I purchased a Huawei Ideos U8150-D , http://www.gsmarena.com/huawei_u8150_ideos-3513.php , completely SIM unlocked from Disk Smith Electronics for $199.00. Sometime Dick Smith have then on a special for about $179. At this time of writing (June 2011) Crazy Johns are selling then as prepaid deal for $99 but with the phone SIM locked to Crazy Johns or Vodaphone.
As Im a techo nerd that loves technology I wanted to keep up with what the later technology had to offer, but I was not prepared to pay more for a phone than what I would for a notebook or netbook computer as I am very diligent in spending my money. At the time I also felt that a computer had more to offer than a phone so why would I want to pay more for a phone that I then considered had less to offer than a computer.
I had watched on the internet the evolution of the smart phones and saw some of them slowly coming down in price to the sub $200 point. My son has a Apple Iphone and is more technically literate than I am. He said although he was happy with most of the functionality of the Iphone he did not like that Apple controlled the way he was allowed to use his phone. Particularly that he was only allow to install applications on it that Apple allowed him to.
I was not able to get the detailed knowledge I required from the internet as to which phone was better than another phone. The computer magazines had even less information.
My daughter had been living in London and purchased a Sony Erickson Xperia Mini Pro for about A$450. It is a very small phone with a separate full keyboard but only have Android 1.6. When she arrived home in Brisbane I had a chance to see what a smart phone could do a so decided to purchase one.
When I saw the Huawei for $199 I thought that for such relatively low cost it was worth while purchasing it as a learning experience.
With my previous phone I had been using TPG as my provider on a $10 a month deal where I got $125 worth of call and SMS's at $0.35 Flagfall $0.80 a minute for calls and $0.0253 for SMS and 250 MB of data. As the old phone was a 2G phone it was not worth using the dat and I never used up the call value.
So when I got the smart phone I changed to the TPG $1.00 per month deal where I only get $50 MB a month of data and no included calls of SMS. However the call on this $1.00 deal only cost $0.099 a minute charged per second with a $0.10 flag fall and $0.099 per SMS.
This has cost me $34.84 in total for the 5 months I have been on this deal
However my Wife Marg is on the same plan as she makes even less calls than I do, but because she does not have a smart phone I swap her SIM card with mine when the 50MB of data runs out. Im able to check data usage online as well as check what im charged for calls.
On switching on the phone for the first time it asked me if I wanted to import the contacts from my SIM card, which it did very quickly and successfully. It then asked me if I wanted to create or connect to a Google account. As I already had a Google account all I had to do was enter in the user name and password. The phone automatically synchronised my Google emails, contacts and calendar, so making the all available on the phone.
It took a little bit of time to get used to the touch screen. Basically it works similar to computer mouse but less accurately. My finger is not as pointy as the cursor point of an arrow icon. Items on the screen are activated by touching them, which is equivalent to clicking a mouse . But their is also a long touch meaning you touch something for longer, which is a equivalent to right clicking a mouse. The most common function is swiping meaning moving your finger across the screen, which is equivalent to dragging a mouse.
The use of the touch screen to type was the item I had and still have the most difficulty with. Whenever you need to type anything touching brings up a keyboard on the screen. Typically the phone is in its normal position such that the keys are rather small making it difficult to exactly touch one key. However by turning the phone sideways the width of the screen now being wider makes each key wider so making the typing function easier. However it is still not as easy to type as on my notebook keyboard. The thing I would like the most on they keyboard that it does not have is a left arrow key. If I make a mistake typing typically it is a few characters or words back. The only way to get to that point is via pointing at the position where the mistake is and backspacing it out. And it can be very difficult to point are exactly in amongst text. Ah! I retract this bit about the left arrow. I have just discovered that the navigation buttons separate from the screen display, can used to move around within text.
A feature that does make typing easier is the dictionary suggestions that appear as you start to type a word. One of the suggestions will be highlighted such that it you type a space that highlighted word will be entered for you, or you can touch any of the other suggestions.
Another feature is voice recognition. To the left of the space bar is a key with a microphone icon on it. Pressing this asks you to talk and converts your voice to test at the point you are typing. Actually the voice recognition is not done on the phone. It is what is call a Cloud application. You voice is sent to a, I think, Google server that converts it to text and then sends it back to the phone. Regardless of this I have found, provided you do a good internet connection, That it can be about as fast as the voice recognition in Windows Vista. That not bad considering I did not have to spend the time to have the phone learn my voice, which is a requirement of Vista.
One of the first things I did was to search for additional applications to put on the phone. As I had a reasonable restricted data quota in the deal I had (50 MB), I decided to initially try to download the applications on my Notebook computer and transfer them to the phone via USB. The phone becomes a external drive to the computer when attached via the USB cable that comes with the phone. The same cable is also used to charge the phone such that can be charged from a USB port that supplies power.
I soon discovered that the authors of Android software don't want you to download their applications via a computer but rather directly to the phone. It seems part of the reason for this is so that Google can control what gets installed on your phone See later . A phone out of the box will not allow you to install applications that have been transferred from a computer. I however discovered that via the way applications get installed to the phone, the Android Market, you can install an app call App installer that does allow you to install applications that have been transferred from from a computer. The one down side of doing so is application comparability. Some applications require certain features to be in a phone, such as the larger screen phones, and will therefore not work on phones without those features. Another reason why Google want to control what gets installed on phones.
Contrary to what I had been told by most of the mobile phone service providers I have discovered that I can put the SIM card that I use in the dongle that provides Mobile Internet to my notebook computers into my phone. It worked for both 3 Mobile and Telstra SIM cards. This means that I am able to use data purchased at mobile computer rates compared with data purchased at mobile phone rates. This results in a big savings.
Being a avid long time GPS user one of the first things I wanted to try was the phones built in GPS capabilities. The phone comes with a application called Maps which is basically Google maps but with the ability to see where you are on the map. However just like Google maps it allowing you to get directions to a particular place but then goes one better but then loading another application called Navigation which show a 3D map with turn by turn directions give by voice. In other words it has built in equivalent to a Satellite Navigations System. Again this is a cloud application requiring an internet connection. The maps and directions are downloaded from a Google server and shown and spoken on the phone. The benefit of this is that that maps a kept up to date and their is not subscription cost for using them. On reaching your destination a Google Street View is displayed. Of course you can also use Google Street View on the phone without having to use Navigation
Google Maps and Navigation do not actually record where you have been. I was able to download another Google App call My Tracks that does record where you have been and also allows you to upload that information, call tracks, to you Google account and can be made available to select others or everyone via security rights. A nice feature that My tracks has is the ability to show a graphic representation of your track in terms of speed and Altitude as you are travelling.
An add on program to Maps in Google Latitude. It allows your position to be seen by other people you allow to do so and also you can see other peoples position either on your phone or on a Web page. Again being a Cloud application it can be used anywhere in the world so would be very good to allow your relatives to know exactly where you are when you are on an overseas trip,or for you to know where your relatives are.
I have also found applications that allow me to use my own maps such that I can record tracks and see my position without an internet connection.
One of the great features of Android is that you can have several GPS applications all running using the GPS in the phone at the one time. I have had 3 running and the performance was quite good. I have been told that Apple Iphones can only have one GPS application running at a time. I have been told that Iphones only allow any one application to run at any one time
More recently I have been using a beta of mapping application on my phone that I have been using on my computer for many years call Oziexplorer. It has the advantage over the above application it that in does not have to download the maps using an internet connection thus eliminating download costs because the maps are stored on the phones SD memory card. In a recent multi state trip I was able to use a 3 GB map file that covered all of Australia at 1:250,000. Although it is initially slow to load and display the first part of the map where I am located the phone was more than fast enough to show my position on the map whilst driving at highway speeds.
I have also been able to use the GPS functionality of the phone whilst flying in a commercial airliner at over 30,000 feet. The phone has a Flight Mode so allowing its non phone functionality, like the GPS, to be used while the phone functionality is switched off. To do this the phone had to be on the aircraft window to be able to pick up the GPS Satellites.
My phone can be used as a portable hotspot. In other words like a WiFi hotspot. This means that multiple computers can use the phone, wirelessly, to connect to the internet. We took advantage of this in a recipient trip. I have damaged a number of Mobile wireless internet dongles whilst using then in the car simply because they stick out of the side of my notebook. By using the phones Portable Hotspot feature there is no need for a dongle in the notebook. The Wifi networking of the Notebook connects to Wifi on the phone.
The biggest downside of smart phone compared with their predecessors is the poor battery life. My phone would be one of the worst. Im barely able to go a day without recharging it and that is without running any applications. If I do use applications I virtually have to have the phone externally powered. Fortunately the main application I use involves the GPS functions and usually that means im in the car and can use a car adaptor from the cars 12V supply. It is not necessary to purchase at special adaptor for the phone only a 12V to USB, which are pretty common place.
However because I like to fiddle with the functions of the phone and try new applications I often ran out of battery. With this phone it appears that it required a certain amount of charge to be in the battery before it would start. Also being a smart phone it takes longer than a none smart phone to start. Their where a few times when the phone would report tat it was out of battery and shut down and then I would attempt to restart it before recharging it. When I tried this one to many times it would not start at all, and nt even recharge no matter how long I let it on the charger.
It was less than 6 months old so I took it back to Dick Smith. They reckoned it would take 6 to 8 weeks to be repaired under warranty. I suggested it may have only been a faulty battery and could they try another one, but they said they did not carry that battery. I swapped the 8 GB Micro SD card I had put in the phone back to the 1 GB one that it came with and returned it to Dick Smith.
I was almost having withdrawal symptoms from not having me phone as I had become so used to using it. Going back to my old 2G Nokia phone was a real shock. After about 4 week I went back to Dick Smith only to find the store closed with a sign out the from saying they where close for the next 3 week for renovations. Being a bit cheesed off with this I went to another Dick Smith store. The store manager there was also not happy that the other store was being renovated because people where coming to him to complain. As a consequence of this he gave new a new phone without the packaging and said he would put the one that was being repaired into the new phone packaging when it came back and sell it as second hand one.
When I switched on the new phone and logged into Google it synchronised all my contacts and calendar entries from the Web automatically. The main thing I lost where the applications I had installed. I had a few on my notebook but the rest had to be re-downloaded. Android 2.2 has the ability to move some applications to the SD memory card so that's I what im doing from now on.
I have purchased a battery holder that holds 4 AA batteries with a USB socket so in the future should the phone be low on battery I can recharge it from this battery holder with common batteries.
An additional problem that I and others have occasional had is that when I would go to make a call and as soon press the call function a message comes up “Call Ended”. The only way I can remove this problem is to switch the phone off and on again. As the same problem also exist with my Daughters phone that is a completely different make to mine and is earlier version of Android (1.6) it appears to be a Android problem I searched for the problem on the Android problem reporting forum and discovered other have reported it but that it has been classified as a Medium Priority. http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?can=2&q=15404&id=15404 It would appear the problem has not been fixed.
I said at the beginning that I was not willing to pay more for a smart phone than a netbook computer because I felt a computer had more to it than a smart phone. After using the phone for some time, now, the last part of that statement is defiantly wrong.
What is built in to my smart phone that's not in a netbook or common desktop computer:
Even if I were able to add these features to a computer their would not be the software readably available, let alone for free, to be able to utilise them
The major advantage that my Android smart phone has over what I have had in the past is convince. If I want to check email or use the internet on my notebook computer I have to have it with me and switched on. If it is not on it takes a least a minute and a half to come out of hibernation. This compares to the phone that is usually in my pocket and is always switched on. I can take my phone shopping with me in my pocket so that it has my shopping list readily available. Its not practicable to take my notebook shopping and the hand written shopping list is easer to forget than the phone hence the phone is used as the shopping list.
Via the phone whilst shopping I can lookup comparative prices whilst in the store. I can bring a photo of the exact thing I want to purchase with me to the store for those situations where im after a specific item or part that I can not take to the store. The other way round, if I see something I might be interest in later or I want to show to a relative I can take a photo of it and email it to them from wherever I am.
In my pocket I have all my tax and credit card transactions for the last 10 years and all my taxation documents for the last year so I can refer to them where ever I am.
All the bills I receive via my banks Bpay view I can see on the phone and pay those bills and do all my net banking from the phone.
Other than having maps of the entire world and street views of major cities I can find business that sell what I want to buy that are nearest to me no mater where I am. I can also get traffic information shown on a map based on the speed that other smart phone uses are currently moving at which is far more accurate and up to date than the radio traffic reports.
I can listen to my own MP3 music or watch my own movies where ever I am. I often listen to talking books as well are read books directly from my phone.
One of the great concepts of a smart phone is the ability to add new applications to it. To that extent it is just like a computer.
Some of the more elaborate Android smart phones have duel swiping on their touch screen so allowing the zooming in and out of the screen by swiping two fingers together or apart. As my phone does not have that functionality I have to touch a + or - icon to do the zooming.
Some Android smart phone have an equivalent to a joy stick input for moving around the screen. Mine does not.
An application I have not yet been able to find is on that allows the camera to take a photo every x amount of distance based on the GPS.
Presently the phone can not have a external keyboard attached via the USB port. However the latest Android, V3, will have that ability.
The greatest restriction their is in using a smart phone is the relatively small size of the screen. The manufactures seem to think that they can overcome this by making the screens bigger and call them pads. However this then makes them to large to fit in to your packet so removing one of the biggest advantages of a phone.
Some people may feel that smart phones are not fast enough. With the increase in cloud computing I personally feel that it is not necessary for smart phone to be fast as fast processing will be performed on other computers and the results sent to the smart phone.