Wednesday, August 31, 2011

adventures in phoning

So, after watching craigslist cell-phone ads intensely for the past couple of months, I leaped into the unknown two days ago. Here's the setup:

I have been on AT&T since my Enron days (my first cell phone). We have 4 phones on our family plan, so that makes switching to another carrier a challenge, especially with Dylan living in Ashland (we pay for his phone, in the curious hope that he will call us often - ha ha).

Furthermore, since I have been a customer so long, I am grandfathered into a situation where I am NOT required to purchase a data plan, UNLESS I buy a phone from AT&T and renew my expired contract.

I am generally quite happy to rely on WiFi for internet access on my phone (have had a 'smart' phone for several years). If I am somewhere where I absolutely need to get on the internet, I either find an open WiFi site, or ask one of my ubiqitous iPhone friends to look it up for me.

There are two significant benefits to this: I save $300/year on Data Plan charges, and email I send from my phone does not have the highly-annoying 'Sent from my iPhone' signature.

I was extremely happy with my Windows Mobile 6.1 HTC Tilt - it did everything very well, including taking pretty sharp photos and videos. It was set up exactly as I liked it, and was stolen in Costa Rica last December. No identify-theft took place, but I lost a bunch of photos and videos of Zacky.

I replaced it with a Tilt 2, running Windows Mobile 6.5, purchased from a craigslist person for an amazing $65.

Over the course of the past few months, I had it set up exactly as I liked, with effortless Calendar sync (using a 3rd party tool), a free WAP-enabled browser for my email service's very-lean-very-nice mobile interface, the (free) Freda eBook reader (populated with many free epub files, both downloaded from Project Gutenberg and created myself, using this wonderful web service which permits you to convert Word files to epub), and a cool Task Manager, to easily kill background processes that were consuming memory.

Really, I like Windows Mobile 6.5 on the Tilt 2 a lot. It also has an FM Radio and Google Maps, not to mention Word and Excel. Moving files to it (using ActiveSync via USB) is trivial. Managing files and editing the registry is easy. Vertical scrolling via a finger-swipe is smooth. Using a stylus to tap the keyboard is pretty fast and accurate. All in all, a pretty darn good phone.

The only drawbacks to the Tilt 2 are:

1) lousy camera - photos always out of focus
2) decreasing battery life over the last month
3) unable to see my home WiFi from places in the house where the original Tilt worked great
4) increasing problems with AT&T phone signals here at the house - did they change something?
5) beat-up case and somewhat-scratched glass cover (my fault)

So, moving to a new phone went onto my To Do list a couple of months ago - no hurry. I just knew I wanted a good craigslist deal, to maintain my don't-need-no-stinkin'-Data-Plan cheapness (and minimizing my internet-data-consumption footprint, unlike all you folks out there who are using the internet to listen to the freaking radio and continually update the current temperature, for God's sake, but don't get me started).

I knew I didn't want an iPhone, since, on principal, I must resist Apple fascism, no matter how good their products are (as you all keep telling me, ad nauseum).

That meant either an Android or another Windows phone. Since Microsoft is getting props for Windows Phone 7's innovative interface, I figured it would be nice to go that route, rather than get another Windows Mobile 6.5 phone.

So, as I said, I've been watching craigslist obsessively, and, on Monday, spotted The Deal. I met up with the guy Monday night, and bought his Samsung Focus for a pretty-darn-reasonable $100. It's running Windows Phone 7, with the Mango beta installed (the guy is a hacker).

What I like:

* I can now see my home WiFi from the in-front-of-the-TV couch, which is a mixed blessing.
* totally easy to sync my Google Calendar with the phone's calendar. This was absolutely essential. No need for a 3rd party sync tool (which they haven't ported to Win Phone 7 anyway).
* Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (can't imagine ever using this) are included
* two-finger pinch-to-zoom works great
* camera seems fine, with flash
* Win Phone 7 Marketplace seems full of good stuff, and installing stuff is easy - this is how it will be on all phones from now on.
* the interface is 'interesting', very responsive and seems well thought-out
* integration with my SkyDrive is, naturally, excellent.
* telling AT&T to not do any data-pulling is controlled by an easily-accessible switch, which I will leave turned off until I break down and sign up for a Data Plan, someday.
* word suggestions when typing text are amazingly-apt

Less than cool:

* it was easy to import my Sim Contacts, but Contacts that had multiple phone numbers (i.e. Home and Mobile) generated separate Contact entries, rather than one entry with multiple phone numbers. Dumb!

* the POP3/IMAP setup for my email was easy, but there is NO OPTION to leave mail on the server when you delete it on the phone. Grrrrrrr. So, I have my Gmail account set up to pull mail from my account, and the phone pulls in Gmail, which I can delete as I wish, without impacting my main mailbox.

* I miss the ability to mount the File System as a drive on my PC. I no longer have the ability to drag-and-drop files, and haven't quite figured out the best way to move files to the phone, short of emailing them to myself (clunky).

* My WAP-enabled browser (see above) has not released a Win Phone 7 version yet, although I understand it is in final beta now. Internet Explorer does not display my email very well, which is a genuine bad thing, for now.

* no 'Message Sent' confirmation when sending a text message. Anyone know how to turn this on?

* the 'Maps' program included is pretty good, but I'd like to get Google Maps installed (love the ability to tap a restaurant and get reviews). Does anyone know if this is possible?

That's where I stand, two days into the new phone. I am writing this to record my first impressions - let's see if my gripes are ever resolved.

In the meantime, call or text me anytime: 503-860-4514

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