Sony Ericsson may not be the biggest competitor to Nokia in the global market (that has got to be Motorola or Samsung, depending on whom you ask), but lately we saw the boon of an-apple-to-an-apple, orange-to-an-orange product announcements that reek of nothing but corporate catch-up: K800 vs N73, Walkman vs Express Music, K600/K610 vs 6233/6300, et. al. Competition? Yay!
No different from Linux catching up to Windows’ user interface guidelines; Windows and their rendition of Apple’s Aqua; Apple picking up the Darwin Unix; *nix hashing back to Windows. Got lost there? Sometimes I get lost myself still. I just have to bust out a laugh every time these companies point a finger at another for “stealing” one of their bright, patented ideas.
But I refuse to digress; this write-up comes from my recent rebuking of an old tradition: I have always been an Ericsson zealot, bashing and hating most notably [those I’d fancy to call] Nokia harlots, both in real life and online, and built quite a reputation for that (like one of Steve J’s Mac sheep). Within 3-month spans, I have gone from T28 to a T68; T68 to T610; to K700; to K600; to W550; to W810; to K800. Call it neophilia or what have you; I only wished I were Swedish and born in Lund.
This week I got myself a Nokia 5500 as my primary phone. I brought it with me at work but didn’t brandish it around like I normally would a new Ericsson. Someone finally noticed, and people were flabbergasted at the sudden paradigm shift. Of course, people asked. In a Nokia world where there’s a new “model” (read: rehash) out every other day, I really can’t blame them for failing to keep up. And so I pitched: “stainless steel and rubber construction, water- and dust-proof (you can even run it through the tap) and resists knocks and bumps; Series 60 Symbian version 6 smartphone”. “Got it for 10 gran’, for 12 months in [insert name of store here]. Didn’t want to plunk down big money after another huge purchase just last month.”
The Symbian part of which particularly intrigued me. Contrary to Nokia culture, Sony Ericssons would introduce tiny usability improvements every so often which leaves you feeling like you’ve had the same exact phone. Nokia in the not so distant past released the third big revision to the S60 smart phone platform, and the 5500 is one of many phones to benefit.
From a technical standpoint, I am amused at the new S60’s flexibility to adapt to different screens and orientations without looking like turd: square on the 5500, horizontal on the E70, QVGA on many others, and the N80’s uber-resolution screen. On the usability front, I can only compare it to both N-Gage’s I had sometime between the T610 and the K700. Prettied-up (aesthetics IS part of usability) and the easily discernable speed make for a very good experience.
There are still quirks that do not make sense to me at all, like the File Manager not including Visual Themes and installed Applications, the latter of which is on a separate menu item – on a separate subfolder called “My own”! And if there’s an option to automatically lock the keypad after some minutes of inactivity, them Finns sure made it difficult to find. No, “Lock phone” is different – that requires you to key in a lock code before budging, and I don’t want to do that every time I want to avoid calling people ad-hoc when I have the thing in my pocket. Help me?
By the way, the sales spiel above worked particularly well, which surprised me, despite (1) the lack of enthusiasm I faked on the purpose of bad-mouthing Nokia still; and (2) the hypocrisy therein already with a Nokia in my hands. The following day, two people I showed my phone to already placed orders for themselves. Bah.