I need a new smartphone. I'm picky.
April 14, 2006 5:55 PM   Subscribe

Do you have a smartphone that you love that matches what I'm looking for? I can google featuresets, but what I'm looking for is personal experiences.

I have an aging, beat up Treo 600. I really like the phone and the way it's set up, except the resolution sucks, there's no bluetooth, and some applications are really slow. The main things I do are:
  • SSH
  • VNC/RDP into my machine at home
  • IM (AIM/MSN)
  • Surf
  • Email
  • Read ebooks with Plucker
  • SMS
The feature set I'd like, of course is being able to do all that, and have Bluetooth, only with a higher resolution display, and a QWERTY keyboard. I have a Tungsten E2, but connecting via BT to a phone to get internet is slow and annoying, especially since I can't turn off the screen on the E2 without it disconnecting, while on the Treo I can. I imagine that with the low numbers of PalmOS smartphones besides the Treos that I'll be running some variant of Windows Mobile. I was almost committed to getting a Treo 650, but between all the leads at work complaining about the poor phone audio quality, and the ~$450 or so price tag, I'd like something cheaper.

So, to summarize, ideally:
  • T-Mobile or Unlocked GSM/GPRS
  • Bluetooth
  • Memory card slot of some sort
  • Higher resolution than 160x160 Standard Palm Color crap
  • Touchscreen
  • QWERTY keyboard built in, or attached like the iPaq here (which I'm considering).
  • Applications can keep running while the screen is off
  • Under $300.
  • Pipe dream: multitasking
I hate "do my shopping" posts as much as the next guy, but I don't want to sell off a couple of decent devices for something that looks good on paper but ends up sucking. Muchos Gracias!
posted by cellphone to Technology (13 answers total)
(Yes, I'm aware of the irony of my username 8-] )
posted by cellphone at 6:22 PM on April 14, 2006

In general, I've found PhoneScoop's Phone Finder most useful for this kind of thing. Don't miss the "Extended" tab for ridiculous amounts of database goodness.

Can't help you with specific recommendations. I'm keeping my trusty Samsung i500 Palm OS smartphone as long as I possibly can, mostly because nothing comparable has appeared on the market before or since (my 3 word mantra: small, Palm, flip).

You might want to reconsider the cost issue. In the end, after a couple years of using it, and getting it to work well for you, cost just doesn't matter much. Buy what you want and then get the carrier's insurance for it ...
posted by intermod at 6:37 PM on April 14, 2006

Lofty requirements for a $300 price tag. I'm not sure of the cost, but rumour has it that T-Mobile will be releasing the BlackBerry 8700 any day now. I'll break down your list:

SSH: The idokorro SSH client is great! It's not free, but it works well. There are free versions, but the problems were not worth it.

VNC/RDP into my machine at home: Same company as I mentioned above offers a remote desktop option, but I prefer the Remote Desktop for Mobiles client as it offers an online service that will allow you to get around external firewalls etc. by forwarding all the traffic over port 80.

IM (AIM/MSN): Lots and lots of options. Verichat, BlackBerry Messenger, Google Talk (which can be configured to use any IM network -- see here for instructions).

Surf: Embedded browser on the device, but there are other options including the Opera mini browser.

Email: It's a BlackBerry. Email is it's primary game.

Read ebooks with Plucker: Not sure about this, but there has to be an ebook reader for the BlackBerry. I haven't looked into it myself.

SMS: With the GSM models, SMS/MMS is not a problem. The iDEN-enabled (Nextel) models have some issues with SMS.

T-Mobile or Unlocked GSM/GPRS: Check.

Bluetooth: Check.

Memory card slot of some sort: Unfortunately, no. But there is software that will allow you to transfer (wirelessly) files/folders from your BlackBerry to a remote workstation.

Higher resolution than 160x160 Standard Palm Color crap: Check.

Touchscreen: Unfortunately, no.

QWERTY keyboard built in, or attached like the iPaq here (which I'm considering): Check.

Applications can keep running while the screen is off: Check.

Under $300: Not sure yet. Hasn't been released. It should be somewhere in that range though.

Multitasking: Much to a lot of people's surprise, the BB is a multitask device. You can run multiple applications simultaneously and switch between them in the same way that you can with Windows (Alt-Tab).

Hope that helps.
posted by purephase at 6:53 PM on April 14, 2006

What about the brand new T-Mobile MDA? Looks like it has every feature you're looking for.
posted by helios at 7:04 PM on April 14, 2006

T-Mobile has their new MDA out that looks pretty decent; it runs Windows Mobile so there's your app support, and it has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. price with new activation is $299, so how much it costs you depends if you're already with T-Mo. fwiw I didn't like the h6315; everyone sounded great on it but then everyone kept asking me why I echoed so much.
posted by mrg at 7:05 PM on April 14, 2006

The Nokia 9500 is the best smartphone I've ever used; part of my job is developing & testing apps for phones so I've used (almost) every phone around. If you can get around the size (it's bigger than a Treo) and the lack of touchscreen (not necessary, IMO) then it would be perfect for your needs. The 640x200 screen is amazing for SSH, VPN, eBooks, browsing etc. Multitasks beautifully.

If you're interested I'll write more in the morning.

I think the word you're looking for is eponysterical...
posted by blag at 7:20 PM on April 14, 2006

I just recently purchased an HTC Wizard 8125 from Cingular, on the recommendation of a trusted friend, and we're both thrilled with it so far. My last PDA phone was was the Samsung i700 with Verizon, which was okay but too bulky.

I'm very happy with it, and would recommend it to anyone- it might be the perfect device for your needs:
# T-Mobile or Unlocked GSM/GPRS
I got mine from Cingular, but T-Mobile actually offers a very similar device, it's the same HTC device but branded with T-Mobile. So you can get it from either provider if you have a preference.

Also, the device has built-in 802.11b/g Wifi, so that's a HUGE plus; I opted to get no data plan and saved $40 a month, and rely on Wifi at work and home...

# Bluetooth
Built-in, of course

# Memory card slot of some sort
Mini-SD, works fine for me. Has 128MB memory built-in, not sure how large a mini-SD card it can handle

# Higher resolution than 160x160 Standard Palm Color crap
320x240, looks very slick and crisp. Let's you also adjust from portait to landscape mode, which is very very nice.

# Touchscreen
Natch! Has a touchscreen and stylus, although that is something I try to avoid- didn't really like it in my i700, and I find I can do most everything I want with just keyboard and buttons, so I'm not two-handing it with a stylus all the time just for dialing a number...

# QWERTY keyboard built in, or attached like the iPaq here
Absolutely! Possibly it's best feature... My last phone was a Nokia 6820 with the flipout keyboard, and that was my number 1 condition for a next phone- the slide out keyboard is very usable and a good size, and works quite well.

# Applications can keep running while the screen is off
I believe so, but I'm not 100% certain. The backlight can be adjusted separately from standby, at least.

# Under $300.
Price with 2-year agreement was $300; with 1-year it's like $380 or something

# Pipe dream: multitasking
Well, it's windows mobile 5.0, so it obviously can handle multi-applications at once.
As for your usage and common apps:
Pocket Putty for WM5.0 exists

# VNC/RDP into my machine at home
RDP obviously for WM exists

Bundled with MSN IM on my Cingular, I think you can add AIM and that might be the standard on the T-Mobile version of this device.

# Surf
IE is bundled, seems to work reasonably well.

# Email
Natch, has Outlook included

# Read ebooks with Plucker
I'd be surprised if e-book readers for WM5.0 weren't in abundance, but I can't speak to this first hand

Goes without saying. I like the SMS featureset on this, in terms of the ease of sending SMS to someone without navigating through many menus using the stylus
So yeah- it's an absolutely phenomenal device that I couldn't be happier with... it was only $300 after $50 rebate, it has every feature I could want- and the camera feature is fantastic, since the form factor is perfect for hold exactly like a normal digital camera- and being WM5.0 means it can get add-on apps rather easily.
posted by hincandenza at 7:28 PM on April 14, 2006

And I just now realized that the HTC 8125 I am talking about is only a slightly different facade-styling of the device that is the T-mobile "MDA" others have mentioned above, a/k/a the i-mate K-JAM and apparently a half-dozen other names. :)

However I can speak personally from first-hand experience in using this HTC device to say that it is truly fantastic. And the size is great too- it's the same height and depth of my nokia 6820 but only a little wider, and fits nicely and snugly in my pocket- it's rugged and tough, and thus I don't feel I have to put it in some bulky case.

Here is a great link to show what the Cingular version looks like, and you can see the slight differences in physical styling of the buttons compared to the T-Mobile version at the phonescoop.com page.

And this as well as this are great links showing the size in real world comparisons- you can see the keyboard slides out and is of good size, but when retracted the phone is really quite managable compared to typical cell phones.
posted by hincandenza at 7:38 PM on April 14, 2006

I love my Nokia 770 inernet tablet. It is PDA-sized, but it is not a phone: It can connect to a WiFi network or to a Bluetooth phone with a data plan. The 800x480 screen is amazing for web browsing and for Plucker. It has an on-screen keyboard, or you can make it work with Bluetooth keyboards. SSH, VNC, and IM clients are available, although at least some of them are still beta-quality.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:47 PM on April 14, 2006

I have the MDA, just got it last week. Its my first pocket PC, so I've learned a lot about what I can do with it just from this thread alone, but so far I love it. I didn't want a crackberry, and this has been a fantastic alternative. Also if your bill is up to date, Tmobile will unlock any phone you buy from them.
posted by zia at 10:13 PM on April 14, 2006

The Treo 700p is due out 'Any day now' (Currently May 15th) - It might be worth your trouble to just hold off until it's release, and reassess the market then?
posted by Orb2069 at 7:46 AM on April 15, 2006

This is a comprehensive review of the Cingular 8125 which is also the T-mobile MDA. I am strongly considering one of these myself.

Couple of things you need to be aware of:

-Using Wifi on the unit does turn the phone off.
-Some hacking in the registry is necessary to get the full-monty-experience with this phone.
-Opinions vary widely on call quality.
-You need an unlimited data plan.
-You will need to spend some money on accessories (BT headset, some software, probably a case or two, car charger, etc.)

I love Blackberries dearly, but until they have some local storage capabilities for documents (PDFs, specifically) I'm going to have to go with a WM device.
posted by TeamBilly at 7:57 AM on April 15, 2006

It looks like you are looking for the MDA. Here are my thoughts about it from a previous AskMefi thread. The price is a real kicker though, it exceeds t by a 100. It does do AIM, ICQ, and MSM. If not touched, the screen turns off automatically, and the state of the applications is kept if you turn the phone off.
posted by zabuni at 11:19 AM on April 15, 2006

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