Goodbye Comet

I returned the T-Mobile Comet and exchanged it for a cheap candy bar style Nokia prepaid phone. Android 2.2, on the Comet, simply required too much work. Skype was nearly unusable. The Gmail native app from Google had to be updated, and even then the sync functionality with Gmail didn’t work correctly. Let me re-state that: Gmail didn’t work correctly on a Google phone. Thankfully contacts synced fine, but I had to update nearly every app that came with the phone.

So, maybe it’s something to do with Huwaei and the T-Mobile build of Froyo 2.2 or perhaps things simply aren’t as polished across the board. Compared to my experiences with iOS 3.x and 4.x I’d say it’s like night and day. Yes, it’d be nice to have a bulk task manager (other than double clicking ‘home’) in iOS 4.2, but it doesn’t really make a difference, you can run 20 apps “backgrounded”. In Android you absolutely must use a task killer or your phone runs out of memory and turns to molasses. Multitasking in iOS simply works and is more intuitive. Skype works nearly as well as a native phone dialer, Netflix streams terrifically, and the bundled iOS apps are all winners. And with the 4.2 update I can stream audio to the Airport Express directly from the iPod Touch and wirelessly print. At no point using Android did I think to myself, ‘Man this is so much easier/quicker/better than the iPod Touch’, in fact I lamented that for $180, despite being the cheapest Android phone on the market, it just wasn’t very good.

It’s unfortunate, in my limited usage of WebOS I’d say that Palm had a superior product that was poorly marketed, that suffered early quality control issues, and with HP’s purchase, has essentially died a premature death. Compared to Android 2.2 – WebOS 1.x feels significantly more polished – and really should be second to Apple in smart phone market share. When you go to the Verizon store and look at the myriad Android phones (several now bundled with Bing! as default search engine) it becomes clear that the carriers and Google simply don’t care about the user’s experience. While I’m sure the newest Nexus S is a better example of what Android can do, I don’t trust telecommunication companies to make good UID & IxD decisions.

A web application that is a browser & vice versa

Lately I’ve been using Gmail to take my incoming phone calls over Google Voice (via 3jam). At some point I grew tired of paying a large carrier what I deemed an excessive monthly fee for not very many cellular minutes and I ported my cell line to 3jam. I already had a Google Voice number so I forward my old cell number (via 3jam) to GV. I tend to miss calls, however, when I either forget to leave Skype open or I close my instance of Gmail. Thankfully, there is a solution: Fluid (& Prism) run with the idea of site specific browsers (SSBs) giving web applications a native feel.

The basic concept is that you can create an icon for web applications to run “stand alone”. In my case Gmail (& Google Voice, or Reader) can be launched as “applications” and easily backgrounded. Fluid is easy to use and extensible with scripts, enabling a plethora of possibilities. When using Gmail as a phone it requires both Flash (& Google Talk plugins) in your Internet Plug-Ins directory to be able to make/receive phone calls.

This is not the most ideal solution for VoIP calling. Siemens sells the Gigaset which would allow me to take VoIP/SIP based calls at home over a “normal” handset with out having to have a computer with Gmail open. ATA (analog telephone adapters) allow the use “plain old telephones” to be plugged into your home network, generally the same idea as the Gigaset, though the Gigaset integrates a 1.9GHz wireless transmission system and VoIP router into one package.

The final part of this puzzle to save on monthly usage fees is a prepaid cell phone (depending on your usage). T-Mobile recently released a pleasantly inexpensive Android 2.2 powered handset made by Huawei called the Comet. For about $150 this not terrible Android phone gives PDA functionality and can use Skype/SIP calling over WiFi. The rest of the time minutes are forwarded and used at the standard T-Mobile $0.10/min rate prepaid rate.

Gmail on your dock

Gmail icons for Fluid by EvenWu on Flickr