Monday, May 03, 2010

My Ideal Cell Phone: Specs

OK, so a number of years back (in 2006), I put out specs for my ideal automobile, updated the post later in the year with a progress report... then gave up on the idea of anything happening soon, and settled for buying a 20-year-old diesel Mercedes wagon to run on biodiesel. Since then, Mercedes has announced plans for a new diesel-electric hybrid car at some point in the future, as has Volvo and others... and I followed up with specifications for the ideal plug-in biodiesel hybrid wagon... but I since announced that there are lots of poor options when it comes to new cars, and lots of great options when it comes to new bicycles...including the bakfiets, the station wagon of bicycles. You pretty much have to go to Europe to get a decent car right now with good gas mileage that is biodiesel-capable.

So, enough about transportation. I've tried to make a difference, and maybe I have, but these things take time.

Right now, I'd like to turn my attention to the cell phone. There have been a lot of advances in cell phone technology recently, and indeed, there seem to be a lot of decent phones on the market right now.

But.... BUT... my personal cell phone is now at least five years old. Verizon has been offering to give me a free new phone of my choice for at least the past three years, and I keep turning them down.


It's not that all new phones stink... it's just that none of them actually meet all of my specifications, and I keep hoping that the right phone will be released in the next two years, so I might as well wait for it. Besides, my current phone (an old Audiovox) works just fine, with decent battery life, good call quality and reception, and the ability to take photos and video, send and receive text, picture and video messages, and even do some rudimentary web surfing and gaming (i.e., tetris and chess).

So, without further ado... what would it take to get me to upgrade? Here's the list:
  • It needs to work on the Verizon network, native, with full support. I hate AT&T, having done business with them a number of times in the past and had to endure their monopolistic thinking and shoddy customer service. I won't do it again. I've been with Verizon since they used to be called AirTouch, and aside from their politics, I see no reason to leave (though, Working Assets/Credo Mobile might start looking more attractive if Verizon keeps supporting the Blue Dog Democrats)...
  • It needs to offer at least 120 gigabytes of on-board storage capacity, and preferably closer to 200 gigs -- or more. I'd like to just take all of my music and a lot of my movies, plus some of my photos, with me when I'm mobile. Why should I have to limit myself to a certain sub-set of my collection? The technology now exists and is quite cheap to just give it all to me when I'm on the go.
  • It should have a 4+ megapixel digital camera built it, with an actual physical zoom lens (3x minimum), a decent flash, and decent night-time photography capabilities (this is apparently mainly a software thing now). I'd love to have a physical viewfinder, but... I could live without it if one feature had to get cut. It should, in short, be a good digital camera... not the best, but it should certainly be competitive with the best compact digital cameras circa, say, 2004 or 2005...
  • It needs to plug in to a standard USB port for synching, but it should act as a standard external drive when plugged in, with no funny business with regards to copy protection, digital rights management, or any of that bullshit. Let me use it how I want to use it, that's why I'm paying money for it -- keep your corporate paws out of my private business.
  • It should be an excellent music player, with the ability to support noise-cancelling headphones, either corded or via bluetooth, and excellent sound reproduction, including transfer of frequencies from 10hz to 200khz, that is, just outside both edges of human hearing -- just in case I decide to plug it into something other than headphones that may have the ability to actually reproduce those frequencies.
  • It should be an excellent cell phone, with perfect call quality when service is good, the ability to operate either in digital or analog mode, the ability to switch modes on the fly without dropping a call in order to achieve top call quality, and the ability to operate on any network in the world that uses any technology currently in use by cell phones.
  • It should have decent battery life, that is, the ability to talk for a few hours, or listen to music for a few hours, and then be in standby for a few days, on a single charge. I don't have unrealistic expectations for this, and I'm certainly fine if I need to plug it in when I go to sleep every second, third or fourth night depending on how much I use it -- but at least out of the box, I shouldn't have to plug it in every night, and I certainly shouldn't need to plug it in more than once a day (unless I'm using it for like eight hours straight for battery-intensive operations).
  • It should be good at surfing the web, at least as good as the iPhone is currently, and be able to view some version of all standard web pages, not just the "mobile version."
  • I think it probably should also support Flash. It should be MY decision, not the decision of Steve Jobs, if I want to take the risk of running Flash. Maybe I should have to sign a disclaimer saying that I know I'm an idiot if I want to do this, but then, I should still be able to do it. Please, just let me be my own idiot when it comes to installing and running programs on my device that, technically, should be able to run on that device just fine.
  • It should be able to run a variety of other applications, within reason (i.e. I don't expect to be able to run a full-fledge GIS on it, but a slim version of Google Earth might be nice).
  • It should have the standard accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, GPS, and other functions that any modern iPhone or competitor now has, and the ability to use them.
  • It should be tough. Like Dvorak has suggested, "make the thing out of tungsten. Drop it, and it would break the floor. Tungsten has a great finish. People will ask, "wow, it's actually made from tungsten?"" Or, you know, find some other way to make it really tough, and hard to break... I don't care if it's tungsten, titanium, aluminum, or just stainless steel. I've dropped my current phone dozens of times, on a variety of surfaces. It's a flip-phone... that's one of the reasons I like the flip-phone design. The thing just takes it and keeps working, and it's made out of plastic. Give me a reason to pay $50 more for something that will last a long time (like a MacBook Pro laptop or a Mercedes), and I will.
  • Maybe it should have night-vision camera capabilities. That would be cool... or even just the ability to hold it up and see the night-vision view on the screen. OK, that's maybe just a cool idea for an app, I don't quite understand all the technology involved. That's not a requirement.
  • It should definitely have the ability to run a powerpoint show (via some dongle that, say, plugs into its USB or monitor out port and into a standard VGA cable) or even show movies via a projector or TV. After all, it will be able to hold dozens of movies on its massive HD, why not allow you to watch them on a full-size screen?
  • It should have an average-size screen. The screen on the iPhone is fine. In fact, the dimensions of the iPhone are about perfect. It could even be a little bit thicker, to accommodate more battery and more storage device (hard drive, flash drive, whatever works best). Not TOO much thicker, but a few more millimeters wouldn't be a deal-killer.
  • It should be tough. Did I say that already? If it gets dropped, I don't want anything breaking, including the screen. MAKE IT TOUGH. I'll pay extra. I need to make that clear. Also, just build it to last -- don't skimp on the components, go for the high-quality stuff. But, within reason. I'd pay $400 for such a device, maybe even $500 with a good warranty... but not much more... so, be really smart about the design and manufacturing...
OK, that's a pretty long list, so I'll quit while I'm ahead. I think you get the picture. Comments are open and welcome.


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