Phone Choice

// September 13th, 2009 // Free Software, Gadgets

My phone contract renewal is up in about a month and I’ll be eligible for a new phone. I’m not sure I know what exactly I want yet, but I thought I’d blog about my thinking around new phones and the contenders.

I love my current phone. Probably enough that I can use it for another 2 years. It’s showing its age though, and it feels so unprogressive getting the same one again. It’s a Motorola V8 (RAZR2). What I like about it is that it works great as a phone. Many devices have so many gadgets, features and gimmicks but somehow they neglect the phone part. This phone has good sound quality and reception and I like the way I can read SMS’s on the outside display and how it reads out who send me an SMS. While there’s lots of things I like about the phone, it’s pretty much in the past soon so I’ll lay out what I want in a future one.

I like clamshell phones (no need to lock keypads). I have a friend with a very fancy looking smartphone where he has to press more than 5 buttons just to enter a number to call. That sucks. Good sound quality and a good (GSM) radio is important. That was where it started, some basic requirements for a simple phone that does the job well. However, playing with my friends’ iPhones, Android devices and Blackberries, I’ve realised that I might actually have some use for a decent smart phone.

Nokia E71


I had a Nokia E61 previously and didn’t like it. The sound quality was horrible and I found Symbian to be incredibly annoying. A while back I played around with a friend’s Nokia E71. It’s a major improvement. It’s not as clunky or plasticky as the E61 was. It’s actually a very solid phone, and it has a beautiful big display for the size of the phone, which is just slightly larger than my RAZR2. Its metal finishes are great and I’d daresay that it’s the best built Nokia phone I’ve ever handled. Symbian is also being open sourced, so hopefully many of the old annoyances would also be cleared out. It also has a nice (although slightly gimmicky) feature where it remembers where you parked your car using its integrated GPS. This was the phone I was thinking of buying a few months back when I first started looking at phones. I can’t say that I have very strong feelings for or against this phone otherwise.



The iPhone has been revolutionary and has made a big impact on how we think about smart phones. They’re also readily available and quite cheap. It has a massively wide variety and amount of applications available for it. It’s not the proprietary system that it runs that bothers me so much, it’s more the freedom hating nature of Apple’s products. I’ve heard of someone from the UK visiting South Africa and plugging in their iPhone just to get it charged, and it changed the country settings automatically not allowing the person to access any of the apps they downloaded in the UK. While the iPhone seems like a nice device, I can’t say that I’m particularly interested. I have an iPod and have used OSX quite a bit to see what all the fuss is about, and I’ve found it quite underwhelming.

Palm Pre


I enjoyed reading Matthew Garrett’s thoughts on the Palm Pre, it seems like a nice little device. What I particularly like about it is that it seems to stick to typical Linux stuff for doing things, instead of writing it’s own weird things from scratch that some devices do. It uses things like Upstart, Pulseaudio and GStreamer. I can’t say that I particularly like what the phone looks like.

HTC Hero


I played with a friend’s HTC android phone last week. There’s already a large selection of apps available and the phone is very responsive and fast (unlike any other HTC phone I’ve ever used). Android seems to have come a very long way in such a very short time. The HTC Hero isn’t available locally yet, but if it is available shortly it’s certainly a strong contender. There’s lots of Android development tools available, and with increasingly more manufacturers adopting it, it would be easier to share my applications than it would on something like a Palm Pre.

Motorola Cliq


The Cliq is another currently unavailable Android phone. Even though Android isn’t a “typical” Linux system, I’ve really warmed up to it. I’m currently downloading the Motorola DEVSTUDIO tools to see what it’s like, handset emulators is also available that makes it possible to try out the device’s interface. It’s display resolution is a bit underwhelming, and I think the phone is a bit ugly, the Motorola logo seems badly placed.

Nokia N900


I’ve tried out Nokia N800s and N810s before. They’re great devices, even though they lack GSM radios. Nokia is soon releasing the N900, and it seems to be a gorgeous device. It has a 800×480 display, which I can imagine being useful for many many things. It runs Maemo, yet another Linux based system. Perhaps Webkit would’ve been a better choice for the device than Gecko, but besides relatively small things like that the device seems like pretty much the best device in my list. I also like that it’s Debianish and that I can very easily install things like lighttpd or irssi with just a few keystrokes.


Meh, I really don’t know. The N900 will probably take a while to get here and will probably be out of range for my simple phone contract. I’ll probably end up going for a HTC Android phone.

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19 Responses to “Phone Choice”

  1. Ben says:

    Just want to bring to your attention that the hardware in the Hero is nearly identical to that of the previous Android phone HTC released on Tmobile. They’ve added a lot more “bling“ in the form of software which some people report to cause it to crawl at times.

  2. Ahmed Kamal says:

    I’ve been through the same choices, and I’ve settled on HTC Hero as well. N900 is a very strong piece of hardware, but I trust my software’s future with Google, than I do with Nokia. Hero it is for me

  3. stoffe says:

    I have the Hero, and I personally think it’s a fantastic little machine. Even besides that, I think that Android is the future way to go, now all big phone companies except Nokia and Apple have a model at least coming out soon, you suddenly have all these phones that can use the same applications, while still giving you the choice of what kind of phone you want. Ass that you can install applications directly from web sites in case there would be something that Google stopped (not that they seem to do that frivolously like Apple).

    It’s open source and the apps are easily made in Java. I think the future looks bright for Android.

    Nokias N900 looks extremely sweet, but it’s a dead end, it’s the last Gtk+ phone from Nokia if I understand it properly, and apps for it will only run on the N900… not much future for something that otherwise would be any geeks choice, really too bad.

  4. Rusty says:

    I don’t know if it is of interest, but most of the Android based phones should support the Android Scripting Engine (ASE) package which while it is in Alpha, allows you to experiment with python, lau, bash or bean shell scripting. Ruby has been submitted as a proposed language to support, as well as suggestions for php and other languages.

    No ‘gui’ support yet, at least not for Python. (which is where a lot of people expect there to be support.) However good support for the sensors on the phone, as well as network support.

    Whatever your choice, enjoy. and I mean that even if you choose to go wit another V8.

  5. inetpro says:

    Nice list. Did you leave out the Nokia N97 on purpose?

  6. SteelRat says:

    I had nokia e71 before. And now i bought HTC Hero. I realy like that phone and especialy android OS. But the saddest thing about that phone is a battery. If you use your phone more than 2-3 hours the battery is close to dead.

  7. Matt Austin says:

    I’ve just pre-ordered the N900. Maemo is based on Debian, and it uses apt for package management – which I think just rocks. The possibilities for the device are endless. I see that you can even install apache on it (not that you’d necessarily want to).

  8. Zac says:

    Me too, same choices.

    I want a quality Linux phone that I can plug into my Ubuntu PC and have it sync up with what ever I choose, install apps…have a sync program available for download, python support, flexibility yet security etc, so many things to list, I think you know what I’m after. I hope it’s not far away.

  9. FreddyMartinez says:

    Blackberry 8900 is what I’m currently using. It is everything.

  10. Alaa Salman says:


    Did you consider the Samsung I7500(also known as the galaxy)?

    I recently decided to go with an Android based platform, and it seems to be the best out there. Although, it has been released only recently and so is not quite as mature as the HTC devices.

  11. If you care about freedom on your device, then it seems clearly to be either palm pre or an android phone. The linux outlaws had a comparison of “iPhone to Samsung galaxy”: – an interesting listen especially the bit about the iPhone interface feeling outdated. Personally I’d be keen on an Android phone but worry about the battery life issues; on the other hand from a purely geeky point of view you can use s2putty on an N97 to ssh at 80X24!

  12. Vadim P. says:

    Someone posted on the planet before that you can get a pain-free tethering with HTC Hero and Ubuntu. Might be looking worth into.

    I personally am stuck on HTC Magic. Still a good phone though.

  13. Daniel says:

    Don’t underestimate the iPhone. Yes, it’s freedom hating. Yes, it’s pretty awesome.

  14. Shot says:

    I’m still waiting for HTC Lancaster – once it’s out, I’ll see whether I need the hardware keyboard (and whether it’s any good) and choose between it and the Hero.

  15. When I was shopping for one I narrowed it down to the Nokia E71x and HTC Dream, and I’m very happy that I went with the HTC w/ Android.

    I’ve played with the Palm Pre, but it’s got a plasticy feeling and a friend was having trouble with dead pixels (he got a replacement with the same dead pixel problem, his current one is ok). The Nokia N900 looks really cool but there will always be such a thing on the horizon – it took me a year to go from “I should get a nice smartphone” to finally breaking down and getting one because I kept holding off, waiting for The Perfect Phone “e71x will be pefrect, no wait g1 is perfect, no wait, pre will be perfect!” oh bother :)

  16. Eric Pritchett says:

    I will say the one thing about the N900 that sparks my interest is that it has a camera on the back of the phone and the front as well as uses Telepathy. With those two things I could only imagine the phone will or can do video conferencing which seems like it could be a lot of fun.

  17. Bill says:

    My vote is the E71. The build quality is solid, the size is small and thin, and the keypad is very usable.

  18. matteo says:

    if you mind about the size, check nokia e55. I like most of the phones that you covered but they’re too big for my pockets :)

  19. iLL_eAGle says:

    I know im late , but if your getting another phone , you HAVE to get the Samsung Epic Touch 4g (Samsung’s Sprint Galaxy+ phone .)
    Or the Samsung Infuse .

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