Phantastic phones

It'd be really cool, like, if a bunch of inarticulate, computer-illiterate 30-something dweebs pretending to be teenagers could play 10-year-old games on a 2in square screen and pay $90 an hour to do so.

It’d be really cool, like, if a bunch of inarticulate, computer-illiterate 30-something dweebs pretending to be teenagers could play 10-year-old games on a 2in square screen and pay $90 an hour to do so.

Or, better still, let’s all, like, download and play music videos on the same 2in screen, and listen to the sound played at 0.02 watts through a rather poor mono speaker at a distance of about a metre.

Or what if, right, we managed to attach full virtual-reality gear to this low-quality, low-bandwidth, low-power computing device – that would be really cool.

Just who is Telecom trying to kid with its CDMA adverts? IP-enabled mobile phones are rather cool, but at current prices there is no way most teenagers can afford to either buy one (around $2000 for the phone on the Telecom ads) or use the data connection. Have you seen the cost of data on these things? It’s ridiculous to assume anyone would want to use one of today’s phones (or even phones from the near future) for any of the things Telecom is talking about in its adverts.

I know the costs for Vodafone’s GPRS system are no lower, but at least it doesn’t run ads that suggest sci-fi like abilities for its network.

I quite like the ad in which the stereotypical bloke is incapable of completing a little shopping without help from the stereotypical girlfriend who, sickened by constant interruptions to her chick-flick, sends him a digital image of the contents of the fridge – now he knows what they have and therefore can decide what they need. Apart from the nauseating use of gender stereotypes, this advert leaves a few questions – the foremost of which is whether this is actually possible. So, in the spirit of science, I had a friend visit with the same phone shown in the ad and had him send an image of the contents of my fridge to himself. The results were rather less useful than the ad would have us believe. In fact, the image was a blurred mess containing almost random patches of sepia colouring. Perhaps if the phone had a flash unit, as my kitchen doesn’t come equipped with television studio lighting, things would been better, but, alas, it hasn’t. Perhaps if it had a higher resolution camera, but again, alas, it hasn’t. Perhaps if it had a bigger higher resolution screen that could display more colours, but again, alas, it hasn’t.

Now I know Telecom will say the ads aren’t aimed at me. I’m technically knowledgeable and intelligent. Its ads are aimed at people who don’t know any better. But, really, that’s not good enough. These phones aren’t really capable of the things that’s being suggested. They’re expensive, and though they have lots of potential applications, most of them are in the corporate market. Therefore, TV ads are a dumb idea.

I have a rather cool Nokia phone on the Vodafone network. It has GPRS, Bluetooth, infrared and can run Java (J2ME) applications. I’ve had it about three months and so far I haven’t found a single use for these cool features. Despite an in-depth knowledge of J2ME, I haven’t once written a single line of code for it, nor have I downloaded anything off the web. I use my phone, oddly enough, as a phone. I’d like to use it for more but it’s too expensive and not nearly powerful enough. If I were working for a corporation I could think of dozens of applications that would be useful, but as I’m primarily an IT consultant with a specialisation in software, these features are useless to me.

Now if it had GPS, a bigger colour screen, higher bandwidth, wireless LAN capability, a small hard drive, a digital camera, more memory and a faster processor, I’d have something really useful. But then it would be a laptop …

Wake me up, like, when the fat lady sings, dude.

Dollery is a partner at GreenPulse in Wellington. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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