Despite the state of the world economy, 2009 is most likely going to shape up as a watershed year for mobile phones and the mobile web. It’s a push coming from all parts of the globe. As always, there are a great number of applications and technologies coming out of North America and Europe. But, it’s also the case that a great many people are developing interesting ideas from Africa as well where the mobile is king for data transmission and collection. With that in mind, it’s interesting to note some of the high-end devices that are being created for the burgeoning mobile web which are mostly due to Apple firing the opening volley with the iPhone.
Obviously, a device like the iPhone isn’t going to be a commonly found phone for a user in Sub-Saharan Africa where currently most phones in use are under $20 USD. This isn’t to say that a lot of the ideas and technologies in the high-end phones won’t be trickling down to lower end models over the next couple of years.
Beyond the iPhone and Blackberry Storm, two other phones are coming on to the market which may finally allow people to make that ever present leap to having a full and proper computer in their pocket when on the go. The Palm Pre is at the top over everyone’s list as the “next big thing” in mobile computing. I’m not so sure about that as it’s only going to be a CDMA network phone, when GSM is really the big network around the world. Also, in the US, it’s going to be released with Sprint who are really no one’s favorite network provider.
The other phone that’s going to be big and is the one that I’ve been waiting for is the Nokia N97. I have huge fingers, so I love a proper keyboard. The “keyboard” on the screen of the iPhone does nothing for me and so I’ve been very tantalized by this device as a piece of equipment that I can take on travels to Africa with me that will allow me to not bother taking a laptop.
While intrigued since its announcement, I haven’t had a chance to really mess about with the phone, but got the chance at the Nokia booth in the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco two weeks ago. My overall impression with the phone is that I liked it a good deal. It’s solid and has that great Nokia durable feel to it. It’s a nice size and to be honest, while the touchscreen is groove-tastic, I almost feel like I would be using the slideout keyboard a great deal more. It’s a nice keyboard. The keys could possibly be a bit more raised, but the size is a huge step over most of the other QWERTY keyboards I’ve used on mobiles. The interface was a bit muddy, which was undoubtedly due to everyone else at the conference messing with it. I mean, the amount of pictures that were of the ceiling or some grinning idiot in a blue shirt with khaki pants were innumerable. This would require more testing.
But the number one thing going in this device’s favor is battery life. Even with being fondled for three days on end with the screen at full brightness, the phone still had a charge. This is key. In a place where mobile signals are often much more plentiful than power, being able to have a strong, long charge like that is a huge deal. I can easily see this replacing the N95 in the Reuter’s Mobile Journalism Kit and allowing the load to be lightened a bit.
More time will need to be spent with this phone for everyone to see how it shakes down, but it has all the makings of being much more popular on the international side of things than the iPhone or Palm Pre.
Messing with the Mobile Web and the Nokia N97