Right now I've got a Palm Centro. Its an older smart phone, and was considered to be entry level at that. But its nice! I like the little guy quite a bit and make okay use out of what it offers. Contacts? Yep. Calendar? Often. Basic word processing for notes and stuff? Good to have. Camera? Used rather frequently. Keyboard for texting? Used a lot. In short - it gets a lot of use for things other than being a phone. All without a data plan, no less!
Realizing my actual wants and usage of my smartphone (indeed, my actual "I'm not in front of a computer" habits) are fairly modest, I've come to realize that any of the smartphones out there should be quite fine for my needs.
However, and this might be due to my XY chromosomes, I've been eying the newer smart phones lately.
Believe or not this is the phone I'm considering the least. Part of it is maybe some contrary-ism on my part. Perhaps an irrational attraction to "other" options. But at the same time its certainly the safest option. I know it'll do pretty much everything I want and more, but then again, the same can probably be said about all the smartphones out there. Good ecosystem (hardware, software, accessories) to boot.
Yet... I'm not overly interested in it. Go figure. I think it might be a result of me wanting to keep my professional life (which is in an OSX centric world) and my personal life (which has gotten increasingly Windows-centric) separate.
In theory this is the most ideologically compatible phone for me. Open source based? Yes. Multiple hardware vendors? Wonderful. Variety in hardware configurations so I can find the perfect one for me rather than Apple's "one size fits all?" A definite yes. Available on all carriers? An enthusiastic yes!
Yet at the same time these selling points also lead to reasons (for me) to be a bit leery. Not so much the open source nature, but the diversity leads to inconsistency. Reading reviews becomes required (and you should never trust just one review for a single product). Finding out which version of the OS the device comes with is important, but also answering the question, "will I be able to upgrade to the newest version of Android?" The phone maker might not have an update in the works for that model, or the carrier itself could decide not to release the update! Likewise, there might be goodies on one model of phone that's not on another because its phone or carrier specific.
This fragmenting is a bit frustrating for me, especially since Android 2.2 is supposed to be quite good. Allegedly Android 3 will work towards making this less of a concern, but we'll see. Right now its a lot more work with a bit more risk. Still exciting, mind you, but its a process I'm more familiar with when dealing with computers than I am with cell phones.
Microsoft/Windows Phone 7
The new Windows Phone 7... er... phones, aren't even out yet, but they've really gotten my attention. Its a little frustrating since to get one of these would violate my "don't be an early adopter, fool!" rule. Getting something when it first comes out (particularly when its first generation of something) is generally asking for trouble when it comes to technology (and yes, even with Apple products).
Yet... its not exactly a first generation product. Its Windows Mobile, torn down and redone. There's no backwards compatibility, but that's not an issue for me. From what I've been reading, that's actually been a huge plus overall. Its a do-over, and opinions have been very positive even though its lost some of Windows Mobile 6.x's features like multitasking and cut-and-paste. Its not even shipping with Flash and Silverlight (which might be a plus for me considering streaming video would devour data).
Microsoft seems to be taking a middle approach to the one-size fits all iPhone and anything goes Android. There's a required minimum specification for hardware. Hopefully the updates for WP7 will be available between all carriers and all models - if Microsoft can't push that then they'll end up with the same problems as Android but without the advantages. The core experience can't really be messed with to much, but phone makers can still add things within limits (avoiding the crapware issue that many Windows PCs have out of the box).
On top of everything, it seems like they're trying to make good use of the internet, their Xbox Live stuff, Zune music service and more. As someone who is currently trying out Microsoft's Windows Live web services (email, calendar, photo hosting, Office online, etc), has a Zune (love the software, and my old 4g player is actually quite nice), have an Xbox Live/Games for Windows Live account, and generally prefer the Windows/PC market to the Mac market for personal use (I use Macs at work and have used OSX for a 7 years or so)? The integration between everything could be very nice for me.
There's a lot of potential here, but potential doesn't mean it'll be lived up to or even successful.
HP/Palm Pre WebOS 2
Speaking of potential with a relative lack of success!
Before Android caught my interest or Windows Phone 7 found my fancy, there was the Palm Pre. I'm a former Palm OS PDA user (had a Sony Clie years ago) so I have to admit to having a soft spot for Palm. I followed the development of the Pre for a while, and was rather excited about it. Even to the point of considering leaving AT&T for Sprint. Well, not seriously considering. As a big fan of competition I preferred the idea of the Pre eventually coming to AT&T (which it has), but still, I thought about it!
Needless to say the Pre didn't make as big a splash as Palm had hoped. A friend of mine helped keep me updated with some hardware issues, and their app store (while not a huge concern of mine) was not doing as well as analysts had hope despite it being more open than Apple's. Being exclusive to Sprint (they're, what, #3? #4? of the big carriers) was a huge mistake in my opinion. Generally speaking, the things that made the Pre nice seemed to get drowned out due to bad choices on the part of Palm's management.
Well, HP now owns Palm, the Pre, WebOS (what runs on the Pre), and is hopefully going to improve things all around. WebOS 2.0 recently got unveiled, although I'm not sure when its going to hit. Presumably new models of Pre will be coming out, and hopefully the old ones can get this update. I would like to see new models of Pre with a different body style, though. The Pixi is nice enough, but the actual Pre itself? I dislike the physical keyboard as it has a bit of a lip around it that I didn't find myself thrilled with. Likewise, I think I'd rather use keyboard that slides out horizontally (candy bar-style) than one that comes out vertically.
Am I seriously considering them? Not especially. I'm not seeing enough yet, but at the same time I'm not opposed to the idea. If nothing else, I just want to cheer them on.
When will I decide?
Not sure! But its still cool to watch things go by. I'm pretty certain whatever route I go I'll have to get a data plan, though! I want to be able to access email from wherever I'm at. Likewise, being able to email photos or post them to Facebook would be a nice plus, and not something I can do currently since I don't have a data plan.
But man, its great having options. Even if, right now, I'm emotionally favoring one company that could be considered a has-been at this point (Microsoft) and an underdog with an uncertain future (Palm).