Column published on Saturday January 5th 2008 in The Guardian
“Dork Talk” – The Guardian headline
Chasing the perfect smartphone is a frustrating game. This one is perfect but it doesn’t have Wi-Fi, that one would be ideal if only it had GPS. The other is OK but isn’t 3G. Aha, this is it! Oh bother, it can’t do video calls. And so on. Not that I actually need all those features, it’s just that for us Knights of the smartphone Grail the terms of the quest demand the One Device That Has It All.
And here comes the high-end Glofiish X800 Pocket PC running Windows for mobiles (professional). It really does seem to be as loaded as anything out there. Now, I have to say I’m not a fan of Windows for mobiles – all those maddeningly small menus, submenus and fiddly nested commands torment me almost beyond endurance, as do the horrors of trying to synchronise with anything other than a PC. Were it not for Missing Sync’s suite of programs that allow powerful and controllable syncing between Macs and mobile operating systems, I’d be in a home by now. For all that, I’ve lived for weeks using HTC and Palm devices that run WM5 and WM6, and I happily concede that Microsoft’s cut-down OS does have strengths.
Glofiish is made by E-Ten and you can colour me impressed. It is true 3.5G. That’s nothing to do with gigabyte memory, by the way, but indicates “third and a half generation” capability. In short, it obtains the highest data transfer speeds possible in mobile telephony. It will first try to pick up HSDPA or UMTS signals from the network, then EDGE, then GPRS and finally good old data-free GMS. Major population centres will allow it to gallop like a thoroughbred through its full 3.5G paces, but if you live in the country, you’ll be lucky to get much more than the donkey speeds of GPRS.
Glofiish has both a front and rear camera, allowing you to make face-to-face video calls. The main camera has autofocus, which I’ve not seen on a comparable device; at 2MP, it is not going to deliver staggering images, but the output is satisfactory. The video footage was hardly broadcast quality, but again adequate. It is armed with a bright and crisp VGA display, Bluetooth 2.0, WiFi, FM Radio and GPS. Input is by stylus to soft keyboard, handwriting recognition or numeric dial-pad, although a model with a slide-out keyboard has just been announced.
Irritatingly, despite having a Sirf Star GPS receiver built in, no SatNav mapping software is included, so the user is forced to download and buy an application, or try the free Google Maps for Mobiles. Glofiish says satellite information can be automatically incorporated into an SMS text: “This could be helpful,” says the manual, “in preventing kidnapping, reporting disastrous situations, calling for help in emergencies or locating an individual.” Wow.
The device is attractively designed with delightful red accents on the lenses; it is pleasant to hold, to heft and, for the most part, to operate. Windows for mobiles’ advantage lies in the availability of so many functions, the powerful customisable options and the wealth of downloadable software. This also creates the disadvantage of complexity, endless non-intuitive menus and option screens, and a life of picking your way by stylus through an often messy and confusing environment.
For those who want it all, then, the Glofiish X800 can compete with the HTC Tytn II and the other big players. I give it a big tick.
Its processor is made by Samsung, who also makes phones, of course. I heartily recommend its fatuously named SGH-G800 for anyone after a top-notch phone with an emphasis on photography. Balanced and well-finished, it boasts a 5MP camera with Xenon flash and 3X optical zoom, no GPS or WiFi, but all the usual accoutrements such as 3G, front camera for video calling, Bluetooth 2.0, WAP 2.0, FM radio, music players, image editing software and so on. It was rumoured that it would have an OLED display, but they’ve settled for traditional LCD. It has a Samsung Fun Club splashscreen that would make anyone wince with embarrassment and is stupidly at odds with the sophisticatedly simple and stylish hardware design of this high-quality 3G slider phone. Even so, it’s a worthy rival to the Nokia N95.
© Stephen Fry 2008