Apr 08

Snatch and Grab iPhone theft (Part 2) suggests a ‘stupid-smartphone’ should be the replacement

As a previous blog (http://bit.ly/H94hrq) related, my iPhone was recently ripped from my hands by two ‘gentlemen’ on a motorbike in Tel Aviv .  This has obliged an unwanted re-think about what should be the replacement, with unexpected initial conclusions.  While the easiest solution is clearly another iPhone, that increasingly looks the least likely option.  Instead, the concept of a ‘stupid-smartphone’ comes into focus (not that such an oddity seems yet to exist).

The case against the iPhone boils down to a mix of price and the iTunes (especially app) eco-system lock-in, with perhaps a hint of it is time for something new (Apple beware – hubris stalks).  I still have my old iPhone, and initially thought of using that — but, as it is of the 3G generation, it cannot run iOS 5.  This is a major problem.  Indeed am not even sure what would happen if I did connect the iPhone 3G to the iTunes I used for the now gone iPhone 4 — but I am 99% clear that something would have to give, dictated by Apples’s choices rather than mine.  Thus the case for no new iPhone continues to grow, even if it means I will take both financial and practical hits when losing the apps that I had run on that iPhone.

There is, however, an additional and more fundamental reason for not re-signing up for an iPhone.  When I first bought that now elderly 3G it was mind-opening in what it could do.  Being able to communicate (email and talk and sms) and research (use the Safari browser) as well as run apps when on the move was a revelation.  Moving up to an iPhone 4 made perfect sense.

But then the iPad arrived.  I waited, until buying one seemed to make sense.  Almost immediately my habits changed.  The iPhone was no longer my first choice for checking email, researching/browsing and running apps. Within days (not even weeks) the iPad had supplanted the iPhone as the mobile device of choice, except of course for phone calls and for the data plan that came with the iPhone.  In effect the iPhone became just a phone — with additional sophisticated capabilities that I could use only if I needed, which was less and less often.  The acquisition of both an Android and a Windows tablet (both touch screen) confirmed this impression: the iPhone had become an expensive device where only a minimum of its capabilities were often used — of which the principle ones were general communication-enablement (voice and sms) and size (as in, it fit in a pocket).

Now I am without the iPhone I am not as bereft as I would have been 2 years ago.  After a fortnight of studying what is available my initial inclination was to go for a Windows Phone.  I already like Windows 8 on the Fujitsu Q550 tablet as well as Windows 8 Consumer Preview (Win8PC) on a PC.  If Microsoft can deliver what it discussed at the Win8CP launch at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona in February — namely the ability to sync across all phone, tablet and PC Win8– this will be a major benefit.  If apps on a Windows Phone can run as apps on a Win8 tablet and even (like gadgets or widgets) on full Win8, that would be a real bonus.  Of course whether this will work as described will remain an unknown for some months, or longer …

In addition, and this applies to Android as much, nearly all the functionality in those iPhone apps is available on Windows Phone.  It may not be the same app or provider but there are few apps that really matter which are unique to the iPhone platform.  Yes, paying again is necessary.  But platform portability across hardware vendors has a major attraction (some lock-in is inevitable).  Yet my analysis has moved on further …

Now back to the stupid-smartphone (the name was suggested by Oshrat Nir of Amdocs when we were discussing telephone companies and how it would be so positive if they understood that they should no no longer be in the ‘running a network business’ but instead be in the ‘facilitating communications business’).  What I am concluding is that I do not need a top-rated, high-power smartphone any longer. What I do need is a phone which has some smartphone characteristics, but not everything that an iPhone or an ICS Android phone or even a full Windows Phone 7.5 offers.  Thus far my list of requirements includes:

  • making voice calls (be a phone)
  • exploiting a data plan with connections — in effect tethering and acting as a router for both WiFi and 3G or 4G connections  so that tablets, PCs and other devices can exploit one phone-company connection without each device having to have its own data contract (this concept should have worked a treat for me at MWC, except that Movistar (Telefonica) and Orange Spain were not competent enough to provide data services at the mobile world’s premier event — see http://bit.ly/yot7jY)
  • a decent browser, which means reasonable size and quality screen presentation (but nothing as good as Retina or AMOLED alternatives)
  • some limited, specific applications (including email, contact management, etc)
  • a camera, but not a high quality or sophisticated one (more for reference than anything); 2 generations back would suffice
  • some form of entertainment (for music, radio, podcasts, etc. — but probably not video or TV, where tablets excell)
  • limited storage (best of all would be some form of high speed microSD that could move between machines).

Pretty much everything else that I would want should run or be on a tablet or PC (whether Win 7 or 8 or OS X or Linux).  In effect the processing power and storage needed in a smartphone reduces to become Ashrot’s ‘stupid-smartphone’.  Likely such limited capabilities (by comparison with what is available today) would be significantly cheaper (as well as be less attractive to thieves in Tel Aviv, or anywhere else) plus reflect my real needs, and not the one the manufactuers and carriers want to sell me.

Sadly the obvious immediate candidate is that iPhone 3G.  But the inflexibilities of Apple and iTunes render that a non-starter, plus the battery is no longer up to it (not surprising after almost 4 years).  Whether my replacement phone  will be a Windows Phone or an Android one remains moot.  I do not think I need to make a decision for 2-3 months.  But I am increasingly sure that a lesser device will be more appropriate than the laatest phone device.  I suspect that the same will apply to most people working with tablets in enterprises.  As before, watch this space

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