I have been an avid smartphone user since Windows Mobile 5.0 and even before that I have owned various PDAs and even once a Windows CE device. However my first true smartphone device was an unbranded gunmetal gray Motorola Q for Alltel Wireless. You may remember Alltel as that quirky carrier with the commercials featuring the young hip blonde dude outshining the dorky incarnations of the Big Four. That is until a huge chunk of their market was purchased by Verizon, That makes me, as of today, a Verizon customer of nearly 10 years if you include my tenure with Alltel.
Although being a gadget geek I have followed a rather consistent path of Smartphone ownership. As mentioned above, I first owned a Motorola Q. A rather thin(for its time) candy bar style phone with solid enough specs to emulate the 16 bit era of gaming and through a proprietary device driver and a little Dial-Up Networking finagling, also a pretty solid high speed (again for its time) internet modem. Next I went through a line of HTC devices, including the Touch Pro, Pro 2, and the Imagio. All Windows Mobile 6.X devices. Buggy as hell but still solid Smart-phones, though back then touch screen devices were called Pocket PCs, smartphone was relegated to the soft-key only devices sans touch screen. Later, thanks to a little fun experiment of hacking Android onto the HTC Imagio peaking my interest, I decided to switch my wife and I to the Motorola Droid 2 Global.
Except for the HTC Imagio my history with smartphones has always included a physical qwerty keyboard. Having what I call Man-Hands, (have to special order my gloves) touch screens whether resistive or capacitive do not work all to well for me. I just prefer slider phones. Having that distinct separation of the buttons just feels right to me. I can thumb it blindfolded. I experience too many errors using touch screens for typing. I know many of you will say that auto-correction and predictive text have come a long way and I agree. They work well correcting my errors on the physical keyboard but when the tip of your thumb is nearly four keys wide the predictive text has no idea what you are trying to spell.
This brings me to the main point of my rant. Verizon recently released the Motorola Droid 3 and on October 13th will release the Samsung Stratosphere. Being a physical keyboard nut and having missed that dedicated numbers row I was very tempted to renew my contract for the Droid 3. However there was one big glaring omission from the specs sheet for this device. This was a 3G only phone. Why would they not make their flagship device LTE capable? Saving some specs for the Droid 4(G) maybe like Apple saving specs for the IPhone 5? After using the Droid Global for nearly a year as a wireless modem, I greatly desired an LTE device with a five row qwerty board and specs up to par with the current line up of smart devices. I feel Verizon screwed the pooch on this one, so I decided I would just wait and hope, just maybe the device of my dreams was only around the bend.
Enter the Samsung Stratosphere. When I first saw that phone, it reminded me of how close I was to switching carriers just for a phone. The Stratosphere is identical in every way(besides branding) to the Sprint Epic 4G. Astonishing four inch Super AMOLED screen, five row keyboard, and the kicker, full LTE capable. I have found my phone. Then I read the rest of the specs. This phone is literally identical to the Epic, even down to its hardware. It has the same single core 1GHZ Hummingbird processor, half gig of RAM, and mediocre cameras. Now I understand why it’s only $150 with contract. This would equate to if the Iphone 4 was selling on Sprint for the same price as an Iphone 4S 16GB. Verizon is repackaging last years phone as if it was new. I know this wasn’t personally done to spite me but Verizon, “Why wont you give me what I want!” If it wasn’t for my grandfathered contract of unlimited data I would jump ship, but even I know Verizon has the best coverage, and now are reaching the highest US LTE penetration.
I really do not want to renew my contract for a phone I do not truly want. In these days of $100 plus cellphone bills, it is rather silly to settle for a phone because its free or cheap. If you are even considering a smartphone, you might as well get the best since you are required to get a minimum $80/month service plan contract. Do not settle, either get the best phone on the market or a phone that matches all your requirements. I now have two phones that I may consider on the number one carrier. Neither device is entirely what I want, but do I have the patience and does my Droid Global have the life to make it to the launch of either the Droid 4 or the rumored Droid Nexus Prime Slider? I gotta have my qwerty board.