Concessions

E-books

I don't like them, and I fight the idea of them constantly– them and their damn e-readers. You've heard the arguments against the e-book industry, I'm sure, and my gripes are nothing new; neither are my arguments for the real book industry: I love the feel of a book in my hands. I love the sterile smell of a new book, the dusty smell of an aged book. I love the cracking sound a hardcover binding makes when you open it for the first time, the flip-p-p-p sound when you rifle through pages quickly, the schhhhh-lip of a single sheet being turned over with slow deliberation by a briefly-licked fingertip.

I love walking into libraries and feeling so at home, surrounded by shelf after shelf of books on every possible subject. Even the act of randomly pulling a book off its shelf, casually flicking through its contents– skimming this paragraph here, gazing adoringly at that photo there– and then slipping it neatly back into place amongst its manufactured wood pulp brethren– oh man. This is all like the difference between a piece of Three-Course Dinner Chewing Gum and an actual three-course dinner.

(I was going to use a porn-and-sex analogy, there, but thought I'd spare you the awkwardness. But now I've gone and told you anyway, so I've effectively spared you nothing. Except your need to thank me. You're welcome.)

But! As highly as I do prefer real books (even 1000+-page books that weigh nearly 2 lbs.), I have to admit that of late, I've been recognizing the utility of e-books. Not in that I can "pack" seven books for a trip and not have them take up any extra space beyond my laptop, which I always bring with me anyway– but in that I can stick my books in the cloud and access them instantly, from anywhere. I'm one of those people who, out of nowhere, vaguely remembers a passage from a book I read ages ago, then obsesses over the exact wording of that passage until I finally recover the book and can re-read it. Thus, having my library uploaded to a server and "on-demand" is highly attractive… unappealing format and all.

Blackberry

My beloved HTC's screen input broke, and since there aren't any phones out there I like enough to justify the purchase price, I'm back on my BB 8900 until summer-ish.

I used to be hugely enamored with Blackberry phones after they decided to appeal more to the consumer audience– I burned through the 8800, the 8300, the 8310 (twice), and messed around with the 9000 for two weeks before exchanging it for the 8900. I scoffed at the Storm and the iPhone and all the other touchscreen phones that followed and wondered how anyone in their right mind could give up a tactile keyboard.

And then, after returning home from NYC last year, something in me just… snapped. But in a good way, like a release of tension from an upright stick-in-the-ass snapping. I found someone in Vegas who was selling their HTC Hero (the European GSM version) for a really good price, drove to the north side of town, forked over cash and began unboxing and SIM-swapping as soon as I got back into my car.

I haven't looked back since.

Until now, sort of, but it wasn't a voluntary look, it was a look of emergency. Either way, being back on my once-loved BB feels like a step back, a couple of steps back, particularly in the e-mail department, which is ironic because that's how I used to defend the Blackberry kingdom to all the naysayers– "Look, if you want a shiny toy that'll play games and load farting apps and do multimedia on a big fancy screen, go with the iPhone or whatever. But nobody does e-mail better than Blackberry."

Assuming you're on an exchange server, I should have added. Which I would have, had I known. My Gmail accounts don't have two-way sync on BB (I know the new BIS rollout is supposed to take care of this, but apparently my region hasn't been updated yet), which means aside from lacking functionality of labels, archiving, et cetera– if I handle new e-mails through the web, they're still flashing as unopened on my phone. And if I read something on my phone, it's still marked unread in my web inbox.

Annoying? Mildly, for everyday cases. Majorly when you haven't turned on your phone for a week (e.g. when I went to Japan) or for six months (how long I had the HTC), and suddenly you have to wait for the phone to register your 600+ "new" messages.

HOWEVER. Being forced to use this thing also, inbetween annoying the shit out of me, reminds me of its positive qualities that other phones I've owned or played with have yet to reproduce:

  • Autocorrect custom dictionary – you can assign custom auto-corrections; e.g., my phone knows that if I type "itks", it needs to replace that with "it's". Similarly, "wekll" gets replaced with "we'll", and so on with other k-for-apostrophe contractions. It's amazingly efficient and it's definitely the feature I missed most when I made the jump.
  • GPS location speed – I'm pretty sure I did a side-by-side test with the iPhone 3GS as well, but for sure the 8900 locates me more quickly and more accurately than the Hero, both indoors and outdoors. Location lag is one of the two major reasons I stopped using LBS games, but that's another post entirely.
  • Clarity of calls – overlooking the fact that I marinated the Hero in a puddle of flan overnight, making phone calls on the BB is so much better than on the Hero or on iPhones, excluding headset use. 
  • Powering on/off - again, just faster. So much faster. Which is nice when you fly a lot and thus are always having to turn your phone on and off, or when your battery is constantly dying unexpectedly and you are forever having to plug it into a charger and turn it back on.
  • Camera - the dedicated camera button on the side that allows you to do a half-press for focus, full-press for shutter? It's nice. Really nice. And pictures have fantastic quality for the phone's specs.

So, I don't know. It's a step back, yes, but it also makes me question what I really need out of a mobile device. Maybe this will be a good thing for me? Simpler times, indeed.

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An excruciatingly rambling essay on why I love Gowalla

(NOTE: these are all purely my interpretations and could very well be 100% contrary to each company’s intentions. But I’m an English major; we were taught to interpret to the death, and love is always subjective.)

(SECOND NOTE: this turned out to be really fucking long. This isn't an apology. It's just a factual warning.)

I’ve never been a big fan of social identification-awareness apps. Partially because, yes, I have intermittent bursts of seclusion and I don’t exactly feel like broadcasting these (made obvious by the days of absolutely zero check-ins anywhere– if I never check-in, even when I am out-and-about, then who could ever know the difference?), but also because it feels more like an unwelcome chore (if I’m somewhere and I want someone else to come join me, I’ll just send a text). And finally, because the friends I have in Vegas– for whatever reasons of their own– don’t use any of these services, either. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t people in my city who use Loopt, Brightkite, Latitude, etc.– but I don’t know them, so why would I care where they are?

When we were in New York last month, Noah and I had lunch with two of the Foursquare founders. In preparation, Noah downloaded the app to his iPhone to get a feel of what Foursquare was all about, and ever since, he’s been using it. One of his observations from the first few days was that the social aspect aside, he liked using Foursquare simply as a way to keep track of where he’d been. 

I registered an account after that lunch meeting and used it a little on my Blackberry, but their mobile web app was bland and a little frustrating to use (ultimately, what I did was wait for Noah to check in, wherever we were, click on the location from his profile, then use that to check in myself), so after we left New York, I stopped using it. I did install it to my Hero once I’d made the switch, but a lot of the places I go aren’t registered yet in their system and creating new locations wasn’t worthwhile to me (I’m big on accuracy and precision and I never know the address of these places) [1]. Also, none of my Vegas friends use Foursquare. Also, I have a fairly good memory.

Enter Gowalla.

I actually found it through my Facebook news feed; a friend up in the Bay Area posted that he’d checked into a spot using Gowalla, and there was a colorful little icon accompanying the notification. I’ll be honest– if it hadn’t been for that icon, I would never have clicked through to the website (and if it hadn’t been for the presence in my news feed, I’d still be in obscurity regarding Gowalla’s existence), and as it turns out, Gowalla's iconic artwork is representative of everything that makes Gowalla so marvelous.

Foursquare is a social service with game-like features. Gowalla is a social game with service-like features.

At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be a difference between Gowalla and Foursquare (more or less the leader of social location-awareness apps). In both, you check in to places, create new ones if necessary, and publicize where you are to your friends (or the world, depending on your privacy settings) via Facebook or Twitter. 

In Foursquare, you get points for your activity– currently devoid of redeemable value, but for now they’re good for competition and psychologically it encourages its users to keep playing, and it’s certainly possible that Foursquare will roll out something in the future where those points *will* be redeemable. You can become a Mayor (of which businesses are starting to take advantage), you can leave tips and suggestions when you check in, and you can make to-do lists of places that others have visited that seem pretty cool to you, too. It’s like a condensed Yelp within your social circles.

Being superficial and easily won over with eye candy, I initially fell for Gowalla (despite not being able to play it at the time) because I liked their Passport feature. Instead of getting points when you check in somewhere, Gowalla gives you a stamp: either a generic icon reflective of that place’s category, or a custom icon if that place is considered noteworthy (as per Gowalla’s discretion, though they accept nominations for custom icons by their users). Thus, my main motivation to play Gowalla was to fill up a passport with adorable stamps.

So when Gowalla for Mobile Web was released this past Friday for Android users, I couldn’t have been more excited– except this beta doesn’t allow you to create spots (also impossible from the website) or drop/pick up Items (which I didn’t care about at the time). How could I fill up my Passport when the places around town that I visited the most weren’t created yet? So I was a little dismayed, but ultimately, grateful to just be able to participate in the game. I started to make a list of nearby Gowalla spots where I could check in and get my stamps.

Two stamps and a day later, I was a little defeated. Still passionate, of course, because I’ve known they’ve been working on a native Android app (I think all the Android-using Gowalla fans are clutching to this for hope), so it’s only a matter of time before the Android experience evolves into awesomeness. But interestingly enough, the fact that I desperately wanted to create locations but couldn’t made me start to reflect on why I wanted to create locations in the first place, and whether that was in line with why Gowalla wanted people to create locations.

Gowalla is about much more than just you

In Foursquare, locations exist because that’s where people are, once again reinforcing my statement above that it’s more a social awareness service. Want to be Mayor of your mailbox? It’s kind of lame, but there’s nothing stopping you from putting your mailbox on Foursquare, checking in there every day, and earning points and a Mayorship. All your friends will know that you are dedicated to participating in postal communications (unlike myself; I empty my mailbox approximately three times a month).

And there’s nothing stopping you from doing the same in Gowalla, but– there’s really just no point. You’ll get recognized as being the creator of the location, you’ll get a stamp for visiting it daily, but it’s hardly a point of interest to the general masses. But refraining from creating spots of everywhere you go? It's kind of hard to accept until you think about the Gowalla Passport in terms of a real-life passport (politics aside). What if you could take your little book and get stamps anywhere you went? Eventually, your passport would be so flooded with stamps from grocery stores and gas stations and subway stops and Taco Bells that 1) the concept of a stamp would lose its value and appeal, and 2) all the stamps of the really cool and special places (like the Monterey Bay Aquarium or that one cafe where Jason Mraz used to play all the time before he got big) would get lost in the mix.

Put another way– Gowalla isn’t about you. Again, hard to accept when all the other location-based games *are* all about you– where are you? Where have you been? Where are your friends? But it’s not that Gowalla doesn’t care about you or your life; it’s just, instead of valuing you (first) as an indi
vidual, Gowalla values you (first) as a member of a community, be it your local, everyday community or the community worldwide. Instead of just wanting to know where you are, Gowalla wants to know where you are where others would be interested in visiting, too, and why.

So instead of logging every single place you’ve been, the Passport should be a record of every single *interesting* place you’ve been. And maybe every single place you visit *is* interesting enough that others should definitely swing by– great! But in Gowalla, locations are more than just spots to check-in and get stamped. And this is because the Passport is really a secondary feature of Gowalla.

How Gowalla is a game before it’s a service: Trips

Trips are a specific set of Gowalla spots that fall under some common theme, like the Berkeley Coffeeshop Marathon or the Austin Bar Hop. When you complete a trip, you get a pin– an award of achievement, in a way. Trips provide users with a ready-made itinerary of places Gowalla (and/or the Gowalla community) thinks you should check out, which is awesome for those days when you want to go out and do something but you have no idea what. Even if you end up hating all the spots on your trip, at the end, you at least get rewarded! Yes, the reward is only an image. No, the image has no monetary value. Neither does the Monopoly card for Park Place. It's a game.

How Gowalla is a game, period: Items

I just now hopped onto the forum to look something up and stumbled upon this thread, where below in the comments, Dr. Barnabus Peddingferd sums up in one concise statement what I’ve been blathering about above and am about to continue blathering on below:

“Gowalla is not a social networking tool to tell your buddies where you're currently grabbing a pint so much as a traveling game more akin to Geocaching.”

At the heart of Gowalla are Items, virtual goods that can be dropped, picked up, or vaulted for keeping. Upon registering, you’re randomly assigned a random number of Items (I got five), and you’re also able to see Gowalla’s entire inventory of Items so you know what you’re missing from the collection (the Gowalla Wiki also has the comprehensive list here).

One aspect of the Gowalla game, then, is to have the complete collection of Items. This is tricky in that in order to pick up an Item, you have to leave one behind in its place; the only way to obtain an Item “for free” is by actively checking in at different Gowalla spots– it doesn’t happen every time at every place, but once in a while, a check-in will be rewarded with a bonus Item. (The wiki list offers tips on which categories of locations will reward a particular Item.) This turns Gowalla into something of an Easter egg hunt (or a treasure hunt, for you non-Gentiles like my boyfriend), where you can look through the spots around you to see if something you’re looking for has been dropped lately. Obviously, some objects are less distributed than others, making the collector’s-set quest difficult (in a positive way that simply encourages more gameplay and community interaction) to achieve.

But the other aspect of the game, the one which is “more akin to Geocaching” and the thing that makes me adore Gowalla the most, is sending an Item off on a journey and tracking its travels. Though there are only 85 Items (with new ones being introduced once in a while), every Item issued to someone (either via the first five for signing up or the random check-in bonuses) is unique. So while there is only one Yellow Kayak in the collection, there might be 1000 of them in the wild, each identifiable by a tracking number and a Gowalla website page.

On an Icon’s page, you can see its history– to whom it originally belonged, who has owned it since, and where it’s traded hands. Like this Airbag Industries Pin that was issued to someone in San Jose, made its way down the coast to San Diego, came over to Las Vegas and is now who knows where. Or these Bats which started in Washington and have traveled since to Chicago and New York. Or this Cowboy Hat, originally from Texas and now in a coffeeshop in Philadelphia via Las Vegas. Remember the garden gnome’s travels in “Amelie”? It’s kind of like that.

There’s no real, functional point to collecting Items or seeing if an Item can make its way around the globe; it’s just fun. And that’s why I say Gowalla is a social game before it’s a social service.

However.

“Who will win: Foursquare or Gowalla?”

As soon as I found out about Gowalla, I started pestering Noah to play, since he has an iPhone. He's consistently refused, however, insisting that he has a loyalty to Foursquare and he’s not going to cheat on them with Gowalla (even though Gowalla is from Austin and he loves Austin and Austin is where we fell in love).

I’ve tried to explain that he can play both without disloyalties because they serve different purposes, but despite everything I’ve written above– how the only spots in Gowalla should be points of interest for everyone and Gowalla isn’t meant to be a log of an individual’s daily whereabouts or a current-location broadcasting tool– well, that’s just my interpretation of what Gowalla is for. The reality of the situation is a bit different.

Remember how initially, I only cared about racking up stamps in my Passport, which meant my focus was purely on how many check-ins I could do, which meant I wanted to create spots for every place I frequented? I’m terribly embarrassed to confess that my first two stamps are from Petsmart and Trader Joe’s, that I actually wrote in a thread that I didn’t care about the Items aspect of Gowalla.

“I'm one of the first people (and by far the most active) in my area (Rochester, NY). I've been creating spots left and right. […] I've created spots for 2 liquor stores, a post office, 3 banks, a gym, my work, 2 grocery stores, 2 restaurants and a library, and have checked in a total of 19 times between those places.” -Cassandra (original thread)

“Was just out shopping/creating… When did apparel get split into men's and woman's? What about places that do both? And maybe kids too (ie Old Navy and the like)…” -Megan Bechtel-Pike (original thread)

I’m not alone in that early mentality, which should if anything be evidenced by the fact that Petsmart and Trader Joe’s existed as spots in the first place. (To be fair, I’m also hardly alone in thinking Gowalla spots should be limited to noteworthy locations; see below.) A lot of people, possibly most, sign up for Gowalla thinking (as I did) that it’s just a more visually appealing version of Foursquare, leading to creation of spots that may be heavily frequented bu
t not necessarily interesting.

Most of the discussions online regarding Gowalla only reinforce the comparison to Foursquare, particularly the debates and pontification on which of the two is better, which of the two will “win”. But to those of us who find Gowalla’s appeal in its games, the comparison is apples to oranges. Or high heels to flip-flops. Yes, Gowalla and Foursquare fall under similar categories (social, location-based), but ultimately they are different products that serve different purposes.

However.

I have no idea what Gowalla actually thinks

As I can’t stop stressing enough, this entire entry is based on my interpretation of Gowalla. For all I know, the Gowalla team does want to be direct competition with Foursquare and simply tried to distinguish its product by implementing the game features. Maybe Gowalla wants to be a Foursquare killer; maybe Gowalla wants its community to use Gowalla to let friends know where they are and where every single nearby sushi restaurant happens to be.

I really hope not, though. I get that those are really popular services right now, but neither of those are why I (now, after a lot of thinking) love Gowalla. If I wanted to know where the best [restaurant, auto repair shop, salon, etc.] is, I’d use Yelp or Google Maps (aside: those two really need to consolidate already). If I wanted to broadcast my location or log my activity, I’d use Foursquare or Latitude. But if I want to find out where all the nearby spots with cool histories to tell are and to do some virtual geocaching? Hey, Gowalla! What’s up?

Unfortunately, if Gowalla limited their check-in spots to only POI, activity would understandably decrease. How many people check in at their state’s Capitol every day, as opposed to the number of daily check-ins at Starbucks nationwide? And how would people play Gowalla if they lived in small towns with only four or five “noteworthy” locations? It would suck, and it wouldn’t seem fair.

“[Gowalla spots] should be about […] the true flavor of a city and something worth discovering.” -joepinelli

“If anything, take the advice of Gowallite, Curtis Williams (@lenier): "Pro Tip #743 – If you’re going to tag a McDonald’s, at least include an interesting fact – The Spot." Make that spot more than just another chain business.” -Dr. Barnabus Peddingferd

(original thread)

“It's interesting to see how new players go about when they first load Gowalla. They're most invested in creating spots anywhere and everywhere. Hopefully over time they learn to appreciate the art of creating quality spots. 

"But yeah, I'm not really a fan of creating spots at bus stops, mailboxes, etc unless they have something of interest, and if so, that spot creator should add such detail in the description. Nothing worse than going to check in to the spot, and look blankly around you like "what gives???".” -Irene (original thread)

On the one hand, there’s been no official word from Gowalla regarding their position on the existence of spots that are created for the sake of creation, and there certainly aren’t any regulations in place that prevent users from turning anything and everything into a spot.

On the other hand, one of the four components of Gowalla’s tagline is “Go Discover”, and at the end of a company blog post, Josh Williams writes, “My selfish goal for Gowalla is to see people go places they otherwise would never have ventured to go. Whether its a unique toy store down the street or one of the best beer and pizza joints in NorCal, I want you to get out there and Gowalla.”

Maybe the Gowalla team will figure out how to compromise. Brian Bailey (Official Rep) notes that they “use Featured Spots to highlight some of the truly unique and interesting spots in a city” (this category would be redundant if spots were restricted to *only* unique and interesting ones), but also that they “definitely want to focus on what makes a city special, though, so we hear you and we'll continue to explore how to do that.”

My selfish, snot-nosed wish? That Gowalla doesn’t want to directly compete with Foursquare, etc. by marketing itself as another social networking/location broadcasting game, and that it holds both the Items games and the discovery/sharing of the locations that make each city “special” as its top priorities. It's totally not fair that there are people who live in places where there aren't many unique locations that give that area its signature flavor, but you know what else isn't fair? The fact that Las Vegas isn't home to either an Ike's or a Bay Cities or a Tacodeli. Or outdoor miniature golf courses. But I have no claims of entitlement; those business owners don't owe me anything, and they're not going to compromise their plans and best interests just because I, or even a group of people who share my desires, can't take part in their products or services unless I travel away from home. 

(This, by the way, also applies to Gowalla's platform compatibility. I'm anxiously looking forward to the Android app (or even full gameplay integration on the Mobile Web app), but I'm not demanding it, and I'm not angry because it "still" isn't out yet. Request To People Who Are Angry About Such Things: please lay off. Gowalla knows you non-iPhoners want to play, too, and I highly doubt they are deliberately keeping your participation at bay. Just be patient while they continue to work on this completely free product that isn't going to cost you even a cent to use.)

I do, of course, find it very laughable that I’m so crazy about something I can’t even fully use yet– though I joked a while ago about installing it on Noah’s iPhone and playing it that way (and after finally getting my sampler sneak preview of Gowalla via the Mobile Web app, I don’t think that’s a joke anymore)– to the point where I can go on so extensively about it and have even gotten involved in the community forum. I’m participating in forum threads! Do you have any idea how huge that is, that I’ve become so invested in a product and its user base that I’m openly offering up my voice, my thoughts, my opinions? HUGE. Times a lot. Plus seven.

So, anyway, cheers, Gowalla. I’m rooting for your success.

[1] CORRECTION: I didn't know you could edit addresses of places you create on the Foursquare website. This makes me a lot more amenable to creating addresses on the fly, which would be necessary for just about everywhere I go.

At least it didn’t get run over?

Flustered and with my mind understandably somewhere else this morning, I opened my car door and noticed I had not, as I’d thought, left my purse in there after all.

Set my phone down on the top of the car, dashed back inside, found my purse in the kitchen, grabbed it, took off for school. Late late late late late.

Got to campus, parked, reached over to the passenger seat to get my purse and my–

Where’s my phone?

Motherfucker.

The best part? I had PLANNED on returning it this afternoon because I hate the keyboard so much.

Actually, I think the best part is the fact that it didn’t fly off the roof of my car until AFTER I’d backed out of the driveway, until I had turned the corner and peeled away. And while both the battery cover and the battery itself flew off upon impact with the asphalt and the entire back of the phone looks like it was chewed on by my sister’s Siberian Husky, no actual functional damage occurred to the phone.

*Man.* I really did not want to keep this phone.

Say chee– oh, wait, I’ve got to take this call.

I’m all for digital point-and-shoots. They’re cute, sassy, easy-to-use, portable and convenient (as opposed to dSLRs, which are… pretty much the complete opposite, though also with the advantage of being deliciously amazing and powerful).

That being said– I’d rather have a cameraphone than a digital p/s. I don’t know what it is about cameraphones– I use them with wild abandon, reckless as an underage drunk girl in Cancun during Spring Break. Inhibitions? Out the window and far, far away.

But I just feel plain silly and ridiculous, digging through my purse to whip out a camera, which has to be turned on and set to the proper mode, all just to snap a picture of a quirky sign hanging in the bookstore. Or a picture of a flower on a bush next to the physics building. Or a picture of the butt-ugly upholstery in the waiting room.

Most cameraphones don’t go beyond 2 MP, whereas a standard digital camera is at least 5 MP (reasonably priced). Most cameraphones don’t have a flash; I don’t think there’s a digital camera on the mainstream consumer market without one.

But I still love cameraphones more. Yes, the picture is probably going to be lackluster, but I don’t care. The kinds of pictures I take with a cameraphone? I don’t plan on printing them out in poster size. They’re just memories, snapshots in all senses of the word– they don’t need to be art. I have a dSLR for that.

So– yeah. I’m pretty excited about the E61i (even if that excitement is tempered a bit by my conflicted interest in the BB 8800, which is supposed to be released later this year with both a camera AND wi-fi). [1]

 

[1] I still love Macs but am not really into the iPhone [2]. It’s beautiful and creative and impressive, but is probably more Wow factor than anything else. Tactile feedback is a big, big issue at play here– touchscreens are "cool," but inconvenient. And boo to batteries that can’t be removed! (Nope, not an iPod owner.)

[2] Though it’s still better than a WinMo phone. Don’t care what version it is, WinMo will never run on a phone of my personal choosing.

If you ever needed proof that I write only for my own amusement, this post would be it

I was at Best Buy last weekend (or earlier this week..? You know, the when isn’t even relevant) and as I passed by the mobile phone section, I stopped to, somewhat enviously, cradle a Motorola Q in my fingers. So small! So delicate! And those buttons! So reminiscent of the best QWERTY keypad ever, found only on Palm Treos!

Shortly after, I saw an advertisement for the Samsung Blackjack. Again! So small! And snackable! And by Samsung! (Oh, Samsung, you know I’ll always have a soft spot in my techno-geeky heart for you. I may curse my eyes for being so goddamningly Korean, but I will never curse you.) The buttons look kind of weird, but tactiley distinctive. Rounded QWERTY buttons rock. And! A! Camera!

Every time I start to get a little angsty over my phone choice, though, I just have to remind myself: these cute skeletal waifs of phones? RUN ON WINDOWS MOBILE. To which I can only respond, and I say this in the most eloquent and respectful manner as I can muster: oh, barf.

[It’s just cell phone talk from here on down. Proceed at your own risk of boredom.]

Continue reading

Ev-DOlution

(Before you ask about that stupid title, note the timestamp on this sucker.)

Cell phone features that, had you told me two years ago I would be WHOLE-HEARTEDLY EMBRACING, would have made me choke due to the sudden and intense fits of hysterical and incredulous laughter, in order of purported absurdity:

  • Text messaging
  • Camera (still imaging)
  • Bluetooth
  • Speakerphone
  • Video recording
  • J2ME/MP3 support
  • PC Sync
  • Full QWERTY keypad
  • E-mail push
  • Web browsing
  • Wi-Fi/wLAN
  • Expandable memory (hot-swappable)
  • UMTS/3G support
  • FM Radio

That last one kills me. It’s come to this, Oh People of the Internets: I pass disdainful judgment onto an otherwise feature-rich phone should it not support FM tuning. I’VE NEVER EVEN USED THIS FEATURE ON MY PHONE. But I like knowing that it’s there.

And, okay, seriously? QWERTY with SureType is such a hoax. It’s upgraded T9 input. And that’s just lame. I can type *faster* with T9 and a standard numeric keypad than I can with SureType.

It’s with a heavy heart that I accept the all-too-likely possibility that the iPhone won’t be QWERTY– it’ll be too geared for the consumer market. Still, at the very least, this is a guarantee: Gorgeous. Form. Factor.

Except if Cingular gets initial release exclusivity, the iPhone won’t be on the market for another two years. Thanks, ridiculously long and fussy QA process that ends up putting out buggy phones anyway. (That V3i? Still not out.)

There are about a gazillion links that should be here, but screw it… bed calls (ha! get it? "calls"? meh).

If the Nokia E61 had a camera, or if the SE P990 weren’t so gargantuan, or if the BlackBerry 8100 weren’t getting such shit reviews…

The world would communicate better. And everyone would get along. And no one would ever, ever get cavities or bad teeth ever, ever again. The end.

Oh, damn

So apparently Motorola only hates the U.S. market. We get the leftover crap phones. Thanks!

You have got to check this shit out: Motorola A1200 ("Ming")

Ming_01

That’s right. It’s a phone, it’s a PDA, it’s a camera, it’s a media player/FM radio, it’s a rock star. And it is never going to be released in the U.S.

Why is the flip part translucent, you ask? Good question! Because that screen underneath? That screen is a TOUCHSCREEN. Which also answers the question of, where the hell is the keypad?

There are live photos and video at Wireless Imports. The OS is Linux (NOT Windows Mobile, thank god) and while it doesn’t have Opera, it does at least have WAP 2.0/xHTML. And e-mail and IM and sync and all that other PDA-esque stuff.

The camera is a 2 mpx and while the phone only has 8 MB of internal storage, there is an expansion slot. It’s a quad-band. And yes, it’s a Motorola, but either this phone, like the E1070, is running under the new-and-hopefully-soon-to-be-standard Moto UI, or it just escaped the current ugly-as-hell Moto UI because it’s a foreign/PDA phone.

Motorola_a1200img_7494

I was initially concerned about basic phone operations as there doesn’t appear to be a speaker present, but apparently it has been cleverly integrated into the translucent design, and anyway, I trust that the uber-tech-y Hong Kong market wouldn’t let Motorola get away with sub-standard shit.

And if it looks bulky, rest assured that it isn’t. It’s only 21mm thick (a SLVR is 11.5mm and a RAZR, 14mm), and if the numbers aren’t convincing enough:

Motorola_a1200img_7482

Except, right? What do I need with a business-y phone?

So I guess the game plan needs to be switched up a little: time to start my own business. Yeah. And then years from now, when I’m all successful and dominating my market (um, whatever that market ends up being), people will ask me, "Lora, what made you decide to go the entrepreneur route?" And I’ll respond, "So I could justify purchasing the A1200."

I am such a freaking gadget geek. But seriously! How could you NOT be all hot and bothered by this thing? This phone, it could, like, save the world or something. Somehow. I just know it.

It’s more work than you think, being the go-to cell phone whore

So Q2 is nearly over, a whopping two quarters after the original release date, and I still have yet to see the V3i hit the public market. And yet, from what I unearthed on eBay, Motorola is already making colored editions of the goddamn thing (there’s the gold Dolce & Gabbana one from December, and now blue, maroon and red ones). What the fuck? Come on, Motorola. And do you really think releasing a pink version will boost your lackluster sales of the L7? Which, incidentally, never had much marketing to begin with?

Oh, right, sorry. You guys have been too busy preparing to take the world by storm with the Q [1]. Hmm, wait, this build-up of anticipation seems vaguely familiar… oh! Right! Hey, does anyone remember all the hype about the PEBL? Interestingly enough, I still have yet to meet anyone who’s actually bought the thing, and it’s been on the market for a couple of months now.

Of course, should a Moto rep happen to be reading this and subsequently feel the need to convince me of the Q’s Ultimate Wowness (or the need to re-convert me to a V3i champeen), I wouldn’t say no to a live product review. If y’know what I’m sayin’. [2]

Anyway. Below: the Samsung T719, Sony Ericsson M600, Sony Ericsson W950 and Nokia 6282.

(All images, um, "borrowed" from Mobiledia)

*****

Samsung T719 (on Mobiledia and MobileBurn)

Sght719

I was lucky enough to play with this phone back in January. It’s a little wide, though probably no wider than the RAZR, but unlike the RAZR (and in true Samsung fashion), the T719 fits so comfortably in the hand. The tapering form makes it more ergonomic– and while you could argue, hey, with Bluetooth headsets being all the rage, who gives a crap about ergonomics?, I could (and would, and totally will) argue right back, hey, Bluetooth headsets are horrible beyond horrible [3] and the last time I checked, you still need to hold your phone in your hand for pictures and text-messaging and scrolling through your phonebook and– well. Need I go on?

So, yeah. Form factor is gorgeous– it may not be as sexy or exactly as slim as the RAZR, but at 18mm thick, it’s a far cry from bulky. AND it has a 1.3 mpx camera (rotating!), AND 25 MB storage (but no expandable, booo), AND– AND!!!– a QWERTY keypad. Which goes hand-in-hand with its Blackberry Connect feature.

The lacking memory capabilities aside, this is such a fabulously nutty phone and I’m so happy it’s finally coming to the public market, T-Mobile be damned. Thank god for unlocking services.

*****

Sony Ericsson M600 (Mobiledia)

M600

I love Sony Ericsson UIs. They’re always aesthetically pleasing, solidly intuitive and easily navigable. That being said, every single SE clamshell I have ever handled has been a bulky, ugly beast and a pain in the ass to flip open. And I Just Say No to slider phones, and I think you should, too.

But aside from being a non-clamshell, non-slider, the primary reason *this* phone caught my eye is because of the QWERTY keypad. Then I read the specs and discovered that, hey! IT HAS A TOUCHSCREEN, and Opera! And Symbian! And 80 MB of internal memory! And an expansion slot! And only 15mm thick! Holy wow!

But then I read through the specs again and discovered, boo, no camera. It was so damn close to being an ultimate all-in-one-er. Though if you go to the Mobiledia page and look at Photo 3, you’ll notice a little circle on the back that looks like once upon a time, it had been planned to integrate a camera. Likely budgets got changed somewhere along the process and it had to be cut (which is how the Nokia 6282 ended up as only a 1 mpx camera, sans flash).

Maybe if it came bundled with the 9.8mm-thick Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T7, this absent feature wouldn’t be so much of an issue. Though, rest assured, it would still BE an issue. Just not so much of one. Yeah.

*****

Sony Ericsson W950 (Mobiledia)

W950

So you’re reading about the M600 and you’re thinking, hey, 80 MB of internal storage. That’s not bad, and there’s an expansion slot to boot! But I’m really lazy and I don’t want to have to go out and buy a damn memory card for my phone.

Well. WELL. How’s about 4 GB of internal memory? Yeah? How d’ya like THEM apples?

What with Motorola’s (cruddy) ROKR release last year and with iPods getting progressively more multi-functional while still staying tiny, I’ve been wondering when a phone like this was going to come out. It’s more or less a huge improvement on the bulky W600i and has the same awesome features as the M600 above– namely, Symbian, a TOUCHSCREEN and Opera. And still only 15mm thick.

But, again, no camera. Dammit.

*****

Nokia 6282 (Mobiledia)

6282

This phone was my first-ever slider phone, which means it unfortunately has to be THE phone that has made me detest slider phones. Not because it’s a particularly bad slider phone, but rather, because it’s the only slider phone I’ve ever used. If that makes sense.

In the almost-five months that I’ve had this, there are two features that really stand out: the screen display and physical durability. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve dropped this sucker, and none of the internal components are worse for the wear. And I’m talking DROPPED dropped, like, the back casing flew off and sometimes the battery would even pop out, and when it slides closed now, it drops so much the two halves aren’t flush anymore, etc. With exception of when the battery would expel itself several feet away, as though it were trying to get as far away as possible from the crazy chick who doesn’t know how to hold onto her stupid cellphone, the phone never even shut itself off when I dropped it. Talk about sturdy.

The casing itself, of course, is dinged up to massive extents, as can only be expected from a delicate plastic shell that has been to hell and back.

Every Nokia cameraphone I’ve used, whether through ownership or demo-ing or handling in a store, has a delay on the camera function, and this drives me absolutely nuts. When I press the "capture" button, I expect the shutter to go off immediately, especially as the little shutter sound plays when I press that button. A one-second delay may not seem like that long to you if you haven’t been the victim of it, but let me tell you, when you’re trying to take a picture of that really cute guy as he’s passing, you get kind of pissed when you think you’ve taken a picture with his whole face in the frame and end up discovering that one-second delay has left you with only his ear and the back of his neck.

So, pros: screen display (the colors! the clarity! so swoon-inducing!), internal durability, sound (lovely, lovely), expandable memory slot.

Cons: goddamn camera delay, slider form.

*****

Bonus! Samsung P300 (MobileBurn)

Samsung_sghp300img_0126

Isn’t it cute? Talk about snackable.

It measures 3.5" x 2.1" x 0.35" (the iPod Nano is 3.5” x 1.6” x 0.27” and the 30 GB iPod is 4.1” x 2.4” x 0.43”) and has been inevitably compared to a pocket calculator.

There’s a video preview over at Wireless Imports. Screen clarity looks good, on par with Samsung standards, and it’s got a 1.3 mpx camera with 80 MB of internal storage (but no expansion slot).

Not a bad bundle for those who are all about the super-slim cell phones, but, as with the RAZR, the P300 looks to be awkward and rigid in the hand.

*****

[1] So I’m not trying to come off as a total snot, but really, you’re not going to take *any* world by storm on CDMA. You’re hardly going to be able to take the U.S. by storm on CDMA. Hell, you’ll be lucky to take a STATE. Those who have followed my cell-phone diatribes may have noticed that I only (p)review GSM/UMTS phones.

[2] I’m much better on turnaround times with products I’m super into reviewing. I was invited to preview "the world’s first universal cameraphone flash," like, way the heck back in March and the thing has been sitting in my purse ever since. The only time it’s been "used" is by accident, which usually results in someone (me, initially) being temporarily blinded. My goal for this weekend is to finally run it through procedural tests and write the review. Admittedly, other factors contributing to this procrastination have been: I stopped using the camera function on my phone altogether and right after I received the product in the mail, I moved down to San Diego and started working non-stop.

[3] I’m only going to say this for now: just don’t be that person who walks around wearing the headset, even when a phone call isn’t in progress. DON’T BE THAT PERSON. For serious.

The awesomeness continues

Not too thrilled about my own current state of affairs at present. For one thing, my chest hurts like I’ve been suffering from smoker’s cough for 10 days straight, except I’ve never even smoked a ham and I haven’t actually been coughing.

Anyway. Hence, more linkage. Happy Friday!

*****

Related to my previous ramble on upcoming slimphones (damn! I thought I made that word up [1], but apparently the *real* mobile review sites have been using it already): Samsung’s also in the process of unleashing the z560, which has a 2 megapixel camera (get this: with auto-focus) and an expandable memory card slot on the side of the phone, all in virtually the same package as the z510. Downside? Supposedly only for the European market, though this may change if Cingular gets their 1900 HSDPA network up and running. Consistently, anyhow.

The LG P7200 has been on the market for almost 6 months now. I’ve never seen it, so I guess they went through T-Mobile. More or less the same darn thing as the z560 except in terms of appearance. The LG’s measurements indicate it’s slightly smaller than the Samsung and once open, the LCD screen can be rotated around a full 180 degrees and then closed back down (to make it feel more like a camera). But I’m a little more partial to Samsung’s rotating camera (present on the z510, not on the z560), if anything because it makes fueling the little narcissist in each of us, a little easier.

As it stands, I think I’d take the z510 over the z560, anhow. The keypad is cuter (I’m a girl, the cute factor matters) and I’ve been doing just fine with a 1 mpx cameraphone. Plus, hello, rotating camera?

*****

I love David Cross. Not like I love Dane Cook, but the love is definitely there. His letter to Larry the Cable Guy was enchanting and his latest entry, excerpts of James Frey’s upcoming new memoir, "Lesson Learned," is just too awesome for any amount of hot dogs to properly describe. Read it. Go.

Also, as mentioned below, sometimes the comments are as delicious as the actual posts:

  • "Rita" says: I have heard of Larry the Cable Guy and since I had never even heard of
    you I can’t comment on who I think is funnier but the fact that I had
    never heard of you speaks for itself.
    (If it does, it speaks more about your lame taste in what you consider to be humor.)
  • "mb" says: You know that not everyone from the south is a redneck moron.
    since larry the cable guy is not originally from the south i, and many
    others, feel misrepresented. maybe you could create a character mocking
    his act. something like randy the potato salad vender.
    (from the first set of comments)

I would totally pay money to see Randy the Potato Salad Vendor.

*****

I love Natalie Dee’s artwork and her Dairyland. Not a big fan of her "Ask Natalie" bit, maybe because I expected more snarky humor and less actual, down-to-earth advice, especially when the questions aren’t even funny, they’re just your run-of-the-mill love/life problems as such.

Still, this caught my eye:

  • The only thing you can do is just take the fucking leap. You know you love her, you want to spend the rest of your life with her, that is good enough. People have based relationships on less. You will never ever be able to know what is going to happen, you just gotta make decisions based on what you KNOW RIGHT NOW. Even if there were trombones and rabbits and confetti and all that, you could still get the shaft in 10 years. That’s why life is awesome.

*****

Part of me adores the site design for Very Big Blog. Part of me thinks it’s too busy. The rest of me just doesn’t care for the color orange.

This was interesting, but in my case, only to look at and only because I’ve been fascinated by hieroglyphics ever since that one art project in 4th grade where we learned how to write our names using the symbols, then carved it into a little clay tablet. Or maybe that was a science fair project I did. In 5th grade?

Regardless, I try to be a fair person whenever possible, but it takes time to drain bitterness from my system, so I still hate "Lost." Specifically, the first season of "Lost," available on DVD. I refuse to watch it or the second season or any season henceforth, mostly because to start watching now would mean having to inevitably watch the first season in order to properly understand the slow-ass drama, MY GOD THE SLOW-ASSNESS OF THAT SHOW’S DRAMA. (I’ve never watched it, no, but I’ve heard it going on in the background. There’s a lot of silence.) [3]

*****

The first crack in my social-moral-whatever ground appeared when I became hooked on camera phones and Bluetooth. While I’ve yet to give in to the temptation of buying an iPod [4] (admittedly, the temptation isn’t even very strong, though the iPod nano? Even that stupid commercial couldn’t emphasize just how ridiculously tiny that thing is. It looks snackable), I have…

…started subscribing to podcasts. Because when you’ve finished gorging yourself on all the episodes of BBC’s original "The Office," when you’ve finished drinking in every episode of "Extras"– even when you’ve consumed all the episodes of NBC’s "The Office" because he did have a hand in that show’s production– you’re still left feeling starved for more more MORE RICKY GERVAIS. And Ricky Gervais has a podcast.

Homestarrunner has a podcast, too, but it’s just old episodes of StrongBad E-mail, albeit some of the best ones ("Japanese Cartoon," "Dragon," "Caffeine"). Never having seen "Virus" before, I now understand how and why Lappy became a fixture of the shows.

*****

I wish Alice Bradley were my older sister. By which I don’t mean I wish she were my older sister instead of the older sister I actually do have, an older sister who is Cooler Than Cool and somehow knows, armed with Cooler Than Cool Older Sister Ultimate Wisdom, how to get me to smile and laugh even when I’m on the floor weeping incessantly. Or locked up in a hospital ward. Or both.

No, I just wish Alice Bradley were a supplemental older sister. Or maybe just a really cool aunt. The sweetness she manages to exude in her blog is almost too gentle and beautiful and, well, sweet to bear. That she can comingle her sweetness and her snarkiness so flawlessly is equally endearing. Behold!

  • Last week, I was down to five granulettinos of Effexor; this week I am officially drug-free. Last week I was merely crazy and unhappy; this week I am crazy and sick and miserable. Perhaps this makes me more entertaining. Whee! Look at the crazy lady! Is she wearing an oven mitt on her head? No, that’s her hair. Has she ever heard of a hairbrush? (full post here)

I would link to all the posts I’m currently loving to death but that would entail linking to every single post dating back to Nov. 2005.

Other people I’ve been reading way more of these days:

And now that kottke.org is back on the shelf as a hobby-of-sorts, I’ve become deeply invested in BoingBoing‘s lookie-heres.

All done!

*****

[1] Well, I did make up "penicular" [2], upon viewing of this background image

[2] GODDAMMIT.

[3] Other touchy subjects include: snowboarding. Don’t mention snowboarding to me unless you’re inviting me to go, in which case, hell yes and when? Also, I will glare witheringly at you if you start talking about fucking CineVegas. I am but human with but human vices.

[4] Given my oft-professed rapture with all things Apple, you’d think I’d have been on the iPod bandwagon before it even became a bandwagon. While I do love me some music, however, out-and-about I prefer listening to the sounds of the world, as pukingly cheesy as that sounds. The only time I’ll allow myself to wear earphones is at the gym, and those 1-2 hours of running on a machine hardly seem worth buying an iPod when my mp3 CD player suffices quite well.