I wrote two months ago about the sorry state of smartphones, running through the litany of problems with the major smartphone operating systems available at the time. Since then, Google, HTC, and T-Mobile have rolled out the G1, the first phone based on the open-source Android operating system. While Android has a lot of long-term potential, the phone has some major shortcomings and the third-party software universe hasn’t really settled down yet (plus, I’m not particularly interested in becoming a T-Mobile customer).
I bring this back up because I am eligible in about two weeks for a discounted upgrade through AT&T, provided I re-up with a two year contract. This is good timing since I’m about ready to introduce my AT&T 8525 (made by HTC and running Windows Mobile 6) to the business-end of a hammer after it—for the second time this year—unilaterally shifted a random percentage of my appointment times by an hour when the time changed. Of course it didn’t change all my appointments, and there’s no rhyme or reason to which ones it changed and which it didn’t, so I have to manually double check that every appointment is correct now or risk being an hour-off when I arrive.
Needless to say, phones based on Windows Mobile are generally ranked at the very bottom of my list (below the rotary landline phones from the 1960s and the classic string/paper cups combination). I gave Microsoft another honest chance with this phone, my first new device running any version of Windows since back in 2000, and Microsoft blew it again. Good riddance.
So that basically leaves me with Blackberrys, a return to Palm OS (which is underpowered, but usable), and the iPhone. Palm OS, much as I miss it sometimes, is currently only available from AT&T on the Centro, which lacks high speed 3G Internet access. There is only one Blackberry available with 3G, the new Bold, which is pricey but pretty cool. The iPhone is a locked platform with limited flexibility and no hardware keyboard, but is (like most Apple products) the king of user-friendly. Again, I will have to choose the lesser of three evils.
My other option is to wait. Palm is still promising their new Linux-based operating system will come out next year, but has yet to demo it or announce an actual launch date or carrier. If I wait until June-or-so I’ll be completely out of my AT&T contract and free to switch to other carriers (T-Mobile? Verizon? who knows) that might have better options like Android or a brand-new Palm OS.
So I can get a new phone that still stinks (but stinks less than my current phone), or wait six months in hopes that something better will finally come along. If I wait, what do I do in the mean time? My 8525 is driving me crazy, my old Treo 650 lacks 3G and is not in great condition, and buying a stopgap smartphone like the Palm Centro runs several hundred dollars if I don’t renew my contract.