Smartphones are shit; I’m going back to a real phone

I’ve had enough.

There is ONLY so much time and energy I can give a sodding ‘Smartphone’ before it winds me up.

Nothing on Earth in the Smartphone category seems to satisfy me.

I want all these whizzy mobile ‘toys’ — applications, extensions, fast data, decent camera — and whilst your average iPhone, T-Mobile G1 or Blackbery Bold do certainly meet the grade on paper, they don’t make the MacLeod cut.

No way.

Ultimately, business is all about talking. It’s about the spoken word. It doesn’t matter how many texts or tweets or do, at some point you need to close the deal or discuss the offer. People like it. Still. It’s rare to do business entirely electronically, even today.

So I need my phone to actually work. As a phone.

Here is what I need:

– When I want to phone somebody, I should be able to locate them in my phone book and hit dial within 5 seconds.

– I should be ‘connected’ within a further 2 seconds (whether it’s voicemail, busy signal, or a ringing line).

– My phone call should never, ever be terminated because of network-busy or the handset flucking up.

– The other party should be able to hear me. Continuously.

– I should be able to reach my calling menu — recent calls, missed calls, immediately and be able to place a call to a recent contact immediately. Sub 1 second.

– I should be able to talk for an hour without my handset battery going from 100% to 15%.

– I shouldn’t develop shoulder strain carrying it.

– My suit jacket shouldn’t look out of shape if I put it in my pocket.

No Smartphone can do all of the above, on a continuous basis.

Not a single sodding Smartphone on the market today.

If it’s not the sodding battery flucking up, it’ll be continuous disconnections. Or stupid shitty menus. Or an operating system that simply cannot handle it.

I think my issue is patience.

I have NO patience whatsoever when it comes to phones. The ONE thing a phone in my possession must do is make calls. Quickly. Reliably. If it fails to do this, then I start questioning the whole point (along the lines of ‘what the hell has changed in 10 years?’).

My major annoyance is that manufacturers seem to have, alas, dumped the original concept of a phone — i.e. placing calls — and paid more attention to other features when it comes to many smartphones.

Let’s talk Blackberry. Useless as a phone. It *works*. In fact it’s one of the class-leading Smartphone-That-Works-Ok-As-A-Phone devices. But the recent Blackberries? Rubbish. It looks to me like they’re too busy trying to figure out how to process 3G data to worry about placing your phone calls properly. Without hanging up mid-way through. Or forcing the other party to have to go seconds and half-minutes without hearing you.

The T-Mobile G1 is a big disappointment as a primary device. Obviously the battery can’t take much data use, but the killer is when I’m trying to navigate around it to make calls. And trying to STAY connected to someone for more than a few minutes. And trying to wait for it to place a call. And answer a call.

I won’t bore you with my Smartphone analysis.

Won’t even start on the iPhone.

Suffice to say I’ve dug out my Nokia N95 8GB. That is my handset of choice for talking.

And, er, thank you to The Guru for explaining that if you repeatedly press the ‘*’ key on your Nokia, you’ll get P and W. Characters you need to unlock your device when you’ve been given the unlock code.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

48 replies on “Smartphones are shit; I’m going back to a real phone”

So I will disagree. See, you may very well be right. But it doesn't matter. Let me explain why I love smartphones.
Say you just paid 500 quid on a “fashion” but dumb phone. Everything's wonderful about it, except you, say, really need to use the calendar. And it sucks. Bigtime. It's the stupidest, most hard to use ever. What do you do? Buy another phone. Only option. (Remember that piece on MIR a while ago about some LG phone that only plays music tracks alphabetically?)
Now if that same thing happens with a smartphone, you find 20 other calendar apps. One of them will surely fit your needs.
And speaking of this, if you plan on using the N95, please use SkyeQuikey (…). It will solve the “locate contact and be dialing in 2 seconds” issue. I'd also suggest never terminating (exiting) the Log app, always keep it running in the background. That shuld get you to your recent calls list in less than a second.
The fact that the call takes a while to connect can not easily be broken down into being the phone's fault. It might also be the network. Loads of variables there.

So Ewan – which 'Smartphone' has caused this outpoiuring of frustration?

I do understand your frustrations though. I use a Nokia E71 as my primary VOICE device – it uses the now slightly dated Symbian address book which I know extremely well – and have set up to backup/replicate my 3000+ contacts back through MS Exchange which then pushes updates out to my other handsets.

It also has a very large battery – essential for maintaining communications over extended periods and a full QWERTY keypad – essential for dealing with SMS, IM and short sharp email responses.

Is the E71 a 'Smartphone'? I guess that it is – although it may not be quite as feature rich in some areas as are the iPhone, Android G1 or Blackberry Bold/Storm – it *DOES* do the basic business of voice/SMS remarkably well (and do a load of the other stuff well enough to survive).

I agree with Mr Body. The E71 is a must for someone like you Ewan (although the N95 8Gb ain't a bad choice!) And remember pressing the green call button gets the recieved/missed/dialled call list. Less than a second – easy. 🙂

No, no, no not in my book Steve. It's a smart phone. As apposed to a Smartphone.

Smartphones have QWERTY keyboards.

The N95 8GB is a smart, capable handset. You were never intended to write spreadsheets on it. I think that's probably my definition.

My definition. And I’m right.

The E71 … nahhh. It doesn’t make the cut for me. I don’t think there’s
much Smart about Symbian at the moment.

But as TELEPHONES, right on. RIGHT on. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying being
‘connected’ by voice today using my N95 8GB.

2008/12/11 Disqus

James, since you're on here, I have an issue with Truphone… it often doesn't correctly interpret access codes and # symbols when dialling into conference calls and the like. This is true over GSM Anywhere and over SIP/WiFi… Hope you can fix… Cheers…

It sounds to me that you’re prefect phone would be a Nokia E71. Although the N95 will certainly do the job just as fine (being on the same S60 platform), I prefer the QWERTY form factor better. The E71 is made out of beautifully crafted metal and can take a beating without breaking, it also will serve you well when you need to write something.

As of right now I think there is no phone in the market that can match the E71’s usability. It’s very quick and snappy, and the OS is built so everything you do you can with one hand and ages quicker than with any other device running with on another OS, that’s the beauty of Symbian and Nokia seems to have perfected the S60 UI running on it.

I just wish they would have included touch into the mix which would have certainly been an advantage although not really needed, but I just think there is this beauty to gadgets that have a touch screen, I remember the Treos had that combination and always thought that looked cool.

You know that big black box in the corner of the Howler office?…..

<all your dimensions are belong to us>

Face it Ewan – what you want is a Nokia 6120 Classic and an Asus eeePC 1000, with free 20GB of online storage for when you leave it in the back of a cab.

Get a 3 £5 MBB deal, link it up using Bluetooth, and go wild.

Go on, make the switch.

Got to agree with you on this.

This is precisely why I always carry separate voice phones (for phone calls & SMS) and a data device.

Voice = SE C902 (not as good as the K800i I used to have)
Data (& very occasionally VoIP) = E71 with a £5 prepay SIM from 3


I had true every PDA and no “smartphones” and used only a dumb phone (RAZR) until the iPhone. You seem to hold a fair amount of contempt for this device I type on.

Won't be making a second visit to such a high maintenance guy.

Cheers from love land on the iPhone.

True that. Funny thing is they did integrate something like that into the
E71. Which runs the exact same OS (version and all). Talk about consistency!
The ‘business people’ to whom the Eseries is presumably addressed need this,
Nokia think. Not the rest of us mortals. They’ll grow up some day (I mean
Nokia). I still have faith. One day. Probably when Symbian will be the No.3
mobile OS.

The Nokia 5310 – the best phone in the universe. Battery lasts forever (over a week) and has a reasonable camera, it's sooooo slim. Looks great and is on pay as you go!

Hi Ewan,

You are right in some areas, manufacturers do seemed to have dumped the essential function of being a phone. Someone in the know recently told me when talking to an Irish operator phone store manager, that people wanted:

1. a phone that rings loudly
2. i can “feel” it ring in my pocket
3. i can find my contacts easily
4. isn't too big.

Now, coming to your requirements in a phone, not all are ultimately possible to get from any device:

Here is what I need:

– When I want to phone somebody, I should be able to locate them in my phone book and hit dial within 5 seconds.

Definately I agree.

– I should be ‘connected’ within a further 2 seconds (whether it’s voicemail, busy signal, or a ringing line).

This can be network related. There are network features to cut-down in call setup times. Maybe something to say to the network customer people (the people who actually know what you are talking about…)

– My phone call should never, ever be terminated because of network-busy or the handset flucking up.

Hmm, I know one operator over here that I get network-busy responses every other call I try. Again…this more likely a network related issue. I agree when you say it shouldn't fark up the device. It should handle errors better.

– The other party should be able to hear me. Continuously.

Both device and network related here again.

– I should be able to reach my calling menu — recent calls, missed calls, immediately and be able to place a call to a recent contact immediately. Sub 1 second.


– I should be able to talk for an hour without my handset battery going from 100% to 15%.

60% device, and 40% network related here. if you are sitting on the extreme edge of a cell with no satisfactory adjacent cell to handover to, you phone is going to be cranking the power up…again something to say to your network.

From reading what you need, and also seeing James' comment above, the Nokia E71 is a very nice phone. I use it as my phone. Zillions of lightyears ahead of the older E61 (which I had and loved using for years).

hope that helps,

Meh.. personally i can accept an extra second here and there to be able to fully surf the web, get email, instant messaging, directory services, GPS, etc, etc,

all of those things benefit you so much and are so usefull to simply have on hand even if they are not constantly being used. The way you describes the quality of talk of phones like iphone, bold, etc makes it sound like it’s totally unbearable which clearly seems to be a network issue if you think it’s that bad, because while i’ve been running on Rogers Canadawide and 3G i couldnt be happier with the clarity of my connection, it’s a mobile phone, not some stereo system, i dont know how u can complain so about the quality..

the only thing i can agree with is battery life, but even the iphone can be used conservatively with a 3G connection surfing the web as well as making calls over 3 days without dieing.

What a git.

Everything you “need” describes a regular phone. None of your “needs” encompass the extra functions of a smartphone. So why would you even bother? And what's the point of hating? Smartphones are designed to do other things besides JUST make calls… so why would you even bother?

It's like buying a 5-ton cargo van because you need to carry around a few small packages, then complaining that it's too cumbersome, too much of a fuel hog, too hard to park, won't fit in most parking garages.

WTF is the point of getting something that's far beyond your needs and them complaining that it's overkill? All it does is paint you as a big baby.

And BTW, my HTC smartphone covers all your “needs” except maybe for the “hours” of talk time. I press one button to go instantly to phone mode. One tap on-screen puts me into the call log. From the on-screen keypad, I can type a name and have the phone display all matches as I go along – easily within 5 seconds (faster, if I store the number in one of the 99 speed-dial locations). It's just as thin and nearly as light as my old Motorola RAZR. I've never had the network drop a call, nor has it ever taken more than 2-3 seconds to connect, even to a busy signal, unless there's a problem with the network itself (which would affect regular phones equally).

You sound like someone who decided to try something different ONCE, had a bad experience, and determined that it was sufficient reason to feed your need to whine about something… anything.


I've taken the liberty of approving your comment as Ewan's supposed to be on holiday right now and I he's been called worse than a 'git'… But a word of advice – don't show up late to a party and piss on the host's chips.

He's not complaining that he doesn't need a smartphone, but that a smartphone shouldn't under-perform in the 'being a phone' department because it has additional features. This opinion piece is based on testing hundreds of handsets for many years. Take a look at the rest of the blog.

I love this,touchscreen tabs/smartphones are just toys,when you touch a screen with big hands like mine, it goes to another screen,i threw it against the wall,now got a cheapo £9.99 flip star treck type phone “kirk to enterprise” LOL— Text and ring,the web stuff is done on my lappy.
All this “app for that shit” APPLICATIONS is the right word…
Smart phones–BURN IN HELL

just bought a stupid smart phone today and i ready to snap the thing in two, what happened to a button to see missed calls, then the other to call the missed call. fucking shite, just wasted 100bucks lucky i didnt go too hard

sounds liike your a do gooder whos had the same problem but got beetin to this bog by someone else fag boy!!!

the rest of the blog is shit too and so are opinions….. thats my OPINION so piss off, once again not hating just my OPINION!!!! so fuck the fuck off fuckwit, once again just an OPINION…….

What ever the smartphones issues are, i still love smartphones, i got no trouble when i got the flagship one 🙂

Whatever you do, make sure you support the telcos you lousy pricks. Shove you smart phones up your simple brain dead asses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.