From a Nokia to a Note and back again: experiences

Tags: hardware, keyboards, computers.
By lucb1e on 2014-10-18 00:34:38 +0100

About 22 months ago I got my first touchscreen phone and my first Android. I was pretty excited about this Galaxy Note II and it fully lived up to my expectations. Last week it broke down.

I'm back to my good old Nokia E75. Officially called a smartphone, it runs Symbian which is as powerful as your average shoebox. It has a numeric keyboard and a slide-qwerty, which means that you can touch-type and blindly navigate even inside your pocket. It is so small it actually fits in the palm of my hand.

Let's go through some important specs:

- 70MB usable application RAM
- 50MB internal storage (plus up to 16GB micro-SD)
- Terribly slow CPU
- Screen resolution of 240x320

These specs are laughable in 2014. If someone tried to sell me a phone with that resolution I wouldn't even want it for free. But I'd be wrong!

This resolution is actually very usable. In modern times it's a bit on the small side, but 800x600 or maybe even 640x480 would have been perfect. And I do mean that: perfect. Any higher resolution is bullshit. It may be prettier, but it's not more usable.

The RAM, CPU and storage could *definitely* use a touch-up, but that's internals. You can replace those with newer hardware any time; they're not a design choice. What I mean to talk about is this:

It's so damn portable.

Not just the size, it's also portable because you can navigate it blindly. You can focus on traffic as you cross a street while unlocking the screen and finding a person in the phone book. You don't need to constantly look at the screen.

Try that with touchscreen phones: they require your constant attention. It's a lot like reading a book versus an audio book: you can listen to books while walking, cycling, driving, cleaning... anything that doesn't require thinking. Paper books (or e-books) need to be looked at, which is out of the question while cycling or cleaning the house!

It's the same with an old Nokia. You can use it any time anywhere, even inside your pocket. You can perform routine tasks blindly and only look at it when you have to make a decision or want to read data (like an incoming sms).

It has downsides too: the numeric keyboard is big and takes up a lot of space that could have been put to use differently, but dialing (or navigating) on the slide qwerty would be an even bigger pain. And some parts of browsing would have been easier with a touchscreen. Not everything: scrolling through text is nicer with navigational keys, but clicking links or zooming is faster on a touchscreen.

I would definitely not recommend buying a Nokia E75, but if it had run Android and if it had had better CPU/RAM/resolution... I'm a heavy user and the big screen of the Galaxy Note 2 is an advantage for me, but the slide qwerty and blind navigation definitely make it a harder choice.

One last thing: the thickness. My Galaxy Note 2 is pretty thin. Not like the latest models, but still so thin that I don't actually like it. The E75 is 1.5cm (0.6 inch) thick, which I prefer. The thinness doesn't make it fit any better in my pocket, it only makes it harder to hold or pick up.

I will be going back to my Note 2 as soon as I get it back because the Nokia's battery life is about half a day (3 years of usage plus 22 months shelved did not do it any good) and it's simply outdated and the software sucks hard. But it's an interesting experience so far.

My conclusion is the same as when I bought this Nokia five years ago:

Please, smartphone world, give me a phone running Android and a slide qwerty. We'll see about the numeric keyboard; slide qwerty would be a great start. Then reduce the resolution to about 800x600 which makes it snappier and saves power. Keep the screen at about 5 inches, that works great. And please make it thicker again so it's easier to hold. This also gives you space for a bigger battery and better heat management, which means you can use a faster CPU while maintaining an awesome battery life. Thank you.

PS. Oh and don't try to sell 27438 megapixels on me. I hardly notice the difference between 8MP and 3.2MP. Perhaps you can put that thickness to better use and include a decent lens instead? Just an idea.
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