This week, spurred on by two developments, I decided to pursue my personal tech dream: a
1) mobile blogging device I can fit in my pocket
2) with photo, video, and sound recording and posting ability
3) on the internet with
5) a QWERTY keyboard on which I can effectively write
6) on a Verizon wireless plan, since I’m moving to an area where only Verizon has decent coverage, and that
7) I can afford, not having much money to burn.
The two developments enabling the pursuit of my dream:
1) My current 2-year cell phone contract just expired, and
2) The HTC Ozone, a new smartphone fitting the bill, just emerged onto the market through Verizon.
On paper, then, the HTC Ozone looked like it would fit my needs. How has it worked in my hands?
Keep in mind as you read this that my previous cell phone was actually just that — a simple cell phone, and that I’ve never used a Windows Mobile 6.1 smartphone before. I’m not used to typing on a tiny keyboard, and the other little keyboards I’ve tried out in my quest for the perfect device have driven me nuts. Don’t even get me started on the “touch screen” virtual keyboards that are so slow and inaccurate I might as well write by smoke signal.
This time, I’m in love, or at least deep like. The HTC Ozone QWERTY keyboard has rounded keys with little spaces in between so that even my big lug fingers can manage to hit the right keys. In the space of two days, I’ve gotten to be reasonably adept at typing on the Ozone, quickly enough to post some of the articles you’ve read here while I’m on the road. No, it’s not as fast as writing on a full keyboard, but it’s fast enough to work. I appreciate that the keyboard has a “special symbol” key to press for odd or infrequently used symbols, like the greater-than or less-than symbols, that are nonetheless crucial for writing html code.
The HTC Ozone is not a touch screen device, and I’m happy it’s not. No, I can’t swish or flick or do a twofinger thingamajig to bring up some new screen, but hey, I’ve borrowed an iPhone and I can testify to the frustration when one’s flick isn’t on target. You know what the 5-key navigation system does? It does exactly what I want it to do. Every time I press the right key. Style, schmyle. Hip, schmip. This navigation system does what I want it to do. It consistently works.
Some more details about the hardware of the HTC Ozone:
- The Ozone has access to a 3G network, although you have to purchase a data plan for $29 a month. This is for unlimited data use, including e-mail.
- WiFi! You can connect to your home, library, university, or coffeeshop internet access point as well.
- The phone has a pretty high-capacity battery. I’ve been able to noodle with the phone on and off all day, leaving it on in between my sessions, and after 12 hours the battery is still half-full.
- There’s a MicroSD slot in the phone into which you can put up to a 16 Gigabyte removable memory card to store all your music, photos, documents and so on. The little MicroSD card fits into a bigger SD adapter, and then can be stuffed into your regular computer for transfers.
- There is included sync software on a CD for my computer, which is a Windows Vista machine, and it works in a straightforward fashion with an included USB cable which you won’t lose, because the cable is part of the regular AC wall charger.
- The HTC Ozone doesn’t just connect to Verizon’s American CDMA network, but also can connect to the GSM networks that populate the rest of the world. This is very handy if you’re a traveler. Also handy: included in the Ozone box are multiple power cord adapters for various electrical systems around the world.
- I find phone call audio to be crisp and clear. The included 2 Megapixel camera takes shots that are resoundingly OK; this is a cell-phone camera that will produce web-standard, glossy-catalog-awful photographs. Below is a photo of a backyard sunflower I took with the camera. Look at the pretty thumbnail, then click on it to see the somewhat smudgy full-size results.
- Update: click here for my comparison of HTC Ozone’s video capture quality compared to the Flip Mino and a Canon Powershot A560. By my eye, the video is of novelty-only quality, not ready for Prime Time or even the discerning YouTube viewer.
I’ve heard complaints for years about the “awful” Windows Mobile smartphone operating system, but folks, I have to tell you I’m quite happy with it. Within 24 hours of the FedEx fella handing me a package and no previous experience with Windows Mobile at all, I downloaded, installed and used the correct applications to get worldwide satellite photos, a full Facebook interface with photo and video upload, mobile blogging software for when I don’t want to use a browser, and RSS reads of the BBC, New York Times and Washington Post. It took me — I kid you not — two minutes to configure my phone to receive my Yahoo Mail and Gmail. I’m all set up not only with Microsoft Office editing programs but with full Google Docs access.
To satisfy the curiosity of those interested in the browser wars, I have downloaded Opera Mobile version 8.65, the latest for non-touchscreen phones. Keep in mind that you have to actually buy the Opera browser for $24 after 30 days, which means that if I’m going to keep Opera it’s got to be a fair chunk better than the included Internet Explorer. I’ve used the Internet Explorer for the HTC Ozone and found it to be just fine in terms of download time. I don’t find Opera Mobile to be appreciably faster, although I’ve heard some including the folks at CNET rave about Opera’s speed. Opera has the advantage of processing every web page through its own server to try and shove each website down to a smaller width. Opera has the disadvantage of scrolling not across and down a page, but leapfrogging from link to link, which means that on some wide pages I can’t center on the column of text I want to read. Since I’m interested in reading more than surfing links, this is frustrating. The included Internet Explorer browser does not have this disadvantage.
What really impresses me is that the software for Windows Mobile 6.1 not only exists, but works and does so intuitively without a steep learning curve. To give you an indication of how easy it is to master these applications, I can tell you that 12 hours after I first turned on my HTC Ozone, I was at a dance club in Columbus, taking photos and videos and posting them to Facebook with commentary in the time it took my wife to head to the bathroom and back.
I’m having a blast with the HTC Ozone and I recommend it to anyone else who might be looking for an inexpensive but highly functional mobile blogging device. You can find it on the web from Verizon.