I’m a big fan of portable compute power. These things we carry called “phones” these days do so much other than call people. In fact, that’s one of the least things I do with mine. I get news and email, along with other social updates, can keep track of my blog, and approve or add comments from anywhere with a signal. I can manage files with Dropbox, sending customers data, avoid getting lost, and be pumped when I arrive listening to tunes. There are even some 3D viewers available so you can view CAD data on a phone. You can even sketch stuff, and make to-do lists, and, and, and…
I have to admit, I find myself hanging out on those Android forums with 23 year old punks who are constantly saying with religious verve that the next Nexus is going to be their next phone. Yeah, I still laugh at them, but secretly inside, I’m saying the same thing about every other new phone rumor that floats through the forums. I’m definitely the kind of guy who can appreciate something just because it exists. I don’t feel compelled to own every last gizmo that comes down the pike. That 1978 Porsche 911 looks great in my neighbor’s drive. I don’t have to own it, insure it, wax it, garage it, repair it, etc. to appreciate it. That’s a handy attitude to have when the cell phone market changes sometimes weekly.
I’m not really sold on tablets yet. To make them practical for stuff you can’t do on a phone, you really need a physical keyboard. And when you add a keyboard to a tablet, you’re just back to a laptop. The equation may change slightly, but I don’t see myself needing or wanting a tablet until I replace my current stock of laptops. When I do, it will be something like what has evolved from the Atrix, Padfone, and the Transformer Prime. Cool stuff, and practical enough for play and work.
My favorite new device is a phone with a practical digital projector. It has marginal specs as a phone, but the addition of a sizeable CAD-able display is beginning to evolve into something that is usable for simple impromptu demos, although it needs some additional resolution and brightness to be used for real work. There was another model of this a couple of years ago, but it was sent into limited markets, and was hard to take seriously as anything but a first shot at it.
Mobile World Congress was this week in Barcelona, and lots of cool stuff is coming out, if you’re a phone addict. Quad core phones are the big rage now. Phones are losing the removable media – all the memory is built-in. Of course I don’t like that. I’m very much a “want access to all the components” kind of guy. Some of the new phones are undeniably cool, though. It seems specs for components haven’t changed much in the last 6 months, and new high-end super phones are still being announced with the same or even slightly lower specs than the HTC Rezound/Sensation (a rather underappreciated phone, I thought) was announced with several months ago. The Motorola Razr was by a spec comparison, a far inferior phone, but is much more popular for whatever reason.
There’s the controversial Samsung Galaxy Note, which I think is very cool. A stylus is a great thing to have on a portable computer, and Wacom is the way to go. But you’d better get a cool bluetooth because you might look like a dork holding a pie plate to your ear.
So MWC (Mobile World Congress) has come at a great time for me, because my contract is up in April, and I’m due for a new phone. What am I going to get that is going to last me for the next two years, when the technology seems to completely turn over in less than 8 months? I’ve mentioned three Samsung phones already as being the cool ones. I did that without even realizing. Nexus, Note and Beam. Cool phones, but I need something I can live with as a go-everywhere compute device. The HTC devices are the ones that seem to do it for me because they are constructed so well. Plus, HTC (officially) allows you to unlock your bootloader and customize the phone, which is maybe the most important aspect of a new phone to me. The ability to customize, and the availability of software components to use from developers means that only the hardware matters when making a purchase decision, because you can totally replace all the software. This makes the choice easier. It means no Motorola, and certainly no Apple.
The new HTC One X and S have an aluminum body, which looks great, and makes the phone very sturdy compared to Samsung’s plastic. Spec wise, all the phones are starting to look the same, but the new HTCs have better displays and cameras. Being limited to the phones a single carrier provides is kind of a bummer. It would be best, obviously, to just buy whatever phone you want (at subsidized prices) and use it on whatever carrier you want. But the phone business is even more predatory than the CAD business about lock-in. Not to mention all the incompatible network formats.
I haven’t heard of any of these cool phones coming to Verizon, though. I can’t imagine Verizon going from December (Galaxy Nexus) to April without having any new top-line phones to offer, so I’m still holding out that the One X will be offered in the US with quad core power and 4g speed on Verizon. I’d even settle for the smaller One S (4.3″ instead of 4.7″).
There will be a day when these portable devices are the only computers we have. They are almost there now. The big lack for me is a big display (which a projector of sufficient resolution could answer) and a physical keyboard (for fast and furious typing of those loooong blog posts, but a bluetooth keyboard could work).