Well, the time came last week. After several years of service, and a valiant attempt to stay in service even with illness and infirmity, there was nothing to do but go for retirement, and let a replacement take over.
Wait – No, not me! I’m talking about my trusty Sony Ericsson T616, of course. A bit of gadget babble follows. You’ve been warned: It is a wonderful phone, and of course, being the conservative (read: boring old) person that I am, I pretty much wanted the same phone again. Of course, progress (as they ironically call it) meant that it can no longer be found in any store, so I tried to find whatever phone Sony Ericsson had made to replace it. (Side note: I’m waiting a few years for the iphone to get to a sensible price and go through an update or two before I go in that direction.) They’ve made some good-looking ones with excellent specs – proper grown-up looking phones with grown up capabilities. Not hip toys for the (post post) MTV generation, you understand. They’re fine (and often full of great features too, I know), but just not me.
Does my phone company (AT&T) do them? Strangely, not any more, and hardly any others, as far as I could see. Meanwhile, you can get them in Europe all over the place (what with their being so far ahead on these things, as usual), which is really no use to me here. So this put me into a bit of a haze for a few days since I really don’t want to go the way of the cutesy flip phone – like one of those RAZR, KRZR, etc., models that everybody -and I mean everybody- seems to be getting. I’m not a huge fan of flip phones in general (I went through that phase a while ago) and furthermore a lot of them seem more like toys than tools, and there’s something about the key technology and spacing that they use that mean that I can’t text at the rate that I like to. For communication, I want to make calls and text fast. Those have to be working right before anything else, and non-flip phones feel better for texting, for a start. Also, flip phones just make me feel like I’m calling my buddies to go to the bar or beach or something. Feels wrong at work. It all feels so… extracurricular. So I’m a non-flip (I’ve heard the phrase “candy bar”, I think?) phone man. And the more simple straight lines in the design, the better.
The high street phone market right now seems to be split into two. There’s those sorts of cutesy flip phones (not that there’s anything wrong with them!!!) which are being pushed a lot with special deals and the like, and then there’s the phones that they want to push at the “professional” market, for which they hugely jack up the prices. Sadly, those latter are the ones with the aesthetic that I prefer – non-flip, a bit sober-looking (frankly) while still more or less tastefully designed. More tool than toy in the looks department, you see. That is where you will find the Blackberry Pearl, alongside the big fat dinner-plate Blackberrys, which I’ll pass on, and some other stuff like that. And then of course, the iphone, which is simply wonderful, but too rich for my blood.
I sense a conspiracy between RIM (the Blackberry people – and yes there is the physics connection through the Perimeter Institute) and Apple (the iphone people) on the one hand, and between the phone companies on the other, to carve up the “professional” market between them, and so this is why those Sony Ericsson phones were dropped. They had a good price range, and were sensibly designed (more tool than toy), and did not cost an arm and a leg. Now the only phones of that sort are mostly Blackberry or iphone. It’s a conspiracy.
Ok. Bear in mind that this ill-researched summary is based on a couple of visits to stores, and then maybe an evening or two on the web looking around and getting frustrated. Wine way have been involved in my careful thinking about the problem. Heapings of salt should be taken here, but those are my impressions.
Anyway, there was actually a solution. Amazon are selling some phones that you can’t get on the high street or from your phone company’s website, but allowing you to put it on to a contract with your company all the same. As far as I can tell, it is essentially older phones that the companies used to sell but discontinued, and somehow they are allowing Amazon to still sell them for them. Huh. And guess what? One of the successors to the T616 is on sale there (but actually for free – so I lose nothing at all: the benefits of not buying the very latest stuff). It is the Sony Ericsson W810i.
It is very similar in look and feel to the lovely T616, but with several improvements (and a few steps backward). On the latter point, it is a bit more plasticy-feeling than the T616, but I’ve got used to that. It also has some silly orange colouring on two of its buttons for reasons I cannot comprehend – and let’s pretend that it does not have “walkman” written down one side (sigh… after all that talk about more tool than toy… phones from the “T” series is more sober, but not available here). On the other hand, it has the same well laid-out keys with a nice response, clear screen, excellent menu structure, seamless bluetooth communication with apple laptops for synchronization of data and file transfer, a vastly improved camera (2Mpixels now, and it can take video), proper calendars, alarms, and address books for keeping appointments and contacts and the like. I presume it talks to my palm, although I’ve not tested it yet. Voice recognition of course. But then there’s all this completely new stuff (compared to the other phone) that’s great. It plays audio files (and maybe video files?), and so I can put music on it (good, because my aging ipod’s battery issues are just so annoying I hardly use it without my computer nearby for additional power), and podcasts of shows (like From Our Own Correspondent, This American Life, Mark Kermode’s Film Reviews, Broadcasting House, NewsPod… Hurrah!) for listening on the bus to work. [Update: It also has amazingly good speakers crammed in there too, so you can listen to the audio files out loud, if you choose and the radio like it's a radio... and of course put calls on speakerphone if so desired - brilliant.] It has a memory card slot to allow you to expand the storage of the phone by quite a bit, and use it to transport data. (It has got all the multimedia communication, web browsing, and gaming stuff on it too, but that will go completely unused, I’m betting. I don’t really do video games, and the other stuff….eh, as they say. (Ok. I can see that I might use the web browser, but direct web costs more than I’m prepared to pay for it right now, so that’ll be off. I can wait until I’m at a computer.))
But you know what I love most of all in the additional features? Something that it always annoys me is not more often put into these devices? Something I’m passionate about, because of a huge old-fashioned streak? – It has a radio!
I think this’ll do for a few years…