I want a cell phone designed by and for a human

My wireless service provider sent me an offer for a free cell phone if I renewed my service contract again. Why not?: I’m content with the service, and my cell phone was showing its age. In particular, the battery doesn’t hold a charge for more than a day and the display has been cracked since the phone flew out of my handlebar bag at 45mph down The Hill one morning last year.


But there’s always a catch: the “free” phone is last year’s model. With my choice being either a folding Nokia or the boxy Samsung, I took the Nokia 6103 because it had longer battery life. Its display was pretty, but everything else about the phone sucked:

  • Cycling among menu options was as s-l-o-w as Friendster or Orkut.
  • The FM radio seemed to work, but there’s only one ear bud. (A stereo set of buds is available on eBay.)
  • The camera was allegedly 640×480, but everything looked blurry.
  • The only ringing sound that wasn’t a poorly constructed mock-up of a cheesy song was the T-mobile ding ding ding ding.
  • The worst part: there was no obvious way to accept an incoming call. I dunno, it seems like pressing the “accept” button should work, but this usually rolled the call into voice mail while the phone did whatever it was doing before — sitting idle, playing Bejeweled, or finding Country-Western stations on the FM band. I was explaining this conundrum to a disbelieving coworker when the phone rang. She couldn’t figure out how to answer it, either.

They exchanged it with a Samsung T509. It’s worked better, though the phone needs some improvements:

  • The wide, proprietary power connector is difficult to wedge in the phone. It’s clearly developed by someone who didn’t have to plug in the phone.
  • Display dims and locks, with no visual indication of voice mail/missed calls. If I press the phone, the “Press * to unlock” message obscures any interesting dialogs. I can now sorta tell there’s a dialog behind this, but I have to “login” to check it. My previous phone had a blinky LED that would alternate colors when someone left a message.
  • Notification of missed calls *after* I’ve checked voice mail. My previous phone did this, too, but it’s more key clicks to delete these things.
  • Its built-in Java is apparently incompatible with Bejeweled. Huh? Isn’t Java supposed to be standard?
  • The camera on this model has a similarly small, grainy image, but there’s a zoom. I suppose it’s useful in case I ever have an accident and need a grainy image.

But the phone answers! As a bonus, it has an actual, non-obnoxious, non-branded ring tone. (My all-time favorite was the older Nokia one that would “pip” then, after a few seconds, “pip biddle pip” then “pip biddle biddle pip” before rolling over into voice mail. Very distinctive.)


cell phone, degrees of kevin bacon, fomplicated

6 thoughts on “I want a cell phone designed by and for a human”

  1. My much beloved ancient (1999 vintage) Philips mobile died earlier this year, and I had to go through the replacement process. The Philips was a great phone; it had large buttons, and when I put the speaker against my ear the microphone was actually somewhere in the vicinity of my mouth.

    I think Nokia’s geographic location has had a dangerous influence on the design of mobile phones. I’m sure they make them with Santa’s elves in mind; who else has fingers small enough to use those tiny buttons? That said, I ended up with a Nokia 1100, which has been a great replacement; I get a usable signal in places the Philips never thought it was possible, the battery life is amazing, and the microphone picks up my voice quite well even though it hovers somewhere to the side of my nose. It even has a built-in torch which has been handy more than once.

    I love the feature set, which the salesman ran through in an attempt to get me to buy a “better” (ie dearer) phone:

    no camera
    no bluetooth
    no colour screen
    no fancy ring tones

    In fact, all it does is send and receive phone calls and text messages; I don’t even have voice-mail on it, so no series of increasing urgent messages from work when I go on holiday 🙂

  2. We’ve had the same Sanyo phones for 3 years now, and they seem to work pretty well. I upgraded the batteries (to “extended life”) this year via EBay purchase as the old ones were losing their grip. After the introductory period we turned off the optional goo-gaws such as the photo and internet service. We really only need the phones, and occasionally text messaging.

    Terri’s went briefly into the washing machine in the pocket of a cycling jersey. We managed to fish it out before complete immersion, but it was a goner. The displays were jibberish and I didn’t even want to try to make a call for fear of the “smoke factor”. We left it open with the battery off for a week or so to dry out. We put the battery back on and fired it up, and the phone came back to life. It has been running just fine for the past year since it’s little bath.

  3. I so don’t really care that much about whether I can play games on my cell phone or take great pictures with it (if I really want pictures I’ll bring one of my cameras with me). These days I started buying gadgets that fit in the pockets of a cycling jersey. If I want to film anything, I have the Samsung X-105L digital camcorder. If I want to take pictures, I tend to carry my Canon Powershot S410 (though the SD models would be thinner but I like my Compact Flash cards). “Just in case”, I upgraded the other year to the Motorola RAZR (though of course I had to pay a good bit to get this “flashy”, “popular” phone).

  4. I’m still working off the Kyocera Rave that I bought three years ago between jobs. It was handy when I had Federal jury duty last spring and the summons specifically disallowed camera phones (the security guard was a little skeptical when he inspected my phone; I don’t think he believed me when I told him all it did was make phone calls (OK, so it takes and sends txt msgs too, and the occasional game of Tetris on the subway…sue me)).

    It’s going to be hard for me to find a phone that isn’t like a swiss army knife when we finally upgrade to a real cell phone plan (explain to me why I want a phone that plays music when I’ve already investd $379 in an iPod?). I don’t know if it’s your service causing the missed call notification after voicemail pickup phenomenon or your phone as mine does that as well. Annoying as hell.

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