Quick! To the GOOGLEPHONE!


I suppose for one day I can write about something that is NOT a pain in the @$$.  My new mobile phone (or cell, as I believe Americans still call them?) definitely qualifies. At least unless you try to type Scandinavian or other accented characters, which was a slightly nightmarish experience, albeit in the Kafka style rather than Dante and the burning sensation.  Luckily, I have very little to say that I don’t say in English.  When you are as weird as me, using a language with billions of readers is your best bet of being read at all!

To be honest, I was considering an Apple iPhone 3GS. They are cute, they are easy to use, and there is a lot of software available for them. Also, your girl next door knows them inside and out if you should get stuck (or just want an excuse to talk to the girl next door, for the male reader. Or writer.)  It so happens that the newest model was set to be released in Norway this past Friday.

On the other hand, I don’t really like Apple.  I have used their iTunes and found it clumsy, swollen and overbearing compared to Amarok for Linux, which I grew used to over the last year. I am also not happy with Apple several times a week trying to make me click “OK” on installing more of their software which I have never asked for, not to mention that they have actually installed a couple smaller programs without asking.  (Mobileme and Bonjour. Well, they may possibly have been mentioned, either by name or some generic description, deep in the legalese of the iTunes user agreement. I know I have never asked for them nor explicitly allowed them to install.)  This, and the frequent updates that all need to restart the computer, earns Apple a vote of Not Very Much Confidence from me. I know it is popular among girls however.  I guess we just value different things.

Even so, it was a near miss.  There just did not seem to be other phones that were close to my concept of the Datapad.  Regular readers may remember that I have written about this repeatedly in the past, most detailed in the entry Datapad 2010, written in the year 2000. It is an almost frighteningly prescient description of the iPhone. Or, as it happens, the HTC Hero, the newest and most powerful flagship of HTC’s series powered by the Android operating system made by Google and the open source community.

Like its smaller predecessor HTC Magic (Google Ion in the States), this gadget comes with some Google functionality built in by default. If you have a Google account, as I have, you can get your Gmail right to the phone, and check your Google calendar everywhere. You can read your favorite news sources through Google News.  And of course you can always search for whatever phrase you need the final word on.

But not content with Google, the phone also comes with one-touch access to Twitter, Facebook, MySpace as well as Ebay and Amazon.com, not to forget Wikipedia.  I’m actually on Twitter, although it is mostly a symbolic presence, telling whether or not I am at work and such. (I block any followers whose handles I don’t recognize, btw.)  Facebook?  Don’t you need an invitation for that?  I am not sure what I would do with it even if I had it.  I use LiveJournal, which I had to add manually, but it was not a pain in the posterior to do so, once I had typed a couple hundred characters altogether so had an idea of how to hit the on-screen keyboard correctly.

How many ways does it connect to the Internet?  Not quite enough. I want it to also access the Internet through a PC when connected by USB cable to synchronize.  It does not. Boo! You may think you don’t need to when you actually have a computer right there accessing the Internet. But the thing is, I would want to quickly refresh Twitter, mail, calendar etc before unplugging and moving away from the computer.  I can’t see any way to do that.

On the other hand, it does connect to wireless networks that are either open or to which you have a WEP key. And it does connect through the various mobile-phone networks normally available.  I am switching to a mobile broadband plan for it.  It is actually probably more expensive than just paying for actual use for me, since I have wireless at home, but having a fixed predictable expense is still a way to make life less complicated.  I have had enough of the time of surprising phone bills. Sometimes surprising me with hundreds of dollars back before the age of broadband.  Simplicity over thrift, at least on a small scale.

While you can’t use your computer to give your phone Internet access (as far as I can see), you CAN use your phone to give Internet access to your computer.  If the speed is good, I may well do this and do away with the wireless broadband modem on the laptop.

Of course it comes with a built-in GPS receiver so you can find out exactly where you are, should you get lost.  (Just combine it with Google Maps, which covers most of the civilized world and probably then some.) This may serve me well if I am healthy enough to take that trip to Oslo in 10 days.  Though I am not sure about that right now, and what with the swine flu… but that’s not today’s topic. GPS requires free sky and takes a toll on the battery, but it is there when you need it. And when you need GPS, you REALLY need it.  It may come down to either that or asking someone for directions, and a man can’t do that.  It hurts us in the man-thing. Anyway, even without using the Global Positioning System, you can get your bearings using data from the mobile network base stations.  It also gives you the local weather forecast.

There is the usual multi-mega-pixel camera which you don’t need and which should probably have been illegal (in Japan mobile phones are required to make a loud sound when taking pictures. I will leave the reason for this to your imagination.)

Oh, and you can probably use it to talk with, too.  I haven’t tried. Who in their right mind would TALK to their telephone? Perhaps one day when it can automatically transcribe it and post it to Twitter.

Oh, and about that iPhone 3GS? It was sold out the first day.  I strongly suspect this was arranged by only supplying a moderate quantity, so they could get the “SOLD OUT WITHIN HOURS” headlines. Free marketing, and not even obviously from them!  Anyway, by the merest of coincidence the HTC Hero came into the shop the very same day!  Providence, surely? In any case, the Datapad 2010 has arrived, a year early.  See you on the bitstream!