Help me find the right phone for me
March 6, 2008 4:06 PM   Subscribe

Help me find the perfect (for me) Verizon Wireless phone. I'm not sure, but I think I might want to cross into smartphone land....

I did search around, an I did find this question from last month, but my wants, needs, and desires are quite different from the previous questioner.

Also, I know the iPhone is beautiful, but I would like to stay with Verizon Wireless, so that doesn't do me a lot of good. I know my CDMA phone choices are a bit more limited, but I'm wondering what helpful MeFi'ites might have some helpful opinions.

Things I need:
- A phone which is NOT made by Motorola. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I'm not ready for #3; my RAZR v3m (on the verge of dying; thankfully, my "New Every 2" is coming up) is an unreliable piece of junk, and it's not the first crappy Motorola phone I've ever had. I give up on them.

Things I would like:
- WiFi access to the Internet while traveling
- The ability to sync with Google Calendars, preferably without paying some ungodly amount every month. I don't care if it's via computer or over the air.
- A decent interface for email, especially gmail and my imap-based work email.
- Possibly a usable wireless web feature. I'm not really sure if I'd use this or not. I tried it on my RAZR once, but I gave up on it, possibly because it was largely unusable. Certainly, I'd like to be able to use the internet in a nice way over WiFi without lugging around my computer.

Things that would make me incredibly happy but probably won't happen (?):
- The ability to view PowerPoint files and, more importantly- output them to a projector in a usable way. (via an external adapter to VGA? via a TV-out?) Being able to give lectures off my phone would make me a very happy professor.

Things I don't care about one way or the other:
- Music player
- Quality of camera (I'd like one, but I don't care how good)
- the ability to view TV/videos

Purchase price isn't a top concern, but I certainly prefer to spend less rather than more. I'd also love opinions as to how necessary data plans are; I'd rather than spend $50(?)/month if I don't really need to.

Finally, I will go into a store to look at these phones in person, but I prefer to know what I'm looking at before I go in. Thanks in advance!
posted by JMOZ to Shopping (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like you might be a candidate for a BlackBerry Pearl. It features high-speed data, plays music, has a camera, QWERTY-ish keyboard, has a variety of software available that can allow you to get your Gmail, gCal and other information on and off the device over a wireless sync feature and it can view Microsoft Word and Excel files on it. There is third-party software available to let you view PowerPoint presentations but getting them off the phone onto a project is something I haven't seen on that platform. I know there is a convoluted way to do this with Windows Mobile based phones.

Data plans for BlackBerry devices are $29 a month from Verizon, but this includes unlimited data usage and e-mail usage. So you can get your POP/IMAP4 email pushed to the device and get high-speed data service when on the VZW network negating the need for Wi-Fi (which this device doesn't have). BlackBerry offers an unparalleled email experience, so if that's one of your primary concerns, dive in. The browser is pretty good for a mobile phone, plus you can run Opera Mini which gives a more desktop like experience. It's no iPhone but definitely a lot better than the GetItNow web you had on your V3c.

But yeah, if the presentation thing is big, check out your Windows Mobile options but I wouldn't recommend those are reliable or usable phones.
posted by cgomez at 4:24 PM on March 6, 2008

I don't know from experience, but my boss just got a BlackBerry Pearl and is convinced the trackball is going to fall out/get smashed in/cease to work. I researched for her, and didn't find very many people experiencing problems with this, but if you're tough on phones this could be a problem. Thank you for asking this question, I'll be in the market for a new phone in the next couple of months, and I'm leaning towards a smartphone as well.
posted by whiskey point at 4:52 PM on March 6, 2008

HTC Titan, branded on Verizon as XV6800. Has a video out cable (never used it). Powerpoint viewer is good but slow on large presentations (> 60 MB). Good homebrew forums. A recent HTC firmware upate just enabled GPS and boosted the EVDO speeds up to ~1500/500 Kbps. There are homebrew ROM updates that bundle the GPS activation with an update to Windows Mobile 6.1 as well. Good software availability. Runs Skype Mobile and MS's video VOIP, Portrait, and things like IM+, which integrates a bunch of IMs.

Also, because EVDO is so fast, you rarely actually *need* to use the WiFi unless you are watching streaming video with very high resolution and audio, or you are in a non-EVDO signal area where speeds drop down to EDGE level.
posted by meehawl at 5:01 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'll second the XV6800. I've got the Titan on Sprint and it is hands down the best phone I've ever had. Here's some screenshots of my (heavily customized) phone.
posted by doowod at 5:13 PM on March 6, 2008

To elaborate...

* I use my phone with both an IMAP account and GMail, and it works well for both. I use the GMail java client and the portable outlook client for the IMAP account.

* I sync to google calendar using GooSync. The basic version is free and suits me fine.

* Wireless web is awesome over Opera Mini 4. It is a good time killer in waiting rooms or on the bus and is very useable.

* The wifi is nice to use with WMWifiRouter (turns your phone into a wireless access point). I use this to get on the net with my laptop when no wireless network is around.

* Online video with vTap and the flash video bundle works perfectly over EVDO (full youtube, google videos, dailymotion, etc. all searchable at once through the vTap interface)

* The hardware keyboard is extremely nice to have

* The nilisco flashlight program (turns the LED camera flash into a flashlight) also comes in very handy

* All the programs I listed are free (except WMWifiRouter, which used to have free versions that can still be found with a little googling)

I'm on the SERO plan which gives me unlimited data and 500 minutes a month for $30. I don't think the phone would be nearly as good without the unlimited data, though.

Also, I came from a RAZR v3 and the difference is night and day. This phone is very nice and very useable.

Finally, Meehawl's forum links are spot on, (along with the rest of his post). There is also a great thread at Something Awful for this phone. The first few posts could be thought of as a FAQ. They give links to many must-have applications and give a good summary of the phone's capabilities.
posted by doowod at 5:49 PM on March 6, 2008

I'm glad someone else likes the Titan. I also got it through the Sprint deal, which is pretty unbeatable value. I've had the phone hooked up for days to a PC downloading torrents, just to see if it could.

The actual technology platform this phone is based on (the HTC Hermes) is actually over two years old, which is not unexpected in a mass-market US phone. The Tytn's successor, the Tytn II, can be bought out of contract and runs on HGSM/HSDPA/HSUPA networks. It's the same design as the Tytn, only with more built-in RAM (128MB) and some nicer specs. Windows Mobile eats up RAM, and the the Titan's 64MB dwindles quickly to around 22 MB free with no apps loaded, which kind of sucks. I am looking forward to booting Android on it to see how that works out.

HTC didn't boost the screen resolution for the Tytn II, which was an error given Apple's phone's screen dimensions. HTC does, however sell some nice Windows Mobile phones with larger resolutions (such as the HTC Shift (800x480), HTC Athena (640x480) or HTC Universal (640x480). Some of these are pretty large though, verging on UMPC size.
posted by meehawl at 6:04 PM on March 6, 2008

Best answer: I think the Samsung i760 and the vx5800 are worth looking at as well. I think the Pearl is a really good phone, but you have to get a Blackberry data plan on top of a voice plan, meaning that your phone bill will be at least $75-$80. The other smartphones can be put on cheaper per megabyte plans that might get you in right around $60 or so. You will really want some kind of data plan, as using your phone more than every once and while for data will cause your bill to skyrocket.
posted by Phoenix42 at 6:43 PM on March 6, 2008

Response by poster: Hmm, the sero plan is a really good deal. I wish Verizon had something like that. (Anyone know of anything?!?)

The XV6800 looks like a very good choice, but I've yet to find anywhere (other than meehawl's comment) that says anything about video out. Do you know if anything special is required to use it and whether that's on the Verizon version or just the Sprint version?
posted by JMOZ at 6:47 PM on March 6, 2008

I just looked through all the stuff that came with my phone (purchased Nov 07) and there was no video out cable. It isn't on the "This box includes:" section on the side of the box, and isn't mentioned in the user guide anywhere.

Having said that, I could almost swear a friend's titan (Sprint SERO, purchased Aug 07) came with a composite video out cable, though.
posted by doowod at 7:40 PM on March 6, 2008

I'm sorry, I just checked (finally opened the plastic wrapper and plugged it in). No video. I'm guessing it's a composite video from a camera that also uses the mini-USB connector and I mixed them up. I know the Nokia N95 does have a video out but I'm not sure about the Tytn II.

If you have to stay with Verizon because of connectivity issues, the SERO plan does full, free, unlimited roaming on the Verizon network, including data. So you basically get two networks, and I gather that whereas the Verizon people are limited to 5GB of data per month, Sprint so far doesn't seem to enforce any data limitations. I've seen some people boasting on the Sprint forums boasting of several hundred GBs of data downloads per month - although that's probably pushing it a bit.
posted by meehawl at 8:17 PM on March 6, 2008

Continuing the SERO love, the phone is $200 through SERO vs. $350 through Verizon...
posted by doowod at 8:27 PM on March 6, 2008

SERO plan does full, free, unlimited roaming on the Verizon network

I'm afraid that's not entirely true although many sales people like to tell you that "x carrier allows roaming on y carrier for free". You have access to other networks where those two carriers have a roaming agreement AND (this is very important) issue a PRL (Preferred Roaming List) update that allows you to access the other network. This is typically only areas where one network is significantly lacking which are usually very rural areas or large cities where there one carrier doesn't have a license. For example, Verizon does not have a license in Oklahoma City but any phone on a Nationwide/America's Choice plan has PRL that will let them use Alltell or Sprint.

Of course the above statement only relates to CDMA networks (Verizon, Sprint, Alltell, and a handful of regional carriers). I have no idea how GSM works or if they even use preferred roaming lists.
posted by Octoparrot at 9:00 PM on March 6, 2008

Best answer: I'll second the recommendation for the Samsung i760. It's very nice, although it doesn't have GPS. For a phone with a sliding keyboard, it's very durable. And I haven't had to reset it once - it just keeps working and working (with all kinds of installed apps on it).
posted by me & my monkey at 12:01 AM on March 7, 2008

Response by poster: The SERO is probably out for me. There are a lot of factors that make Verizon preferable despite the large price difference....

Without the video out, the XV6800 is no longer the obvious choice. Has anyone personally compared it to the Samsung i760? I'm specifically interested in reliability and usability since I will compare size myself when I go to the store.

I'm not overly concerned about the lack of GPS on the Samsung since I have a Nuvi which I take with me when traveling, but I suppose having it might still be ever-so-slightly convenient. Also, the consensus seems to be that I probably need an unlimited data plan for any of these phones to make sense? In that case, I guess the WiFi requirement might be unnecessary?

Also, in my googling, I saw something about an SDIO out on the XV6800? If so, there seems to be third-party equipment which allows video out. I was wondering if anyone knows anything about this?

Thanks again for all your help!
posted by JMOZ at 5:33 AM on March 7, 2008

Response by poster: Actually, let's throw the SMT5800 (HTC Libra) in there for good measure.... I wouldn't mind saving the money and size if there's no real difference....
posted by JMOZ at 5:36 AM on March 7, 2008

Response by poster: I went to the Verizon store today, and I think I'm going to get the Samsung i760. Thanks to the people who suggested the BlackBerry, but the user interface was decidedly NOT for me.

The XV6800 was nice, but I preferred the real-button dialpad on the outside of the i760. As for the SMT5800, the buttons were a bit small.

Once I actually get it (a few more days before my New Every 2), I'll report back. Thanks to everyone for all the help; they're all great answers.
posted by JMOZ at 7:26 PM on March 8, 2008

Response by poster: For the record, I got the Samsung i760 yesterday, and I like it a lot, but it needs substantial customization because Windows Mobile 6 is pretty awful out of the box.

I am using WisBar Advance, WisBar Desktop, Opera Mini, pocketCM, and a few other things to get a more thumb-friendly device. Anyone considering a smartphone but who wants to customize it is free to ask me what I used.
posted by JMOZ at 3:11 PM on March 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

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