As a mobile phone enthusiast I always seem to be on the hunt for the "perfect" device and while many devices come very close there always seems to be a few features that keep a device from perfection. I've been using the Nokia N85 (first impressions coming later this week) for a few days and as we close out 2008 I thought it would be interesting to go through each mobile operating system and post what I think is the best device for each, along with what I would like to see to make the device "perfect" for me. I also want to start this by saying that mobile phones are a very personal choice and you may have already found your perfect device that meets all of your needs and you don't need to look any further. This blog post is entirely my personal opinion about what I want in a mobile device so don't think I am attacking any operating system or device by stating my opinion. It is also a post from a U.S. perspective that may differ from what other countries experience.
S60: I am using two devices right now that I think could be perfect for me with a couple of tweaks. The Nokia E71 is a fantastic piece of hardware and the only thing I need Nokia to do to make it probably the best device available is improve the camera. If they could throw in a 3.2 megapixel camera with the Carl Zeiss optics and a Xenon flash then I would be extremely happy with the device.
The Nokia N85 is the best Nseries device I have ever used with the OLED display, solid construction, slim form factor and all the other functionality. The only issue I have with it is that I am just not a T9 guru and it doesn't cut it for me to text and email people. I would love to see a Nseries device with a SureType keyboard design that kept the device slim and pocketable, yet gives me a better text entry experience.
The upcoming Nokia N97 may just be the S60 device for me in 2009. The keyboard functionality is an open question here though and if Nokia would release an E71 clone with a better camera I would be even more pleased.
Mac OS X: The 2.x firmware update went a long way to making the iPhone a much better device, but there are still many issues that keep me from using it on a daily basis. I would like to see Apple make the following improvements to the iPhone 3G:
- Provide capability for better organization and customization. I hate the way you have to flip through all the displays to get to your applications and can't stand when updates randomly rearrange what I have setup. Give me the ability to organize applications in folders and set things up how I like. Apple could take a cue from Nokia and S60 here since the S60 OS is the most supportive of personalization and customization.
- Let developers provide Office software. DataViz makes a fantastic product in Documents To Go so let's see support for it on the iPhone.
- Give me notifications like we see on the Google Android device. The T-Mobile G1 has the best notifications system available at this time with the cool slider shade that lets you know what is going on and what you have missed. The notifications on the Nokia E71 are a close second too.
- How about some multi-tasking support? I would like to use IM programs and then jump around to my other applications. It sure would be nice to get a notification that someone wants to chat with me rather than requiring developers to come up with solutions like text message prompts.
- Show some Bluetooth love. I want to see support for my Bluetooth Stowaway keyboard since you only have a touch screen keyboard. This request goes in hand with the Office support so I can create/edit documents with my keyboard and that lovely big display. I would also like PC connectivity and A2DP profiles added.
- Give us MMS support. I have teenage daughters who like to send me text messages with photos, but I can't do the same with the iPhone that they can do with their RAZR.
- Give me a more consistent experience with screen rotation. I want to view some emails in landscape mode, so give me that control please.
The iPhone is a fun device to use and the UI is fantastic, but it is missing too many basic smartphone features for me to carry it as my main device all the time.
Windows Mobile Professional (touch screen): The HTC Touch Pro/HTC Fuze is now available on every major U.S. carrier, except for T-Mobile (get a clue T-Mobile!), and IMHO is the best Windows Mobile device on the market. HTC has taken the current Windows Mobile 6.1 OS to the max and has provided a device that is actually just about perfect. I made it even better thanks to the good folks at XDA Developers and all the custom ROMs that let you optimize the device and love that there is such a vibrant community of enthusiasts working to make a great device even better.
The only areas I think need major improvement are the multimedia functionality (Windows Media Player Mobile bites) and web browser (Internet Explorer Mobile is lame). WMP is basically the same as it was 8 years ago and Microsoft needs to take the Zune UI and put it onto Windows Mobile to solve this issue. This is hopefully what all the rumors of "Pink" relate to and if so it will make me a much happier Windows Mobile user. While IE Mobile is also about the same as 8 years ago, there are several alternatives (Opera Mobile, Skyfire, Opera Mini) that make browsing very good on these devices so that aspect can be fixed.
Windows Mobile Standard (non-touch screen): I am a bit depressed by the lack of attention to this area of Windows Mobile since I think Microsoft could really challenge the feature phone market and could be the leader in low cost smartphones if they came out with more of these devices. While Apple is rocking the touch screen market, there are still millions who want a reliable phone in a phone/messaging form factor that want to pay US$150 or less for a device. The T-Mobile Dash was/is just about the perfect non-touch screen Windows Mobile device and I would love to see HTC come out with the Dash II that includes a 3G radio, GPS receiver, and a slightly better 3.2 megapixel camera.
The Dash is an extremely popular device on T-Mobile and I see "regular" people using them all the time. My wife is on her third one (she tends to be hard on devices as she throws them around and drops them often) and I will have to keep finding them for her in the future. The HTC Rose is a very nice device, but is not available in the U.S. and doesn't support US 3G frequencies.
Google Android: I purchased and use the T-Mobile G1 to gain experience with the Google Android OS, but it really remains more of a hobby phone than a daily driver. It is a very solid device and after two months of usage I have yet to experience a soft or hard reset, which is amazing for a device with a brand new operating system. Similar to the iPhone (it is apparent these new operating systems have a ways to go compared to the systems that have been around for years), there are many weak areas of the G1 at this time and I would like to see the following:
- Provide better multimedia support. Thankfully, a 3rd party developer had a video player available shortly after launch, but it is still pretty basic and it would be nice to see the OS support a richer multimedia experience.
- Bring on the commercial applications. I want to see a better quality and selection of 3rd party applications and am surprised that commercial applications were not available at launch with the major focus on the open community and 3rd party applications in the Android OS. I would like to see Exchange syncing, Office programs, Google Reader application (on and offline viewing support), on-screen keyboards, streaming video and video capture applications, better IMAP/POP email clients, real navigation programs, and more.
- Show some Bluetooth love. Like the iPhone, the Bluetooth profile support on the G1 is lame. Bring on keyboard, A2DP, and PC connectivity support please.
We should see more Google Android devices in 2009 and hopefully the roll out of commercial applications. The T-Mobile G1 was a decent start, but missing features like a 3.5mm headset jack, strange placement of the miniUSB port (ever try to charge it up and type on the keyboard), weak camera, etc. took away from the experience a bit. I think the success of this platform is dependent on the applications and in the last month or so we have been flooded with many rather lame ones on the Android Market and need to see some high quality applications released again.
RIM BlackBerry: I checked out and then bought a RIM BlackBerry Bold back in October and think it is the best BlackBerry device on the market. I returned it and exchanged it for my HTC Fuze though because I need a device with Exchange server support and my small company is not going to setup a BES just for me. RIM is targeting consumers as well as business users and is doing very well and will continue to succeed in the enterprise market. If the BlackBerry supported Exchange ActiveSync then I would still have my Bold today because the QWERTY keyboard is the best on the market and the display is beautiful.
I do think RIM needs to improve upon some things in the OS though, including the rather lame Settings area on the device. The menus are "old" looking and there are too many present to actually find what you are looking for. Microsoft also needs to update their similar menu system in settings on their non-touch screen devices. You have a fairly nice looking OS everywhere else, but the settings takes you back to the 90s.
It is nice to see RIM adding more multimedia support, but their video and music player still needs some work to improve on the end user functionality.
RIM should continue to do well in 2009, but I am not sure they should spend more time on the touch screen area of the market. I did not like the Storm and the whole UI really needs to be optimized for touch for it to work well and that is not RIM's area of expertise. They excel at QWERTY devices and need to focus on making them better. The Bold hardware is fantastic and with a few tweaks to the OS and applications RIM may reach perfection with a device like this.
Palm OS: Palm OS 5.x is quite old and I don't even want to go into what needs to be improved here because the Palm OS is not going any further. There are rumors that Palm will announce the next OS, Nova, next week at CES and I will definitely be keeping a close eye on that announcement. I have a long history with Palm devices and do hope they come out with something compelling, but given their recent track record I am not getting my hopes up too high.