Smart phone/MID evaluation notes

I spent a ludicrous amount of time this Spring trying to find either the perfect MID (Mobile Internet Device) or smart phone. I’m posting my (admittedly quite rough) research/evaluation notes here, as some of this may be valuable to others, even if the technical information is not as current as it could be.

In brief, I was looking for the power and display of a MID in the size of a phone – which doesn’t exist yet. I also wanted a single device for mobile internet access, phone and mp3 player. Camera was less important. Given those criteria, I eventually figured out that I needed to choose between:

  • Something that would fit in my pocket versus something with a big display (obvious really, but difficult to keep this issue in focus when tempted by better resolution/power)
  • Something with good speed versus something with good battery life
    Note: I realise this is not always accurate, but it’s a truism that faster processors drain more battery – particularly when you start talking about the difference in speed between a smart phone and a Vista-capable MID
  • Something with Google Android verus something with a QWERTY keyboard
  • Something with good European availability versus the bleeding edge temptation of the Pocketables and UMPC Portal reviews

I narrowed my phone choices down to these (in vague order of preference). I’ve included summaries of the reviews I found at the time, so they may not be current now and are completely unvalidated personally:

  • HTC Touch Pro 2 – released early June, no 3.5mm headphone jack but USB adapters are available, great battery, poor camera, no flash, Windows Mobile 6.1 but a free upgrade to Windows Moile 6.5 at release
  • Acer Tempo M900
    Pros vs HTC: released just before the HTC Touch Pro 2 and has better camera/flash, larger screen, possibly better GPS, fingerprint reader can double as an optical mouse, has scroll bar w/click
    Cons vs. HTC: lower memory, might be slower and is slightly heavier, mini USB for the headset, no 3.5mm headphone jack (there are some 2.5mm Sennheiser headphones though), Windows Mobile 6.1 but no free upgrade to Windows Mobile 6.5
  • Palm Pre – Launch looked completely unreliable
  • Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1 – looked a bit uninspiring, screen not as good, less storage, older spec, flimsy buttons on the front

I narrowed my MID choices down to these (again, in approximate order of preference):

  • Kohjinsha SC3 – swivling tablet, great review, not the best battery, a bit more expensive
  • Eking I1 UMPC – same as the WiBrain, no 3G/GPS in this model but can use a USB dongle – company may be a bit flakey
  • Raon Digital Everun Note – a bit larger, but very powerful, no swivel, difficult to find precise technical info
  • Aigo MID 8888W – 3G model available but pricey, no mouse pointer, possible wi-fi issues, keyboard a bit strange
  • Gigabyte M528/Compal Jax 10 – same hardware as the Aigo MID (above) but not all models released yet (3G for instance)
  • UMID M1 – first units have no HSDPA, no mouse pointer, build may be poor, keyboard a bit strange
  • Gigabyte M704 – larger, primarily tablet, a bit too slow for Vista
  • Viliv S5 – no keyboard, mouse pointer only works in four directions
  • BenQ S6 – cheap but no QWERTY keyboard
  • Sony VAIO P – expensive, and not really small enough

Ultimately what made up my mind was the London Underground. Unless you get a seat you don’t have enough space to use anything bigger than a smart phone. Even if I could guarantee myself a seat, most of the best MIDs are quite expensive. Since this is where I would use this device most I opted for the phone with the biggest/best screen I could get and a QWERTY keyboard. I vacillated for some time between the Acer Tempo M900 and the HTC Touch Pro 2 but ultimately went for HTC because of the Windows Mobile 6.5 upgrade (due on 6th October). Also, Acer is still quite new to mobile phones. I know the M900 comes to Acer through acquisition, but I still felt there was some risk.

Unfortunately I’ve had pretty severe performance problems (which seem to be tied to network connectivity issues) on my Touch Pro 2. These are periodic, but crippling after a reboot. It usually takes 20-30 minutes before I can properly use it. I’ve not done any serious troubleshooting because the Windows Mobile 6.5 release date is so near. In terms of interface and screen I love it, but Windows Mobile 6.1 and the networking/performance problems have proved quite dissatisfying. I’ll report more once I get 6.5 running.

One last thing. I wound up buying an mp3 player and sacrificing convergance. I didn’t expect to do this, but the phone + adapter would actually be quite cumbersome in your pocket. The Sansa Clip is so small that I really don’t mind. That’s a tip in its own right if anyone is in the market for an extremely portable mp3 player for less than £30.

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