The downside of turning cellphones into computers is that they act like computers.

15Jun10

After six months as a newly minted smartphone user, I’m already upgrading my Droid Eris to a much newer, more expensive model — not because I love spending money on the latest/greatest phones, but simply in order to preserve my sanity. Meanwhile, my old dumbphone did its thing perfectly well for years on end. C’est la vie.

Granted, the main reason I’m dropping over $500 on a new phone (I don’t get subsidized upgrade privileges for another year) is because I dropped my Eris on the sidewalk and cracked the shit out of the screen. But man, did that thing drive me crazy even before that. I was dying to be rid of it.

And that’s the unavoidable bitch about these awesome (and let me be clear: I do think they are awesome) handheld computers we call smartphones: all the same b.s. we’re used to dealing with regarding our real computers now applies to our cell phones too.

Basically, you can’t just buy the bargain/just-good-enough model and get by OK anymore. They call dumbphones “feature phones” now and for good reason: you can just buy the one that has only the features you want at the lowest possible price, and you’ll get exactly what you pay for. IE, not a maddening piece of shit that barely functions (most of the time).

Not so with smartphones. I bought the bargain model (but the best one on the market at the time) and sure enough — just as is the case with computers — I paid dearly in terms of sluggish performance, laggy UI, and (after it was forcibly “upgraded” to Android 2.1) a near-inability to do basic things like dial and connect calls consistently. My dumbphone was never this dumb: I guess you have to buy and expect “smart” first in order to really know the depths of dumbness.

As with computers, so with smartphones — if you want the device to just get the fuck out of its own way and WORK, you have to spec it out with some serious horsepower. You gotta consider (ie: spend on) processor speed, operating system, storage capability, and user interface. Otherwise you will just be in a world of pain.

I thought my Droid Eris was going to be a great device that could carry me through a solid couple years. Killer form factor, just the right size and weight, good combination of physical buttons and soft keys, HTC Sense, and I got it for $50! Screw all those bulkier, newer, more powerful Android phones, I thought. I don’t want to mess with augmented reality anyway. I have outsmarted you, smartphone product cycle! haHA!

Sadly, no. Which is a shame, because the Eris could have been exactly that, if the OS weren’t auto-upgraded beyond its pokey processor’s native ability to actually work. Then again, maybe not: the pokey processor still made dialing, map searching, and app launching — basically everything you buy a smartphone for in the first place — a laggy pain in the ass.

They should just design these things so that their too-smart brains can’t go and write checks their weakling bodies can’t cash.

But the world doesn’t work that way and I won’t be getting a pony either. So I’ve learned my lesson and I’m eagerly awaiting my souped-up Droid Incredible, the iPhone of Android devices, which cost an arm and a leg but hopefully is overpowered enough to stay functional for the next year or so.



3 Responses to “The downside of turning cellphones into computers is that they act like computers.”

  1. YMMV, but my 3GS is chugging along in that way that makes me suspect I’ll get years out of it, just like every trusty ibook I’ve ever owned. On the dropping it count, I went with the Gladwellian “active vs. passive safety” (i.e. Jetta vs. SUV) notion and got a super knobby silicone skin from Griffin instead of some hard-shell case:

    http://www.griffintechnology.com/products/flexgripiphone

    It makes the phone thicker and all the more difficult to get out of my pocket. I’m convinced it’s prevented me from dropping it countless times. Plus, silicone is a great shock absorber, so the few times I did drop it it just sort of bounced.

  2. 2 Me

    You’re probably right; iPhone doesn’t seem to have the same fragmentation problem that other smartphones often have, where you can’t necessarily assume that the hardware and firm/software are well-matched performance-wise.

    And yes, Big Lesson I Learned #2 = buy a goddamn case next time.

  3. Makes me feel better about recently losing the accelerometer on my iPod touch. I’ve dropped this thing way too many times for it to be as functional as it is.

    My old ipod has this really great cuz with tine rubber spikes all over it that pretty much makes it immune to shock, and way to grippy to drop in in first place it would practically velcro itself to me. Can’t seem to find any cases that good for smart-phoniverse.



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