Author Topic: Seeking QWERTY phone recommendations  (Read 6371 times)

livrocentral

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Seeking QWERTY phone recommendations
« on: August 26, 2013, 01:18:28 PM »
I just broke free from a Sprint contract and am shopping for an unlocked GSM phone to use with PlatinumTel's pay-as-you-go plan. I'm hoping to keep it to around $10/month.

Here are the features/design I'm looking for:

1. GSM/unlocked. Looks like the better pay-as-you-go plans are on GSM MVNOs these days.
2. WiFi capable. This is a must, so I can use it instead of a PC for quick emails and web browsing, but with a minimal amount of actual "plan" data usage.
3. Tactile QWERTY keyboard. I've tried typing on all kinds of touchscreens, including the iPhone, and I can't stand it. I can't type nearly as fast and the whole point of this would be to save time, not waste it "swyping" or whatever.
4. Candybar form factor. My experience with sliders is that more moving parts mean more that can go wrong. Plus it's nice to be able to use the phone with one hand.
5. (Optional) VOIP calling. This feature would be useful for keeping "plan" minutes to a minimum, although I do have a landline at home and at my desk, so it's not a big deal.
6. (Optional) GPS. Great bonus feature but not essential. Just really handy sometimes.
7. (Optional) Integrated Flash browsing. 
8. (Optional) Ability to sync calendar, contacts, etc. with Google.


So far it looks like I'm pretty limited in my options. Obviously the iPhone is out, since they don't have keyboards. Android phones are pretty limited as well, but they're out there. If I skip those two mainstream operating systems I'm left with devices like the Palm Treo Pro (Windows Mobile 6.1), Palm Pixi (webOS), and Nokia E71/E73/E6 (Symbian). Am I missing something in the "obsolete smartphone" category that might be good for what I'm looking for?

And it's looking like my options in the $50 price band are even more limited--again, if I'm missing something, please chime in!

Thanks in advance.

Edit: I just discovered phonescoop.com's handy feature that lets picky consumers like me search for phones with a great filter for all these different options. But--I noticed that most of the hits for me are Blackberry, which I have been mostly avoiding. Can I use a Blackberry on a prepaid plan without dealing with BIS? And still sync my contacts with Google Sync?
« Last Edit: August 26, 2013, 02:02:29 PM by DP »

Daley

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Re: Seeking QWERTY phone recommendations
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2013, 02:30:20 PM »
Edit: I just discovered phonescoop.com's handy feature that lets picky consumers like me search for phones with a great filter for all these different options. But--I noticed that most of the hits for me are Blackberry, which I have been mostly avoiding. Can I use a Blackberry on a prepaid plan without dealing with BIS? And still sync my contacts with Google Sync?

Blackberry is right out due to BIS with nearly all prepaid. There's technically workarounds, but it's not worth the trouble and hassle. You're pretty well spot on with the phone selection, though, with my vote being thrown behind a Symbian S60/Anna/Belle device. Nokias are just well engineered devices, and solid as all get out.

Also, as decent as Phonescoop's search tool is, I've found GSMArena's tool that much better. It's probably six a one half-dozen the other, but their arrangement is a bit clearer, IMHO.

As for restricting yourself to a $50 price point? If you know exactly what you need, better to spend a little more up front to ensure you get exactly what you need. I appreciate the desire to keep costs low (after all, I'm using an S40 based C3-00 that wasn't quite $50 and the wife is using an e63 she spent around $65ish on if memory serves), but if we'd needed to spend more, we simply would have. No shame in spending $100+ on a phone if it truly meets your needs as a tool.

huadpe

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Re: Seeking QWERTY phone recommendations
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2013, 03:03:09 PM »
Do you still have and like the sprint device?  You could port it onto Ting, who are an excellent discount carrier.

livrocentral

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Re: Seeking QWERTY phone recommendations
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2013, 10:27:10 AM »
@I.P. Daley - Thank you for the suggestions.

Quote
You're pretty well spot on with the phone selection, though, with my vote being thrown behind a Symbian S60/Anna/Belle device. Nokias are just well engineered devices, and solid as all get out.
Do you use your Nokia phones for VOIP calling? Any idea how well a Google Voice setup might work?

Quote
As for restricting yourself to a $50 price point? If you know exactly what you need, better to spend a little more up front to ensure you get exactly what you need.
I believe in this principle, too. My hesitation at spending more is that I don't know exactly what I need or what I'll need in a year from now. Basically I'm thinking--as long as I'm getting a device with a non-mainstream OS, I should probably keep costs to a minimum in case it doesn't work out long-term.


livrocentral

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Re: Seeking QWERTY phone recommendations
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2013, 10:34:42 AM »
Do you still have and like the sprint device?  You could port it onto Ting, who are an excellent discount carrier.
Thanks, @huadpe . I have looked into Ting as well as EcoMobile, which seems to have pretty decent rates.

I do have a phone that would work on a Sprint MVNO. It is an LG Optimus S. (Interesting aside--I never activated this phone on the Sprint network; I hung onto it and kept using my Palm Treo Pro because I was on a grandfathered unlimited data plan. When that was no longer available, Sprint let me out due to poor coverage and waived my ETF only after I mailed them the Treo Pro. Oddly enough, they didn't want the Optimus back.)

So I've considered this option, especially since the startup cost would be basically $0. But the two main obstacles are (1) Sprint coverage in my neighborhood is not good--lots of dropped calls; and (2) I can't stand the phone. I held out with the Treo Pro for years even with the coverage issues because I had unlimited data and got a lot of use out of that device.

I could of course buy another Treo Pro or similar, but I was getting tired of its foibles and thought I might as well try something a little different. Plus I think the GSM prepaid options are a little more flexible. If I understand the way Ting works, I'd still have to pay a minimum $6/month line charge on top of any usage, which at minimum would be an additional $9/month.

Daley

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Re: Seeking QWERTY phone recommendations
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2013, 10:55:57 AM »
@I.P. Daley - Thank you for the suggestions.

Quote
You're pretty well spot on with the phone selection, though, with my vote being thrown behind a Symbian S60/Anna/Belle device. Nokias are just well engineered devices, and solid as all get out.
Do you use your Nokia phones for VOIP calling? Any idea how well a Google Voice setup might work?

Quote
As for restricting yourself to a $50 price point? If you know exactly what you need, better to spend a little more up front to ensure you get exactly what you need.
I believe in this principle, too. My hesitation at spending more is that I don't know exactly what I need or what I'll need in a year from now. Basically I'm thinking--as long as I'm getting a device with a non-mainstream OS, I should probably keep costs to a minimum in case it doesn't work out long-term.

I will be honest, I have not personally set up our VoIP account on my wife's e63, however given it's a business class device, the native solution should work well and has been considered favorably by others. Typically, SIP clients either work or they don't, and quality issues fall to the VoIP provider and the bandwidth available. That said, if you like, I can test it out thoroughly over the next couple days for you.

As for usage with Google Voice? Not gonna happen as a native thing. There's the GV4ME app for general J2ME platforms that can run on S60 as well, but there won't be address book integration or VoIP support (no different than using the GV mobile website). The native client from Nokia supports traditional SIP protocol services, so you could use CallCentric, VOIP.ms, Future Nine, etc., with the service. You could also bridge the GV account using something like SIPdroid on your current Android device and then borrow the credentials, but it's just going to be flaky (and you'll be trusting a third party with your Google credentials, like you do with Talkatone). Take it from a person who's had GV since before it was GV, you get what you pay for, and frankly it's not worth the money.

If you're getting into VoIP service to help keep costs low, consider bringing back the home phone instead of trying to get it all wedged onto one device.

I could of course buy another Treo Pro or similar, but I was getting tired of its foibles and thought I might as well try something a little different. Plus I think the GSM prepaid options are a little more flexible. If I understand the way Ting works, I'd still have to pay a minimum $6/month line charge on top of any usage, which at minimum would be an additional $9/month.

You got that figured right. Ting's decent, I recommend Ting for certain folks, but they're not particularly a grand bargain for single line low usage scenarios.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2013, 10:57:34 AM by I.P. Daley »

huadpe

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Re: Seeking QWERTY phone recommendations
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2013, 12:09:58 PM »
You got that figured right. Ting's decent, I recommend Ting for certain folks, but they're not particularly a grand bargain for single line low usage scenarios.

Yeah, Ting was my first thought just cause he said he had a Sprint device.  I use them because in my particular situation (traveling frequently to Canada) they're the best choice by far.  Since you're the phone guru I should ask though: do you know of any other MVNOs who don't turn into bricks when you leave the USA?

Daley

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Re: Seeking QWERTY phone recommendations
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2013, 12:42:00 PM »
Since you're the phone guru I should ask though: do you know of any other MVNOs who don't turn into bricks when you leave the USA?

There's a couple, but their rates are prohibitive or there's restrictive components, unfortunately. That is one of the downsides of MVNOs, but one of the upsides of going GSM and carrying a carrier unlocked phone over CDMA... just drop in a country native SIM card. ;)

As to that list that I know of at the moment:

Ting (you already know the rates and caveats)
Consumer Cellular (requires activation for international roaming, and one year service time)
GreatCall (terrible domestic rates, no BYOD, service geared towards old people)
Lycamobile ($1.84 a minute in Canada, 64 per SMS, 'nuff said.)

There's also providers that do "international" SIM cards like Telestial, OneSimCard, Mobal, etc., but most of these outfits are based out of the UK, and getting US numbers vary from carrier to carrier.

Finally, there's the VoIP shoehorned onto an Android smartphone providers like Republic, TextNow, and FreedomPop, but that's not true roaming, that's just using a WiFi hotspot in another country with a VoIP provider. This is something you can do with any WiFi enabled smartphone and any MVNO combined with the right VoIP provider already.

Needless to say, if you do a lot of international roaming? It's a great reason to either stick with an MNO if Ting doesn't work for you or carry a dual-SIM enabled quad-band GSM phone. It's a feature you're going to need to pay for.

Left

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Re: Seeking QWERTY phone recommendations
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2013, 12:45:30 PM »
what about a bluetooth keyboard with the case? something like this one http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?seq=1&format=2&p_id=8854&CAWELAID=1329457164&catargetid=320013720000011087&cadevice=c&cagpspn=pla&gclid=CJ62pqiknrkCFfBcMgods2oA3w

you could get cheaper probably shopping around, that was first link to come up on google with a picture i liked :S

i use a htc touch pro 2, windows 6.5 so it's outdated. A newer htc arrive is well, old now...

livrocentral

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Re: Seeking QWERTY phone recommendations
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2013, 02:36:44 PM »
As for usage with Google Voice? Not gonna happen as a native thing.
Yeah, that's what I figured. Thanks again for the info. I've been reading through the forums for more info about VOIP and there's a lot to learn. For now my basic copper landline is only $13/month for unlimited local calls, but VOIP may end up being the better option in the future.



livrocentral

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Re: Seeking QWERTY phone recommendations
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2013, 02:40:13 PM »
what about a bluetooth keyboard with the case? something like this one http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?seq=1&format=2&p_id=8854&CAWELAID=1329457164&catargetid=320013720000011087&cadevice=c&cagpspn=pla&gclid=CJ62pqiknrkCFfBcMgods2oA3w

you could get cheaper probably shopping around, that was first link to come up on google with a picture i liked :S
Cool idea! Thanks!

livrocentral

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Re: Seeking QWERTY phone recommendations
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2013, 02:46:36 PM »
As for restricting yourself to a $50 price point? If you know exactly what you need, better to spend a little more up front to ensure you get exactly what you need. I appreciate the desire to keep costs low (after all, I'm using an S40 based C3-00 that wasn't quite $50 and the wife is using an e63 she spent around $65ish on if memory serves), but if we'd needed to spend more, we simply would have. No shame in spending $100+ on a phone if it truly meets your needs as a tool.
Maybe a better follow-up question is, would your recommendation of a Symbian OS device stand if my price range increased to $100? $150?

Daley

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Re: Seeking QWERTY phone recommendations
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2013, 03:21:33 PM »
As for restricting yourself to a $50 price point? If you know exactly what you need, better to spend a little more up front to ensure you get exactly what you need. I appreciate the desire to keep costs low (after all, I'm using an S40 based C3-00 that wasn't quite $50 and the wife is using an e63 she spent around $65ish on if memory serves), but if we'd needed to spend more, we simply would have. No shame in spending $100+ on a phone if it truly meets your needs as a tool.
Maybe a better follow-up question is, would your recommendation of a Symbian OS device stand if my price range increased to $100? $150?

Yes. Better battery life, good form factor, solid engineering, low background data use. The Nokias are basically like old-school Blackberries without the BIS reliance, no nonsense, designed primarily as a professional communications device. Most mainstream smartphones feel like they're either intended to be toys, or try so hard to be everything that they likewise fail to excel at doing anything. When I had the Intercept (Android), I found my phone to be a distraction at best and a terrible telephone at worst. The Nokia behaves more like a tool, and I find I tend to treat it as such.

Truthfully, if money were no object and I could just have any phone I desired brand spankin' new? It would probably be the now two year old Nokia E6. If the E6 were unavailable? I would be mildly nonplussed, but I'd still be okay with the more restrictive OS features on a Nokia Asha 303 (which wouldn't be difficult, I already use a C3-00). The only way I could be happier under general principle is if they were designed to be IP67 rated devices, but that's more an excuse to be able to mindlessly abuse my phone... and if that were necessary in day to day for myself, I'd probably be more apt to go with a Samsung GT-B2710 anyway.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2013, 03:23:19 PM by I.P. Daley »

 

Wow, a phone plan for fifteen bucks!