My name is Evan Blass and I love smartphones. I mean, I really love smartphones. In fact, ever since I had the pleasure of owning Handspring’s revolutionary Treo 600, I’ve been completely hooked on the technology. For me, the appeal lies not so much in the ability to place calls from anywhere as it does with having access to the internet in my pocket. I knew even back in 2001 when I carried a slim, silver Sanyo SCP-6400 with rudimentary WAP functionality, that having portable access to real-time data was a very powerful concept.
We probably take this ability for granted now, but imagine how scientists and thinkers of the past would have reacted to a gadget that puts — for the most part — the entire history of human knowledge at our fingertips. And with such capacious portable storage devices, one doesn’t even need a data connection to take advantage of this wonderful capability; it’s now possible to download a 3GB file containing over two million articles from the English version of Wikipedia, with internally-consistent links plus outgoing links to retrieve the latest information.
Nowadays I find myself getting the itch to upgrade phones just about every eighteen months, which of course has led to spending obscene amounts of money for off-contract or imported handsets. Back when I was a senior editor of Engadget, the phones flowed like wine, although we always raffled off review units once we were done putting them through their paces — meaning I still paid top-dollar for my daily driver. Point being, even consumer electronics journalists are willing to fork over their hard-earned cash to own the best device on the market, in spite of the seemingly never-ending carousel of shiny new toys.
Currently I’m proud to call the LG eXpo my primary device, despite the constant needling its operating system receives from all corners of the blogosphere and beyond. I’ve been a Windows Mobile devotee since giving up my 600 for an HTC Apache, which taught me how truly laptop-like these phones could be. With its higher resolution, WiFi, Bluetooth, and limited multitasking, the Apache was the pinnacle of smartphone technology at the time, in terms of both hardware and the customizability of the software.
Alas, all that may change with Windows Phone 7, with which Microsoft seems determined to ape many features of the ubiquitous iPhone — and in turn, eliminate or cripple many of the benefits which made the platform so initially attractive. Luckily, Google has swooped in as somewhat of a savior and delivered an open-source, rapidly-maturing OS that doesn’t care if it gets all hacked up, remixed, and redistributed. An OS that, philosophically, seems to appeal to the very same set of curious tinkerers who once took up Redmond’s cause.
So what’s next for me? I think that’s pretty obvious. I’ve had my eye on the Samsung Beam (nee Halo) ever since it was revealed at Mobile World Congress, and if I don’t snatch that up, it’ll be a similar Android-powered device. I’m not giving up total hope on WinPho, but until Ballmer and company realize that it’s entirely possible to please both the casual users and the inquisitive hackers, I’m voting for the system that encourages the most community development and dictates the fewest arbitrary restrictions.