Santa's New Phone

Well, since a few people asked... Last year I typed up a short list of suggestions for those of you wanting to get (or give) a new mobile phone on Xmas, and although I considered doing a similar list for this year, time, patience and stamina didn't come together in time, so all I can do this year is rant a bit - which may or may not be useful to you by now.

The thing is, I'm biased. I tend to like simple, no-frills phones, and seldom use anything other than a SonyEricsson or a Blackberry, even when one of those eye-popping, jaw-dropping, shoulder-dislocating do-it-all "smart"phones crosses my desk, so I'm not really the guy to ask about those newfangled "multimedia computers" or exorbitantly priced Pocket PCs that happen to include a (rather garish) phone application.

So, let's get this out of the way already. The best phone I tried this year, winning hands down over pretty much everything else, was the Blackberry Pearl/8100. The thing is, it's not available in Portugal yet (nor can I say anything about that), but if you're lucky enough to live in one of the first-tier launch territories (i.e., where you can spot an ad in the local press) and need a "professional" phone, for $DIVINITY's sake go out and get one now, before they sell out.

Next runner up, you ask? Why, the K610i, of course (or its long-lost brother, the V630i, which is precisely the same phone with a different casing and emphasis on music).

Sure, I told you I'm biased, but bear with me: These are small, light, discrete phones (well, at least the grey version). The K610i is very responsive (especially when compared to earlier SonyEricsson models, which tended to cause users to doze off while redrawing a menu), has a decent NetFront-based browser, runs pretty much every Java midlet I throw at it, works fine as a Bluetooth modem and has a great battery life.

The big drawback for the average Joe? The 2.0 Mpixel camera, which has no auto-focus to save on thickness. And I've caught myself wishing it had an infra-red port on a couple of occasions.

There's an odd thing about SonyEricsson's range that bears pointing out now - the K800, their flagship (i.e., expensive) camera phone, somehow feels like a worse camera than the tiny K750i. Sure, the CCD is higher res, the optics are better, but the overall bulk and image graininess put me off from it eventually. Maybe it's fixed by now.

Like last year, the only other phone I would even consider as an alternative is a Nokia N-series. My loathing for their bloated software is legendary, and my experience with the latest models was less than stellar, but the N73 seems to be a pretty good compromise between size, features and stability (provided you have a memory card, of course). It's pricey, but a friend of mine swears by it (he loves the WebKit-based browser, and he's even pickier than I am, so I'm inclined to think it's a really good phone).

There's also the 6280, which despite being a Series 40 device at heart, has a few interesting tricks up its sleeve.

But, as always, your mileage will vary. My advice on picking any kind of mobile phone is to make a list of what you'd like it do do, sort it by probability (i.e., putting the things you'd do daily at the top), and then tear it up and get something that doesn't crash doing what you really need.

Making calls is usually one of those things, and you'd be surprised at how many phones are utterly useless at doing e-mail, surfing the web or playing music, despite what you read on the web.

The word "chocolate" comes to mind, but maybe it's because I haven't had dinner yet.

Which reminds me, I never got around to joke about the iPhone now being available for Xmas. Well, maybe I'll have a chance of doing that next year, whatever it's called.

Who knows?