Towards truly pervasive computing

With iPhone stories pretty much drowning out all other news on the Internet, it seemed worthwhile to watch the keynote and see this marvel firsthand. Based on that presentation, it’s impossible to know how well the iPhone will perform as a telephone (I noticed that Steve Jobs “fat-fingered” the keyboard on several occasions during the demo), but that’s one impressive iPod and mobile Internet device. 1

So, the real point of this post is that I recently obtained a new mobile phone, replacing the Nokia I reviewed 12 months ago. The update on that review is that someone I know obtained an identical model three months later which had a significantly sharper display, and Apple did add support for synchronisation with iSync, but it’s still not easy to synchronise under Linux. Both of my previous phones I had used for nearly two years, and had only upgraded when there was I felt there was a significantly better product available. However, this phone just wore me down with its user-unfriendliness: text and phone calls were easy, but anything beyond that (especially configuration) was just irritatingly difficult.

The new phone is a Sony-Ericsson K610i (although in a more tasteful silver-grey than the red in the photo on that page!) and I am pleased to report that I instantly took the new phone, and have found it a joy to use. The phone hardware still feels a little more delicate than the very rugged Nokia, but at least Sony-Ericsson have replaced the flimsy joystick that blighted models such as the T68 and T610.

So what makes the K610 so much better than the Nokia 6230i? It has all the same features(except for an FM radio), plus some tasty additions such as an RSS reader, a full IMAP email client, and an absolutely gorgeous screen which can also be used to view web pages in widescreen. I have not used the music player but it looks competent enough. Ultimately though the interface is just so much more responsive than the Nokia, startup and shutdown are quick, and it’s also very pretty: menus open with a smooth Mac-like animation. 2 Being a 3G phone, video calls are also possible but I don’t know anyone else with a 3G phone to whom to place a call…

I was also pleased to see that voice and speed dialling have been considerably improved since my T610, as has texting although despite being a very infrequent texter, I think Nokia still have an edge in this department.

One major irritation was that Apple’s iSync does not support the phone by default, but only via a third-party plugin which costs £1.49. However, I can report that the plugin works very well and is a worthwhile investment.

Conclusion
The iPhone will not be available in Europe until at least Q4 2007, and I know some frustrated smartphone users who will be keen early adopters. I shall look forward to getting my hands on someone else’s to see how it compares to the K610 as, for the moment at least, it seems to do everything I require—this is definitely the first mobile phone on which I feel I can comfortably surf the web (and the real web at that, not wap). With the exception of the physical construction, I now firmly believe Nokia phones are overrated and will not be going back.

  1. There are many features of the iPhone that could be described as “controversial” and could be discussed here. However ultimately the significance or irrelevance of these cannot be determined until the iPhone is actually on sale and in the hands of the general public.[]
  2. Although this prettiness comes at a cost: every built-in “wallpaper” image has some sort of battery-wasting animation…[]

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