Cellphones… sigh!

There is a lot of talk about the Linux-based cellphones out there, I guess lately mostly due to Nokia’s release of the N900; I sincerely am sticking still with the Nokia E75, after switching last year to the E71 (well, it’s not my fault if 3 is giving me chance to switch phone paying it 14 of what it’s worth on the market…), but I start to wonder if it was a good idea.

Don’t get me wrong, the phone is good, as mostly is the software on it; unfortunately there are quite a few problems related to it, although I really don’t know how better/worse other systems can be:

  • While most of the software in the phone let me choose the “Internet” aggregated connection as default connection (something very good Nokia added with this release of their S60 firmware), the mail client doesn’t… that means that it continues asking me which connection to use when it has to check the mailbox. Yes, I could tell it to use the direct connection, but then it would try to use it even when I were outside of the standard 3 network coverage, and that’s definitely bad. Plus I prefer to use WiFi if I have it available.
  • Again the mail client: it doesn’t tell me whether there are subfolders with unread messages, I have to check them all by myself, which is quite boring when you want simply to see if you got mail.
  • The browser is a bit puny sometimes; yes it works most of the times, but there are a few things that do bother me tremendously, one of which is the fact that, while it remembers passwords set in forms, it doesn’t remember HTTP digest auth passwords! Which is what I’m using, ça va sans dire.
  • The Contacts on Ovi application (an XMPP client) is definitely strange; even though I have the latest version, sometimes it goes crazy with the contacts, and there are people who I used to have as contacts in there that I cannot find any longer; the fact that they don’t allow to just use any XMPP account, but just Ovi accounts, doesn’t really help.
  • Non-latin characters cannot be displayed; not only Japanese text (for track names of Japanese music for instance), but also little things like the dashes (—), typographical quotes (“”) and arrows (→) cannot be displayed, neither in the webpages nor in the mail messages. This is pretty upsetting to me since I ♥ Unicode.
  • And most importantly, writing applications for Symbian is nigh impossible, at least without using Windows, since I don’t see anything changed since then. And since I’m a developer, sometimes I’d wish I’d be able to just write my own applications for the stuff I need.

Now I guess I’ll have to start considering some ideas on what I’ll go with next time. The choices are most likely iPhone, Android and Nokia’s N900; neither look really short-term to me because they all involve pretty expensive phones — I didn’t pay more than €120 for my current phone. But before I can even think about a decision, I need some further information and I’m not really keen on going on to find it right now because I can barely find the time to write this while I wait for two compiling processes to complete, since I’m fully swamped with work, so I’m writing them here and maybe some of you can help me with them…

Are they able to switch between 3G and WiFi connectivity as needed? Can they blacklist 3G while roaming, and then whitelist a specific network? (This is because when I’m under another 3 network, outside of Italy, the Nokia detects roaming, but the same local tariffs apply so it really should feel like home network for the phone as well).

I know that the iPhone does, but what about the other two? Do they support IMAP with IDLE command? Since GMail implements it I expect at least Android to…

Do the other browsers remember authentication information?

Do they have a IM client compatible with Jabber/GTalk? I guess Android does, I hope so at least. I would prefer for a native client, not something that connects to a middleware server like Fring does.

Can they display Unicode characters, which include Unicode punctuation and Japanese text? I’m told the iPhone does…

Can they sync with something, and I mean that with keeping as much information as possible about a person; I have a very complete Address Book on OSX right now; I haven’t imported it in Evolution in quite a while, I should find a way; neither Ovi Sync, Google Sync and Yahoo! Sync seem to work fine with the amount of details I keep around; Google is probably the worst on that account though. Being able to sync with Evolution directly is definitely a good thing.

How possible is it to write applications for them? I have read very bad things about the Palm Pre; I know that the iPhone has a complete SDK (which I should also have installed already but never used) but it only works on OSX; I do have that system but I would rather work from Linux, so I’m curious about the support for the other two. There’s an Android SDK for Linux but I have no clue how it works. Important detail here: I have no intention whatsoever to crack (“jailbreak”) the device; if I buy something I want that to work as good as possible without having to fiddle with it; if I have to fiddle, then I might as well go with something else, which is probably my main reason against getting an iPhone.

Bonus points if I can write open source applications for the device, since that’s what I’d very much like to do; I’d rather write an open source (free software) application and eventually “sell” it for a token amount on the store for the easiness of installation than write a closed source application and keeping it gratis.

Among other features I’d be needing there are support for Voice over IP (standard SIP protocol) over-the-air (that is, over 3G network as well) and the ability to deal with QR Codes. More bonus points if there is a way to access QR Codes decoding from custom applications (since that would allow me to refine my system tagging to a quite interestingly sophisticated point.

More: having a software able to reject calls from a blacklist of numbers (including calls without a caller ID) would also be appreciated, since I haven’t stopped it since that call (and I keep updating it with numbers of nuisances as needed). Even more bonus points if there is also an SMS antispam that can kill the promotional messages that 3 sends me (they get old pretty soon, especially considering I’m using a “business” account).

Now, all the functions might as well be handled by external apps not part of the firmware, that’s actually even better since there’s a better chance that they’d be updated rather than the firmware. But obviously if I have to spend another €150 just to get the software I need I might simply decide for another family.

At any rate, if you can help me with the future choice, I’d be definitely glad. Thanks!

3 thoughts on “Cellphones… sigh!

  1. One thing you should consider is to see what models are available in Japan. Both QR-codes and Japanese text (and therefore unicode) should be available, as QR-codes are popular in japan, and, well, Japanese people tend to speak Japanese. (wait, really? :P )Just something to consider.

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  2. That wouldn’t really say much :( For instance Nokia’s E-series (like my E75) is available in Japan just fine… but with a different firmware that supports Japanese text. The problem is that just changing firmware wouldn’t cut it because for instance the keyboard support is custom-tailored for the Italian (as well as French, German and so on) version.For what I heard, N900 might actually be my best bet… but it’s a bit too pricey for now, unless I can get my hands on one as a developer or something :P

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  3. I’m looking at the n900 with much interest as well.the iphone is the least interesting choice for me (if I want a mostly locked phone I’d keep the nokia I have)

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