Monday, January 25, 2010

The State of Smart Phones Today

I mentioned in one of my earlier postings this month that I had recently obtained a new smart phone. Now picking out a smart phone is no easy task in today's market. There are piles of devices to choose from, each of which has different pros and cons to go along with it. When it comes to technology I try to always be a very informed shopper; a computer is something I am going to be using often and typically for a good deal of time. I was under contract with AT&T, but that was about to expire so I did not limit my phone search to a single company/service provider.

I went store to store first (a strange experience I will admit, normally I do most everything online). AT&T has their iPhone, Verizon the Droid, Sprint the Palm Pre, and T-Mobile the G1. After going in and playing with the devices I was fairly impressed with the two running Android based operating systems. Next I took to the internet to do more research, which is where I discovered two things: First, through the suggestion of a friend I found the device I ended up purchasing and currently enjoy very much - Nokia's N900; Secondly I learned more about "rooting" or "jail-breaking" phones. Odds are you have heard at least one of these terms before, "rooting" refers to gaining access to the "root" account on an Android device and "jail-breaking" was coined as the term for gaining full access to an iPhone (it references the phone escaping from the "Apple jail"). Neither of these processes is very difficult to accomplish with a small bit of know-how and it's your phone so you should be able to do with it as you please.

Right? Yes and no.

On the yes aspect, yes you can do what ever you want with your phone. No one is going to knock on your door and tell you its illegal (although if Apple had their way it would be illegal). Now for the no aspect: in both the case of Android devices and the iPhone, rooting/jail-breaking is discouraged and frowned upon. For both types of devices (Android based and the iPhone) if you bring them in for service while they are "hacked," the companies have been known to refuse to honor warranties. Beyond this if your rooted device suffers from an issue with an application the fact that the phone is jail-broken is a reason to refuse service.

At this point there is no questioning it: Our "smart" phones become more and more like a normal computer and less like a telephone each day. They surf the internet, instant message, play games (in full 3D in some cases), install applications, manage our music and other various media to name just a few likenesses. If the devices behave and function as a normal computer why can we not hold them to the same standards as such? Would you buy a Linux PC you didn't have the root password to? How about a computer running Windows that you weren't given the administrator password for?

What is worse than this, I feel, is the fact that people have come to expect to be locked out of their own hardware by default. Since I've gotten my N900, I've lost track of the number of people who asked if I plan on "jail-breaking" the device. I always respond with "No". A large contributing factor to my purchase of Nokia's latest internet tablet (that's right it is a computer first and phone second) was that they allow the user unrestricted access to the device with out any hacks or cracks.

What are your feelings about the smart phones on the market today? Did I miss any key points or perhaps do you disagree with something I've said?

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. When you answer no please be sure to let them know that nokia is not using any jails. The device is yours and you are free to use it as you please.

  2. I just got a Nokia N900, and the reason I chose it was the fact that I could get root out-of-the-box.

  3. Hey,
    I am with currently with Sprint and was wondering when you got your N900 which carrier did you pick?

    I like Sprint but may have to ditch them for the N900 and another carrier.

  4. @Joe I used it with my AT&T sim chip for a short while but ended up switching over to T-Mobile because of better pricing for equal service.


  5. I believe a viable argument for hardware such as this remaining "locked" would be to protect them from viruses and malware.

    Imagine getting a virus on your jailbroken iPhone that dials u in to a premium rate phone numbers whenever your phone is idle. owch.

  6. Recently, i have also taken a new Nokia N900 and I am having a good experience using it.

  7. Jeff thxs for your posting. I'm in the search of smartphone to replace my aging palm 700p. I can go to any carrier.

    Q1- can you do tethering either usb or bluetooth?

    Q2. can you install linux application? any restrictions?

  8. @I am Bubble - Just because the phone isn't rooted doesn't mean it couldn't in theory get a virus. For instance look at the fact in Android you can install applications without a root password, meaning a virus could easily load itself regardless.

    @Anonymous Above Me - Yes it can tether via bluetooth and USB, plus there is a community project going to tether it via wifi. Most applications require a recompile to work, but yes it is a full Linux distro. Check out the following two links for more information on what the N900 can do:


  9. The Nokia N900 feels like it's been designed just for me. It's the first phone that I don't want to throw against a wall for flagrant stupidity. It works. The hardware is great (best wifi reception ever experienced, great sound, etc - you're right battery life sucks, like any other smart phone AFAIK) and the software feels like $HOME.

    Now I just booted Meego 1.1 on an Atom netbook and it feels great too.

    I'd like to thank Nokia (and now Intel) for their *intelligence*.