. What am I supposed to do with 32Mb of memory (which usually only 24Mb is available to a user)? The standard thumb-drive is 2Gb today. There are larger thumb-drives that come with up to 8Gb. Of course, I can generally upgrade the memory to a whopping 64Mb, or as most folks do, buy a secure digital card to increase the memory. Flash memory is becoming ridiculously cheap and larger all the time. I don’t understand why these phones don’t incorporate it more easily. A minimum standard would be 1Gb of memory, with options to have 2, 4, 8, 16, etc - built in to the phone. The secure digital card should be just to help transfer information to other devices - although Bluetooth seems to take care of that far easier.

What do I want? Simple enough. Here are my specs for a new phone. Until I see it, I’ll stick with my ancient Nokia phone and just carry other devices as needed. Here is list morphed from different phones.

Large screen: I’ll take the large transflective screen of HP’s iPAQ hw6515 - a full three inches. Good enough for viewing email, browsing through photos, or reading briefly a document someone sent to me. Bigger would be even better and could maybe double as a portable reader. I saw a portable car DVD player at Walmart that came with two LCD screens for under $180 last week. The technology is inexpensive and available - someone just needs to do it.

Email: Full email access. Full. All types, all kinds. If Outlook or Thunderbird can access the account, my phone should be able to as well. This includes full HTML formatting, RTF, and every attachment under the sun. The phone would obviously have to have readers to view all the attachments. I’d like to see a phone that allows viewing of PNG, PSD, and PDF files - built in (no plug-ins).

Camera: As I stated, a minimum 3 MP processor. Every camera phone brags about taking video for a few paltry seconds or so. Who cares? Get me a decent still camera and I’d buy. If you are going to have video, make it just live video that another user of the same phone can view. Seems to me the kiddies would eat this up. I’m already seeing the possibility of a 4-way split screen where we can all view 3 other participants in the conversation at the same time while talking. Might even be a business teleconferencing application in there somewhere.

Memory: A minimum 1Gb of memory. I’d like to see phones that offer 4Gb. I can buy an iPod half the size of a phone - no, make that a third - with nearly 125 times the amount of memory as a “smart phone”. This hardly makes any sense. Who needs 15,000 songs on an iPod besides a 15-year old? I did the math. Even in my day when I owned 500 CD’s, averaging 10 songs per disc, I “owned” 5,000 songs. How in the world does someone need three times that amount? On their person? I can’t imagine. And yet, I could really stand to view a PowerPoint document over the web - as could the rest of the mobile business world - and save it to my device. But with 32 Mb could I? Not likely, I’ll just end up paying wireless transfer fees to view it again later. Not cool.

MP3 Player: On that same note, I’m not so unhip that I wouldn’t appreciate an MP3 player on board. It could come in handy. Plus, if you are going to sell to the under-30 market, it seems to be a necessity to include a solid MP3 player.

No More Stylus: I don’t care if they put 45 buttons all over the phone everywhere. Just please get rid of the stylus common to PDA’s. I’ll eventually be able to hotkey everything as I learn it. The phone manufacturer that can come up with some clever one-handed way to do everything on the phone, will win the market.

Thus, in essence, I know Apple got burned with the Newton years ago, but I think the market may be ripe for them to enter the cell phone market. I might consider an iPhone.

Technorati : SMS, camera phone, email, phones

Posted in: Ideas