Tuesday, January 22, 2008

cellphone: bought the wrong phone (Sanyo Katana DLX)

After 3 1/2 years with the Samsung sph-i500, the smallest and best and only PalmOS-based flip phone PDA, I knocked it into the bath[**]. I've wanted to replace it for 2 years, now I must. All I want is
  1. flip phone so I don't wreck the screen walking into things while it's in my pocket
  2. a phone dial pad, not a teeny-weeny typewriter keyboard
  3. touchscreen and handwriting recognition
  4. music player
  5. extendable applications
  6. quality cameraphone
  7. infra-red so I can use it as a backup remote control e.g. with Novii remote
For a device that does all that I'll willingly pay a thousand dollars, but it's not manufactured. The Nokia N93i comes really close, with a great camera and everything but a touch screen, but Nokia doesn't have a store in the Bay Area so it's only sold by dodgy gray marketers. Other candidates:
  • iPhone has a vulnerable screen, no physical dial pad and no movie recording (yet)
  • Treo 755p has a vulnerable screen and a typewriter keyboard
So while I wait for Nokia to show up and Apple to introduce more iPhone features (and Google Android to disrupt the market), I'll just buy whatever is the best ordinary flip phone Sprint sells. That turns out to be the Sanyo Katana DLX. But in several ways it's worse than the Sanyo MM-9000 I got for my partner exactly 2 years ago: smaller screen, lower-resolution camera, worse speaker and speakerphone. It does have slightly better UI, Bluetooth, and SDHC capacity (when 2 billion bytes of memory aren't enough), and the charger and cable from the MM-9000 are compatible.

The Katana DLX is only $80 after rebates and getting chained to Sprint for another two years, but it's not what I want. I bought the wrong camera a month ago to capture photos and videos of Jhane Barnes, now I bought the wrong phone.

My other choice was to buy another Samsung sph-i500. Both it and the Sanyo MM-9000 have loyal dwindling fan bases that hoard backup phones.

[**] I read BBC news and various planet.* aggregators of my favorite blogs on my phone everywhere I go, including bathtime. (Your phone has a browser in it! Figure out how to use it, or better yet install Opera Mini and use that!)

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

web: Sprint bites the hand that feeds back

On Sprint's page explaining my plan details, the link for Night & Weekend Minutes explains
Night & Weekend Minutes
Caller ID shows you the numbers for most incoming calls, so you know who's calling before you answer. It even provides the number for the incoming calls via Call Waiting.
The explanation doesn't match the heading. No problem, I'll tell Sprint about the problem using their Email us form.

Ahh, but inevitably SPage's law I kicks in:
The part of every Web site with the most problems is the feedback form for reporting problems.
Sure enough:
  • The form lays out incorrectly in Firefox 3
  • The form is limited to 1200 characters of feedback, but its character counter doesn't work.
  • Once you've given feedback, if you try to fill out the form again, Sprint's botched session management jumps straight to "Your email has been sent to Sprint Customer Care." Sprint knows their form is screwed up, it warns you "To send another email, please sign off and log back in to your account."
  • All these pages have the identical title "Sprint - Welcome", making navigation and back button and bookmarking useless
Because the form is broken so many ways, few customers can stand using it, so Sprint customer service can pat themselves on the back for getting few complaints.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

electronics: Sanyo MM-9000 do-nearly-all music cellphone

My significant domestic other partner's cheap portable cassette player finally broke and SDOP still wanted to listen to music on the go. The default answer is of course an iPod, but remember SPage's law:
any small piece of electronics needs to have a phone in it so you can ring it when (not if!) you lose it
(our digital camera is still lost). So we go to the Sprint store, looking for a top-of-the-line phone. The Sanyo MM-9000 has a miniSD memory card slot, media player, QVGA screen, 1.3 Megapixel camera, and most other reasonable features. SDOP was using the previous top-of-the-line Sanyo SCP-5500 (aka Sprint VM-4500) so the USB cable, and so-so FutureDial Snap software I bought for it might work. The only missing checklist features are Bluetooth, and a 2 Mp camera with optical zoom. SprintUsers reviews say the camera quality is good. The Samsung A940 is a 2 Mp phone with Bluetooth but the screen is lower res and the camera has to twist around awkwardly.

Sprint was sold out of the phone, so we bought it at Radio Shack. The phone cost $380 plus tax but as the old phone was 22 months old we got a $75 rebate after committing to two more years of Sprint. Then off to Best Buy to buy a SanDisk 1GB miniSD card, SanDisk USB SD card reader, Monster iPod cassette adapter (it actually works with any audio device's 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, which shows you iPod's dominant mindshare), and a 2.5 phone -> 3.5mm headphone adapter cable. We can reuse the old Sanyo's car lighter charger; we still need to get a second battery and a cover. As usual the accessories cost nearly as much as the phone!

To put music on the phone:
  1. insert music CD into PC
  2. in iTunes, right-click on desired tracks and choose "Convert Selection to AAC"
  3. Remove miniSD card from phone, insert in SD adapter in SanDisk media reader
    just plug in the phone's USB cable and choose "Mass Storage" for the USB Connection
  4. in Windows Explorer, navigate to My Documents\iTunes\iTunes Music, find the track files named .m4a
    from iTunes Library view, just drag the tracks you want to the mini SD card's MEDIA folder in Windows Explorer.
Now your phone plays music almost as well as a dedicated 1GB digital audio player. The sound quality is reasonable even through the car adapter (I haven't played around with the audio settings in Edit > Preferences... Advanced > Importing). Every track has a different volume level.

I found out that with FutureDial's USB drivers the miniSD card appears as a drive letter in Windows, so I don't have to remove the miniSD card from the phone, so the SanDisk USB SD card reader was a waste of money. Just like the SanDisk USB Compact Flash card reader I bought for the digital camera I lost.

The big downside so far is there's no way to play protected music files that we legally own. I've refused to buy songs from the iTunes Music Store on principle, but even their free downloads are .m4p encrypted files that only work on iPods. jHymn and QTFairUse don't work with latest iTunes (donate $50 to DVD Jon to update his fine work!). This is why DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) is evil!

So far, it seems like $500 well spent. Then I scanned some more SprintUser forum posts and found out the Sanyo MM-9000 phone is already obsolete and is going to be discontinued by Sprint!

For my own use I'm still holding out for a flip smartphone with PalmOS PDA functionality + 2Mp camera with optical zoom + MP3 + 4GB expansion card + Infrared + GPS + Bluetooth + WiFi. I held the Samsung sph-i550 in my hand at the Samsung store in NYC, but it's cancelled. "The best is the enemy of the good" (Voltaire :-)

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