Thanks to the nice folks at Metrowerks, I finally have a smart phone to play with. As some of you may well be aware, I was suffering from an affliction of round-the-corner-itis that had prevented me from investing in a Java phone. However, when one is provided for you, this unfortunately common ailment is neatly bypassed. And so, shortly after Christmas, while my stomach was still painfully distended from consuming too many servings of turkey, cranberry sauce, roast potatoes, and Christmas pud, a Sony Ericsson P800 duly arrived on my doorstep.
In the best tradition of judging a book by its cover, I was expecting the P800 to be somewhat larger than a minivan and barely smaller than the space shuttle, thanks to the pictures I'd seen of it online (and a genetic aversion to reading the specs properly). I was refreshingly surprised to find that it fit quite neatly in the palm of my hand, and doesn't result in really annoying variations of "Is that a canoe in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?" when you walk around with it shoved in your pants pocket.
There's not enough space here for a proper review (forthcoming), but I do have a few initial thoughts and niggles. The P800 has good Java support (CLDC/MIDP and PersonalJava), as might be expected from a smart phone, but some "interesting" decisions have been made with regard to the user interface.
With the keypad open, the P800 functions more as a PDA, and with it closed it works as a phone - with an interface that will be familiar to users of other Sony mobile phones. Strangely though, there doesn't appear to be a way to run a MIDlet with the keypad closed. In other words, you have to be in PDA mode, which to me is an entirely nonintuitive and rather perverse way of doing things.
Logically, you would expect to use a MIDlet in phone mode (keypad closed) and a PersonalJava app in PDA mode. Still, I am using a precommercial-release phone, so perhaps some of these minor problems (light-blue screen of not-quite-death, anyone?) will have been resolved by the time the phones arrive in the shops.
Niggles aside, it's a relatively comfortable phone to use, and even the nontechies I've handed it to have managed to find their way around the interface without too many difficulties, which is a testament to the simplicity of the Symbian operating system it's running.
Of course, there's nothing like experimenting with a device to make you think about how it could be better. There's one feature that I wish the P800 had - or that smart phones might have in the future - unlimited (or as close as possible) storage. You'll be thinking this is an odd feature to be asking for in a mobile phone. However, there are various mediums available, or forthcoming, that have staggering amounts of storage space for a not-too-exorbitant amount of money (StorCard's 5GB on a credit card is a good example). So I want my smart phone to have a slot that takes whichever one of those mediums takes up the least space and provides the most bang for the buck.
Why do I want all that space in my mobile phone? Call it an aversion to carrying a laptop around - I want to sync all my files (documents, pictures, music, whatever) onto the phone and cart it around with me instead. Give me a few gigs at least, so I can rip my CD collection (which I'm sure some music industry execs are going to be annoyed at), carry around every document I've ever worked on...I'll even carry the Java APIs around with me for a quick and easy reference.
As well as being the J2ME editor for Java Developer's Journal, Jason R. Briggs is a Java programmer and development manager for a wireless technology company, based in Auckland, New Zealand. [email protected]