Friday, February 22, 2008

Aspiring Tech Product Reviewer

Remember the job that Tom Hanks' character gets in the movie Big? I need a job like that - but for tech products like smartphones and online services and stuff. I have way too many opinions about how products could be improved, but I'm not sure who to tell. I'd even review stuff for free, especially if I got to try it out for free.

Of course, some of my recommendations are going to conflict with the system in any case where the system benefits the producer or carrier at the expense of the consumer. For example - the whole business about cell phones tied to a carrier. I wouldn't mind if you were given the option of signing a contract in order to get a better deal on a phone, but the fact that the phone only works on a given carrier is absurd. If I bought it, I should have the right to decide how to use it, and I shouldn't have to find a way around the system to make it work. If I find I hate the service, I should be able to pay the severence fee and take my phone to a different carrier. I think all consumers want to be able to choose the phone and carrier they prefer, without the choice for one limiting the choice for the other.

But I personally think that in the long run, companies and products that best serve the consumer have a leg up in terms of competition. If the products and services were equal, the consumer friendly company should win out. (This is of course affected by the sheer size and resources of some of these companies, unfortunately).

My Blackbery Curve
After a little over a month with my Blackberry curve, I know a little about what I love about it, and what could use some improvement. For the most part, I love it and wouldn't trade it in right now, but there are a few things I would add or change.

Things I love:
  • The reasons people get Blackberries - having all my contacts, tasks and calendar entries with me at all times, syncing up with Outlook so I don't have to enter the information twice. Being able to check and send emails wherever I am.
  • I have a full time job, and on top of that I have some duties for Bobby's new business as well, so I have email addresses for both companies. I'm able to set up my email with his business on my Blackberry, and filter my sync so that only tasks marked with specified categores are synced. This allows me to keep my Outlook at work (which is where I sync, as Bobby has commandeered my laptop) focused on my job, and my Blackberry focused on my personal and side work stuff.
  • Blackberry Messenger and Google Talk. These work great - I wish everyone had a Blackberry because of the former, and I love that both show up in my Messages section. A conversation in either shows up as a single entry in Messages, so I can select it to open that chat window.
  • Google Maps with the GPS for this thing is fantastic. On our recent trip to Park City, I was the navigator. We were able to go anywhere without having to preplan.
    • But there are some little things I would change. Mostly little things that can be overlooked, but if fixed would drastically increase my satisfaction with the product. Some of it can be fixed with add-on software, but I'd rather it were great out of the box:
      • This is my first time with a screen this big, so I didn't realize how much I would love having the Internet available to me. The EDGE network is on the slow side, so 3G would be nice - the faster the better.
      • Also relating to the Internet - I wish there were a faster way to scroll down on some sites - a touch screen in addition to the scroll wheel would be lovely. I wouldn't want just a touch screen, because that makes it harder to use the phone single-handed when necessary. The addition of a touch screen would make games like solitaire easier too.
      • AIM. There is no Blackberry version of AIM available for this phone. I have to purchase additional software to use it, but then it doesn't show up in my Messages like BBM or gTalk do. I would rather it did.
      • I would change the way Tasks are displayed on the Blackberry. The sync is great, but I'd like to see the due date, or filter the view so that only current tasks show up, and a checkbox would be nice so I could mark them complete.
      • The way it acts with Microsoft Exchange (although after further research I think it may be the way MS Exchange acts with it). We've just switched to MS Exchange at work, and if I set up my work email address up on my Blackberry, then as soon as the Blackberry checks my email, then my Outlook marks the emails as read. So even if I don't read them on my Blackberry, they are read in my Outlook. I come in each morning, and I have no new emails, but that's not really true. I've given up, and my work email stays at work for now.
      • I wish I could set more than one alarm. At least two. I would like to keep my daily one the same, and be able to add an additional one for whatever reason.
      I don't care about having a camera on my phone - it needs good lighting and I never use it anyway. If I want to take pictures, I'll use my regular camera. I'd rather have resources directed at these other issues.

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