New phones for old

My brother tells me I've got a girl's cellphone. I don't know who she is, but I like it and I'm keeping it. It's what I want in a cellphone.

My brother tells me I've got a girl's cellphone. I don't know who she is, but I like it and I'm keeping it.

It's what I want in a cellphone.

Phone styles and choices are abundant these days. Apparently there are girl phones and boy phones but I didn't know that when I bullied our tech guy into upgrading my dying Nokia 7110.

I liked the 7110. Not only was it in The Matrix but it had a handy-dandy slide that covered the keys, so there was none of this "keypad lock" business to worry about. It was also nicely balanced so when I sat it on the table in a coffee shop I could spin it round and round without it dragging through the sugar.

But it was large, the battery was expelling its charge at a frightening rate of knots, and after being dropped a few times it was beginning to creak around the edges.

But what to replace it with? I spent many a working hour poring over new cellphones on various sites, comparing styles (or lack thereof) with functionality and trying to decide just what it was I want in a phone.

It came down to these must-haves: it should be small and discrete; it should have a huge battery life; and it should be a very good voice phone.

That's it, really. I don't need to use WAP or play games or any of the other data-centric things phones like to do these days. I have my JetStream connection and if I were to have a laptop I would be eager for a card of some kind, be it CDMA, GPRS or Wi-Fi, but I don't and I can't really be bothered with the whole tiny screen, email, scrolling, yada yada yada.

In the end I chose an Alcatel 511 because it's tiny, it has a vibrating thing and a long battery life (I charge it once a week) and doesn't do anything beyond voice. It has a monochrome blue screen instead of a colour one so doesn't rob me of juice. Its only nod towards new technology is its collection of polyphonic ring tones, which sound much more melodious than the old monotone "beep beep" rings of old. Sadly, I've had to do away with "The Pinky and the Brain" and "The Addams Family" tune as ring tones but I'm sure there will be polyphonic versions of those out soon. And it spins quite happily on its back.

Compatibility with my old address book was a bother. The Nokia allowed for much longer names, so everyone was truncated, but sorting that out helped me learn how to use the phone's functions. User interfaces are an odd thing; the Alcatel set-up is quite similar in many ways to the Nokia but strangely different in others. It has only one button to answer or hang up, so it took me a while to work out how to reject incoming calls, but I got there.

The most worrying thing was a note in the handbook about radiation levels. It says not to put the phone on the dash of the car as it may interfere with delicate electrical equipment, like the airbag. Fortunately my car is too old for a bag, but that information's just plain scary. If it can do that to a car, what's it doing to the side of my head? Will I end up like Manny in Black Books, I wonder?

Sadly, I have a funny feeling this generation of tiny phones will be the last for a while as the manufacturers move to data-centric phones. It was a bit of a struggle to find a new phone that didn't have large colour screens, GPRS- or CDMA-based high-speed always-on functions and all the rest. The Ericsson T68i has a huge amount of talk time, 10 hours I believe, and that's with all the gear packed on top of it. Imagine what you'd squeeze out of a phone with a battery like that and no colour screen or always-on connection to drain it?

It's the phone for me. In the meantime, if you're a girl and you've lost your phone I suggest you contact your insurance company. It's only common sense.

Brislen is IDGNet’s reporter. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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