Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Best smartphone design for the 2020s

Getting tired of those smartphones that never live up to your expectations. I'm with you. That is why I've taken it upon myself to design my own smartphone..In fact I'm ready to do into production. The first step is to recognise where the competitors get it right; then to twig them where they screw up. So here is my list of my core needs:
1. Android 4.1 - Its a great OS - well done Google
2. GPS - this is a great feature - I love recording place locations, though I wish there was better software for managing locations; not just contacts. This is where software developers are failing us. Geospatial data is the next Facebook...just giving you applications developers a heads-up. I love having a Garmin in my phone...saves me $200 and I travel light.
3. Wifi - A standard feature but noteworthy because its so important.
4. QWERTY keyboard - At the risk of being perceived as stuck in the past; I just can't type as fast with the other digital options. The problem is that existing QWERTY options just don't live up to their promise. Blackberry is big on QWERTY but it has a small screen and no Android option.
5. Just basically everything the Samsung Galaxy III has because it basically does everything.

I am really looking to enter into a joint venture with Samsung on this because they are the closest to what I want. The Samsung Galaxy III is a great phone....so let me just add my problems that my JV with Samsung will resolve. Here are the issues - actually there is just one issue.
1. No keyboard. Now there is a good reason probably, but let me suggest a solution. A QWERTY keyboards on a smartphone result in a shrunken screen size. Now, some phone like Motorola's and Sony-Ericson's Xperia Lite place a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. I don't like these because they have a distorting impact on their balance or weight distribution, and they are too crowding on the thumbs used to type. The impact is that you can't type in any position, and not quickly. Currently I am stuck using old Nokia software and its underpowered phone to get the battery life and keyboard combination I like. I often type when I'm lying down, so  slide-outs fail. Some of them also obstruct keys with the slide-attachment. The solution is to have a fixed landscape mode with an extended (longer) keyboard; much like a game controller. The Samsung Galaxy S III would be a perfect size for such a keyboard, since it would not crowd my thumbs, and a half-landscape screen would allow me to read books, type notes, edit files, even if there is restricted depth to the screen. Its not the same as a laptop, but that's ok, its not a laptop. Most importantly I want to be able to type quickly. The bigger 4.8 inch screen should at least give me reasonable depth to my landscape  screen.
2. Under development...commercial in confidence.

I'll let you know when Samsung comes back to me with terms. Basically, we will be looking at calling it the Shelsung (Sheldon-Samsung) Sheldon-lite after its designer; with some recognition of Samsung's good taste. Because its such a good phone, we will happily pay $1200 for it, and it will last 5 years because it will preserve its functionality thanks to Google's software interface.

------------------------------------ Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lenovo Thinkpad Edge - This might be my favourire notebook ever

There is a plethora of laptops being offered to consumers these days as well as tablets. I frankly think in Australia and NZ people are being offered really poor products in their local retailers such as Dick Smith, Harvey Norman, Noel Leeming, and others. I ended up buying a laptop in the Philippines - a Lenovo Thinkpad Edge. This was after I mistakenly bought a Sony Vaio. The mistake was neglecting a 'key' keyboard feature. Usually I will test the keys; but on this occasion I did not notice the small Shift key. Now most models will have a Shift key on both sides of the laptop. However if you are left-handed, you might not appreciate that this key is often smaller than on the right.
Another annoying attribute of many brands (Acer, Toshiba, Samsung, and others) is that they offer you an array of keys on the right side of the keyboard. These will only make it hard for you to type fast, and result in miskey strokes, as well as reducing the size of the keys. If you are anything like me, you will never use these keys. Another important feature is the size of the backspace key. You want also as big as possible if you make typing mistakes, it becomes the most important key to find.
The Acer keyboards also have this annoyingly thin key design which means if you are typing fast, you might actually lift a key off. I've had this happen before, where you get your finger stuck under a key. Avoid those designs. My AWARD for the best keyboard and all-round design is the Lenovo Thinkpad - I bought the Edge, but also take a look at their website for the T-series and X-series. I wanted to find one for my partner. But the thing to do is to look at overseas stores for close-up photos. You can see the Dell-like shopping cart in New Zealand and Australia.

You might struggle to find these computers in-store. This is not because they are poor products; its because the retailers want to offer you rubbish that they can get the highest mark-ups on, and knowing that, once you open the seal, you are stuck with it. Don't make this mistake. Test the keyboard. Write a letter as you would - listen to music as you would.
I personally love that you can get a 9-cell version, a Solid-State-Drive (160Gb) version, as well as a thinner 16mm version. They now have i-7 versions; mine is 1-3. But I paid just P28,000 (USD560) in the Philippines last year, so no problem.
These are of course not the only features to look for. I want a high-capacity drive, wifi, don't need a built-in CD-ROM, so buy an external drive to use with all future computers because its only for loading software. In fact, I'd say they will soon shift to USD sticks for loading software. You want 3+ USD ports; and notice where the fan is. Probably the only negative feature of my Lenovo is the location of the fan. It does not burn my hand, but noticeably hot. I guess the small navigation and delete keys are a little annoying. Small things really.
In fairness, the T-series from Lenovo might be better, but after wasting money on a Sony Vaio, which have failed in the consistency stakes, I was not prepared to buy an expensive one.
I'm not into tablets; I think a waste of money unless you read a lot of books. I fully expect to read books on computer or a phone. There is no room for a 'hybrid' middling device in my life. Just a waste.
Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com

Monday, January 02, 2012

Best value cell phone - its a Samsung

My partner and I are always using our electronic appliances. Recently, we bought an Android-based Samsung I5503T cell phone in New Zealand for $NZ150 inclusive of a SIM card and pre-paid SMS & call credits from Telecom NZ for 6 months. This places the phone cost at just over $NZ100 we thought. The nice qualities about this phone was its Android software, its great sound playing music off YouTube, great Wifi connectivity, good design. Skype Mobile worked well. Just I prefer a QWERTY keyboard (as a writer).

Now, there are three problems with this phone:
1. The small sized battery - the result of which is short battery life - you could be charging it up every day for higher volume use. This is unacceptable to me. I am a writer; I write a lot of notes, so I want good battery life.
2. The lack of QWERTY keyboard - if you do a lot of typing you will want the QWERTY keyboard because screen-based keyboards do not offer the same 'tippled' board for better selectivity and control over your choice. If you have big fingers you could push '5' five times when you really wanted '6'. Not good. If you have small fingers however, or you want the phone only to read books,to telephone or play music, then you might be ok. The swivel screen gives you bigger keys in landscape mode, but still its a problem.
3. The phone size - The Telephone manufacturers are obsessed with size and power. Designed by macho-men you might think. This is a problem with only Nokia seems to understand because Nokia seems to be the only company under-powering their phones for longer battery life, whilst offering larger batteries than the likes of others. The other problem is screen size. I personally resent the need to have a cellphone, a tablet and a laptop. The tablet is really an 'unnecessary hybrid' of the other two. For this reason, I want a bigger screen, or a Nokia E61i/E5 size phone (with my much preferred QWERTY keyboard). Nokia could move towards a slightly even bigger phone than the E61i and I would still be able to fit it into my pocket....preferably with a slightly larger battery given the extra size.
I fully expect a phone of this design in future. The Nokia E61i is a little small on screen size to read books. I tried and I had to reduce the page to 61% in order to read it...it was barely legible. A slightly better resolution and a slightly larger screen will make all the difference.
If you want the QWERTY keyboard, you might like our choice of the Sony Ericsson Mini-Pro (??) reviewed before. This similarly had a small battery, but it did have the slid-out QWERTY keyboard. I personally don't like slide-out keyboards because they are often lose, and tend to have poor balance in the hand. This is because you are not always standing up when you write. I often right lying down.
Only update if you need to. I'm staying with my Nokia E5 until I get my next well-designed Android-based, QWERTY phone. I've lost confidence in Nokia's software, though it meets my immediate needs. They are moving to Windows; but I'd prefer Android....but I might adopt Windows if version 8 is ok. I can live with Windows; I use it for my computing.
Tablets are a flash in the pan...not functional enough. All you can do is read on them. The shallow lives of some people.
Here is another cell phone to consider - the LG-GW620 - it has the slide-out keyboard, but check to see if its well balanced when you are lying down, standing, sitting, etc. Battery life has been questioned...because I'd say its a small battery. But you have to like its 5-row QWERTY keyboard with independent numeric and navigation keys. That's one over Nokia E5.
Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com
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