Tuesday, 24 February 2009

MWC bemoko device oscars - palm pre and HTC magic

Let’s start with the depression and then I’ll lift you. There are a lot of big name device manufactures that are really struggling at creating that goal of usable mobile internet devices. So apple have paved the way and although they weren’t at the MWC this year – the iPhone they released over a year a go would still have been the cream of today. So what is the competition missing? LG, Samsung and Toshiba are all creating smartphones that miss on so many fronts – clumsy UI, unresponsive touchscreens and slow interactions. Docomo show some promise of innovation with the push into projector phones and I’ll keep an cautious eye on Huawei now that they’re press released their Android strategy and put a shiny phone in a glass box.

The Nokia N97 is making small step forwards, but it doesn’t feel a leap from the excellent N82. I like the home page widgets and the personalisation that comes from this, but the UI is a little tired and was slightly unresponsive. Not a bad phone, but didn’t impressed me like I wanted to be impressed.

When we finally tracked down the HTC Magic we got a glimmer of hope. The device was responsive and showed promise, but it still was lacking that end-to-end-I-want-one feeling. The UI is slightly cluttered and, although it looks more robust than the G1, it still needs someone to take Android and create a polished experience (a goal I don’t think is far off and I strongly believe will happen). A disappointment I’d had on previous windows mobile device was reaffirmed at HTC where I could try the HTC Magic (Android) against the HTC Diamond (Windows Mobile). The HTC Diamond felt it was stuck in the wrong gear. Other people have commented on a similar windows experience – Gizmodo, Edible Apple, PPCKitchen. Is it the hardware / touch screen or is there something inherently up with Windows mobile usability?

I was pleasantly surprised to see Garmin asus make a worthy contender with the G60. Garmin have Android rumours all over them – something that the Garmin representative did nothing to hide – but for the time being the G60 is linux based. Garmin I know well from the satnav section of my Halfords store and Asus I know well from defining and conquering the low priced, well built small laptop market. What a great combination of two trusted brands. People are already budgeting for Garmin satnav devices so the cross over into a tight mobile internet phone seems perfect. The G60 UI is clean simple fast and does the job. It doesn’t show off and isn’t trying to be an all functional smartphone, but it has it’s worthy place and things can only look up for Garmin as they take this strategy forward. Lot’s of choices for them on the direction – not least their distribution channels and how they engage with the operators.

So … leaving the best for last. We were blown away by the Palm Pre – something that Tim has already blogged about. So now wanting to repeat his message, I’ll quickly summarise my thoughts. It’s such a rounded device – both physically (like a polished pebble) and user experience wise. For me user experience is everything – if something annoys or bugs me in a device then it can ruin the whole experience, but here is a device that I couldn’t fault. Albeit, through the rose tinted glasses of desire, I did try to find faults – but they were difficult to find. A few days in my pocket may unearth some. The battery life might be an issue as could the price tag – rumoured at ~$500 (keeping it firmly in the high price end of the market). Those aside – we’ve got a very user-centric device here. Palm have thought about the user and what they want and that includes multi-tasking/multi-cards, clever gestured, subtle on screen feedbacks (where your finger has been), consolidated search interface. The synergy concept to aggregate contacts and calendars from multiple source is great from a consumer view, pulling together social contacts, but also from an enterprise side where it could be pulling in contact from your CRM. This device really is true cross over between consumer and enterprise, seemingly without compromise to either (we’re all people aren’t we so it should be possible). I can see people who like the iPhone and people who like the Blackberry take more than a double look at this Palm pre device and consider that it’s time for a change.

… and did I say the Palm Pre packaging is neat. All recyclable, no bits of plastic and unnecessary plastic bags, whether they did this for marketing or altruistic reasons – it doesn’t matter. It shows they care.

Take care – and here’s to an exciting future for the (mobile) internet.