Congratulations to the neccesitas project for joining KDE. I’m not sure what this means as far as KDE’s orientation or how this reflects the latest attitude of, “shit! we spent all this time fussing over Nokia’s mobile hype, and now we realize the desktop is rotting and we need to save it,” but it’s nonetheless exciting to know that neccesitas is supported by a good organization.

With that said, maybe it’s time for me to find a smartphone. I still use an old Nokia 1100, which doesn’t support much more than calling and SMS. And Snake II. Windows Phone 7 is out. Meego is dead. WebOS is limping. Blackberry has an arcane dev environment. What’s that leave? Junked up Android. As a platform, Android seems to already be experiencing some bloat and disorganization and Java doesn’t seem too hot. But at the very least it runs Qt now.

The big problem is finding a satisfactory phone. My critera are fairly simple:

  • QWERTY physical keyboard (I actually would prefer T9, but this is now long past :-( ). This is very important. I will not compromise about this.
  • GSM that runs on AT&T’s 3G network, as well as general GSM support for Europe.
  • Rootable and/or rom-unlockable.
  • Sensible update policy / recent operating system.
  • Big pretty screen.
  • Fast processor.
  • Solid construction.
  • The usual assortment of GPS, Bluetooth, etc do-dads.
  • But nothing like this exists. Well, the Xperia Pro looks almost perfect — AT&T 3G (approx), fast processor, pretty screen, great keyboard, etc — except so far it’s only available for pre-order in the UK and it’s looking unlikely it’ll be hitting the US.

    What is out there that meets these criteria? Why has my research turned up dry continually?

    [Sidenote: actually, the perfect phone for me might be the very dated Nokia E52, but I can't seem to find a north american model anywhere, even on eBay.]

    June 2, 2011 · [Print]

    43 Comments to “Luddite Seeks Futuristic Phone”

    1. Check out the HTC Desire Z

        • Well being in India, I’m not used to network-specific stuff as such, everything just works will all networks here. Bad luck, because that is a really nice device :/

        • Freddie says:

          Nope, try again. The HTC Desire Z runs on 850/1900 MHz bands for 3G.

          The 3G GSM networks in Canada (Bell, Telus, Rogers) are all the same: 850/1900 MHz.

          The HTC Desire Z is available on Bell, on contract. But, it’s also available online unlocked, and many people are using it on Rogers.

          Rogers and AT&T use the same 3G bands, and have all kinds of roaming agreements.

          Thus, the HTC Desire Z will work on:
          – Bell
          – Telus
          – Rogers
          – AT&T
          – other GSM networks using same frequencies.

          • Freddie — thanks for correcting me. You’re right. It does run on AT&T’s 3G. What was the problem I found when testing this? Slow outdated processor, I believe.

            • Freddie says:

              Yes, the downsides to the Desire Z (compared to non-keyboard phones available now) are the 800 MHz CPU and Android 2.1 (don’t know if there’s any newer versions available for it). And the exclusivity contracts Bell has with HTC for this phone.

              If it was available on Rogers, I would be using it for sure, but can’t justify the $400 CDN off-contract pricing from Bell, or the $500 CDN to buy it online, unlocked.

              It’s now the last part of Q2 2011, and SE said the Xperia Pro would be available in NA in Q2/Q3 2011, so I’m really, really, really hoping they announce it’s availability soon. Rogers seems to be buddy-buddy with SE, so I’m hoping they announce this phone “Real Soon Now”.

              It really sucks that all the phone makers are stuck on giant touchscreen-only phones. It would be wonderful if they made two versions of each phone: 1 with keyboard, 1 without. Everything else would be the same.

              Since I’m dreaming, it would also be nice if the phone makers would only release 1-2 new phones per year, and took the time to make those phones sturdy, amazing, etc with the software just tweaked right out for the hardware. Would be nice if more Android phone makers started spending the time and effort on 1-2 phones each year that Apple puts into the one iPhone release each year. :(

              • I was expecting Xperia Pro in north america on June 1st. Anxiously I waited with credit card ready. What a let down. By the time it comes out, it’ll already be dated.

    2. w4rr10r says:

      MeeGo’s not dead! However, there’ll be no new hardware until the end of this year.

      I don’t know the American market but what about some of the Motorola phones like European Milestone 2?

    3. gaboo says:

      I have an HTC desire z too, fits your needs, great phone, running cyanogen mod 7 :)

    4. flows says:

      I was looking for exactly the same thing, with a limited budget. Ended up with a sony ericsson vivaz pro, however, I’d not recommend it. Symbian is too old, it has some very ugly issues (like unlooking the keys when in your pocket and doing expensive calls), really bad email client.

    5. foo says:

      Dude, what about a KDE mobile!!

    6. zizzfizzix says:

      how about a droid pro? http://www.motorola.com/Consumers/US-EN/Consumer-Product-and-Services/Mobile-Phones/ci.Motorola-DROID-PRO-US-EN.alt it looks to me as it supports AT&T, not 100% sure though

    7. Stefan says:

      Hey, I just came from having a physical keyboard on my phone – which I really enjoyed. I went from the HTC Dream to the Samsung Galaxy S II. Moving to such a large screen and using Swype has made the loss of the keyboard much less painful than I thought it might be. Surprisingly, the thing I miss most is directional input with a trackball or similar device.

      As to network compatibility, Check out gsmnation.com – you’ll see that AT&T requires 850/1900 MHz which, as I understand, means you have plenty of options.

      So long as you check the frequencies (which shouldn’t be a problem) and get a (network) unlocked phone (different than rooted), then you don’t need to worry about which region a phone is for. I ordered my Galaxy S II from the UK, and use it in Canada on Rogers network (850/1900MHz as well). Nice and easy – just pop in my SIM card and I’m good to go.

      I’d definitely recommend the Galaxy S II to anyone willing to pay for it. And yes, it is rootable – I had no troubles there (except having to use a friends Windows(TM) machine). The downside is that there aren’t a lot of custom firmware images available for it, and Cyanogenmod is not likely to add support. On the other hand, it’s a popular phone and likely to develop its own collection of ROMs.

    8. Thomas says:

      Yeah, HTC Desire Z. I have it myself. Awesome. Will fit your needs.

        • mesamoo says:

          Get over it Jason,

          there will always be faster processors, I’ve read recently about some really nice phones w/ fast processors that still were disappointing from the user perspective. (Sluggish, bad UI, etc)

          Processor speed is just one part of the equation.

          I’ve got t-mobile G2, basically same phone as Desire Z. Nice keyboard, doesn’t crash, rootable (though I run stock)

    9. Mustafa Mond says:

      Get a Nokia N900 if you can find a cheap one to use while waiting for something you really want.

      N900 has everything on your list except realistic hopes for updates. I have not encountered any bugs that would affect everyday use, so lack of updates won’t matter all that much. It has at least basic apps for every reasonable need, and it doesn’t try to hide the fact that it is a computer running Linux with KDE like gui.

    10. andrez says:

      I think that Nokia E72/73 or E6 is a good option. I use E72 and I love its QWERTY keyboard and no stupid screen controls :)

      Maybe Symbian is not such a bells-and-wistles system, but for me as a business user it works great. Mmm… I am not sure it is rootable :(

        • andrez says:

          What do You mean, it is gone. It might be gone but if You buy a phone with latest Symbian, nothing prevents You from hapilly using it for the next n years. Are we all infected with that idea that phone must update its software every n days and should be an obese beast with a whole bunch of bells and whistles.

          Android may be on the march, but it is an overkill of functions, as for me. So, maybe there is no support from Nokia to symbian and You may identify it as dead, but symbian still is a very usable system and will remain such for some time. So, if something is usable, why would I change it for something that brings no benefit. For the sake of mythical “Progress”? LOL

    11. pier says:

      Wait for HP Pre 3, it’ll be available in a month or so…

    12. Freddie says:

      HTC Desire Z and SE Xperia Pro are about your only options right now for good, solid Android phones with hardware keyboards.

      The Desire Z is available now in North America and will work on any GSM network in NA and Europe (it’s quad-band, 850/1900 and a bunch of others). Works on Bell, Telus, and Rogers in Canada, and AT&T for sure in the US. It’s only Android 2.1, though, with an 800 MHz CPU.

      The Xperia Pro is currently only selling in the UK, but it’s also a quad-band GSM phone that supports the 850/1900 bands used in NA. This is the phone I’m waiting (semi-patiently) to hit NA. I can’t justify the 400 pounds + shipping + taxes + import levies + + + to get it in Canada. Ships with Android 2.3, with a 1 GHz processor.

      The Desire Z has been rooted, and the Xperia Pro ships unlocked/rooted.

    13. Anonymous says:

      Huh? “desktop is rotting”?
      I hope you aren’t under the impression that the desktop is going anywhere. I can guarantee that is not the case. Becoming less important, sure. But has irreplaceable qualities..

    14. pepito says:

      You can buy a Nokia E52 and flash it with whatever firmware you want, I bought one from Hong Kong and then flashed it with a european (spanish) firmware.

      But I would recommend a Nokia E71, even though its even more outdated than the E52, its just feels more solid, and has the qwerty keyboard and same resolution.

    15. Nanosleep says:

      It’s surprising how difficult it is to find a smartphone which fits your criteria. The samsung epic would be almost a perfect fit, but it’s a CDMA phone, no gsm :(.

      As someone has already mentioned, the Pre 3 is a perfect fit (unless android is a requirement), but it’s not available yet.. give it about a month.

      If you absolutely can’t wait for the pre (or desire an android phone).. there is this project for the n900, looks fairly interesting:
      http://www.nitdroid.com

    16. Bud says:

      My requirements were almost the same, and I chose Motorola Droid 2 Global. I don’t have it yet, because it’s not easy to find it in Hungary.

    17. ivan says:

      Too high expectations for somebody who owns 1100 :)

      Wait for developer’s Nokia N950 on meego/harmattan (she’ll have qwerty), though it’ll be not easy to buy it.

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