Pocket computers (otherwise known as smartphones)

Andrew has been urging me to consider changing to a smartphone it for a few months and around Easter time I had a look and saw that reviews of the up-coming S2 made it look like it would be the first non-apple device that I might find acceptable.

I’ve long resisted smart phones, mainly because the ones powerful enough to be useful were too bulky or heavy to be comfortably portable – for me anyway. Also, being a long-time computer user, anything unresponsive would leave me frustrated and I would be unlikely to use it.

Somewhat reassured by the above-mentioned reviews I finally succumbed and replaced my Nokia mobile phone with a Samsung Galaxy S2 (I9100) mid September.

I’ve long been a Nokia user. They’re good little phones, but they are just phones. Some of them have ok cameras, and there is a certain amount of “organiser” functionality but the software that lets you hook this up with your desktop is sadly inadequate.

The SGS2 has been something of a revelation, however. Around 10-15 years ago I was quite happy with my Psion 5, and to this day the I have yet to find a device that matches it for personal information management and it’s ability to synchronise with desktop machines. I tried to use it again a couple of years ago but sadly couldn’t get my desktop to talk to it as it requires a serial cable and my desktop machine seems to stubbornly refuse to connect to any kind of serial device, regardless of what interface I purchase for it.

I can see that the SGS2 will eventually match the Psion, but as a long-time keyboard user it’s taking me a bit of time to get truly used to it. But that’s more of a user issue than a technical or functional one.

What’s really astonished me, however, is just how much I use it and what for.

It is truly astonishing that these devices are marketed as phones. This is not really a phone. Yes, it can make phone calls, but then so can a desktop computer and you wouldn’t really call that a phone. Your car can probably play CDs but you wouldn’t refer to it as a CD player, would you? In terms of usage I would guess about 20 to 25% of my use of the device is as a phone.

Like many other people I explored the world of “apps” for the first couple of weeks and finally settled on a handful of utilities that I use with any regularity; camera, calculator, tasks, calendar, maps/directions, SIP phone (more on that later), media remote controls, email, browser and Google+. There are some others that I use less regularly; wi-fi tools, Google Sky (very cool), Skype, translator, and RDP and SSH clients. And these phones run a flavour of the operating systems I’ve been working with for over 20 years, giving me the ability to fiddle with it to my heart’s content should I so desire.

Out of the box and with no special modifications it’s already proving to be a very useful device. I use it check my email and get notified instantly if anyone sends me anything wherever I am (great for restaurant reservations); it is usually anything from 2 to 15 minutes ahead of my desktop in telling me I have new mail.

I can control all the media devices in the house, and even control the music in the restaurant and for customers that ask what’s playing (a common occurrence) I can tell them instantly without having to go somewhere else to check.

It’s a portable hand-held web browser that works anywhere there’s a mobile phone or wifi signal (which is pretty much everywhere I go) allowing me to look up anything I care to think about at the time.

It’s configured so that when I’m at home or in the restaurant it’s an extension to the restaurant phone system, allowing me to make and answer calls on the main restaurant number.

It has a very functional calendar and task list which has already proved itself incredibly useful (reminding me of the Psion days).

And with the camera I can take quick snaps of anything, from personal use to restaurant blog stuff and quickly and easily upload as necessary.

However, what I found most extra-ordinary was that today Andrew commented that we didn’t have any photos from a recent family visit. I commented that I’d taken a few photos with my phone whilst they were here and said I’d put them where we normally keep all our photos.

Imagine my surprise when I go to transfer the files from the SGS2 to the computer that I’ve taken no less than 341 photos since buying it. That’s literally 5 a day. I’ve never taken so many photos except perhaps when on holiday.

None of these things is peculiar to the device I have purchased however. Perhaps what is most notable about the device I have is that it’s possibly one of the most usable on the market at the moment, matched only by the iPhone (but then you have to go Apple, don’t want that…). Also, contrary to my statement above and probably like most people I generally think of this as my mobile phone and so therefore it’s always close by, if not in my pocket.

Given the acceleration in the development of these devices I can see it won’t be long before the majority of people, age regardless, posses some kind of hand-held networked (whether wifi, mobile network or both) device such as this. For those that find the internet useful or like the ability to take photos whenever and wherever I thoroughly recommend one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *