March 24, 2008

Review of my new Samsung SCH-i760

Filed under: Consumer, Software Blog — marcstober @ 6:16 pm

There are a few stereotypical use cases for mobile phones and similar wireless devices. The younger generation needs to text their friends. The older generation needs a phone only for emergencies. And, of course, the professional needs their “crackberry” to check office e-mail. I think a lot of people have a need for mobile communications without falling into one of these categories. I’ve always had a pretty basic cell phone and I finally decide to buy myself a Samsung SCH-i760 Windows Mobile smartphone from Verizon Wireless. I see my needs being somewhere in between the texting teenager and the e-mailing executive. I do need to keep in touch with work, at least by phone for emergencies, but simple e-mail isn’t a killer app for me. (By “killer app” I mean “application,” some restaurant recently used the term to refer to their appetizers.) Somewhat like the teenager, having a more advance mobile data device is largely a personal investment, although with somewhat different uses. The killer app for me is probably going to be online search, maps, and note-taking and web browsing.

The device does a little bit of everything. It has all the functions of a traditional PDA, with a stylus and capability to sync with a computer via a cable. There’s also a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, without which typing messages, for me, would be a non-starter. The unique feature of this model is a separate telephone keypad with physical buttons; with the keyboard closed, you can use these to dial the phone; and with the keyboard open, you can use these when you need to enter numbers as well.

The phone supports Wifi, for faster/cheaper data when that’s available. There are a few options for e-mail. First, I was able to get to my company’s Outlook Web Access interface, it’s clunky yet might be the best solution for the times I need this. I was also able to sync with my office using the built-in mobile Outlook application, but I disabled this as it isn’t really what I wanted, and it seemed to keep initiating a data session, which, even though I’m on an unlimited data plan, definitely wasn’t what I wanted. Verizon also includes their own wireless sync system that I haven’t tried.

This is where not fitting into one of the stereotypically use cases presents a challenge. Want office e-mail pushed to your device, Blackberry-style? Fine. Want to be able to get access to all your information, personal or business, as you need it, combined in one place? Not so easy. I need to be able to keep my family and work calendars somewhat separate, but may need to access both of them. Similarly for e-mail, tasks, and contacts. So, I’ll probably keep doing a lot of the via mobile web browsing until I come up with a better solution; I’ll probably look at OggSync as I seem to be it’s target use case. I’d also love to find a program that gives me a “prettier” view of Outlook Web Access on a small without requiring my company to do anything differently on its server, or storing message on my phone.

Finally, why not an iPhone? I could have done that, I suppose. For various reasons I chose to stick with Verizon, and Windows Mobile is something I still wanted to try out. Maybe next time.