Jan 06 2008

ain’t standards wonderful

I’ve just changed my mobile phone for the first time in nearly three years. I know this makes me unusual, particularly as I am normally a gadget lover, but to me a phone is primarily intended to be communication device. I don’t really need it to be a camera, or a music player, or a games console. I really want my phone to work as a phone when I need it and I don’t really want to find that the battery is flat at exactly the wrong moment just because I have been listening to Peter Green for hours. My daughter seems to change her mobile every six months or so – but then she seems happy to tie herself into a network provider’s contract in order to update what is essentially a fashion accessory. I’m not prepared to do that and I pay a satisfyingly small sum of money each month to my provider because I don’t expect them to subsidise the cost of a phone.

I bought my new phone on-line. And nice and shiny it is – and I admit it appeals to the gadget lover in me. Besides the obvious voice and text messaging capability it offers: multimedia messaging, email, MP3 and MP4 audio/video (video? on a screen that size?), video calling, web access including an RSS reader, games, a radio, a calendar, an organiser, a calculator, stopwatch and of course the obligatory high resolution camera (which I confess is quite nice).

The phone even includes a file manager to allow the user to shuffle the umpteen MP3/4, jpeg/gif whatever files around and provides bluetooth, USB and infrared local communication capability over and above the GSM connectivity actually needed in a phone in the UK – plus of course 3G capability for all that high bandwidth you will need if you try to actually use all the phone’s functionality. Somehow I don’t think my current ten pounds a month contract is going to cover that.

Now with all the thought that has obviously gone in to the design of this wonderful gadget, why on earth couldn’t the company stick with some obvious existing standards in its physical design. I can just about put up with the need to learn a whole new layout on the keypad – hell the device has some dozen additional keys over and above the keypad itself – but why should I have to carry another set of earphones when I already have a perfectly good set of in ear bud phones with a standard minijack? Why should I have to use the phone’s non-standard USB connector when I already have a USB lead on my PC which terminates in a mini USB connector used by my PSP, and my cameras. Why should I have to buy yet another form of the company’s own proprietary memory sticks when I already have plenty of high capacity memory cards in said cameras and PSP?

Oh, and of course the recharger is different to every other such device in my home.

As an old colleague once said to me (quoting Tanenbaum) – “I love standards, there are so many to choose from”.

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