Contemplating A New Phone

Last November, as an anniversary gift to ourselves, my wife and I got matching phones: the Samsung SCH-i760. We went whole-hog with unlimited bandwidth and SMS, synchronized email accounts, etc. I fully integrated mine with my company's exchange server, notifying me of meetings and tasks, and pushing my email. It was excellent. I could check email anywhere, use Google Maps for directions, tweet, etc. It was great.

Then the mysterious, aging Windows installation syndrome crept in. The phone would randomly freeze, crash or restart, sometimes in the middle of a call. When composing a text message, the phone would jump into the dialing application and start dialing numbers. I would go from three bars' of battery life to none in a few minutes. As an internet device, it performed fairly well. As a phone, it was flat out annoying. I installed the Windows Mobile 6.1 update to see if it would resolve any of the quirkiness to no avail. Then, after taking a hard look at our budget, we decided to nix the internet service. This saved about $100 a month, but left us with two phones we otherwise hate.

At the same time, we switched to a family plan to save a bit more money, but this had the undesired effect of canceling my wife's NE2 subscription (since her line effectively costs $10 per month, and the minimum is $50). Verizon's NE2 plan isn't really every two years, it's every twenty months, meaning I can get $100 towards a new phone next month.

Yay! But what to do? I want to go simple, but I also want a few key features:

  • Bluetooth Support – I'm in the market for a good headset as well, and like to sync stuff with my computers.
  • A camera that doesn't suck – 2MP would be nice, but 1.3 is sufficient.
  • microSD port – I have a 2GB card, I might as well use it!

Disclaimer: I would love an iPhone. I covet every single one I see. I can't, however, rationalize the expense of $400 up front for two phones and $150+ each month for service. It's not economically sound, and I don't need one. I also don't want to leave Verizon. Their service is more than adequate and so far, from a customer service perspective, I've been fairly happy. Our entire extended family is on the VZW network, and I have FIOS at home which puts all of my communication utilities on one bill.

Sadly, I don't love any of their phones, but if I'm not going to jump ship I'll have to suck it up. Thus, I'm down to five from the current lineup:

  1. Motorola Rapture – $30 (3.5/5): Pros: Cost!, Size, Looks Pretty, 2.0MP Camera; Cons: It's made by Motorola, so the software sucks and I already have bad software.
  2. Samsung Trance – $70 (4/5): Pros: Cost to some extent, Size!, killer speakerphone; Cons: Slider (never had one before, so maybe it doesn't matter), You have to open the slide to use the camera, camera is only 1.3MP, Reviews say that the touch screen is kinda wonky
  3. LG Chocolate 3 – $70 (3.5/5): Pros: Cost to some extent, built-in FM Transmitter for music, 2.0MP Camera; Cons: Size, Kinda ugly
  4. Nokia 7205 – $80 or $130? (3.5/5): Pros: It's super pretty, 2.0MP Camera; Cons: Cost, semi-odd button layout, reviews indicate poor T9 support/battery life
  5. LG Dare – $130 (4/5): Pros: Pretty, 3.0MP Camera, Outstanding battery life, Tons of positive reviews; Cons: No keys!, Cost!!

To make a final decision, I'm going to need to play with a few of these hands-on at either Best Buy or a Verizon store. I'm leaning toward the Trance, mostly because of the size and my non-smartphone experiences with Samsung have all been stellar. I had an LG a few phones ago and it was terrible, so that doesn't bode well for the Chocolate. (I'm really only considering it for the FM transmitter.) The Dare, while shiny, is just too costly and I'd be making the same mistake that I did with my current phone: buying features I don't really need. Some field experience is going to make the final decision.

Jun 6th, 2009