When I decided to buy the Sony Ericsson P910, I didn't just want another fancy phone. Shawn and I have spent countless hours talking about the evolution of what we refer to as the Personal Media Device. This "PMD" or whatever you want to call it, isn't just a cool phone that can take pictures and make phone calls. This is the device where we originate, consume, and experience content in an always connected and location aware setting.
We see devices become ever more complex and capable of doing amazing things. We see networks evolve into high speed data pipelines that don't really care about who/how/or what they are connected to. Traditional media is created at the center of the network with expensive production budgets. The future world of media, media created at the edge of the network is quickly sprouting up around us as evidenced by blogging, podcasting, self publication, social networking as construct for media dissemination, etc.
So my personal exploration was to find the device or devices that gave me the best glimpse into what that world will look like. I looked at a variety of devices and ultimately decided on the Sony Ericsson P910 for a variety of reasons including some personal bias given my history with Sony and my devotion to a lot of their products.
The device I wanted to use had to meet a number of criteria including:
1. The ability to access the Internet and actually recreate the web experience on the phone.
2. The ability to create media, whether that is pictures, video, or text.
3. The ability to consume media, again along a variety of media types.
4. Good form factors and usability.
5. The ability to eliminate my laptop on business trips.
My take on the P910 is as follows and not necessarily in the order above:
Size and form factor: The P910 is a bit bulky compared to all of my previous phones. Although it is large, it is fairly lightweight. Although I appreciate this as I usually carry a phone in my pocket, I am concerned about the ruggedness of the device once I experience the inevitable drop. The P910 is an interesting device from a form factor because of it's multiple modes on input including normal handset keypad, a thumbpad(a shrunken version of the Blackberry for my money) and a touch screen data entry facility. In addition to this I have augmented the data entry capability by purchasing a Bluetooth full size keyboard. This keyboard is a critical piece to addressing criteria number 5 in my personal checklist.
Overall I have found the size to be fine although not as sleek as the Audiovox that Scoble raves about. The thumbpad is not something that is really useful for a largish sort of man with big digits as I fear I am going to break it off. That said, I find myself varying the different input modes as the situation dictates and find that I like the flexibility and actually use the thumbpad at times. All in all I think that I rate this area as above average.
Software: I like the Symbian OS. It has some bugs that one can expect on any sort of device, but the P910 comes shipped with a variety of applications that allow me to live in the Microsoft required business world I live in, while giving me a lot of flexibility. Specifically the piece I am most happy about with respect to hardware is the presence of the Opera browser. I love how Opera works on this handset. Aside from some network configuration issues I experienced, it has been awesome. In addition to the shipped software, you can get a variety of Symbian UIQ software that has been successful on previous versions of this device (P800 and P900). The biggest disappointment on the hardware side was the limites support for PIM software other than Outlook and Lotus. I regrettably had to migrate from ACT to Outlook which has been disappointing as I think Outlook is a really buggy and disappointing PIM relative to packages like ACT and Goldmine.
In general all of the software I have used has been good and I have tried to really push the handset and have generally felt that is has responded well.
Bluetooth: I love Bluetooth, but the P910 has highlighted some of the bugs associated with Bluetooth which I think is a given when you start to push the limits of bluetooth functionality. I have a Jabra headset that I use with the phone, the laptop and for my podcasts. I have had intermittent problems with dropped connections with the headset and the handset and I have had one major pairing drop off that I found disappointing. In addition to this I have the Bluetooth keyboard that really highlights the bluetooth failings. If I am typing rapidly with the keyboard while connected, I get a serious lag and sometimes dropped pairing. Not good, but if I route around this issue, I can get by.
Internet Access: I have had great success with Internet connectivity. My Blackberry style email functionality is addictive and wrong. I need to stop checking email every ten minutes when I am offline. IM works great. Internet surfing works great. The biggest issue has been network related and I think that relatively speaking the handset and network have performed adequately given the state of this type of technology.
Media Creation: Love it. The camera is a bit light, I wish it were megapixel. That said, the pics are of decent quality and I used the phone to document realtime the birth of our triplets. I guess that might be kind of weird, but the family and friends watching thought it was cool. The video capture is nice too. I need to find a videoblogging hosting site to start posting. I used the sound recorder to record a portion of my podcast, the $250 Million Radio show. I have used the keyboard and blogger to write some of my recent posts including some of the posts right before my kids were born last week.
Media Consumption: Nice. I use Bloglines to keep up to date on my RSS feeds. I can check out any website I normally would surf on my computer, on my phone. I have downloaded both the Daily Source code and Morning Coffee Notes in the last several days. This is the one area that I am a bit disappointed in. The speaker kind of sucks. Adam sounded great. Dave was hard to hear. If I could have transferred the sound to my Bluetooth headset that would have fixed the problem but it isn't an option. Apart from this I can download and play MP3 files and stream video to the phone.
PC Replacement: This device is really close. I can do all my Internet related stuff, email, IM and website surfing. I can review and do minor edits of all Microsoft apps. I can view PDF files. I have a memory slot port that takes up to a GIG. I have a full sized keyboard that is a little buggy, but generally works. If I am traveling with prepared docs for meetings I am good to go. If I have to edit and change docs, I think this falls down.
Conclusion: This is the first PMD that I have owned and it really speaks to me about a world that is just around the corner. A world where you can document your life on the fly, while you run your business, stay in touch with family and friends, and where technology recedes into the background. There are probably cheaper alternatives, but if you want to see why the P900 is the best selling smartphone, and to get a glimpse of your future mobile connected world, I think that the investment is a worthwhile sip at how our world is going to change in the very near future.