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Phone grumblings

May 16th, 2007 (06:14 pm)
current mood: Disappointed

(Warning: geek details ahead.)

I just got a new cellphone, a 3G model. (I've wanted 3G, oh, for about six years now.) I wanted the new Nokia N75, which is Nokia's only 3G phone for the US. (There are other 3G Nokias for sale here, but none of them use US frequencies for 3G.) However, it (a) doesn't have HSDPA (meaning it's limited to 384kbps, instead of about 1.8Mbps), (b) has terrible battery life, and (c) has gotten mixed reviews for build quality. It does have Symbian (a multitasking OS), and all the associated goodies I've gotten used to on my current Nokia 6682. But I bit the bullet and convinced myself that the Samsung A707 (aka the Cingular Sync) would do. HSDPA, good battery life, 2MP camera, nice screen, and cheaper ($250 instead of $400). So I bought it.

That was Monday. I'm already starting to regret it. The Samsung is missing some capabilities that, after the 6682, I've come to consider basic phone functionality. It's time to make up a list of what I've gained and lost:

Strengths of different phones
HSDPAUMTSHSDPA coverage is fairly weak anyway; most of the time I just get UMTS. However, that can be expected to change, as Cingular upgrades their network.
Voice dialingOn the 6682 (and on the N75), I can press a button on my Bluetooth headset, say "Cynthia", and get connected. (Mind you, I usually have to retry 2-3 times, but still.) This is extremely useful, and it's something I miss on the Samsung.
Stereo BluetoothOnly if I buy stereo headphones, which are a lot less portable than the little earbug I'm used to.
2MP cameraResolution isn't everything, but it helps.
Flash cameraOccasionally handy. The 6682's flash doesn't often improve the picture much, though; mostly I don't use it.
Bluetooth 2.0The Samsung does have Bluetooth 2.0, and supposedly has EDR; but actual performance tests show it performs like Bluetooth 1.x. Transferring a file from a computer with BT 2.0 yields 20KB/s; transferring a file between two computers with BT 2.0 yields more like 60KB/s.
Ogg VorbisOn Symbian, I have an app that lets me play Ogg files—as separate songs or as ringtones. Since all my music is in Ogg, this is useful. (The counterargument is that running a script to convert songs to MP3 or AAC just isn't that hard.)
Flexible ringtones.On Symbian, any file can be used as any ringtone, and ringtones play in the Bluetooth headset. On the Samsung, I can't use MP3 files as message ringtones (I have to use MMF, which is some obscure format from Panasonic; there's no Linux support for it). Worse, when I set an MP3 ringtone, it plays only on the handset; I get something generic on the headset.
Flexible headsetsOn the 6682 (and, I presume, on the N75), any sound that's played goes out through the Bluetooth headset, if there is one. On the Samsung, only the actual phone conversation goes to the headset; music requires a stereo headset. Stranger yet, if you watch a video, its audio goes only to the speakers, even if you're using a stereo headset.
iSync supportThis is actually a pretty big one; I'd gotten used to being able to sync the 6682 to my work calendar.
Battery lifeWith the 6682, I can get by with charging it every 3 days or so. It looks like the Samsung or the N75 will require daily charging.
Common chargersI have two other Nokia devices: my Web tablet and my Bluetooth headset. Having three devices that use essentially the same charger (the newer ones require an adapter) has turned out to be extremely handy.
Multitasking I've gotten so used to multitasking on the 6682 that giving it up has been pretty painful. If a call comes in while I'm playing a game on the Samsung, I can't just suspend the game and go back.

Just to add a little twist of the knife, while I was writing this, the phone started complaining of low battery. It's Wednesday morning; I charged it Monday night. I've done a bunch of 3G browsing, which can be expected to be hard on the battery; but (a) it claimed to be 2/3 full this morning, (b) the reviews said that HSDPA didn't seem to impair its battery life, and (c) 3G is what I bought it for. If I can't use it for that without charging it every day, it's worth a lot less to me.

I think I'm going to bring the Samsung back tomorrow. The store said there'd be a 20% restocking fee; but I think I've got a way around that: the lack of EDR. Cingular advertises the phone as having "next generation Bluetooth", and Samsung's Web site doesn't mention EDR; but Samsung got the Bluetooth SIG to certify it, and the certification lists EDR.