Oh, the joys of the Smartphone.
Recently, last week to be exact, my wife, who is a wonderous object of luminous beauty, purchased for me the Treo 700p, which is also a wonderous object of luminous beauty. Funny how things work out that way. As an employee of Sprint, she not only got the phone at the rate that others get only when signing 2 year contracts, providing a pint of blood, and signing over all claims to lands both here and in the afterlife, but her employment also confers upon me the joys of a monthly bill somewhere south of 20 dollars. This includes normal phone usage, unlimited text messaging, and more importantly, unlimited data usage.
Now, the upside of this is that I can use the phone to do pretty much anything and everything it was created to do, short of watching the premium tv channels. The bad news is that even if Sprint somehow relocated to Hell, and instead of being a Technical Writer, Linda was placed in charge of letting the HellBeasts feast on the gizzards of the damned, she would not be able to quit as I can't be without my data plan, nor can I justify spending 80 bucks a month just so that I can read the email informing me of my winning bid on Battlestar Galactica: Season One whilst I idle at a red light. Such is the devilish powers of these baubles. They quickly insinuate themselves into your lives to the point where you can't remember when you didn't have them. Like children, only with bright shiny screens and less dinner time pooping.
I'm still getting used to the phone and its myriad features, however I have gotten used to it enough to tell you that this thing is an amazing little piece of technology. The Economist ran an article upon the 25th anniversary of the PC basically saying that it was the mobile phone, not the PC that was carrying forward the notion of unlimited communication and portable computing power that seemed to be the birthright of the PC. When I use this phone, I have to agree with them. Email, web access, document creation, editing and viewing, movies, music, games and a phone, all in something that can fit in your pocket. Now, as phones go, it costs a pretty penny, but compared to the price of a PC, it's downright economical. That's not to say that you can ditch your PC and do all of your work on a Treo, however given that mobile phones have a greater penetration in underdeveloped nations than PC's do, a phone like this will do more to carry forth the notion of what a computer can do better than any PC.
But I digress. The damn thing works like a charm. Setting up things like email accounts, web bookmarks and other data applications is quick and easy. There's something like 9 email applications on the blasted thing depending on whether or not you want business email, personal email or some sort of setup that has you communicating with livestock. It comes loaded with multiple email profiles for things like Comcast, Earthlink, Google, etc so all you do is enter username and password and boom, you're off and emailing.
Most applications can be used with either the touchscreen or the 5-way rocker button, however some things, like certain games, can only be played with the stylus-touchscreen combo. That's to be expected as Mahjong would be an exercise in futility if you tried to select tiles with only the 5-way rocker. Some things, the phone in particular don't work nearly as well using only the touchscreen. The mute button, for example, is very small and requires either the use of the stylus, or the use of a particularly sharp and focused fingernail. I am considering growing a coke dealer/pimp nail on my pinkie so that I can better utilize my phone's features. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the use of the touchscreen, however when I'm using the phone, I want to use it as a phone and having to get the stylus out for muting seems like far too much work. I also call into question my cleanliness when I hang up and see a smear of ear grease on the touchscreen. Can't be helped, I guess.
Call quality is excellent, even if the signal switches from non-roaming to roaming randomly in the confines of our home even if the phone is left alone and not moved a millimeter. As I didn't have a signal at all in our house with Nextel service, any extra bars, even if they be roaming ones, are welcome. Besides, I don't pay for roaming, so what's it to me? The phone can be bouncing signals off of towers in fucking Poland for all I care. When I have a full set of non-roaming bars, the phone is identical in quality to a landline. No more will I drive home, listening to conference calls, desperately hoping that noone is asking me anything directly as I can't make out a single goddamned word anyone is saying. Now I can hear things clearly and cleanly. For the record, people don't seem to care I'm on the call, so all that worrying was for naught.
The Sprint TV application is pretty cool. I'm happy to download the Ghost Rider trailer and watch it as I wait for my bagel to be prepared however I wouldn't consider it a necessary feature. When the NFL is in full swing, it may hold more appeal, but I think I have to pay extra for that and I'm perfectly happy waiting until I get home to see how my team has fared. This device has cured me of the need for a video iPod, not that I had much of one in the first place, as I can't see myself watching anything for any length of time on such a small screen lest my already aged and infirmed eyes whither and die in their sockets from such fervent straining. Getting video on this thing can't be any harder than it was for the PSP, an exercise in technological bullshittery if ever there was one, so I can quickly turn it into a video iPod of sorts if I feel the need.
There seem to be no shortage of apps for the device, some that work well and seamlessly with the other preloaded apps, some that seem to have been made by epileptic monkeys. Needing to shut down my IM client just so that I can choose to connect to an additional service would be one of the latter. It's free, so I can't complain too much, however it is easy to see that there are those that believe in standards for the device's software and those that laugh at the idea of standards and then fling poo at your person. So far my favorite application is one that allows you to use mp3's as ringtones, assigning different ones to any of your contacts. Linda's is the chorus of "Old Dan Tucker" as realized by a one Mr. Bruce Springsteen. Well, not yet as I don't have an SD card to hold them, but soon I will. Not sure what I'm going to do for Andy, something from Nick Cave, no doubt, but I'm not too concerned as the fucker never calls me. Ever. In fact, no one ever calls me, so all of this work seems to be wasted time, but I'm having fun with it, and in the end, that's all that matters. I'm not sure what my default ring tone is going to be, but the chorus of "Brandy" by The Looking Glass is calling to me much like the sea called to those callous, waitress ignoring fuckers in the song.
To sum up, it's a fucking kick ass little piece of technology and for a big old dork like me, it confers a certain air of gadget supremacy. My phone can, and will, beat up your phone. Yes, it's a bit of an exaggeration to say that I can't live without the thing, especially given that I've only had it a week. It's more like I wouldn't want to go on living were it to be taken from me. That, on the other hand, seems perfectly reasonable.