OK, I know the Nokia N900 is a much better phone than the HTC Mogul. Obviously the hardware and the OS it runs are light-years ahead of it. So if you’ll excuse the link-bait headline, I will proceed to explain why the N900 is a phone from a bygone era. The sodding stylus. UPDATE: The point of this post is to rant about the stylus, the N900 is obviously not an archaic phone by any means, and to suggest it was no better than the HTC Mogul is laughable, which is precisely why I thought readers would catch onto the sarcasm, apologies for any coronaries I may have caused.
I know Ewan loves and adores the N900, but even he can back me up on this. Just as having a serious smartphone without a 3.55mm headphone jack is a joke (yes, I’m looking at you G1, various BlackBerrys), having a smartphone with a stylus is becoming unacceptable. To the early adopters/mobilegeeks like me, it is a deal-breaker, and it’s only a matter of time before the disgust with the stylus seeps down to the general public (normobs as Ewan says).
I know some business men and women must be used to the stylus, as they’ve been using them since the days of the PDA. The stylus is like a security blanket for these people. But if they could have back the hours they devoted to learning the Palm Graffiti 1 & 2 alphabets and instead spent that time to learn how to play guitar, they’d be Randy freaking Rhoads by now.
The point is, that styluses (styli?) had their day in the sun. As did the rotary phone. As did the phone before the rotary phone where you’d pick up the receiver and say “Operator, get me #12!” But we are living in the age of glorious, gorgeous touch screens: the iPhone, Palm Pre, the HTC Hero, and the BlackBerry Storm (OK, just kidding about that last one).
About half the time I’m using my phone, I do so one-handed. I don’t operate it when I drive if that’s what you’re thinking, but rather when I’m carrying a cup of coffee, my lunch etc., so using a stylus is just out of the question.
Even with two hands, I hate the stylus. The act of sliding the ugly plastic wand out of the side of the phone is always the last resort. You try to think, “OK, this webpage only has two links I want to click, maybe I can get away with using my fingernail.” Then, invariably, you try again and again until you are so frustrated that you resign yourself to removing the stylus from its plastic cocoon.
Then you get to a website with fields. It’s too much trouble to go into a field put the stylus back, use the slide out keyboard, then remove the stylus again. So you try to hold on to they stylus by pinching it between your pointer finger and the side of the phone, as you attempt to type with your thumbs. Then of course, the stylus, awkwardly held in place merely by friction, tumbles to the filthy ground, and then rolls into the gutter. You then go to the nearest bridge or tall building and hurl your body towards the sweet embrace of the afterlife, a world with no stylus.
So I know that the N900 is a serious smartphone, and I’m sure that Nokia engineers were loathe to include a stylus. They would probably say “We had no choice, how else are you going to navigate the parts that need a delicate and precise touch?”
To which I would say: figure it out. Just figure it out, you’re the high paid engineer. We can put a man on the moon, but we’re still in the dark ages of mobile devices with the stylus. Actually, a little known fact, the original stylus was a crude hunting and gathering tool used by Neanderthals. A million years later, little has changed.