Trading Up

My cell phone died before or during my Sunday ski with Steve on January 23.

N. called me while I was skiing on the back half of the Bluestem Trail. I stopped and dug the phone out and answered but he just hung up. I assumed that the reception was bad or that the phone was acting up because of the cold, but the same thing happened again in my office on Monday. I tried to call one of the office assistants and discovered that the phone wasn’t picking up my voice. I made sure I hadn’t turned the Mute function on by mistake, and realized the old phone was broken. For about the last six months, I have seen signs that the battery was failing, but it seemed to hold a charge for the calls I made in a day. I knew that when the battery failed, it wasn’t going to be worth buying a new one. It isn’t economical to fix an old phone and good new phones are free for signing on to a contract. My old phone was off contract. All I had to do to get a new phone was to sign on to a contract for a service I was using already.
The old phone was one of the Motorola StarTac series. I had it for about 4 years. It was a dual mode (Digital/Analog) flip phone with a monochrome green screen. I never really like the phone. The keypad was unresponsive, and the special features were not intuitive, and programming anything required drilling through obscure sub-menus. The manual was organized around the names Motorola gave to features, which made it hard to find the pages that related to the function I wanted. Motorola was supposed to make a better product, and especially to have better reception, but I found the reception was unpredictable. I had a few criticisms around design and ergonomics. It slid into a special belt clip that was supposed to allow for the easy access to the phone, but the phone tended to pop out and fall on the ground. The end of the antenna tended to catch in clothing and bend, and I broke it once. There were some keys on the side of phone and I tended to press them while trying to open the phone and take a call. I also saw some disadvantages to the whole flip phone idea – the flip hinge allows a tiny bit of play, and on StarTacs the battery went into the outside of the flip part. Between natural torque and the pressure of being in pockets, the flip part tend to press and wear on the main body of the phone.
Some of that doesn’t matter, since StarTacs are off the market but I have not been hearing good things about Motorola from other guys who are stuck with them on contract, and I have noticed that MTS and other distributors don’t promote them the way they used to. Also, I am coming around to seeing flip phones more offering a design style rather than any functional advantages.
I got a Nokia 6585, which was one of the basic free-with-a-plan phones that MTS was offering. It’s not new to the market – it was introduced nearly two years ago. It’s a Tri-mode phone (1X as well as digital/analog). I was a little leary of the idea of having the keypad exposed, but a transparent case and the keylock feature solve the main problems of having the keypad exposed – dust, dirt and environment, and accidentally pressing keys. I’m not sure that flip phones have any special advantages there anymore. I wasn’t confident in that the microphone would pick up my voice from up beside my cheekbone, but it does. It doesn’t have an external antenna. I was happy with that, but I was not sure what kind of reception I would get. Again, not a problem. I have used it inside different buildings, in the car, around the City and from Griffiths Hill in Bird’s Hill Park, and the reception has been good everywhere. In fact reception is noted by reviewers as exceptionally good. It’s small and light. The keys are big and respond well. The colour screens is a great advance on monochrome – it’s highly visible. The on-screen menus are good. The battery life is great. Some of these features are just part of the evolution of the technology, but there seems to be some good design here too. It’s a much friendlier tool than my old StarTac.