Top 10 Tuesday/Wednesday: 10 things to look for in a mobile phone

Mobile phones, Top tens

top-ten-tuesday.jpgThe launch of the very tasty Toshiba TG01 has got me thinking. What is it I’m after in the perfect phone? Well, what with the choice of handsets these days being about more than having polyphonic ringtones, and section 2 subcategory B of Sod’s Law stating that you can’t have everything, I thought it might be a good time to prioritise, especially with MWC 2009 just around the corner.

So, here we go then. The Tech Digest top 10 features to look for in a mobile phone as according to me and with all the subjectivity and bias I can muster. In reverse order…

10) Battery – any old Li-ion

Yes, that’s right. I don’t care about batteries. I’m sorry Gary but it’s true. To hang with the lot of them. I’ve never owned a handset that ran out of juice without it being entirely my fault.

I don’t expect them to last forever, just till I make it to bed each day will do. That’s when I recharge and it seems only fair to expect no more of my handset than I do of myself, with all that Bluetooth stuff aside.

9) Look

I’ve never owned a particularly ugly phone and, as swish as I think some handsets look, it’s not really the kind of thing to make my mind up for me. Granted, there are some properly horrible looking things out there – the kind that 3 likes to push combined with more minutes than you can count and a PS3 – but I’d be happy enough pulling anything out of my pocket in public, so long as my pocket didn’t have a big hole in.

8) Keypad – you can keep your slide QWERTY

I can sense that I’m blocking one of my previous mobile phone experiences through trauma but on the whole I’m not too fussed by keypads.

There’s a good chance that I’m some kind of heathen because QWERTYs aren’t a must for me but I’m pretty happy with the old standard so long as I’m using predictive text. Now, writing long e-mails is another thing – my advice would be to keep it brief or carry around a roll out keyboard if you really want typing speed that badly.

To be fair, I’m sure I’ll get hooked on this QWERTY lark the minute I buy a phone that’s actually got one, but for now I couldn’t give a monkey’s if it was on screen, off screen or slide out.

7) 3.5mm jack – kill proprietary, kill!

I don’t think having a 3.5mm jack is actually necessity but nothing will get me angrier quicker than manufacturers that have the arrogance to suggest that their pile of rubbish earbuds are going to be good enough when compared to your old favourite Klipsch or Sennheisers or what have you.

It’s not that hard to remedy with adaptors and such but it’s the principal that sticks in my craw and if there’s one thing I hate it’s objects in my craw. Anatomically, where is the craw anyway?

6) Size – no bricks please, we’re British

It’s not so much the volume or length of these things as the girth. (I didn’t do the penis gag there on purpose but I wasn’t exactly bothered about staying away from it either.)

Big flat handsets have become acceptable since we’ve decided we want to use the things as TVs but we don’t want them ruining the line of our clothes at the same time, neither do we want the corners accidentally rubbing against our genitalia, well, not that we’d admit to anyway.

So, for my imaginary money, I’d say the Storm was pushing it and handsets shaped anything like the old Samsung D500 are just needlessly bulky even for their small size.

5) GPS – nowhere without it

Come on, it’s all about mobile services now, isn’t it? What can your phone do for you or, more to the point, what can you do with your phone.

You’re nowhere without GPS and there’s hatfulls of location based services already out and heading our way soon. They seem slightly pointless to begin with but they’re the kind of thing that you only realise you can’t do without until you’ve got used to them.

Whether you want know where your friends are, where the nearest USB cable can be bought or simply how to get from A to B, it’s all about GPS. Give it to me and while you’re at it, make sure the handset can support it quickly and properly. Come on, let’s make it turn by turn.

4) Connectivity – Bluetooth a must

I couldn’t really care less about the hands free calling stuff but there are some cracking applications of Bluetooth out there that people are only really just getting their heads around.

There’s A2DP wireless music streaming, gadgets like the PoGo printer and there’s going to be some even better uses when the next generation of Bluetooth with the instant handshake protocol gets involved; not to mention I love that I was in a bar the other day and when I asked what was in the cocktail I was drinking, the barman just told me to turn on my Bluetooth. The recipe came straight to my handset.

3G goes without saying.

3) Screen – QVGA, WVGA, just some kind of GA

As I was saying, we seem to be in the process of ditching dedicated media players in favour of smartphones with good screens and plenty of codec recognition. As such, both the size and the quality of the LCD is a serious issue.

Personally, I’m holding out for something in OLED or a mini-plasma but for the moment QVGA would have to be the absolute minimum and that’s provided it’s damn good quality. Ideally we’re looking at standard size, so that the likes of YouTube etc will fit with it without any squashing, stretching or black bars.

2) Camera – 3MP, no less

I think the title says it all really or the bulk of it anyway. Really, I’m being generous and there should be a 5-megapixel industry standard with any more being largely superfluous.

Just as I’m important is having decent glassware and a good processor to back it up. It doesn’t have to have a two-part German name but it helps us get convinced and as far the processor, well, Sony’s made mini-CMOSs for mobiles, so there’s little excuse really.

1) OS – app me up

iPhone OS, Android and S60 if I’m in a good mood. I seriously dislike Windows Mobile and if I don’t get on with it when I get my hands on the Toshiba GT01, I will be able to officially announce that I hate it, loathe it, despise it and would never buy a handset that uses the platform.

I don’t want to have to use a stylus. What’s the point in a touchscreen if actually touching it doesn’t lead to accurate operation?

The other side of the OS is that it must be intuitive, or at least easy enough to get the hang of, and it should have plenty of third party support. Apps. Give me apps.

I put the OS at number one, because if I don’t get on with it, I’m just not going to get on with the handset either.

Minimum specs for not necessarily smart phones

10.180 mins talk time/20 hours standby
9. some thing not ugly
8. one that works
7. 3.5mm jack – no comprimise
6. 12mm or less thick
5. GPS
4. Bluetooth 2.0
3. QVGA with proper colour palate
2. 3MP and a flash
1. S60

Dan’s ideal machine

10. two days fill operation/ three days normal use
9. something beautiful – sorry, hard to quantify that one
8. hard QWERTY – I should probably get used to it
7. 3.5mm jack
6. 10mm of less thick
5. GPS and A-GPS
4. Bluetooth 2.1
3. WVGA touchscreen, with some kind of big LCD tech
2. 5MP, Carl Zeiss, CMOS
1. Android

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Daniel Sung
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  • Wow RS! Seems to me that, that one’s been boiling for a while.

    Although, I do agree with some of your points. Even so, you can’t blame the consumer. We are only told what we want by the marketing division’s. That’s where I think must get your orders from.

    You have to remember that Consumers are thick as… that’s why they have a whole bunch of laws to protect them.


  • I’m sorry guys, you are all way off on what you want a phone to do. I am a mobile phone developer and you all seem to want a camera, GPS, with MMS, with multi-SMS, extended battery life & a QWERTY, built in! Oh, sorry, and a teas maker too! Get real. Don’t you realise these are just normal, bog standard computer chips. We’re no where near the stage of Star Trek yet!!!! You’re asking too much for a phone to do, or you’re believing what the marketing men tell you. If you want a camera, get a proper digi camera! 3MP as well! Don’t you realise that unless you’re printing on anything greater than A4, you want notice the difference. You want proper 3G? Then bug your network provider to put in better antennas, oh, and if you live near one and don’t want it next to you, then you can’t have your cake and eat it. Windows Mobile? Rubbish, I agree. iPhone? Brilliant, but unless you have petite fingers, still not for me as a medium size male. And can I type a message with one hand and walk down the street with the iPhone? No, not for me. What phone do I have, I hear you ask, as a developer? A Nokia 6230i! Good ol’ work horse that can make calls and text. Oh, and why do you want location based services? Can’t you figure out where you are then? Do you go to sooooo many different towns in a week that you need directions or you don’t know where the local shops are? Get real guys. You’re buying into something that you don’t need and which is not being delivered in terms of handsets nor antennas. Please, just pipe down and watch Eastenders, ‘cos you certainly don’t have anything else in life to do

  • Dream requirements would be an HD projector and wireless surroundsound earbuds. Oh yeah!

  • You don’t actually need it to function as a phone then? 😉
    How about multiple SMS recipients, MMS, cut and paste, multi-tasking, replaceable battery, hand-writing recognition – you see where I’m going…
    For me, as well as the obvious (to everyone but Apple fanboys) I want a flexible secure data storage application (for credit cards etc) and synchronisation with the apps I want to use.
    A camera that is good even in low light as well as having a real flash would be excellent too – which is the only thing my current Sony Ericsson P1i really lacks.

    • Nice thinking on the credit card app, BSG. Totally with you on the decent camera front too. I’m hoping that with CMOS sensors creeping onto phones, the race might turn away from megapixels and more to quality, and some kind of whacking great ISO range would be welcome.

      Like a lot of us I’ve never had to worry about MMS and multi-SMS issues but I can imagine that’d wind me up a little. So, if we’re in dreamland, what else are we after? What other features?

  • I have to confess that I’ve been driven mental lately by my desire for a new phone but not being able to find one that had easy to use buttons.
    Like you, qwerty or the old fashioned way I’m not fussed by, but when they’re all so smooth, flat, tiny and close to each other that it’s impossible to distinguish between the keys it’s a bit depressing. and practically impossible to text while doing something else.
    or am I the only one who finds myself feeling like homer in the episode when he gets to fat to use the phone?

    • Oh, and thanks for that one, Lola. I’ve been writing it wrong for days. Duly changed. Ta.

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