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Monday, November 22, 2010

Mottel's Guide to Purchasing a Cell Phone

I recently put together a list of the latest cell phones with their relative Pros and Cons.

I decided to publish the write-up here for the benefit of the general public:

As there seems to be bit of confusion about the various smart phones on the market, I'm including few points on Blackberry verses Android phones, as well as some of the other options on the market.



  • Amazing email integration
  • BBM (blackberry messenger) - those who use it love it.
  • Solid build - the hardware is often solid
  • Security - especially for enterprises Blackberry's servers and encryption are considered very secure (it's reported that Mosad agents might have used BBM to communicate while in Dubai recently etc.)
  • Outdated hardware - camera, processor speed, screen resolution etc. are all behind the curve.
  • Poor Web-browser - the experience of browsing the internet on most Blackberries is painful when compared to Andriod, Iphone etc. (The brand-new BB Torch is supposed to be better - though overall even that phone lacks in features).
  • Aging operating system: The BB OS (operating system) is very dated.
  • Limited App Market: Apps today rule the mobile world - BB doesn't have anywhere near the number of apps as other phones - though the basic chitas apps are all there.
Bottom Line:
The Blackberry is easy to use and does what it specializes in (BBM and Email) well. That being said, the devices are older and lack power to compete with modern handsets. If you already have BB and can't live without your BBM, then I suppose stick with it. I would have a hard time recommending it to someone as a first time phone.


Android is Google's open source operating system (Droid is a specific series of phones running the Android OS made mostly by Motorola and sold exclusively on Verizon). Open source means that anyone is free to develop for it (as opposed to Apple who rules iOS (the iphone operating system) with an iron first) this however has both a good and a bad side. The latest version of the OS -2.2 has Hebrew support.

As anyone can make an Android phone, many companies make various models that feature all kinds of designs. The HTC Evo 4g and Samsung Epic 4g are the top two on Sprint (4G means faster internet - though it's not yet rolled out in many markets and costs an extra $10 a month above the existing premium data plans - 4G also eats up battery juice very quickly), the HTC Droid Incredible and perhaps the Droid Pro (which has a blackberry like keyboard) on Verizon, the G2 (which has 4g like speeds) on T-mobile. Each phones has it's on ma'alos - so I'll focus on the general advantages shared by all Android phones.

There currently aren't any "chitas" apps (there's Rambam - but it's pretty hard to use, doesn't have a moreh shiur etc). I've been told that will be coming out with all of their apps in the near future, but I haven't confirmed this myself.

  • Open: Android is open to every developer and handset maker to design a phone. That means there's something for everyone out there in the world of Android. The Android marketplace, while lacking in the number of apps found in iPhone, today seems to offer everything found in the Apple app store. What is more, since Android is open, you're able to do things not possible on iPhone - such as run flash (for videos) on the latest version of Android OS 2.2 (called FroYo).
  • Features: Android phones are packed with features, they have all the basics - bluetooth, wifi, 3G internet, a great browser, man have good cameras with auto-focus (for scanning barcodes), fast processors, phones with physical keyboards for those that want the, - as well as such premiums as 4G (on the spring phones), Big Screens (on the Evo and Droid X), amOLED screens for vibrant color (on the Epic), HDMI for playing HD video on a big screen (if you ever want to stream living Torah on your Baal Habos's impressive home theater system), Swype for very fast typing (on the Droid X and Epic 4G), front facing cameras for video chat
  • Google: Google has come out with many amazing apps and features. You can take advantage of Google Voice (to record your voice mail as MP3s, forward your calls to various phones, screen calls and transcribe voicemail as an email or text message), Google Maps for amazing GPS; Google has various voice controls - so you can write your text messages with voice to text transcriptions, do google searches with voice, find directions etc; Google Goggles will take a picture of bar codes and scan them for you - letting you search for the same item online for cheaper, take pictures of logos and identify them for you, and translate certain texts (I believe French, German and Spanish); the phones have great Gmail integration as well.
  • Customization: You can customize the layout however you like - you can mix apps and widgets (such as weather, time, stock prices etc) on your home screen.
  • Open: As Android is open to all developers, allowing for all kinds of devices, that means that what works for one Android phone won't work for another. Certain older sets aren't powerful enough for the latest version of the firmware (the latest version of the operating system) - in fact some phones are purposely made weaker and without the latest OS to be sold a "cheaper" phones. Since Android is so open, various phone manufacturers create various 'skins' for the OS. That means that the HTC "Sense UI" skin will look and feel different then the Samsung one or the Motorola one. Besides differences in look and features, these different skins mean that Google can't send out updates to the latest version of their OS (currently the FroYo 2.2 version - which has Hebrew support among other things) until the handset carriers have had a chance to update their user interface skins.
  • Learning Curve: Because Android phones sport so many features and are so customizable - they can be very overwhelming at first glance. As well, the design isn't a intuitive as, say, the iPhone OS - so you'll have to play around with it a bit to 'get' everything you can do. This problem is all compounded by the various styles and skins put on the Android phones. 
The bottom line:

Android phones offer a wide range of handsets for every type of user, with many powerful features and all kinds of bells and whistles. This power is tempered by a slightly less intuitive user interface and the fractured environment where no two phones are the same.
If you want a powerful, state-of-the art phone, and you're willing to geek out a bit, then Android phones are the way to go.

We all know what it is, so I'll skip to the Pros and Cons

  • Apple Experience: You'll find a beautiful phone, basically ready to use out of the box with Apple's hallmark clean design, seamless user experience and intuitive OS.
  • App Store: The iPhone App store has the most apps of any other phone, with the latest and greatest available to you.
  • iPod: Every iPhone has Apples music playing features
  • Closed System: You're playing in Steve Jobs' world. Jobs' doesn't like buttons - so you'll never see a keyboard on your iPhone. Apple doesn't like Flash (because they're in a fight with Adobe - the folks who make flash) so you'll never be able to play Flash videos or the like on your phone. Apple controls their app store with an iron fist - so if they don't like it, it won't go (for example they wouldn't let Google Voice in for ages, because it allowed for cheaper international calls etc.)
  • Apple doesn't take risks. That means you'll never have untested technology in your phone. Cut and Paste, Multitasking and the like were all delayed until far after they should have been out (they're here now). It also means that many of the latest advancements (like 4G) won't come out until after other phones have them.
  • AT&T: The iPhone (currently) is only available on AT&t's network - known for its spotty coverage. If you're not on AT&T - you're out of luck. (Though there are always rumors that Verizon will have an iPhone soon.

Bottom Line:

If you're on AT&T, go for it. If you love and live for Apple - the same applies. If not . . .

WebOS (aka the Palm PRE)

The Palm PRE was supposed to be the next BIG phone. Unfortunately it was late to market, featured a lackluster ad campaign, and shoddy hardware. It still has some interesting features and is worth an honorable mention

  • WebOS: The operating system is amazing. It's easy to use, powerful, and pretty to look at. Next to iPhone I think it's the best thing out there.
  • Physical keyboard 
  • Poor hardware: The phones weren't made very well, so they've been known to break. By today's standards they're also under powered.
  • Lack of developer support: Since few people purchased the phones, they're bottom of the list for app development. That means that programs that Android and iPhone have had for ages may not be out yet for webOS.
Bottom Line:
While I had the PRE and loved it, it's hard to recommend today when so many other options are out there. That being said, if you can find one for cheap on the market, and don't need the latest bells and whistles, the great interface may be worth it. HP recently bought Palm, so there should be better phones on the market in the future.

Windows Phone 7 was just announced for AT&T and T-Mobile. They're brand new, so I don't know much about them, but I love the Zune HD mp3 player that they're based on, and they look to be a nice middle ground between iPhone's easy interface and Android variety of features. We'll have to see what the future has in store.


Batya said...

All I want is a phone, so I stick with the simplest and cheapest. My previous one was a total waste of money. We have the simple Nokia and refuse to sign on for email, internet etc.