What phone reviews don’t tell me

As regular readers here will know, I use a Nokia E72 as my main phone; it has a reliable, robust operating system in Symbian S60, and does pretty much all the things that I need of it. What it doesn’t do so well is browse the web.

For that, I sometimes use an iPod touch, which while effective for some things, drives me to distraction at times; iOS5 has made it a little better, but I’m still not convinced that it would suit me as a way to operate a telephone.

So what do I want from a phone, and which platform is going to give it to me? The first part is easy to answer, and that’s what most of this post is about.

The second is trickier, and I’d love to hear from people with experience of different platforms about how they handle some of these things, or if they’re actually possible. I very much like the design of the new Nokia Lumia, but can Windows Phone do all the things I want? Can Meego on the N9? Or Android? Or should I just carry on as I am until one of the platforms has matured enough?

I’ve read plenty of reviews of the latest phones, like the N9, or the Lumia 800, and various Android devices, and I’m none the wiser.

Here’s what’s important to me on a phone:

Good call handling

In my view, S60 is excellent at this. My address book is divided into groups, and every person is on a group like ‘VIP’, ‘Family’, ‘Friends’, ‘Work’ and so on. Each group has its own ring tone, so I know when the phone starts making a noise what sort of call it is likely to be.

And Nokia’s ‘Profiles’ allows me to handle things intelligently; the phone simply won’t make a noise unless the caller is in one of the groups, so I don’t get pestered by wrong numbers. The ‘Private’ profile additionally alerts me only to calls from ‘Family’ and ‘VIP’, and makes no noise for texts.

So, I can give my number to anyone; and a weirdo I met in a bar can call whenever he likes, or my bank can text a statement at some ungodly hour, and it won’t wake me up. But the phone can stay on, and the people for whom I’d be prepared to get out of bed in the middle of the night can always reach me. That’s standard Nokia functionality for S60; it’s augmented by an app called ‘Handy Profiles’ which automatically switches the phone to the ‘Private’ profile at around 11pm, and back again at 9.30am.

This is functionality I really don’t want to lose if I switch to a different platform.

Good VoIP support

My phone system at home uses VoIP, with standards-based SIP. That’s long been built into Symbian too, and it means that when I’m working in someone’s office, my E72 connects back to the phone system over the net; people just have to ring my usual number, and I’ll get their call; and I can call out from the phone via the home number too. It also saves a fortune in roaming fees.

Best of all, it’s properly integrated with the main phone book, not a bodged add-on. I can select a number and just press ‘Net call’ to call that way if I want. The voicemail button asks me if I want the mobile voicemail or my home voicemail. It’s about as seamless as it can get. Perhaps not quite a deal breaker, but a standards-based SIP client that uses the main phonebook is very important to me.

Excellent email

For email, I don’t use the standard Nokia app, but instead use the wonderful Profimail from LonelyCatGames. This is a brilliant IMAP email client, which lets me have all three of my main email accounts on the phone; it lets me hide IMAP folders that I don’t often use, but still access them when I need to. I can have different signatures for every account, and filter rules too, if I need them.

The IMAP support in iOS doesn’t even come close, in my view; it’s particularly annoying having to scroll through a list of hundreds of folders to get to the one I want. And I don’t want to have to switch email away from my self-hosted IMAP server.

Compromises

Needless to say, better browsing than I get on the E72 is probably the main reason for wanting to change phone; a larger screen will help, and so would touch – though having a real keyboard is also something I appreciate at the moment, for the speed and accuracy of composing messages. I’d like to know how well other platforms trade these things off.

I do have some apps like the Zipcar and Ocado app on my iPod touch, and they’re kinda nice to have – but given how often I use them, I’m not actually convinced that it’s essential. I have absolutely sod all interest in playing games, except maybe a bit of Mah Jong from time to time.

It’s nice to have apps like PuTTY, so that I can do emergency server tweaks from the phone, but I imagine pretty much any platform will let me do that sort of things.

It’s those three main things I mentioned above that are the most important to me – proper call handling and filtering, voip support, and great email. Those are how my E72 helps me keep in touch, and on top of things. And they’re also the elements that are all too often glossed over in reviews of phones, in favour of information about what media formats can be played, or how many apps there are to download, and so on.

So, if any readers can tell me if their favourite phone platforms can do the things my E72 does, please let me know.

10 thoughts on “What phone reviews don’t tell me

  1. On my Android (2.3) powered Sony Ericsson Xperia X10i the SIP functionality integrates really well – if I go into the phone book and try calling a number it asks “Internet Call” or “Mobile Call” – can also receive calls as well, but as the WiFi is always powered it drains the (already pathetic) battery too fast. The T-Mobile firmware also has the option to enable “National Data Roaming” so that syncing still works when you are on Orange UK, but not if you are on SFR for instance.

    I also have the Tasker application installed – this means my mobile is on silent at night time, and the volume is lowered when it sees my work wireless network (Tasker can do loads of stuff like that actually)
    A couple of the more complex examples I have even created are
    – a shortcut which turns the GPS on, disables WiFi, disables Auto Sync, turns the volume to full, turns the backlight to full then launches the sat nav app.
    – When it detects my cars bluetooth headset is connected, disables wifi to preserve battery life.
    – Lower the volume, if it’s above a certain level, when I plug a headset in

    Can’t comment on the IMAP client as I use Google Mail which works wonderfully, also don’t use phone book groups either.

    I find the Swype Keyboard works wonderfully well – seams very odd using it at first though!

  2. N9 will do all the stuff you want and has terminal for ssh/ putty ect.

    As for Profimail, cant see a Qt version yet but if you must have it then maybe the E6 would be better.

    1. That’s interesting; I looked at the manual via the FCC site, and there was nothing in there about assigning callers to groups, or creating your own profiles.

  3. For further info on the N9, goto talk.maemo.org.

    Some of the Nokia engineers hang out there and will be someone who can answer your queries.

  4. I’ve always used Nokia Series 40 phones as they are the only ones that allow me to cross reference the phone-book when I’m in the calendar. I run my life from my phone and so being able to set a reminder for a meeting, call or birthday in my phone in seconds is essential. I tried symbian (Series 60) and gave up after 2 weeks as it lacked so much that the Series 40 can do.

  5. Nokia N8 is probably your best bet. It took a few of them before I got a good one but this one is quite good. I wouldn’t necessarily always update to the latest firmware though as Nokia often screws up their phones big style. They don’t support macs much either so if your network doesn’t provide an OTA update if you have a mac you’re knackered.

  6. After reading this, I would strongly suggest either a Nokia E7, or Nokia N8 which would both pretty well meet your needs.

    Personally, I’d pick the E7, because I’m not all that interested in the N-series consumer apps pre-installed. The E-series (business series) has not yet let me down in the past couple of years.

    Also, the E7 has full support for SIP profiles.

  7. I use a Google Nexus One, I admit that profiles aren’t something that I use, I kind of miss diary related profiles that I had in Windows years ago. But I do have Timeriffic which allows me to schedule activities like switching ringing profiles. Plus I use CyanogenMod firmware instead of stock, this is more optimised. GO! SMS and Phone book allow custom alert profiles, it also has custom groups, but I only have two people profiled. I automatically set the phone to airplane mode at night to avoid being disturbed. android phones support SIP but UI functionality varies in quality.

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