Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Can Someone Please Put the "Smart" in SmartPhone?

Almost nothing aggravates me more than people who feel it necessary to read e-mail on their Blackberries while retrieving their bags from the overhead compartments and blocking the aisle at the same time after a 5 1/2 hour transcontinental flight. Is it THAT important that you can't wait until you're not blocking the other 150-some passengers? Surely whoever sent the e-mail doesn't know the exact time that you landed...

I've always swore to myself that I will not become one of those people.

Well, I'm closer than I ever feared, as I am now the owner of a Motorola Q - a so-called "SmartPhone". I guess calling it a "DumbPhone" may be more accurate, but a heck of a lot harder to sell to people.

The Q is not on the list of supported devices that iSync works with. That should have been more than enough of a warning sign to me that getting this thing to work with a Mac was not going to be easy.

In order to get the Mac to talk to it, you have to buy a piece of software called the Missing Sync. Cute name. Initially I thought that this piece of software was just plain missing itself, as it was quite a challenge to install & configure. However, after playing with the Q for a while, I realized what a temperamental little device it is.

Case in point: I figured that since the Q has Bluetooth, I could use that to synchronize with my Mac, saving the hassle of lugging an extra USB cable with me. Well, what I didn't realize is how poor Bluetooth is implemented on the Q. (Another hint I missed - the #1 support topic on the Missing Sync's support page is "Information on the Motorola Q and USB and Bluetooth connectivity")

If you do end up getting a Q, don't leave the store before buying the extended-life battery if you plan on using Bluetooth. Again, this piece of technology is mis-named, as if you're running Bluetooth on the Q, it's more accurately described as the "barely make it home to recharge" battery. Again, a bit of a marketing challenge.

Second, don't really expect Bluetooth to work. The Q has some known issues with it, and I could get it to sync about 1 out of 4 times that way. I finally gave up and switched back to USB, as at least it's about 90% reliable that way.

Another thing to consider if you're looking at the Q: Since the Q runs Windows Mobile, add a few minutes every couple of days to re-boot the phone. Mine just seems to stop working after about 2 days, and removing the battery is the only remedy. That wouldn't be too bad if it didn't take forever to re-boot. Just the other day, I landed at Dulles, and everyone in my row was up & running with their cell phones or Blackberries, checking messages & making calls while I sat there staring at the screen for at least 3 minutes, watching the elegant yet utterly useless Verizon Wireless & Windows Mobile splash screens play as the Q slowly came to life. I really hope that I don't ever need to dial 911 and my Q is off.

If it were worth waiting for it to boot, then I may be able to forgive the aforementioned issues. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The UI is 100% Windows - or what I like to call a "partially completed thought". Admittedly, there are a ton of features available on the phone. You can take a picture, record some video, play a game, listen to an MP3, store contacts, heck - you can even edit the phone's registry!

Rather than specialize and make a few features rock-solid, Microsoft chose to make a large number of features mediocre. The most annoying lack of a feature is when someone calls you from a number that you do not have stored in your address book. In most cases, you want to add that number to that person's address card. Well, someone forgot to add a search capability to this feature, as you literally have to scroll through every contact to get to the one you want. Many of the other shortcomings are similar - not show-stoppers, but clearly if someone sat down and thought the 10 most popular use cases through, they would have been remedied.

The other thing about the Q which drives me mad is that I can't for the life of me figure out how to turn off all sounds except the ringer. I've painstakingly set each sound option to None, and without fail, each night the e-mail sound goes off at least once, as that's when the best spam messages arrive. Thus, I'm forced to put the Q into Silent mode each night, which does silent most of the sounds, including the new e-mail sound. The problem arises when I forget to put it back into Normal mode the next morning and miss calls until I realize my blunder.

I could go on and on about the small little things that make the Q just plain quirky. Many of them I can get past, but it's the compilation of them that make it just a spot annoying to use on a daily basis.

This all goes back to designing a device or program to solve a problem which exists, rather than solving non-existent ones. The Q is a broad-stroke attempt to solve a bevy of problems, any of which someone may possibly have. The result is a device which in my opinion, just does too much with a lack of focus on any one thing. The fact that I need to reboot it almost 3 times a week alone is proof that not enough time was devoted to basic system stability.

So until Apple comes out with the iPhone - if the rumors are true - I'll keep on keeping on with the Q. It does get the job done most of the time, as I am able to check messages from the road, synchronize contacts & calendar with my Mac, and if push comes to shove and I can't get a signal, browse & edit the registry.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great review Scott... I just wanted to buy a new "Smartphone" ;-)
I thought about getting an HTC P3300

But after reading this, I'm not sure anymore... maybe better to go for just a regular phone?

Somebody else having an HTC P3300 and is happy with it?

Joseph said...

Wow - what a diatribe! You need a beer...

Scott said...

Wow - what a diatribe! You need a beer...

1) Treo is too thick, but I do miss PalmOS

2) I should have taken a picture with the Q of the beer that I had while I was writing this post...

- Scott -

Joseph said...

Probably would've GPF'd if you had tried...

Anonymous said...

Dude, you're such a newb. You had problems with bluetooth and turning off sounds!?! The system sound level can be turned to 0 in the Settings menu...Duh. And the bluetooth Sync? lol, man. You just go to the Sync page on the Q and click Menu | Sync via Bluetooth. ...How hard is that?

This guy reminds me of the people who complain about the default install of Windows. It's microsoft. It REQUIRES a little customization.

I love quickly writing apps for my Smartphone in C# and C++ whenever I come up with a silly idea for something I want on my phone.

I also like having a phone women don't laugh at. If you wanna look like a nerd get a phone with a sliding keyboard (they're much better). If you wanna look like a clone and not be able to customize your phone, get a crackberry.

To sum it all up; The Q goes for $75 on Amazon. That's a deal.

Scott said...

Dude, you're such a newb. You had problems with bluetooth and turning off sounds!?! The system sound level can be turned to 0 in the Settings menu...Duh. And the bluetooth Sync? lol, man. You just go to the Sync page on the Q and click Menu | Sync via Bluetooth. ...How hard is that?


Evidently it's hard enough that just clicking on Sync Bluetooth or setting the volume to 0 DIDN'T just work. Hence the level of frustration high enough for me to write about it.

This guy reminds me of the people who complain about the default install of Windows. It's microsoft. It REQUIRES a little customization.

That was my point. It's a phone, not Windows. It shouldn't be that hard. I am technical, and I had difficulties. I can't imagine someone less technical doing any better.

We have been conned into accepting Window's shortcomings as the norm. We think it's OK to have to reboot every now and then, and accept the fact that GPFs will occur. That's the core of the problem.

I love quickly writing apps for my Smartphone in C# and C++ whenever I come up with a silly idea for something I want on my phone.

More power to you there.

I also like having a phone women don't laugh at. If you wanna look like a nerd get a phone with a sliding keyboard (they're much better). If you wanna look like a clone and not be able to customize your phone, get a crackberry.


I'm trying to think of a place where women & people who write C++ apps for their phone both hang out, and am coming up with a blank...

To sum it all up; The Q goes for $75 on Amazon. That's a deal.

Mine was free. You get what you pay for.

- Scott -

Anonymous said...

"I also like having a phone women don't laugh at. If you wanna look like a nerd get a phone with a sliding keyboard (they're much better). If you wanna look like a clone and not be able to customize your phone, get a crackberry.


I'm trying to think of a place where women & people who write C++ apps for their phone both hang out, and am coming up with a blank..."

LOL!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joel R. Kallman said...

Excellent prose.

People seem to be hell bent on using Bluetooth for everything they can think of. I've tried. I think it's very lame and way overbilled. And it will zap power like no other.

I have a Smartphone. I tried a Bluetooth headset with it - once! It lost the connection to the phone twice, and I never, ever touched it again. The Bluetooth headset has been in my desk drawer ever since. I reverted to my "old school" headset with a cord - haven't had a problem since.