Archive for March 14th, 2006

The PocketPC that is not

Being the geek that I am, I had wet dreams for Nokia’s N80/N92 the past few months. But their lack of a qwerty keyboard or touchscreen really kills them for me. Why is it so hard to come up with a phone that has all the hardware/software features that most people need to replace laptops when travelling? Personally, I don’t really require that much from a smartphone that one would call it “modern”: QVGA web browsing on selected mobile-enabled sites, email client with Gmail and preferrably Hotmail support, IM for all 5 popular protocols, VoIP with Skype and Gizmo/SIP support, mp3 player with A2DP/AVRCP support, enough main memory/RAM and an 1.3 MP camera that actually has a protection cap and a flashlight .

All these features are doable easily on a Windows Mobile 5 PocketPC smartphone, but the reality is that there is not a single model out there that does all that well. For example, check the upcoming HTC “Hermes” PocketPC here. It has unecessary “decorations” that makes it look bulky (haven’t they learned from Apple’s iPod that SIMPLE is BETTER?), and its new style of qwerty keyboard is much worse than their previous version: all keys are glued next to each other making them really hard to press the right key and not only that, but they don’t even use all the available surface to make key-pressing easier. WHAT IS HTC SMOKING??

Yes, the currently available HTC front runner called “Wizard” (sold by T-Mobile, QTek and i-Mate) has a better keyboard but it doesn’t do it for me because it only has a 200 Mhz CPU which can’t encode on-the-fly for A2DP and so their AKU2 software update has completely removed A2DP support from the ROM. Sucky!

I have looked at *ALL* PocketPC phone models out there, none is doing things right, the way I need them to work. And Nokia doesn’t offer an S60 model with touchscreen and Qwerty (the E61 is nice, but no video/snapshot camera and touchscreen? come on!). And Sony Ericsson’s P990 is disgustingly expensive (over $1000) with no real application base (it has fewer than 30 applications that work on this phone model, compare that to 1000 Symbian apps and 20,000 Windows Mobile ones). And PalmOS 5 is a dead horse anyway, so the bulky, unstable Treos with their stupid external antenna doesn’t do it either for me.

What I need is a well-designed keyboard that uses all available space and slides out of a design that looks like this (this is my mockup). It is imperative that the device is very small and has a very thin bezel around it (just like the iPod video does) and yet it remains fully usable and easy to press buttons. It should have a VGA video call camera, quadband GSM and UMTS, two softkeys for Windows Mobile 5.1 AKU2, a Windows key to open the Start menu and an “ok” button to *close* applications (and so minimizing the need of using the touchscreen), it has a respectable 1.3 or 2 MP camera with a flashlight and protection cap, WiFi 802.11b, Bluetooth 1.2, 416 Mhz Intel XScale CPU, 128 MB of internal storage and 64 MB of RAM, a good 2.8″ QVGA touchscreen, a speakerphone, 2.5mm or 3.5mm audio jack, a normal SD/SDIO slot that can read SD disks up to 4 GBs, plus the software features I mentioned above. And if there’s space in the device’s internals, throw in an FM Radio too, they don’t cost more than $5 anyway. The phone should be able to deliver more than 5 hours on GSM continuous calls and have about 250 hours of stand-by (easily doable with a 1440 mAh battery and electronic parts that are not cheap ass crap like O2’s XDA Atom (which I reviewed a few weeks ago) and are instead low-power).

I would gladly pay up to $700 for such a device. And I am already offering too much considering how much the parts and software licenses really worth (manufacturing cost of such a device is way below $500 USD in reality). While R&D will be expensive for a brand new company to pull such a device through and bring it to market, it should be child’s play for someone like HP or HTC or even Quanta. So, why aren’t they doing things right?