I've had the same phone for some time now; a 3 1/2 year old English/Arabic Nokia 7610 that has been outstanding since the day I got it. It's also built like a tank. Except with things like my laptop and my camera - two devices I use every day that are critical to my work, and are more extensions of myself than just tools - I'm generally very clumsy. I've dropped, soaked, stepped on, crushed, and even threw (don't ask) this phone more times (and in more brutal ways) than I can imagine, yet it still works the way it did when I first got it. I've used it mostly (surprise!) to make phone calls, but at some time or another it was also being used to:
- check email
- play games waiting in line at the bank
- listen to mp3s
- serve as a flashlight
- read newsfeeds
- copy documents
- act as a wireless modem for my computer
- chat on MSN, AIM and other chat clients
- impress girls
- watch TV shows and movies
- reboot my dedicated server in Oakland from the beach in Matanzas, Cuba
- Do work over SSH on my home computer
- ... and many more.
Despite all that, I never really had the need for a phone that does much more than, well, make phone calls. I never got into the whole 'mobile device geek' thing very much, because I don't like the idea of carrying around a bunch of redundant devices that do exactly the same thing as the next one, albeit in a shittier fashion - convergence is, in a word, bullshit. I've never been in a situation where I desperately needed access to some form of data or information and wasn't able to pull out my laptop and get to it.
"Sure", you'll say, "but what about if you're standing in line somewhere or in the back of a cab or something?"
- If I pull out my laptop and start hammering at it I'll seem like a bit of a geek, but
- If you pull out your Jesus Phone and start poking at it, you'll look like an asshole, and
- my shoulders probably span twice your body, so I don't think you'll be calling me a geek anytime soon. ;)
This is the OpenMoko Neo1973 side-by-side with the iPhone. It's like they read my mind to design it - dark, leaning toward monochromatic, simple, efficient, and almost steampunk-esque interface. I'm looking forward to the next iteration though, dubbed the FreeRunner, with its faster processor and 3D graphics hardware.
Unlike the prospect of low-cost laptops or a free, uber-high-quality operating system, the 'open source' nature of Openmoko isn't interesting to me because of how it can benefit developing world users (horizontal development) - most developing countries already have much more useful and successful mobile systems than we do here in Canada - but because of the promise of innovation afforded by giving developers a blank slate to work on... and what a slate it is.
I have to admit I was slighty tempted by the iPhone for about 4 seconds, until I found out about all the things it couldn't do - push email sans Yahoo (if I'm gonna use my phone for email, I want it to be instant, blackberry-like, from my own server... and not with shitty Yahoo webmail), run 3rd-party apps without breaking every update, be unlocked (I travel overseas quite often), use it as a bluetooth (or even tethered) modem for 3G (aren't we beyond 1997?), multi-threaded SMS and MMS (wait. what? seriously? yep.), and the list goes on. On the other hand, I hear it also plays songs, and you can do that neat little zoom-in-out thingie with your greasy fingers on the screen. :p
It bears repeating: I'm not a mobile phone guru. I don't know much about the system works. I get to Colombia to find David fumbling over his iPhone, trying to unlock it get his local SIM card to work. As Apple products are wont to do, the last Apple version 1.1.2 super-extreme-hyper-ultra-firmware update or something or other 'relocks' his iPhone as spends the next few hours or so trying to figure out how to 're-un-lock' it or something... meanwhile, I pop in my new SIM card, dial a few numbers, and voila - my 7610 is all set for use in Medellin. If I lost you at 'Apple firmware 1.1.2', don't dare look up 'plist editor' - you'll lose your lunch.
The story has a happy ending, though - David eventually went out and bought a brand new phone just to use here. Ahh, the joys of being a rich American hipster... kidding dude :p . Mostly. The good news is that now we have a pretty $850 mp3 player hooked up to the stereo... actually, I don't know if I'd call anything that seems to exclusively play terrible 'easy-listening' jazz and elevator musak an 'mp3 player', but hey...
So much for "Macs just work".
The new Openmoko phone, though, might be the first device that convinces me to take the dive into the mobile device pool. With motion sensors, Wi-Fi, 3D graphics, I'm just itching to see what the open source community is going to make possible on this thing. I'm gonna miss my customized old little Nokia 7610, with its quirks and lack of stereo and funky keypad.
It's due to be released later this year.