The Search for a New Cell Phone

Ever since I started designing and building websites, I find myself approaching procedures in my life like a site that needs to be constructed.

  1. Gather requirements
  2. Do research
  3. Create a plan
  4. Move forward

To be fair, my formal training in chemistry probably had something to do with it as well but I digress.

My most recent “major obstacle to overcome” is a new cell phone. I bought an HTC Hermes (aka AT&T 8525 aka over-featured, under-performing brick) about a year and a half ago with the intention of tripling my productivity through complete connectivity (har har har). There was this wireless network just begging to be used – who was I to deny it? I dutifully paid my $30 a month and tried desperately, bill after bill, to use it to its maximum. I ended up using it just to rationalize paying for it. That didn’t last for very long.


Now, my “mini-computer” is too big, too heavy, showing its age, and causing frustration. Time to move on to a new one. Queue the scientific method…

  1. What are my requirements?

I have a fairly specific list of things I need my phone to do. Here are the “must-haves:”

  • It must have a good calendar function. I need the option to set recurring appointments, alarms, and add notes. Since my phone is used 33% of the time as an appointment book, this feature has to work well.
  • It must have a good contact function. I need many different fields – URL, multiple emails, notes – and I need it to be easy to organize and view.
  • It has to have a keyboard. With all the contacts and calendar entries I make, it has to be easy.
  • It must be fast. There’s nothing worse than sitting there, waiting for your phone to do what you want. This pretty much excludes Windows Mobile unless there’s nothing out there that runs it very efficiently.
  • Has to have a decent camera.
  • Must be AT&T; I don’t plan on switching carriers.

Here are the “really-wants:”

  • Calendar and contacts should sync somewhere, preferably somewhere I can export (like Outlook). I need to keep backups of everything and I want to be able to change the information from a computer. It would be great if it synced with Google because that’s where everything is going eventually. This is almost a need…
  • I really want it to be wireless internet capable, preferably 3G. This might be how I’ll have to sync my PDA information (calendar and contacts). I won’t use it much but it’s nice to have it available.
  • I’d like to be able to connect it with a USB cord. I’m usually near a computer and it’s my preferred syncing method (so I don’t have to pay for wireless internet charges). It also provides another way of charging the phone.
  • I want to stay away from touch screens because I like buttons. I’m still very impressed with how the iPhone works but, what can I say, I like the click of a button, it’s much more satisfying.
  1. What’s out there?

I worked in the wireless industry from 1999 to 2005. During those times, it seemed like there was so many phones out there, it was hard to make a decision. Nowadays, the situation is even worse. AT&T is GSM so anything unlocked (and using the right bands) can be used. This leaves many, many options.

So, using my requirements, I started searching. Here’s the sites I used:

  • CNet Reviews(CNet rarely disappoints with the amount of product information)
  • AT&T Wireless (should give my carrier a chance, no)
  • PhoneScoop (I used to use this site when I worked for AT&Tingular)
  • Newegg (of course)

Here’s the process I use to narrow my choices:


  1. First, I come up with a long list of possibles based on technology (in may case, which ones would work with my existing carrier) and obvious features (anything without a camera or some type of QWERY keyboard was out).
  2. Then, I look through the specific features and throwout any of them that were missing key functionality.
  3. Finally, I start reading reviews on the sites above. Anything with a grade lower than a “C” got tossed. I look for key words like “slow” or “buggy” because this is what I’m looking to replace. I typically read a lot of reviews which can be good or bad depending on how to see it. I get a lot of useful information but, after reading a million pros and a million cons, I’m even more undecided than before. Still, it helps to cut out the stuff I can’t deal with.

I came up with a good list of options:

  • Nokia E71 (this is the one I really want… looks great, does everything I want. It’s a little pricey though and I’m not sure if it can sync or not)
  • Blackberry Bold (I’ve heard great things about Blackberrys from most people using them. Might be overkill though)
  • Samsung BlackJack 2 (I’ve heard good things about this one but it’s Windows Mobile)
  • Samsung Epix (Windows Mobile is mostly a deal-breaker but, if the processor is fast enough, it might be OK)
  • Motorola Q (A little unsure about this one too)
  • Samsung Propel (might not do what I need it to but I love the size and, after playing around with one for a minute, found it to be VERY fast which was nice)
  1. What’s next?

Well, the plan was to head to an AT&T store and check out the local offerings. I really wanted to use these in person before I made a choice. Unfortunately for this process, I found a great price on the Nokia E71 on Craigslist and jumped at it. I’ll write a bit about my experience in another post (spoiler: I love it).


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