I’m not what you’d really call an ‘early adopter’ per se. I don’t buy all the newest gadgets and toys. Instead, I buy one very new gadget (usually after extensive research) and then use it until it dies, at which point I buy a really new gadget.

I have an iPod Nano because Kelly bought me one. I probably would’ve never bought one on my own, which is a shame as I truly love my nano and use it ALL THE TIME. I use it more than I ever thought I would. I use it everyday on the way to and from work (work is a 6 minute walk), sometimes while snowboarding (a bit dangerous, not because I can’t hear others, but because it tends to pump up my adrenaline, making me a bit more fearless. A helmet has this effect as well), in my car (it directly connects into my stereo – podcasts are great for the 2hr, bi-monthly jaunt to Mt. Baker), and at home as our primary stereo (connected to a pair of bi-amplified studio monitors that kelly thinks look old and I think look retro/cool).

There have been a million articles written on the iPod’s success so I won’t bore you with a long rehash, but here’s the short of it. The three reasons why the iPod is such a success for users: It’s small, it’s INCREDIBLY easy to use, and the software (iTunes) is INCREDIBLY easy to use.

The iPod is made for the average consumer and its feature set and interface are based on what 95% of the people will want to do 99% of the time. There’s nothing really revolutionary about the device or the software other than that at Apple they realized that they didn’t need to handle every edge case imaginable (more on this later) and add features just to have an additional check box on the packaging (Apple doesn’t even really list features on their packaging).

As I said, the iPod as a device isn’t a technical revolution. The screen is prone to scratching, the batteries die too early, and the iTunes software is slow, frequently crashes and has to be constantly upgraded (sometimes deleting everything on your ipod at the same time!). On top of that, the Fairplay security built into the system has been cracked for years. Anybody can remove the protection from music they buy from iTunes.

So more on edge cases…

Here’s what normally happens in new product design. Somebody comes up with an idea for a new product. Hopefully this is marketing, but more often than not it’s a CEO or somebody else who says “our competitor is doing this, so we need to do that as well.”

They think about the purpose of the product and how it will be used. What normally happens next is that they present this idea to a group of people who try to figure out what works and what doesn’t work. They all sit around and try to find edge cases where the idea breaks down and then try to incorporate this scenario into the “normal” flow of the design. This sounds like a good idea, but generally it ends up manifesting itself into all these “decisions” that a user has to make before they can handle the most basic operations.  They end up alienating the 95% of the users mentioned above. This is exactly what happened to the Q. That or nobody actually used the Q before they sold it…

I used to have a Blackberry 7100t on t-mobile. The 7100t was the first sort of email phone I’ve ever had. I got it because as I travel, the ability to have easy access to email is more and more important. I take trips where my only free time during the day is between meetings and a lot of times there are emails that need immediate attention to clear a bottleneck. The ability of the Blackberry 7100t to easily respond to these emails in the same form factor as a phone was the selling point.

I was very happy when I got it. The suretype keypad takes a bit to get used to, but it’s not so bad. You start to learn which words it’ll get confused on and anticipate the corrections. The things that the Blackberry did well were things that I didn’t really think about until I got my Q. Emails come in instantly, often before they show up in Outlook. The phone has a number of logical shortcuts built in. The battery lasted about 4 days. There was a built-in search to quickly scan email for whatever you were looking for. Almost every setting could be modified by digging into the settings.

The problem with the 7100t was that the voice quality was bad. Many would complain that they couldn’t understand me. I even returned one and got another because of this. No help.

For a phone, that’s a big problem. I decided that voice quality was the most important feature of my device. So, when my Blackberry started to die (some keys started becoming hard to press, etc) I started looking at the Q because

1. It was small

2. It was on Verizon (discount & works at Mt Baker)

3. Runs WM Mobile

The Q as rated as having excellent voice quality and it’s true. The speaker is loud and your voice will shine through to others. And it’s true that Verizon has the best network in WA. Much better than t-mobile (which I like) and they have EVDO (high-speed).

The biggest problems with the Q are

1. The battery life (hardly one day, even with the extended battery, which changes the form factor). HORRIBLE. It you don’t charge everyday, you’re fucked. That’s awesome for the business user.

2. Runs WM Mobile

What I thought was a strength was one of its biggest weaknesses. WM Mobile is absolutely horrible. YES, it offers some cool things like being able to download new programs and run mini excel and word, but from a normal useability factor it’s horrid. I feel like I’m constanlty fighting with the phone. Here are some things that annoy me to the point of me thinking of replacing my Q, only two months in.

1. When the battery gets low (which is ALL THE TIME), the phone warns you with a msg that takes up the whole screen and requires you to say “OK” before you can do anything. Oh, and it does this about every 10 minutes. I FUCKING KNOW THE BATTERY IS DYING. IT’S ALWAYS DYING. Put a little icon in the corner for chrissake, I don’t need this pop-up every 10 minutes!

2.  The shortcut buttons at the top only work for a few days after a reboot. Afterwards, you can’t quickly jump to things like, oh I don’t know, Create a New Email. They just stop working until you reboot. Awesome!

3. When you start a new email, you have to hit ‘Return’ to pull up a list of contacts to choose from. I guess they think most people are going to type in email addresses every time?

4. It saves where you are in the address directory, so every time you go in, you have to undo the last name you input (by clicking backspace however many times) before you can start typing in another.

5. The address book doesn’t understand spaces. For example, if I type in “John S”, it won’t find anybody (and it’ll read out “John 4” as what you are searching for), but just typing in “John” will display John Smith, John Sale, etc.

6. There is no search. NONE. So if you have an email from somebody dated two weeks ago, you just have to scroll through every email to find it. Awesome!

7. Email is slow. They don’t have push email yet, meaning that your Q has to make a request to the server to check for new email. This process takes about one minute to complete and runs based on whatever shcedule you setup. The more often you check, the less your battery lasts. It’s not like the Blackberry where email just ‘appears’.

These may seem like nitpicky things, but these are the things that 95% of the people will do 99% of the time and it seems that at Microsoft they were more worried about those other 5% (what about the people who want to input every email address by hand? what about the people who want to download their own search function? What about the people who every oncve in awhile want to start the address book from where they left off) and that is what so annoys me about this device. Ihate having to go through so many steps to do the most basic things. RIM has this figured our and have engineered the Blackberry to  handle these cases very well.

So there’s my little rant. I wish I would’ve gotten a Blackberry Pearl and I hear the Dash is nice, but I’m sort of stuck right now unless I want to pay full retail. I shoudl point out that the voice quality really is good and the case and screen on the Q is amazing (there isn’t one scratch on the screen, despite two months in my pocket with my keys).

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