Jeff’s not the only one with new toys. During my blogging hiatus, I bought myself a new computer too, a [ed. note: Gene, you might want to stop reading now, lest you lose any respect you might still have had for me] Dell Dimension XPS (3.4GHz P4, 2Gb RAM, 240Gb HD, 256Mb Radeon video, DVD burner) gaming PC, and a really sweet 20-inch flat panel display. The system kicks ass, especially for online 3D gaming. I also bought my nephew, who just went off to college this past Saturday, a wide-screen Dell laptop as his high-school graduation present. (His college recommends Dell, and offers priority service for students who purchase through their program with Dell; I’ve consistently had good luck with their products, so I went with them again.)
And last week I got the new Motorola v710 phone, Verizon Wireless’s only current Bluetooth-enabled handset. It doesn’t quite live up to the hype that preceded its release (more about that below), but I’m really very pleased with it nonetheless. I know many of you don’t like Verizon, but it’s the only national carrier from which I can get a signal both here in the Washington metro area and at my mother’s house in the Virginia mountains and along the entire route between, and I can even get a signal inside my office (whereas the Sprint and ATT users generally have to go outside) and in the Metro, so it’s the best choice for me.
The good points: First of all, the phone is attractive. Some users have complained that it’s too big, but I have no complaints. It’s my first clamshell phone, and though I wasn’t sure I’d like that form factor, I really do. The displays are very nice, especially the large internal screen. Typing aside, which isn’t particularly easy on any cell phone, it’s actually usable for reading text and browsing the web.
The speakerphone is amazingly good. The sound quality is clear and crisp. Given that the speaker otherwise is hard to position just right in order to hear when held to the ear, this is a cell phone that actually works better as a speakerphone than in its normal handhelf configuration. The speaker-independent speech recognition, too, works remarkably well, and notably better than the voice recognition of the Prius, which is so bad to be practically useless.
The bad points: The camera in the phone sucks. Advertised as a “high-resolution 1.2-megapixel camera… with the same high standards of a stand-alone digital camera,” the quality of the resulting photos nevertheless just doesn’t cut it. The photos are fine when viewed on the internal display, so they work well for associating a person’s picture to their phone number, which then displays when you receive an incoming call from that number, but when transferred from the phone to my PC and viewed full-size, they were of embarrassingly poor quality.
And the Bluetooth is a mixed bag. Partially crippled–it’s still unclear whether inadvertently by Motorola, in which case a patch is rumored for sometime this month, or purposely by Verizon, in an alleged (and not unbelievable, given their history) attempt to force users to pay for services that otherwise would be free and easy using Bluetooth–the phone includes only the hands-free and headset Bluetooth profiles so that it can successfully be used with a wireless headset or with a Bluetooth-enabled car, like my Prius. However, it doesn’t support the Object Push Profile, so you can’t transfer files to and from the phone using Bluetooth, but must use either a separately purchased–and hard to find–Transflash card, or by paying Verizon for message transfer and airtime fees. Moreover, this means that the phone also can’t share its directory with other devices, so there’s no way to get its directory information into the Prius. Effectively, then, while I can use the Prius’s speakers to listen and talk on the phone, I either have to dial the number from the phone itself–pretty much defeating the purpose of a handsfree mode in the first place–or else dial the number manually on the Prius’s phone pad, which automatically deactivates when the car is in motion. So I’m hoping that a fix for this is indeed forthcoming from Motorola.
The phone also allegedly functions as an MP3 player, but since 1) it only has 10Mb of RAM and I don’t yet have an expansion card; 2) with the crippled Bluetooth, there’s no apparent way to get MP3s into the phone’s RAM other than via expansion card; and 3) I already have a 40Gb iPod; I don’t really expect to use this functionality anyway. I also haven’t explored the video capture capability, but I suspect the quality will be no better than the static images taken by the digital camera.