Are today's mobile devices too feature-rich to review?

, posted: 6-Aug-2006 14:41

Journos love to review "gadgets", or Smartphones and handhelds devices because personal tech is a lot of fun. But, I'm not seeing very many of them actually trying out all the features in these extremely capable devices.

I was reading Jeremy Wagstaff's LooseWire blog earlier, and Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg's review of the Palm Treo 700w, and it occurred to me that a lot of features in smart devices go unnoticed.

Jeremy's wondering what the point of a stylus on a Smartphone is, which surprises me. I've been using the HTC Falcon, Harrier and Apache/Sprint PPC-6700 over the past few years and use the stylus a lot, as the devices do handwriting recognition very well. With a bit of practice, it's a fast way of entering text - quicker than using a thumb-board (although predictive text enabled with the latter speeds up text entry too). Simple drawings can also be useful at times.

Granted, phones that can only be used with a stylus are irritating. The Falcon is like that, because it hasn't got a thumb-board like the Harrier and Apache. You can still answer it without much difficulty though... just press the little green phone button when a call comes in.

The biggest problem I have with Windows Mobile devices is that they're hard to use with one hand. Even thumbing out a quick text message means you have to use both hands on the Harrier and the Apache.

The Treo 650 works great in that respect however. You seldom have to resort to two-handed operation or pull out the stylus for that matter, which makes it a much more usable phone. I'm less than enamoured with the lack of handwriting recognition and predictive text in the 650 though, although I gather they can be added separately.

Mossberg seems to be writing off the 700w because he prefers the "one handed" Palm OS 650 interface. If that's the all-important criterion however, why would you get a smart phone in the first place?

For me, the answer to that is all the features such a device brings, like different types of email transport (POP3, IMAPv4, SMTP, Exchange Synch, Push), IP networking (3G, WiFi, Bluetooth and even IRda and USB). The ability to synch data with my desktops and servers are also important to me, and I test these things.

I could list many more features to check out, but how many times do you see a reviewer run through them to give you a first-hand account of how well they work?

Other related posts:
Nokia upgrades: Symbian Belle for the N8 and MeeGo PR1.2 Harmattan for N9
Yes, this iPod still works
Samsung Galaxy Tab so good Apple wants it banned?

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