Phones Are Getting Too Small

I love the 'new' Sony Ericsson T68is all in its Bluetooth glory. But the phone is too small. The screen is too small and when holding it up to my ear to speak (that is assuming I haven't plunked down $300 for a BlueTooth headset) I feel like a dainty English woman trying at afternoon Tea trying oh so carefully to hold my teacup in the 'proper' manner. I've been using the Kyocera 6035 SmartPhone with its built in Palm device. I'm often accused or observed of having a “big” one. Uh. My phone. But I'm quickly to point to those carrying dual devices or others who walk around like my contractor or PacBell phone guy with a hefty (read: big) belt with lots of things dangling.

So when Kyocera announced last year that it had in development the sequel to my phone: the Kyocera 7135. A web survey not long ago found this phone to be the most desirable converged device. The phone features a great color screen, integrated Palm OS, MP3 player, SD disk for storage and much more. And as a Verizon subscriber, this phone has not been unlike the new Apple 17″ PowerBook — announced long ago and sightings as rare as your favorite endangered species. Yet, I can't help but wonder where the BlueTooth is in this phone? Too long in development and at the design phase Bluetooth was still pie in the sky technology? The folks at Verizon are clueless about BlueTooth. Apparently Kyocera is too.

Sprint was the only other provider to offer this phone. And my friend Bryan recently reported to me that Sprint no longer carried the phone and was not planning on offering the 7135. They sold him a Samsung SPH-i330. He loves his new phone as he's as much bent on a converged device as I am. But I've got issues. Put simply, I want a keypad that's not the same as the LCD screen. Why? Tactile. I want to feel the keys as I dial. Other reasons? Fingerprints. Oil. Clarity. Granted, with voice dialing you can avoid some of these things — but voice dialing still needs training and with over 500 contacts in my phone, I'm just not going to take the time to train more than a handful.

So when I read about Samsung's new SGH-i500 I got the tingle up my spine that only a techno-junkie gadget geek could get. This looks cool. As i grow weary of my grayscale screen on my Kyocera and experience true LCD screen color envy from my associates I wonder what waiting till Q4 2003 (which means I'd be lucky to see it in Q1 2004) will do for my mind given the recent PowerBook test that taxed my patience. One can wonder.

Cool thing is that the new Samsung phone features a form factor not unlike the Kyocera new 7135. This means that even Samsung realized the limitations of the LDC touchscreen interface versus true keypad tactile input. But where's the BlueTooth? Important to note is the integration of Palm's next-gen software: v5.2. Recently I've wondered about the viability of future Palm OS and Palm devices. With Windows CE, the Symbian operating system now found in many phones and the convergence of this and MP3 players, digital cameras and more into phones means stiff competition for Palm. Five years ago nearly everyone I did business with had a Palm device. Today? Hard to find.

Palm has a hard road ahead. It clearly has stagnated in innovation. Yesterday it released two new products. One with an integrated digital camera as well as a belated foray into WiFi (802.11) wireless. Another apparently targeted at the low end of the market. I'm not sure that's where Palm's future is. Price is never a good future for any company. It's competition today is Sybian and telephones. It had better ramp up its alliance and relationship efforts and stick to a streamlined hardware platform in order to ensure viability. Even this type of push may be too late.