After two years of using the I-mate Jamin smartphone, I finally decided that it was time to upgrade to something with better feature set and a more open connectivity options. This time around, data was becoming more of a priority, since I don’t seem to use voice calls terribly much. I needed a phone that I could get on a contract that has a cheaper monthly payment than what I was paying before. While I was with Vodafone with the Jamin, the best I could get was $50 plan and $20 repayment for the handset. It offered GPRS EDGE connectivity with no included monthly data allowance which was charged at a rate that would give anyone a heartburn . With the least addictional cost, the best Vodafone could offer was an extra $10 on top of the already quite expensive plan to give me a mere 5MB of data per month. It definitely hurt.
Soon after i Acquired the I-mate Jamin, to make the experience even worse, I ended up buying a MacBook. The first thing I wanted to do was install Thunderbird (my favorite email client on all platform) on it and to my disappointment, I discovered that I could not do a sync between Mac and Windows Mobile without either using Parallels and Windows (and then only with that beast called Outlook) or buying some third party software. It seems that neither Apple or Microsoft wanted to know about people in my situation who did not want to subscribe to either one of the platforms (aka platform agnostic) for everything. The only thing that came close to being a solution was to use a Funambol Server installed on one of my servers, which was not only clumsy to use, but also difficult to manage. In the end I settled with using Schedule World so I could do sync between my Windows XP, Linux and OS X notebooks and my Windows Mobile 5.0 phone. This approach, while it works, is not really ideal since I have to rely on an external server to manage the synchronisation and the data.
The I-mate Jamin was a reasonably good phone, but its shortcomings were mainly caused by the Windows Mobile platform it was built on. While it works almost seamlessly in a Windows world, when you start venturing outside that walled garden the problems become unbearable. The minute you don’t want to use Outlook anymore (did I mention that an early version of Microsoft anti-virus product ate my entire Outlook database because of a single infected email?) you start seeing the ugly brick walls and quickly hitting your head against it. This gets a lot worse when you decide to try working on another platform such as Mac OS X. While there is Microsoft Office for Mac, there is no activesync for Mac. Entourage which was supposed to resemble Outlook on the Mac does not have support for syncing with Windows Mobile.
The only way you could access the files on your Windows Mobile was to use the Acitvesync software which was not a good thing when Activesync decides to play up. In the end I basically had had enough of the “closed” way in which Windows Mobile was working, so this time around I decided to look around for a phone built on a platform which supports open standards.
My first choice would have been the iphone from Apple. It is a beautifully-designed piece of technology with a very nice and intuitive interface, based on a platform which originated from a Unix world. I was quite sure about getting the iphone, until I discovered that despite its appeal, it does not really support open standards that well and I just could not understand why they would limit the bluetooth profile to headset-only. So the iphone is out.
The next on my list was the Nokia E71. Ever since my partner acquired the E65 phone from Nokia I was always a little partial to the Symbian platform, so when the Nokia E71 was released I was itching to get my hands on one to try it out. However, when I read more about the specs it soon looked like a very good candidate for my next phone. It supports 3G HSDPA, most of the common bluetooth profiles, SyncML synchronisation standard, Wifi, Assisted GPS, Flash Lite 3.0, push email and the list goes on. It even has IRDA support.
The day I went to a Three shop in Sydney, I just wanted to check it out and hold it in my hands. The phone feels very nice to hold. Its thin and wide frame sits well in my hand and having a qwerty keyboard definitely makes things a lot easier when it comes to hammering an email or a text message. The screen looks nice and smooth and the phone is suprisingly large. It definitely amazes me what Nokia engineers manage to fit into such a thin and small device.
I liked the device so much that I decided to sign up for a plan right away. What I ended up getting was the E71 on a $29 cap plus $10 handset repayment a month on a 24-month contract. This was cheaper than getting the E71 on a $69 cap plan with no repayment. To quench my thirst for mobile data, I added $20 X-series (1GB/month) to the plan which brought the total to $59 per month including 1GB of data. This is definitely in my ball park and having 1GB of mobile data to play with means I will not hesitate to use the phone as a modem with either my Nokia N800 tablet or a notebook when needed.