June 24, 2010


   I thought I might review something other than a movie today. I recently bought a new cell phone. In truth this is the only phone I have paid more than $20 for. I purchased a MyTouch Slide from HTC and T-Mobile.
   All told the phone cost me about $150 after mail in rebate. Honestly not that bad considering that only a few years ago $150 only bought you a cell phone with some limited music playback. A few years before that all it got you was a color screen. At the time I got my first cell phone (at least one that I didn't share with anyone else) $150 got you very little over what you could get in a free phone model.
   The Slide is a phone built around the Android operating system. It really is one of many similar phones. Android, for anyone who doesn't know, is a phone operating system that was designed from the ground up to provide users with something very capable of connecting you to the internet at any time and provide you with full web capability. It has done very well at this end up to date. The main competitor it has is the iPhone which should be familiar to everyone (even my mom).
   My particular phone was built around the idea of creating an "entry level" smartphone. I don't exactly know what makes one smartphone or another entry level. Perhaps the easiest tell is the price tag, though that is ever changing. In truth there is VERY little difference from one Android phone to another. For the most part they all operate very similar and can run very similar programs. For instance, my phone is very adept at running a program designed to turn the LED flash on a Motorola Droid into a flashlight. That being said, internally phones now resemble computers and as we are all familiar with these days some computers just have more power. The Slide falls pretty average on the power scale. It is roughly comparable to the iPhone 3GS or the Motorola Droid.
   Why did I get the slide when I could have got a Droid or an iPhone? Couple of reasons. First of all the Slide looks very nice. Honestly in aesthetics I give it an A. I purchased it in red. In my view it just looks nicer than a Droid. It has round edges. It has a large screen with a black frame that contrasts nicely with the red body.
   The Slide also has a slide out keyboard (thus the name). Now this is fairly important to me. Anyone who spends a lot of time using a phone knows that whatever the input device it needs to be comfortable. I spent a lot of time looking at many phones with many types of keyboards, including many with only a touch screen keyboard (like the iPhone). For the most part they all give me a lot of problems. They are uncomfortable to use or hard to figure out. This phone has large keys with excellent spacing. It has 2 shift keys. I have found it easy to use for long periods of time. I have already on at least one occasion held a lengthy chat session with a friend. I am unaware if he knew I was using my phone at all.
   The keyboard was not just a consideration for me. I also got one for Stephanie. I knew that whatever the new phone I got was going to be I needed to have a lot of accommodations for the wife. She is prone to typing a lot online and I figured it must have a good keyboard or she would not want it.
   In addition to the slide-out keyboard the phone also has a new technology for on screen typing called Swype. Swype is a simple keyboard that you drag your finger across letters to spell words. It uses recognized patterns to determine what you are typing. It was so intuitive I had it figured out in about 60 seconds.
   The Slide was also listed as one of the first devices to get the upgrade to Android 2.2. I would be lying if that didn't factor into my decision a lot. If they had not made that promise I would have waited until something came out that DID have 2.2. It may not mean anything but in short Android 2.2 is an operating system update that was more or less designed to make everything perform better and faster. With an entry level product I was concerned with life cycle. I didn't want to purchase something that would, in a year or so, become some slow that it would become unusable. You can probably relate. Have you ever bought a computer that seemed really great when you turned it on the first time but then after a year or so it started to seem sluggish? I want to avoid that with the phone since we won't be eligible for a discounted upgrade for 2 years from the time we buy the thing.
   So, if HTC does their job right then after we get used to our phones we'll get this fancy new upgrade for free that will increase the speed of the phones down the road a few months. It will suddenly feel as if we are getting a new phone.
   Now a lot of people may wonder if the speed increase will be that noticeable. From all accounts, both from the developers and outside testers, the average speed increase for Java based applications (the apps all run as Java apps) is something like 4.2 times faster that the current version. This type of speed increase typically never happens in software systems. Usually speed is increased in percentages not multiples.
   Another sales point to me is the wireless internet package from T-Mobile. I know there are a lot of T-Mobile haters around but it is hard to argue that they have reasonably priced internet access from mobile devices. $30 per month for unlimited access. Right around the market average. It's better than AT&T in that it is unlimited. Soon, it may be one of the leading wireless networks in the country as they roll out their new HSPA+ system. Once it is rolled out it will provide people like me speeds that other carriers can only achieve in 4th generation wireless telecommunications systems, which so far come with an additional price tag. Again, this fits my plan to have a phone that will get faster AFTER we have been using it for a while.
   In relation to the internet the web browser works great. It will load just about any page I have tried. It will even load Flash elements on pages.
   Probably the thing I like about this phone best is that it is customizable like my laptop. Like my laptop I can make it my own by adding a wallpaper and some shortcuts to folders and programs and such. It makes the whole system seem very much like it belongs to me. My previous phone was a Nokia. One of the things that impressed me most about it was how it allowed me to make the home screen whatever I wanted by adding shortcuts and small programs (like a countdown timer that I use almost every day) to it. I could put up a picture I took or put on the phone as a wallpaper. At one point I took a photo of my laptop's desktop picture so that both my phone and laptop had the same photo. I like that Android allows this kind of user configuration.
   Many will argue that an iPhone is better because of this or that. I won't argue with you. I have used an iPhone or 2. They are great phones. Seriously, they are great phones. I'm not saying my phone is better than an iPhone. In truth I get tired of people comparing them.
   One comparison I will make. Since iPhones are only available for AT&T I would just put in that the call quality is not good enough. If you have an iPhone I prefer you call me from a landline so I can hear more than half of what you say. iPhone or another phone I want to hear what you are saying and for some reason it is difficult for me to understand people on AT&T.
   So, if you are in the market for a new phone the message of todays writing is simply to say, I like the MyTouch Slide from T-Mobile. I recommend you look at one.