Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thinking About Buying a Smartphone.

Okay, I’m thinking about buying a decent smartphone but, before I waffle on about that, let me get something straight. All I have ever used is a simple mobile phone for making phone calls. The only reason I bothered with one was because in Crete we don’t have a phone line since with the few calls we make it’s hardly worth paying the line rental. It was also the case that doing so was pointless for Internet because, apparently, there was no broadband up in the mountains where we were. (It is possible that there is but OTE didn’t want you to know that, preferring to sell you a year’s dial-up Internet then sell you broadband on top of that. The phone company there is as corrupt as the rest of everything in Greece.)

So, smartphones and what do I want? I’m trying to clarify my thoughts on this and, frankly, I don’t know what these phones are capable of.

I want to be able to get onto the Internet in Internet bars and cafes. I want to be able to twitter and send and receive emails when away from such access and in such circumstances I don’t want to be paying set costs for tweets and emails or be spending a lot of time connected to the Internet through the mobile network.  I want to send all this stuff as text messages (which apparently discounts Virgin and T-Mobile as they are not carriers on Twitter).

I don’t want to have to type these tweets, blogs and emails through the keypad or touchscreen of the phone. I would like to be able to plug it into my laptop where I have typed them, load these to the phone to later send either through the mobile network or Internet connection. In effect I want to use the much more easy-to-use keyboard on my laptop and I don’t want that phone on for long. I don’t want to be tied into a contract; I would rather have pay-as-you-go. This is mainly because I will mainly be using this phone in Crete – I don’t want to be paying monthly for the five months here when I simply won’t use the phone.

What do you think? (And keep it simple)


serjames said...

If it's just for sitting in Cafes etc - you're talking WiFi I presume, your laptop can do that ?

It sounds like what you need is a better connection to the web for your laptop. i.e. a dongle of somesort ?

What about a tablet of somesort ? Still not ideal for typing, but really good for the browsing etc ?

EonBlue said...

Any reasonably new Android phone will let you use it as a "Wireless Hotspot" which will let you connect your laptop to the phone via wireless and use it's data connection.

robann said...

If you buy a (smart) phone on contract here (UK) then the roaming data rates in Crete are likely to be horrible. Some of the employees at my company ran up some nasty bills in Spain and France so we got them (as serJames suggested) a 3G dongle for their laptops for the countries they did business in. A 3G dongle means you don't have to get an expensive phone AND they don't run out of batteries in 1/2 hour.

I have no professional experience of specific dongles and providers in Greece/Crete but a quick google shows up lots of people asking the question and suggesting answers:


bascule said...

A nice cheap smartphone is the Orange San Francisco, easily unlocked to run on any network and commonly "Rooted", android updated with all orange crap removed.

Me and DD have one they're fine and at £125 delivered, a good price. Use it here with a Giff-Gaff SIM and when you get to Crete, just get a local SIM and pop that in. As for doing tweets etc. on PC and transferring to phone, I'm sure there must be an App for that.

AngryMurloc said...

If you're dead set on a smart phone then I would suggest an iPhone if you dont want to bother muckign around with it, or if you want a bit more power and freedom, anything android. Made the jump from apple to android personally this year and so far I really like it. I got myself a galaxy S2 and it's quick with apps and everything else runs really smooth. If you don't like typing on a smartphone keypad, then maybe an alternative keypad like swype might work? instead of pressing the keys to input letters, you put your finger on the starting letter then drag through every other letter in the word and it predicts what you wanted to type. it is very accurate and pretty damn powerful!

Other than that, it might be best to get a dongle as others have suggested and top that up. O2 sent me one while they were arsing up my internet and stuck a gig of memory on it. Did the trick for what i wanted and was easy to set up and get going, and as it is 3G it works off of mobile phone networks and doesn't require wifi. It can also connect through wifi, but I never tried that particular feature.

Neal Asher said...

I've no problem connecting to the Internet down in the bars with my laptop. The issue is lugging the laptop down there. I was doing that once a week to check emails etc.

Unknown said...

If you want something convenient for emailing/tweeting/whatever in the bars in Crete, a tablet (e.g. iPad) might be a good compromise. More luggable than a laptop, but much easier to type on than a smartphone.

Jezcentral said...

I just want to make a point about being into bed with Apple. You'll find it very hard to get out again. Everything is tied to their iEverything. Their hardware is great, so if that's what's important, go for it.

I recently made the switch to Android, and it was a real headache. Any longer, though, amd I wouldn't havre thought it was worth the hassle. Okay, Android may be close to Google, but you can always find an App that does something the way you want to, e.g my Yahoo email.

At least this way, I can change my hardware provider with no problems. There was no way I was going to let myself be trapped into Apple products forever more. Much too proprietary and controlling for my tastes.

serjames said...

Firstly no Fan of iTunes myself, I think it's way too restrictive, hate the fact it needs to "take over" my PC.

But apart from the specific Aps, in what way does using an Apple device actually tie you to apple ?

Email can be any Pop or Imaps server - I use gmail on my iPhone.

Music can be via Spotify for instance, so no need for iTunes

Books - well, I use Stanza on the iPhone but since getting a Kindle haven't used it once (btw use calibre for that so no tie in to Amazon)

Not sure there is anything else, is there ?

Not against Android at all in fact my brother is a Googler, and if my work didn't insist I use an iPhone I would prefer the flexibility of the android system - but there does seem to be a public snobbery against apple devices, anyone else notice this ?

As before - I think you should have a go with a lightweight Tablet Neal, see if it suits you.

Afront said...

I would recommend an Android smartphone, as this would give the greatest flexibility of software and choice of device.

I want to be able to get onto the Internet in Internet bars and cafes. - all smartphones can do this as they all have built-in WiFi

I want to be able to twitter and send and receive emails when away from such access - all smartphones have 3G, so are effectively permanently on the internet. But if there's no signal, or you're in Crete and want to save on roaming data costs, there are apps such as Offline Tweet that let you write tweets while offline to send later.

I want to send all this stuff as text messages (which apparently discounts Virgin and T-Mobile as they are not carriers on Twitter) - not sure I understand this: do you mean a text message like an SMS?

I don’t want to have to type these tweets, blogs and emails through the keypad or touchscreen of the phone. - hmm, one option here would be to type them offline on your laptop, saving the text file to a shared folder. Then on your smartphone, use an app such as ES File Explorer to copy the file from the laptop to your phone. Then open the file and copy-paste the relevant bits into your twitter, blog & email clients. That's all a bit finicky though, so I'd look at that Offline Tweet app (and similar for email).

Hope that helps a bit - in summary, I don't think you can go wrong with an Android phone like the Samsung Galaxy S II.

Andrew said...

I would get an android pay as you go phone over there.

You would be able to copy files to the phone directly.

International roaming data costs a fortune, don't do it.

I spent £40 when I was in Crete on holiday in just 1 week checking work emails (I work for myself so do not have the luxury of leaving my work at home).

Neal Asher said...

Afront: I want to send all this stuff as text messages (which apparently discounts Virgin and T-Mobile as they are not carriers on Twitter) - not sure I understand this: do you mean a text message like an SMS?

Yes, the two I mention you can't use as carriers on Twitter for SMS texting.

Roger Schweingruber said...

iPhone - simple, easy to use, my parents are capable of using it (I had to switch them from Android to iPhone). Android is way to complicated and "fiddely". As IT consultant I'm working with both and I suggest iPhone. Be aware though that you will, at some point, have to install iTunes as well ;-)

Neal Asher said...

Good grief, I'm starting to go off the idea. Maybe an Android tablet - £50 on ebay.

bascule said...

3G Kindle?

DrBMBridge said...

I'm a total iAddict. I'd rather lose my left hand than my iPhone and our three year old can already operate our iPad to his heart's content. The iPhone inserted itself into pretty much every aspect of daily life seamlessly like a piece of Jain tech. I keep telling myself it's symbiotic not parasitic......
Seriously though, the reason the iThingies are so successful is they're primarily Designed for the user, not for what's inside the box. As the user and not the contents of the box that suits me just fine.

Antony said...

Don't get a cheap tablet, you'll end up regretting it as you really do get what you pay for.

Chrish said...

I bought an Orange San Francisco (ZTE Blade as it is actually called) for Anna for 120 euros,does the same as the much more expensive ones(most of them twice or three times as deer) she apparantly loves it, finds it very easy to operate and that says a lot....don't fall into the apple trap. And for messages: everyone uses Whatsapp these days cause it's free, sms is not. An app we really love is Google sky map, point your phone to the sky and you see all the stars and planets and the names of the constellations, nice toy!
You find typing on such a thing difficult? after a few days you don't notice it anymore imho...

Jools said...

Simple answer

Get an iPad, and a bluetooth keyboard. You can get a case with a built in keyboard and it'll be smaller than, say my hardback edition of 'The Skinner' (note to the author... my unsigned copy of said book...).

You'll get days of battery life out of it, and you'll have no problem with email, web, twitter clients, chat clients. And to all intents it'll mostly work.

Or, if you want to tinker, go for an android tablet, but dont consider anything less than an android 3.2 based tablet. There are loads of cheap android tablets out there and they really do suck.

Unknown said...

Some sort of android device will give you the greatest flexibility, particularly with linking to your laptop/pc for transferring stuff back and forth.
Don't go for cheap tablets, in time they will probably be commoditised enough to be useful, but nowadays you get what you pay for.
I don't get your comment about wanting to send tweets etc as text messages. They don't really crossover.
Apart from that, local payg sim with data and wifi access from the cafe should cover you for everything. Swype is fantastic for everything with the probably exception of the blogs. That will still be easier on a keyboard - certainly the initial entry anyway. The responses to comments could be easily done using swype and a smartphone or tablet.

Mason Loring Bliss said...

No one has mentioned the ASUS Eee PC. If lugging your laptop is a pain, this would be just the device. I love mine and have no qualms about taking it places where I'd dread lugging a full-sized laptop.

Of course, there's always the MacBook Air if you want something similar but possessed of far more swank.

ILTYT said...

You'll be doomed when you do... I see them on the train, in cafes, restaurants, bus stops, they're everywhere, they sit hunched index fingers extended sweeping left and right and poking, slack jawed, imbecilic, breathing heavily while the little shiny telly box tells them to obey, buy more credit, watch telly in eye squintingly small format, throw sticks at the building and watch it fall, or watch the little man drop from a great height to his death over and over and over again...

They think they're being sassy and smart and clever, but they're not, they're just a few short years from dribbling into their laps while the machines have them carry them everywhere, point them at all the best views and give them love.

Just look at the little suits of clothes they buy their machines, the bling covers, little rubber protective suits and the funky wires that get the machine closer to the brain.

It's like the Line of Polity, and the Dragon Corp Augs. Don't do it Neal you'll be lost... little angry birds flutter flutter fluttering in your head, twittering twittering telling you what to do... they're coming for us all, I need my tin foil hat today.

Olaf said...

Anything but Apple! I hate being locked into anything.

If you don't know how you would use one of these phones then I strongly suggest you steer clear of a contract no least for the roaming charges that have been mentioned by others.

I've a very cheap PAYG smartphone the Samsung Galaxy Europa (IS5500). You could pick up an unlocked on of them on Ebay for about £35 which would be a good way to try out the technology before you commit. You'll obviously get a higher performance used smartphone for more but the Europa is pretty good value. you'd probably need to get a little app to block the web traffic when you don't need it or it'll east away at your credit. I only ever use mine on wifi and it works fine.

It does sound like a tablet would suit your needs better. What about one of the Blackberry Playbooks. Much cheaper than anything by the fruit themed company.

Neal Asher said...

I'm now coming to the conclusion that it's a bit of a pointless exercise me getting a smartphone. I'm an SF writer who loves new technology but as far as such devices are concerned I waver between 'I really should have one of those' and 'What the hell do I want it for?' In the end the best result would be Internet up in the house on Crete, which I must investigate further.

daniel ware said...

Samsung galaxy s2. best phone i've ever had.

Jezcentral said...


No snobbery intended. Maybe things wil change with Steve Jobs gone, but their approach to serving their customer is a little too Orwellian for me. As I said the hardware is great, and I did recommend Neal get one.

However, itunes is a straightforward land-grab to tie in customers. Their control of the Apps Store is too tight (the person deciding about whether an App is passable should be me) and this extends to App development. The "Live Event" camera disabling software is just wrong, no matter how pie-in-the-sky it is. I could go on, but I don't wish to labour the point. I think it depends whether you value ease-of-use over freedom and and openness. I'm certainly not suggesting that you should automatically value the latter over the former for a mere mobile phone.

Oh, and auto-correct is better with an iphone.