Brandon recently wrote about his “Daily Driver”, the phone he uses on a day-to-day basis, and provided us with a very insightful history of how he got to the device he’s using today. (If you missed his article, it’s well worth the read!)
Brandon is a phone reviewer. He reviews a lot of phones. I’m more of a technologist more than I’m a reviewer. I know the technology that I use inside and out, and try to describe it to others via videos and articles (you may have seen some of my work).
My progression from “way back then” to where I am now took a significantly different path from that of Brandon’s. Where his path visited the glitzy and cool, mine followed form, function, and convenience. That’s not to say that Brandon didn’t take form, function, and consideration into landing on his daily use device, rather, he was able to make his decisions based on hands-on experience with a wide variety of devices.
Excluding my current phone, I’ve paid for every single one of my devices out-of pocket after substantial research, and a good amount of time to save up the cash needed to make the purchase. My decisions for a daily use device is based on research, reviews, comments from people like Brandon and you, my readers. My choices, I think, are lot more deliberate, and take a bit more of a gamble than what many others put into their decisions. (I mean, honestly, how many people do you know devise a decision matrix to help pick their next phone?)
Here’s what I’ve had over the years:
1. Newton MessagePad 130: way better than Palm Pilot, utilitarian, intuitive
2. Newton MessagePad 2100: faster and more refined over the MP130
3. Casio A20: longer expected support from the OS vendor, keyboard, Windows-like experience, pocketable
4. Casio E-115: more compact, better syncing capabilities, faster
5. HP Jornada: flip-up screen cover, durable, even faster
6. HP iPaq 4155: My first ever HTC-built device, sleek form-factor
8. Mio A-701: my first Windows Mobile phone, GPS, phone, mobile internet
7. E-TEN G500: the “Tron-phone”, GPS, phone, mobile internet
8. AT&T Tilt: Just like Brandon’s, phone, GPS, mobile internet, keyboard, and made by HTC
9. T-Mobile G1: My first Android, phone, GPS, 3G mobile internet, keyboard, also made by HTC
10. Google Nexus One: My second Android, phone, GPS, 3G mobile internet, made by HTC as well
11. To be determined: Suggestions?
How did I get from the MP130 to the Nexus One?
Having a phone in my “phone” is actually somewhat of an inconvenience for me. Call me anti-social, but I don’t like talking to people on the phone. I’d much rather email, text, instant message, or just wait and talk with someone in person than over the phone. However, in order to get on the web with your mobile device, it’s got to be a phone, too — for now anyway, we’ll see what LTE brings.
Back on point. I don’t need a phone. What I need is a mobile communications device that can also manage my contact, calendar, and run some useful apps. That’s how I started down my path of indispensable electronic do-dads with the Apple MessagePad 130, aka the Newton 130.
I tried Palm. I loved Palm’s form-factor. I couldn’t “get” Palm’s Graffiti text input method to save my life (they’ve since come out with Graffiti 2 which is much less cryptic and much easier to use). So I went with Newton. I could write full sentences on it. I could connect to the internet over dial-up with an X-Jack PCMCIA card modem. It had a lot of features that Windows Mobile, iOS, and Android are lacking even today. I later replaced my MP130 with a MP2100. I even had the accessory keyboard and printer-port and used my X-Jack modem to send faxes right from the device. Let’s see you do that, iPhone 4!
Then Steve Jobs was re-hired by Apple and axed the Newton. Why would someone want a thousand-dollar PDA, he asked. Hmmm, how much do the unsubsidized iPad and iPhone cost? But I digress.
Since the writing was on the wall, and the Newton’s fate sealed, I turned around and sold my Newton with all it’s accessories, very well used, for $200 more than I had paid for it — cash. I regret not asking more. Then again, I regret not holding on to it! That marked a turning point. I still couldn’t make use of Palm. My only other option was Microsoft’s. I picked up a Casio A20 Handheld PC running Windows CE 1.0.
Luckily, my X-Jack PCMCIA modem still worked with this little computer. The user-interface wasn’t as slick as Newton’s but it did what I needed it to. Later, I was part of the pre-release group that got to buy the Casio E-115. The first Palm-Sized PC. I had to forgo my PCMCIA slot for a CF slot, which meant no more dial-up internet for me. But syncing had become part of my daily life, and I was up-to-date in the morning before I left for work, and again in the evening when I got home from work. Back then emails weren’t as urgent as they are today. I upgraded to the HP Jornada, followed by the HP iPaq 4155 (after HP acquired Compaq’s mobile group). That ended my “PDA” line of devices. My next device made the leap to an actual “phone”.
I knew the day would come when I would make the leap from stand-alone PDA to a connected device. That came in the form of the ETEN G500, a Windows Mobile phone with a GPS, and a mobile connection to the internet. (This is the phone that almost took a dive into a cauldron in Yellowstone National Park. It’s also my first PDA to run the CoPilot Live Navigation software.) The construction of the device wasn’t cool, and it was lagging in OS updates, so I replaced it with the MiTAC MIO A-701, also with CoPilot Live for GPS.
Again, the quality was somewhat lacking, and OS updates were few and far between. I made the jump over to the AT&T Tilt, unlocked it, and ran it on T-Mobile’s network. It had a keyboard, GPS, and was made by HTC. XDA-Developers.com had a very active community cooking ROMs for this phone (the HTC Kaiser) and it stayed up-to-date for a good, long time — until Windows Mobile became the restraining factor.
Right around that time Steve Jobs had decided that maybe there was something to this “handheld computer thing” and turned his company’s MP3 player into a phone. The iPhone’s UI was beautiful and showed the world how complacent we’d gotten — and how ugly Windows Mobile really was.
Google released Android on T-Mobile’s G1 (made by HTC); I waited. My brother got one, and loved it; I waited. Half of the accounting department got them, and loved it; I waited. My co-worker got one, and loved it; I waited. The UI was very close to Apple’s in terms of fluidity, ease of use, and overall sexiness; I made the leap. Several months later I had the chance to use the Nexus One full-time. I was afraid that after having used the physical keyboard on both the Tilt and the G1 that I’d be frustrated by its absence on the Nexus One; I’m not, not in the least.
In the end, why did I choose to stay with the Nexus One as my daily driver?
1. Communications: Not, just email, but everything having to do with how I contact the world, and how the world contacts me is centralized in this one device. Google Voice text messages and voice messages, Gmail, Google Chat, Tweets, Facebook… everything is right there.
2. Web Browsing: I’m a web developer by trade and by hobby, so most of my job description involves surfing the web (I know, how cool is that?!). With the HSPA 3G speeds plus the Chrome engine that powers the Browser app on the Nexus One, I can not only check the status of all my websites, but check the competition as well, all from the phone I carry on my hip.
3. Multimedia Creation: The camera on the Nexus One with CyanogenMod 6 lets me not only take geo-tagged images, but shoot high quality and even high-definition video (with fill-light) right on the phone. And yes, the latter two require a custom ROM, but that leads to my next point…
4. Openness: Android is all about open technologies. As such it’s much more appealing for app developers and ROM developers alike. The potential isn’t limited by the same restrictions that cobble both Apple and Microsoft. Take my wife’s G1: for example, it’s running the latest version of Android, the same basic codebase as what I’m running on my Nexus One. This makes maintaining and supporting both devices much easier… and goes to show that we shouldn’t have to upgrade our hardware just to get the latest OS. While this hasn’t been as problematic with iOS as it has been with Windows Mobile, the potential for “early end-of-life” is just as likely because it’s in the hands of one man, one company.
5. Quality: HTC is king. Let me say that again: In my experience, HTC has made the best quality, most thought-out, intuitive, and even beautiful devices. HTC wears the hardware manufacturer’s crown in my book. It will take something extraordinary to unseat them from this position of respect that they have earned time and time again.
Ultimately, Android and the Nexus One are the right choice for me. They accomplish absolutely everything that I need, and lot of stuff that I want.
That having been said, there are still some parts of Newton that I miss…
What about you? What is your “daily driver” or every-day use device?