My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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do you love your phone?

I was floored by the amount of information y’all have about laptop options (although i’m still putzing and pawing about what to spend money on since it makes me soooo sad to think of leaving Apple). Since i learned so much from you there, i though perhaps you might also know quite a bit about phones and carriers? I am not getting rid of my Sidekick (oh no, i’m still very addicted and anxiously awaiting the new one… when??), but i do need to replace my other phone pretty badly. I was waiting on the Helio but the service plan is way outside of my price range and i don’t know anyone who has gotten one so that i could try it. My phone is currently on Sprint, but i can’t stand having to login to a service to retrieve text messages so i’m thinking of finally leaving (i’ve been on Sprint since 1997), but maybe it’s just a matter of getting the right phone? I refuse to switch to AT&T given their collaboration with NSA and my Sidekick is on T-Mobile so i don’t need another phone on that carrier (i prefer having multiple carriers so that my phone is always usable). What carrier should i be thinking of using? Are there any left? (Yeah, yeah, i know… carriers suck…) I’d really like to end up with a phone plan in the range of my current one ($50). I don’t really need web or music or anything other than lots of minutes + texts + ?mms? since i use my Sidekick for most data-related stuff. Then again, i might be motivated to try this whole use your phone as a modem thing.

What phone should i get? My goal is to have something shaped like a phone that’s designed to primary handle 1) talking; 2) texting; 3) camera (so no Treo or Crackberry). It should have a speakerphone and be shaped well enough for me to keep it between my ear and shoulder as i cock my head in weird angles to talk while my hands are busy typing/driving/eating, but it shouldn’t be so big as to feel like i’m putting a piece of toast up to my ear. A camera would probably be good since everyone tells me i’d take photos if my phone has a reasonable camera and i should at least try….

The biggest thing is that the interface should be simple and easy to use. I’ve been trying this fancy Samsung phone that Sprint sent me to beta test but i just can’t stand the interface. I am humored that i can watch The Daily Show on my phone and download random songs, but i’m more likely to just watch TV/listen to music on my iPod (especially since it’s much cheaper to do so). I am not interested in having lots more functions on my phone if it means i pay the cost in ease of use. What i love the most about my Sidekick is that the interface is intuitive and simple, not mired in hierarchies from hell. I love that i can choose to download things like Suduko but that it doesn’t make my phone any more complicated.

Do you have a phone that you just absolutely love? Are there carriers out there that aren’t impossible to negotiate? I’m looking at buying someting in early July when i return from traveling so if there’s something coming out that i should wait for, that’d be good to know. More than anything, i’m curious if anyone is actually happy with their mobile solution since i’m so far pretty disappointed. What is cool and functional?

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23 comments to do you love your phone?

  • Just a note on the camera part, I think the camera on most cameraphones are less than adequate. (Compared to a cheap Digicam.)

    That said, Sony seems to have a decent one out at the moment called the Sony k750.

    You can see photos people have taken using the phone on Flickr. See the k750 Flickr tag.

    If you wait long enough, Sony is releasing a successor to the k750 called the k790 (and also the k800), which has a camera with a higher megapixel resolution (and a better flash).

    Disclaimer: I’ve not used the phone, but from what I’ve heard/read that seems to be one of the top models as far as camera capabilities go.

    What I like using is my Nokia 6610. But it has no cameraphone capabilities. But it is quite easy to use, and seems fairly reliable!

  • Phoebe

    I dunno…. I use my Treo 650 for talking, texting and camera (with understandable limitations), and those functions seem to work fine for me. It’s not a good phone for propping between shoulder and ear, but the earphone/mic accessory is great. I’m not an iPod-er but I do listen to mp3s on it. Have also used speakerphone while driving or in conference. Texting is especially convenient; you can see text exchanges in chat format. I’m on Sprint too but I’m not forced to log in anywhere to see my texts/SMSs. The camera works good enough for me–used for impromptu photos, especially of the kids… always best with natural daylight.

    I guess what keeps me stuck on the Treo most is the personal data org (calendar, contacts & memos, inc. bus/BART schedules) and web browser. Being able to look up driving directions at a whim during random trips is awesome… and I admit that I log onto my MySpace during my commute! I know you said ‘no Treo’ but just sharing, FWIW! –P.

  • B

    I have a Sony Ericsson k750i, that suits me fine. I have pretty much the same need has you. The camera is crappy, especially to shoot my 11 y.o. cousin dancing on the sofa (compared to the professional stuff my uncle has, I mean), but OK for landscapes.

    Regarding carriers, I’m not in US — but my carrier (& employer) is notoriously the best around, and I don’t think much of it: they billed me thrice this month, and there is no way to get my money back :…(
    Don’t know if this will cheer you up much.

  • ryan

    login to retrieve text messages?

    that sounds weird.. kim has sprint now, and had it 3 or four years ago (and i had sprint in 98-99) — and i never knew anything about having to login to retrieve text messages? (though searching the web turns up some comments about it)

    anyway, what is this thing about having to login to retrieve text messages?

    so, speaking of carriers.. i love verizon with quality of service generally — it was much better than sprint (though i currently live in a different area, obviously). however, with sprint’s merger with nextel, things have and are supposed to get better. — and if you already liked them, you should like them more.

    being said that i like the quality of service in verizon, im probably going to switch away from them to stop getting charged so much for data. what sprint charges $15 for, verizon charges $46 (unlimited treo data)… so, i feel that im getting way overcharged with verizon and im sad that i agreed to a 2 year contract (though thats up soon)

    with your international travelling, however, a gsm provider with sim cards would probably be a good plan.. though you can always use your sk if you need to. Cingular is the only other US GSM provider that i’m aware of. Not sure about the quality of service.

    good luck d! see you soon!!!!!

  • I don’t have a phone I like, but I really love Verizon as a carrier. I pay about $50 a month for 500 mins + unlimited in-network + unlimited nights (9 PM-7 AM); I only have an $5 texting plan which covers 250 msgs a month, but I think for $10 or $15 you can get unlimited. A lot of ppl I know are Verizon. I have service almost everywhere, and when I’ve had to have the phone fixed it’s been relatively painless. I get a discount through my school, and my father gets one through his work: you may too!

    I asked about phones here, although I was wanting something more like your other phone: http://museumfreak.livejournal.com/336967.html

  • re ryan’s comments on Verizon: I don’t have data service on my phone, so I can’t speak to that, although I do agree that I was shopping for a higher end phone and was having a hard time finding what I wanted. I’m debating whether I want it or not. I’m assuming since you have the Sidekick you won’t want data service on this one tho?? I think since you have the Sidekick Verizon’s basic cameraphone should be just fine for your purposes, and rebates make it pretty cheap.

    Also, I’m curious if you have comments on this: http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-6077455.html. It made Slashdot today.

  • I have, and love, Verizon. And I have, and love, an LG VX8000. The biggest downside to it is the size. It’s larger then some, but it’s not huge.

    The greatest two things are:
    1) LG’s menus are dead simple
    2) The camera ROCKS. Here are two different pictures taken with it (it has a macro mode)
    http://flickr.com/photos/kastner/155504949/
    http://flickr.com/photos/kastner/33892201/

    (here are all my pictures taken with it: http://flickr.com/photos/kastner/tags/vx8000)

    I have the $10 unlimited text. I’m not sure about the $$/mins on my plan, it’s somewhere in the $50 range, and I never go over.

  • I’ve had a long line of Nokias and I LOVE them. Currently got the 6230, but aiming for the N70 or another of the N series next because they have 2 megapixel cameras. I find it very easy to use, but then I think all the cellphone interfaces are highly specialised by brand (largely to lock people in) so not sure if switching to any new brand will be an issue or not…?

  • BTW, forgot to say that ALL my photos on Flickr are from my 6230: http://www.flickr.com/meriwilliams/

    Granted, it’s not the perfect camera for all lighting and situations, but personally I’ve found that the convenience of it being part of a device I already carry everywhere far outweighs the occasional photo quality issues.

  • For the past year, I’ve been using Working Assets Wireless for my mobile phone and have been very happy with it. http://workingassetswireless.net I think.

  • i got an lg VX9800 from verizon for about a hundred bucks ( http://www.engadget.com/2005/08/03/the-lg9800-lgs-upper-class-qwerty-phone/ ). i refuse to text on anything less than a full qwerty keyboard. the camera is spectacular for a phone, it shoots at 1280×960, uncompressed, and it has a macro lens slider.
    talking is decent, and it’s a bit thicker than most phones (better for neck cradling, a bit bulky for some pockets)

  • Phones are a pain because most manufacturers seem to be lacking UI designers and both manufacturers and carriers are draconian about locking phones down, thereby preventing hackers from coming up with better interfaces. I’ve seen offers from blogging designers that they’d love to design phone interfaces, but I don’t know if anything has come from it.

    That being said, I believe nokia has the best phone interface and moto has the worst. Nokia also has a reasonably good programming interface (at least the python phones are good) so you may find some fun stuff there. I don’t actually have one because I’m tied to cingular
    (riding on a family plan saves me like $40/mo).

  • Hi Danah,

    As Meri suggested, the Nokia N70 is a fantastic phone both on the talking, texting and interface/user friendliness fronts.

    As for taking pictures, it’s as good as camera phones get. I’d put it on-par with the Sony Ericsson K750i.

    An example of picture taken with the N70: http://www.thatcanadiangirl.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2006/05/car_on_bollard_large.jpg

    Symbian OS Nokia phones are always brilliant!

  • Rbrt

    I want to thank you for the information on your essay on Friendster and myspace, it really helped me with my honors research project. I am also sad to hear you will be leaving Apple, however, I do suggest looking into a new Macbook because they can also run Windows, Linux, Unix and of course Mac OS X (greatest OS ever). Thanks again.

  • madcao

    if you can wait til the fall, you should be using a (RED) motorola SLVR phone

    http://direct.motorola.com/hellomoto/red/

    the phone is hot, takes photos, plays mp3s, and even better – a portion of the proceeds from the sale goes to the global fund. once the carriers are set up, then 5% of your monthly bill also goes to the global fund.

    i can’t wait to get mine. right now (RED) is live in the UK.

    http://www.joinred.com

  • ryan

    hey d,

    Just saw this CNN article re cell phones and their complex ui and was reminded of this post.

    CNN Article: Making cell phones simple is hard

    see you soon!

    ry

  • the fact that you have to log in to get your sprint texts is a function of your oooold school phone and plan.

    anything you buy from sprint today will have normal texting.

    I’ve used sprint since 1999. pretty happy.
    best parts: nights start at 7pm. data packages are second cheapest (to t-mobile)

  • anon

    wait till fall for the goodies 😉 …

  • Ged

    I can’t really recommend a good US carrier, however going with someone like Cingular or T-Mobile will be more useful than Verizon because they are based on the GSM mobile standard which is pretty much universal in most parts of the world.

    http://www.expansys.com usually have a great range of the latest phones, they have both a US and UK site.

    I found that my Treo 650 managed to mangle my contacts, which was a bit of a problem since I am a PR person.

    I really like the Nokia E61, but am waiting for it to be supported on iSync before purchasing one.

  • Richie Edquid

    Hey just found your blog, I found it interesting. I’ve read your students blog too, dana, about her myspace stuff also!

    http://www.sidekick.com

    just upgrade to sidekick3!!!!!

  • abi

    i luv my cell phone i dont know what i whouuld do with out it.i whould be lost completly.

  • anon

    It’s fall and goodies are arriving, have you thought of doing a follow-up post?