To be perfectly honest, the title of this blog probably promises more than I can deliver. Okay, not probably - definitely. Try as I might to give you the greatest review you've ever read, it simply isn't possible. I know my limits. While I know my limits, I also rarely pay attention to them. (Times I pay attention to them: while driving, while asking my dad for money, and while running without my inhaler.) As such, I'm going to attempt to write a reasonably readable review of the latest little gadget that's come into my life.
If you don't feel like slogging through all the complaining and raving I'm about to launch into, here's the brief version of this review:
My track record with cell phones could be better, but it could be much, much worse. To date, I've possessed a grand total of five cell phones, and only two of those (the first one and the current one) weren't replaced because I killed them (well, one wasn't completely dead when I got a new one... but it was almost there). Typical deaths of cell phones at my hands are products of (primarily) lots of dropping, exposure to unusual environments (e.g. the beach), and general wear and tear (e.g. lots and lots and lots of texting). I've come to terms with the fact that I am the worst person on the face of the planet to own electronic devices. For example, I know that I should probably never own an iPod Touch or iPhone simply because that little beauty would be reduced to functioning only as a paperweight in about a week. When my latest phone (the Blackberry Pearl 8110) crapped out on me, I wasn't terribly surprised. Due to my abusive nature, I set out on a mission to find a tank of a cell phone; I needed to find something indestructible, something that would last longer than a year, something that could withstand... well... me.
The Old Piece of Junk... I mean... Phone
The year was 2008. I had just graduated, and in three months I would be jetting to the other side of the country to start school at the Institvte. My little Pantech whatever-ma-bob (you remember that super small phone? "The World's Smallest Cell Phone"? yeah, that's what I had) had held up fine through my last couple of years of high school, but I didn't expect it to make it through the summer, let alone college. I did a small amount of (okay, hardly any) research on phones, and made my decision after playing with some phones in the AT&T store. Clearly I make some mistakes in my life. I picked up the Blackberry Pearl 8110, fell in love with its size and half-assed QWERTY keyboard, and promptly decided that was the phone I wanted. Little did I know I had picked a phone whose operating system was finicky and featured or lacked a lot of things that made no sense whatsoever (e.g. why couldn't I set multiple alarms? why would the time never update from the network even though I told it to?). Its size and shape, which I had loved at first, turned out to be the perfect size and shape for falling out of one's pockets. As a result, I dropped this phone a lot. The operating system also liked to randomly stop working; all of a sudden the screen would be blank white and there would be a little turning hourglass. This even happened during phone calls.
To be fair, there were things I like about the Pearl; the texting interface was pretty great, and the predictive text was honestly the best feature that phone had. I text a lot, and I'm also a bit of a grammar/spelling nerd; having a phone that allowed me to perfectly punctuate and spell everything out without making me go crazy was a joy. I also liked that I could personalize the dictionary of the phone. It had good alarm volume and call quality was acceptable.
Ultimately, the phone speaker gave out (this may or may not have been caused by a trip to Newport where the wind was a little more persistent than usual), and I could only have phone conversations on speakerphone. This was just the excuse I needed, because I was beginning to hate that operating system more than anything.
The Search Criteria and Selection
I had the bar set pretty high when I started my quest to find a new phone. I clearly wanted it to be better than my Pearl, and I desperately wanted a full QWERTY keyboard. I also wanted to be able to be able to set multiple alarms (weird, I know... but it's important), have wi-fi access, and to be able to operate without the OS crashing. In addition, there was no way in hell I was going to get a phone that runs on Mobile Windows (don't question - I have my reasons... and I don't honestly feel like boring you with them here).
After I figured out what I wanted, I spent some time browsing through the AT&T website, reading cell phone reviews.
DON'T EVER DO THAT.
Seriously. The people that review cell phones on the AT&T website made me want to... I don't know... They just made me feel like I could be violent. I guess I shouldn't get mad at people for being completely illiterate and unhelpful, but this was beyond the usual internet stupidity.
With no thanks to the AT&T customer community (not that I should have expected anything else), I went to the local AT&T store to play around with phones to get a feel for things, then I spent some time reading through blogs online. Eventually I determined that the Nokia E71x was probably my best bet.
I love this phone (for the most part). It's superior to the Pearl in a lot of ways, but there are still a few things that I wish were a bit different. I'll start with the things I'm happy with...
Basically, this phone fulfills all of the requirements I had when I started my search for a new phone. I can set multiple alarms. I have wi-fi capabilities. It has a Symbian OS. It doesn't crash. It has a full QWERTY keyboard. It's also a tank! The case is stainless steel, and there doesn't appear to be a whole lot of plastic parts that are going to break. It's sleek, it's sexy, and it's the perfect size and weight to fit in your palm and not feel like a piece of junk. The hot buttons are great. I can put PDFs on it and actually read them. Essentially, everything about this phone is fantastic.
There are a few things that I wish were different on this phone. First and foremost, the texting interface is terrible. I will say that maybe it just takes some getting used to, especially because I was so in love with the Blackberry interface. But so far, I hate it. The predictive text feature is really obnoxious, and doesn't seem too "trainable". I don't even bother using it. I would rather type everything out than deal with telling the phone what I want it to type. I also hate that the clock is tiny, and sometimes the H button doesn't work (though that's probably just operator error...).
Essentially, this phone is badass, despite its flaws. It's also a better phone than that Blackberry. If you're looking for a phone that can actually do things that are useful, all while looking great and holding up to serious abuse, all while not being an iPhone, the Nokia E71x is probably a good bet. Oh, and did I mention that it's only about $100? This phone's just an all-around winner.