back to article Yes! New company smartphones! ... But I don't WANT one

It's mobile update month at my company, and that means it's time for a look at the smartphones. I've researched every single unit that will work on a Canadian cellular network and come to some interesting conclusions. For the first time I'm looking at a refresh cycle more from the standpoint of a business owner and end-user …

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Anonymous Coward

Big

I see the business arguments, but all of the answers are physically too big for me. I realise I am a 1% corner case but I have to be able to use the phone single handed while walking the dog and without dropping it in the mud. This rules out any kind of phablet, even the Note 3.

What I want in a phone is one handed usability, perfect car integration and efficient backup and restore, as well as the ability to plug into a monitor or projector.

The weird nature of UK contracts means that a phablet is better than a tablet (because some phone companies disable internet if you plug your SIM into a 3g tablet, but not a tablet with phone - I'm sneering at you, 3) - which means that as a second device the upcoming Huawei mediapad looks like a good option.

I can't see the argument against two devices for different use cases, but then I'm a great believer in redundancy and have an office full of kit.

The bottom line is that I still have a BlackBerry as a phone but I have an Android tablet that will be replaced with a phablet at some point, with a PAYG account for those times when it's out of reach of an 802.11 network. If BB had died I might even have a Windows phone. I just don't like to rely on one OS for mission critical communications.

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Re: Big

Sounds like one of the previous generation might be right for you. Apple are still selling the iPhone 4S; I have one myself and will rue the day I have to 'upgrade' it. I actively don't want a bigger screen, like you I want to be able to easily use it with one hand.

It's only those that must have the latest 'n' greatest that will really have no choice; everybody else may well be perfectly happy with a generation older.

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Re: Big

How about the Z1 Compact? Full spec phone, much smaller size.

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Re: Big

You could use a playbook and the bridge to get round that.

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FAIL

Re: Big

I also need a one hand or no hand phone calling for dog walking, shopping, gardening, etc. Currently I use a blue tooth headset, one touch, speak the name and make the call. Touchy feely phones/ phablets, etc. are useless as the phone is buried in my pocket.

My present phone does exactly what I want, its small and fully functional for my needs and is about 8 years old; nothing on the present play-phone market comes close, except in the fresh battery stakes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Big

You lot must have tiny hands, I can use a Note II (and I guess a Note III) with one hand no problem, have you even tried it ? I bet you haven't.

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Re: iPhone 4S

I am still running my 4S very happily. Apple is still supporting it with every OS update, and although the newer iPhones may be faster I don't have any problem with the speed.

BTW, the article's assertion that Apple has made the iPhone's battery "impossible to replace" is just bunk - Apple replaced mine for about £45. Not bad to keep a two and a half year old phone going.

I suspect that the iPhone 5 style will be seen as a bit of a dead-end - the iPhone 6s look to have bigger screens and may well have more of an iPad styling. I'm sticking with the classic look of the 4S until the new ones come out - and maybe even after that.

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Re: iPhone 4S

I don't see how - Apple are all about unibody construction now and it's an elegant method, but it does rather limit changes over what's available now. Presumably sapphire screens won't alter the aesthetics of the phone when they finally ship - my best bet would be more colours, faster CPU, more memory/storage, lower power draw.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Big -"You lot must have tiny hands"

Original poster here. Yes, I do actually. And yes, I have actually. I like the Notes a lot, but they are too big for me. I also like small laptop computers (!2 inch) because the keyboards are easier for me to use than full size ones.

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Re: iPhone 4S

Apple replaced the battery for £45? I can pick up a (genuine) Samsung battery for my S4 for about £25 - and I don't have to take it into a shop to have it replaced! Even better, I can charge it and carry it with me in case the battery in the phone runs out of juice. It's called convenience.

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Re: iPhone 4S

The argument was regards the statement it was "impossible to replace" not quibbling over the price.

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Re: Big

It's all to do with how you house your Note. Mine's in a flip cover - like a Kindle or Nook's - so it can be naturally held with the phone between thumb and first finger and the cover between first and second fingers. It's never hit the mud while I'm walking two dogs.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Big

Or you could walk the dog, garden and do other such things without being tied to the rest of humanity by an electronic leash. Unless you're tied to an organization or job that relates to life-saving, none of us are that important that we need to be connected 24/7.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Big

I'm with random AC. I've got a note 3. It's superb and one handed use is fine with the majority of apps/uses.

I wanted one because of the battery spec, overall phone spec and replaceable battery. The battery life is so good however I've never even bothered to buy a spare. I get a steady 2days ish out of it with no charging over night, Takes only a couple of hours or so to fully charge too. Great device, even though it's mahoosive and took a while to adapt to.

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Re: iPhone 4S

@Joe 35 - I thought I'd addressed the ease of replacement by pointing out that I didn't need to take it into a shop. The fact it's also cheaper and more convenient is a bonus.

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Re: Big

The Note 3 does have a feature that will make a smaller version of the screen on either the left or right side of the physical screen for one handed use. You can easily switch back to full screen for watching video, etc. when seated. I really like mine, although I'm a two-hander with any phone for anything other than dialling.

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Re: iPhone 4S

'Apple replaced mine for about £45. Not bad to keep a two and a half year old phone going.'

Not taking the mickey here, but considering, for example, that you can get an HTC cell for about 6 quid and replace it yourself, it's not particularly good either.

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Re: Big

Have been using Notes for 3 years (previously a 2, and now a 3) and can accomplish pretty much everything I need to with 1 hand....I think people assume they can't, but once you try, and get used to it, it's not really ever anything you think about again.

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Re: Big

Even if you can use a Note with one hand (the people I know with one always switch to two after a short time), the size means I can't fit it in a pocket easily (nor can they).

This means I see it in a back pocket often (or, more annoyingly, on a desk, left there while they go elsewhere, ring ring, ring, ring). Result, much more risk of breakage, which is higher anyway since the screen is larger and the surrounding protection as small as possible.

Given what I do and where I go with a phone, it would have no chance.

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Re: iPhone 4S

Most of his "reasons" are just bunk.

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Agreed

I am precisely the same situation from a personal point of view.

For years I have replaced my phone with a new shiney smart thing and I'm currently on a Note 2 with a contract that's almost up. But the handset is so good, and there has been so little advance since that I don't feel the need to part with it.

My phone history is:

Phillips BT Easylife (a large rubberised affair)

Nokia 5510

Nokia N95

O2 XDA IIs

O2 XDA Mini S

Nokia N95

Nokia N900

HTC Desire Z & Xperia X10 Mini

Samsung Galaxy Note II.

Some small and some large generational leaps there. But now my Note II is coming due for renewal I'm feeling rather disinclined to bother and am seriously thinking about switching to PAYG or SIM only contract for the savings I'd make on either.

The only realistic option that would be an upgrade is the Note 3 (maybe the Xpera Z1 but I'm not a huge fan). But the gap between them and the Note II in terms of performance you can actually feel, and benefit from is so negligible as to not be worthwhile. The Note 2 is in fact so good, that I haven't needed to modify/replace the OS at all, as I did with my other Androids.

I think I shall be saving myself some money monthly on my tariff for a year or more.

Maybe when the Note 4 or 5 come around it'll feel like an upgrade. The only thing that'll make me upgrade sooner is if a decent manufacturer release a phone with Galaxy S4 type specs but with a physical QWERTY keyboard that slides out, and it becomes readily available in the UK.

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Re: Agreed

Still have my n900 in the draw as a backup phone. Pity the keyboard is starting to go.

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Re: Agreed

Keyboard was never an issue for me (apart from when Nokia replaced mine under warranty and sent a replacement that hadn't had the keyboard fitted....).

The problem I had with all 4 N900s I had (yes 4, I had 3 warranty replacements) was that the micro usb kept detaching from the board. Not through any abuse or unexpected force, one broke in less than a week this way. The USB socket was just crap, the Meego forums were full of people complaining about the same thing.

Thing I miss most about it was the built in FM transmitter.

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Re: Agreed

The problem with the n900 micro usb connector was more of a production issue and there is even a nice guide how you can make yours stronger.

Mine never had the issue and still works for me every day.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Agreed

Yep, upgrade time came around and to be honest my SGS2 does what I need. I picked a SIM only contract, dropped O2 when they couldn't beat the price I'd found with another carrier, finally flushed the phone with a custom rom. Things must be OK with it, when my Virgin connection dropped out at home the other day, I got a callout from the office. I managed to recover, reconfigure a DB via SSH through a Citrix gateway in 3 minutes flat just using the phone over a cell network. The SGS2 must be close on a 4-5 year old model of phone and it's still perfectly usable, why bother to upgrade until it breaks.

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Re: Agreed

Haven't had a problem with the usb in mine. Was always worried about that going.

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Re: Agreed

I have a feeling that they fixed that problem later in production, so it only exists on handsets manufactured before a certain date. I think, unfortunately for me, both my original and all my warranty replacements were from the production batches before this date.

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Re: Agreed

I have a very similar take with my S3, I can't actually see a compelling reason to replace it - it's easily a good enough phone for me and for what I use it for. e.g. calls, texts, mobile internet access and the odd game and note taking session - although I have a 2013 Nexus 7 for the more heavy content editing and not taking sessions.

The S4 is a good phone but I see no reason to upgrade, the S5 looks more of the same. If, or more likely when, Samsung give up supplying updates I'll drop a custom ROM on it. I'm tempted to do that now due to the ghastly mess they've made of WiFi with the most recent update and losing the TouchWiz interface and Samsung shovel-ware apps really won't be a loss at all.

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The Big Question

Throughout the article, I often found myself asking "What do you want a smartphone to do today that it didn't do yesterday?".

What are the new, extra or amazing features that you are looking for / require ?

Or have you arrived at the end of the "Feed me with smartphone wowness" stage of life...

I would surmize that either

a : Trevor is getting old and the geek is fading into the darkness.

b : Someone needs to bring out handheld holographic devices, "today", in order to satisfy the waning geekness.

c : The smartphone market has simly reached peak smartphone, fallen into complete banality and we, as a race, need to move on to newer grounds.

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Re: The Big Question

Or to rephrase your question: "What can a smartphone to do today that it didn't do yesterday?".

Yes, we can tick the usual boxes: cpu, memory, screen resolution and size, OS updates, but fundamentally today's smartphones are not that different to the first generation and are not running amazing new applications, particularly if you are looking from a business perspective. I suspect that one of the reasons for this viewpoint is that we've seen the way technology develops through growing up with Windows, hence we take as given that the more modern version should be more capable so we're less impressed with these features but are more impressed with a phone's battery life (don't have to carry a charger) and usability (to some of my clients usability can be summed up as: being able to walk down a busy road in direct sunlight and dial 999 one handed without having to look at the screen).

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Re: The Big Question

I'm in a similar position at work with my much-loathed BB Bold being replaced. Choices were all BB apart from the 5s and the SGS4.

Since my personal phone is an HTC OneX+ I've chosen the SGS4, at least that way I get a common eco-system and I don't have to learn (much) new stuff.

What I *really* want is to have ONE device - I have to carry a work phone 24x7, and don't want to put work to my personal line, so what I really wanted was the HTC One Dual - a proper top-end smartphone (forget 4G; I live amongst sheep and cows, so there's no danger of actual coverage for years) with dual-sim sockets, active/active.

Sadly not available through work and I'm a bit loath to spend £500 to buy it outright myself...

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Re: The Big Question

"a : Trevor is getting old and the geek is fading into the darkness."

Get off my synthetic lawn.

"b : Someone needs to bring out handheld holographic devices, "today", in order to satisfy the waning geekness."

WANT

"c : The smartphone market has simly reached peak smartphone, fallen into complete banality and we, as a race, need to move on to newer grounds."

I suspect this is the case.

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Linux

Re: The Big Question

One thing to get me to upgrade would be increased storage capacity. The first 128G mSD card was just announced. That's something that can get my attention. It might even get me to upgrade to the latest Galaxy.

...beyond that you do have to seriously figure out what you expect to get out of the upgrade.

"Its a this season's model" is just not a good enough answer.

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Smart, but useless

> from the standpoint of a business owner and end-user ... use for hours every day.

How is that possible?

I have a Samsung smart-something or other and it's screen is far too small to use for anything but the most trivial tasks. Certainly nothing of the complexity or intensity that would qualify as "work". Typing on it is a nightmare - keys are far too small and at best you can do one-fingered "pecking" with continual interruptions for SHIFT and SYM functions. Plus, the amount of information you can display on the screen at a readable font-size is miniscule. And in daylight, is zero due to its shiny unreadability.

I can understand how a user might spend hours every day using one, but personally I'd prefer a system with a big screen and normal sized (and featured) keyboard/mouse that gives me the productivity to achieve the same amount in a few minutes.

I would suggest that instead of "stove-piping" and looking at (smart)phones as a single item, and making a selection purely on the basis of their cost/features/lifetime/sexiness, you take a step back and see how to improve the working environment of your employees, as a complete integrated approach. And where a phone - smart or otherwise, would fit into that strategy.

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Re: Smart, but useless

"you take a step back and see how to improve the working environment of your employees, as a complete integrated approach. And where a phone - smart or otherwise, would fit into that strategy."

This is often the problem business has, it has defined needs for a phone which are typically satisfied by a specific model when a system is first rolled out, a few years down the road the need is to do a technology refresh. The art and challenge is selecting a new phone that will fit in without requiring a massive amount of disruption.

From comments here and from my own experience, a big issue is the ecosystem lock in, particularly if you are using bespoke app's that presently only support one ecosystem; which is the one you have therefore built around. But then when I look at my clients most are still effectively using the iOS/Android/Windows smartphone as either a 'basic' phone or a Blackberry (ie. phone with email inbox visibility), with users largely being left to use the other app's as they want. I suspect that for many voice calls are the primary purpose.

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Holmes

Re: Smart, but useless

"I have a Samsung smart-something or other ... Typing on it is a nightmare"

I entirely agree. I have a Sammy Galaxy Ace 2 as my work phone and an HTC Desire (yes, the original 2010 edition). Whilst typing is fine on the HTC, using the HTC Sense virtual keyboard, I loath the Sammy's virtual keyboard. It is really hard to use, doesn't seem able to learn new "words" (at least not easily or obviously), fails to capitalize on the idea of press-and-hold to get secondary character options and is always auto adding spaces when I don't want them.

HTC's much smarter virtual keyboard even has a choice of layout for the portrait version of the keyboard that relies more on XT9 for fat fingered users. I find this works rather well.

Whilst Samsung have captured the market they could certainly still learn a few things from their competitors, especially in this usability area.

As a final point, it's not an Android issue. There are third party virtual keyboards that work far better, if you can muster the required trust implied by their extensive permission requirements.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Smart, but useless

@ Sorry, What?

If you're basing your opinion of samsung phones on there 2 or 3 generations old budget model then maybe it's worth a look at an S4 or note 3.

The galaxy ace was garbage, but it was a cheap phone. Their cheapest at the time IIRC, many phones have been discussed in this article and comments but few of them budget offerings.

The Galaxy ace wasn't good, not all samsung phones are so, both then and now.

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Re: Smart, but useless

"> from the standpoint of a business owner and end-user ... use for hours every day.

How is that possible?"

It's easier when you're nearsighted.

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Re: Smart, but useless

I looked at some texts I typed the other day and their timestamps. I reckoned I was doing 30 words/min.

Given that I can't type, was mostly using one hand and therefore one thumb with the occasional extra finger, this is pretty good.

Of course, I only type one or two letters of almost every word, the predictive list that appears, and which is scrollable, means few misspelled words, noticeable auto-correct (in case it is wrong) and far more readable texts (they are spelled, spaced and capitalised correctly on-th-whole).

I did smile at the thought that the author didn't want to change phones because of the porting of all his data even though it was the same OS.

I started with a Factory reset Lumia 920, logged onto the WP website and pushed all my apps at the same time, about 100. Text messages, app settings, email accounts (linked as before) almost everything re-appeared. Only the front screen layout required setting. All of this is baked-in, switchable-off (if you must) and basically fool-proof.

I can't believe the most popular system doesn't have this by default to aid the uninitiated. I presume there is an app for it but, no doubt, given the vast array of Androids, many, many differences would have to be catered for.

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Unhappy

Re: Smart, but useless

@DijitulSupport

The Ace _2_ is a "price point" device, yes, and not current generation, but my wife's Galaxy S3 has much the same problem with its virtual keyboard (spoiling an otherwise decent experience). Honestly, the HTC keyboard is *so* much better that Samsung should be ashamed. I haven't seen the S4 implementation so can't comment on the latest and greatest...

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Re: Smart, but useless

The Ace is really a low end device and the screen is tiny. Use a decent Samsung and I am sure the keyboard woes would be gone. I do not seem to have any of the mentioned problems on my Note 2. The only one I have thought of upgrading to is the Sony Xperia z. Because its 4G , huge screen , ,waterproof and very fast.

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Battery FFS

Battery that lasts Friday 5pm to Monday 9am.

Micro SD slot. Jebus - its a nightmare without one.

Good screen, android blah blah blah. I'm sick of smartphones that arent smart on battery life. I dont want 3D gaming and a 4k h264 megafiles. What is wrong with manufacturers?

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Re: Battery FFS

They can't make money out of standard devices, they want you to buy the shiny expensive one.

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If you want answers

about BB10 etc then go to crackberry and have a read then post a couple of question.

the members there are fans of BB so know a hell of a lot but are also honest and not afraid to point out problems.

to be honest I would have a BB over an android or apple phone for business any day. Android app loading is easy and most of them work perfectly on the BB10 OS,only intergration with google account on a few are a problem, oh and any app you bought already can if it works be loaded onto the BB at no cost.

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BB10 Re: If you want answers

As a recent owner of a Q10 (to replace a dead bold 9x00) I have to say this device is sweet.

The android compatibility layer is great, some of my favorite apps are now available as .apk's (endomorphpo, spotify, google maps).

The new UI takes some getting used to, but is actually very easy to use.

It has a physical keyboard ... honestly, if you do more than a few emaisl a day, physical keyboards are soo much better than touchscreens.

It finally has a decent webbrowser

And if you have a BES server as a corporate email gateway, honestly, there is no alternative worth trying for more than a few days

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I'm in exactly the same situation with the personal phone. Contract is up in a few weeks, so I can upgrade now. Having been through various Windows phones then moved onto iPhone I've currently got a 32Gb 4S. At the moment it works fine, but I'm conscious that battery life is just starting to deteriorate so in that respect it may be time to change.

Not that keen on the Z series BBs (got a Z10 as the work phone and whilst it has advantages I wouldn't want it for my personal one). The iPhone 5S is just too darned expensive and if I'm going to have to change connectors I want to go to Micro-USB so that's out.

I'm not convinced by the current Windows Phone - not mature enough and not sure where MS are going with it.

That really leaves Android. Don't mind the O/S (running a Nexus 7 so I know what it will and won't do). But then that means all new apps (and at least one of my current ones isn't available), transferring all the data from the iPhone, etc.

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Me too. I have a Note II, and can't for the life of me think what to "upgrade" to.

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Good points

It's starting to be hard to add bells and whistles that are "must haves". And so, battery life and familiarity become the important part. The good news for alternate systems like Blackberry (how the world has changed) is that they can catch up to iPhones and Androids simply because there isn't much more that can be added to smartphones. Or at least, anything that users are actually interested in.

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"Apple has to be the first smartphone manufacturer anyone considers."

Apple is always the last manufacturer of anything I would consider.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Apple has to be the first smartphone manufacturer anyone considers."

You must love poor service, tacky plastic cheapness and spending hours of forums looking for help with some intermittent error code.

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