Do I Really Want a Swiss Army Phone?

swissandroidWhen I was a kid I really wanted a swiss army knife. I wanted to be able to survive the day that I accidentally ended up in the wild forest with no food or water, and be like McGuyver.  I wanted to be able to have all the tools I needed in one place on one unit.

Well,I finally got one, and ended up being disappointed.  If you have ever had a swiss army knife, you know how totally unusable they are–you try to get one tool out, they all come out, you try to cut something with the small knife blade and feel like you are a caveman creating a knife for the first time ever.  Or you try to cut a piece of paper with the built in scissors and instead cut your thumb in two.  The swiss army knife LOOKS good and useful, but it really…isn’t.

I think of this when I look at all the “converged” devices I have owned and keep the ones that keep getting released.  Do I really want a camera, mp3 player, movie player, social network interface all attached to my phone?  The answer is yes and no, and perhaps you are like me in this regard.

I am an avid consumer of media, I love to listen to music, (Phish is the answer to what I listen to, I am a phan and as such, there are TONS of live tracks to listen to) and I really enjoy watching shows and movies.  What I DO NOT like is to be interrupted by things when I am engaging media.  For example,  I was catching up on Battlestar Galactica using my G1–I would put an episode or two on my card and would watch it when I had some waiting around time–and it seemed like the world picked that exact time that I wanted to watch these shows to call me non-stop. In turn this prevented me from really getting to watch a show all the way through and I found myself having to start the episode over again and again, and eventually gave up.

In addition, it feels to me that the Android platform is trying to be something it is not when using it as a media player, at least on my G1, I cannot speak for the other Android handsets out there.  It feels like the handset is trying to be a Swiss Army Phone, and as a result, screwing up my flow.

The marriage of convergence I have found that suits my personality the best is to carry my G1 for all of the Google functionality, but also to carry my iPod Touch as my media and entertainment center.  For some reason this does not bother me NEARLY as much to be interrupted when using my iPod Touch and my phone goes off.  I also have to admit that the media experience is superior on the iPhone.

I think convergence is successful when you are merging GENRES of functionality.  I love that I can pinpoint my location, tweet that location and take a picture of my location on my phone.  I love that I can talk to people using voice or Google Talk on my phone.  I love that the genre of COMMUNICATION is converged on my handset.  Just like I love the genre of MEDIA and ENTERTAINMENT on my iPod Touch.

I was also that kid who did not like to have his food touching on his plate, go figure.

  • phish rocks! 😛

  • Jules

    I actually agree with you – I personally use an HTC Magic, but I do all my media listening/viewing on an iPod classic because I don't see a need to only carry ONE device to do everything, especially when multiple devices can perform the tasks much, much better. And it's not like devices these days are as huge as they used to be (which probably started off the whole convergence/swiss army gadget trend). I can live with that 🙂

  • Why don't you just set your phone to send your calls to voicemail when you don't want to be disturbed? I disagree. I want one device. I'm tired of carrying multiple devices, multiple chargers, and multiple headsets. I have the G1 and a bluetooth headset. I have one charger that charges both. That's it. Works great.

    • Jeff, you are totally right about that, it is an option to send them to voicemail, this article is bringing out my OCD a little bit I think lol. I DESPISE having voicemails in my box, I always have, they annoy me. And with the nature of my job, I am on call 24/7. Thanks for your thoughts, I appreciate them!

  • eclipe

    Ditto on one device. I've had a converged device for at least 5 years going back to a Treo. I see people all the time on the train with an iPod, PDA, >and< a cel phone. What's the point of that?

    My G1 literally does >everything< I need, and more and more each day (give me Flash and its perfect) – music, streaming, movies, email, the whole 9 yards.

    Why juggle when its all on one screen?

  • Bruce

    I enjoyed reading the article. I think it was well written, amusing, and you made your point. I use the scissors and the Philips screwdriver on my swiss army knife. But if I ever get a call while Google Tracks is running and I'm trying to take a picture with my phone, I would not be happy.

  • Nick

    I too carry an iPod as my media device, though it's not because I don't want my G1 to do all of these things, but because it sucks the battery, and I need my phone to last all day without recharging. If the G1 was faster, had a better battery life, and a headphone jack, then I would probably use it as a media player.

    • Kyle

      I agree with you on that front. I also carry a phone and an iPod Touch, not necessarily because the music experience is better on the iPod Touch (which it is), but because I am a very heavy user. I play a ton of games on my iPod Touch on the bus, I listen to music in the library, and I text and email all day.

      Maybe, one day, when batteries will last multiple days on these devices, I'll be able to use a single device.

  • bandi87

    The whole bunch of things you mentioned up there are important aspects of the android platform, but in some cases I have to disagree with you.
    First of all :)) I guess you never had a REAL Swiss army knife (one that says made in switzerland or ch)…Now speaking seriously. What is the G1? it's the HTC G1 android based PHONE. It's a phone. Let's not forget what a phone is. I really believe that my G1 is first and foremost a phone a communication device, media and entertainment come in second place(that doesn't mean that I don't want quality). I would be really annoyed if my device would voice mail an interview call for example while i'm listening to some music. Let's be serious…skipping on a photo or a song because of a call isn't your biggest problem. You really have to be a photo addict to get annoyed if you lose a picture because of this…and honestly If you are a photo addict, get a real camera.

    Anyway…i'm not trying to attack anyone here :)) or be the responsible all knowing mother hen. The main idea is that the most important purpose of a phone is communication…everything else is a bonus (strictly my can agree or not)

  • staeff

    Your analogy is wrong!
    A phone doesn't get bigger with more functionality.
    (Except maybe – if you want to watch movies on a big screen)
    If the functionality isn't good enough already, it is not yet developed perfectly.

    I use my homecomputer for listening music, watching movies, web, skyping, mapping.. If it's only would be portable. 😉
    Of course there are still some cons for a swiss army phone: It's still a little bit slow, the battery won't last as long as a mp3 player today. But those things will change. I'm sure.

    I love listening to music via my stereo bluetooth headset. It's small, easy to use but I still can use my phone. So what?

    • Staeff, thanks for your comment. My analogy wasn't about size however, it was about functionality. I agree with your comments though about the quality of the functionality! I do think listening to music on the G1 is not that bad, but with my quirks, it doesn't fit my work flow. Thanks for your thoughts!

  • Jean

    First of all, what do you say Swiss Army knifs are not usable? Hell they are! Of course it's not as usable as having every single thing (knife, scissor, etc… ) separately, but how do you wanna fit all those things into your pocket? (disclosure: I'm Swiss:))
    But your analogy falls short, nevertheless, because in computing a single device can do those things better. The only flaw I really see is the battery life, which is (so far) a valid concern. But, my G1 is way better in playing music than an ipod classic. It's even better than an iphone. Let's face the facts, the music player on apple device is good (and was really good when it first came out), but the iphone player for example isn't that great a thing. It's just a few lists and then you play a song, there's many similar players in the android market for free with even more functionality or even some that break the traditional paradigm. The idea that ipod/iphone are just inheritly better in media comes from the great reality distortion by apple, but if you really think about it, they are not even that great.
    And what is the problem with getting a call? The music and the movie pause automatically until the call is finished, if you are listening to your ipod you might not even hear the phone and you would have to stop the ipod first too… And since android is open, I'm sure there could be a way to actually make the calling less into your face and only make it a notification, though most people would not want that.

    The idea that smartphones do everything but everything a little sucky comes from the old operating system where they really sucked at most stuff with preinstalled stuff that had bad UI, but with android where you can install powerful apps there is no reason why the apps would be worse.

    • Jean, thanks for your thoughts, and your disclosure about being Swiss :)! I would have to respectfully disagree with you that the media playing on the iPhone OS is not that great. Really, I do feel it is superior, and more intuitive. But this could be a difference of usage style as well! The way I listen and watch may different than your habits. You are right when you say there are applications that increase functionality, but a lot of them increase lag in the phone as well.

      The calling thing is purely my OCD talking. A matter of taste. Thanks for your time!

  • Miguel

    I love convergence. I hate carrying multiple devices. However, the G1 doesn't have the horsepower to do it all. Although Android claims to be able to multi-task, the G1 skips when listening to music and browsing Gmail or the Web. Sure it can multi task, but it does it poorly.

    Hopefully some manufacture will figure this out and offer an Android device that has a bettre processor and more internal memory.

  • wow I couldn't disagree more about convergence being a bad thing. I think it is fantastic. This is best displayed in the crazy amount of use of camera's on phones. The camera on my MyTouch sucks, however I totally agree with the idea that "the best camera is the one you have with you." I don't want to carry a phone, a camera, an ipod, and a portable video player with me at all times. Nobody does.
    And apparently you have never used a real swiss army knife. They are awesome.

  • I also love convergence. I liken the need for multiple portable devices to the need some people feel to individually select disparate components for audiophile-quality AV. Sure, some people need that, but, I'm busy enough, I need something that is already with me. I have COUNTLESS more pictures of my kids now that I can take them from my phone. I listen to more music because it's on my phone. And, I'm actively trying to promote the time shifting abilities inherent in having greater (true) application functionality on Android phones. Convergence is the way to go, which is why I am baffled by the oDroid game system …..

  • I Absolutely agree. I find it easier to travel with both my G1, and my Zune, rather than dumping all my media onto my G1. I prefer to let each device to what it was designed to do. Besides, theres no way my G1 will ever be able to store all my media.

    • get a bigger SD card. they come as big as, hell i dont know, i think i saw one at 32gigs or something. There is definately a way to have your G1 store all your media. and a 32gig SD card is a lot cheaper than a 32gig iPod/Zune.

  • Alex

    Swiss army knives are unusable? Dude, maybe you should stop buying the cheap clones. Makes me question how much your comments on Android phones are worth…

  • I have my phone and an iPod also, but my reason is that the G1 still has a pretty bad battery life. And if you try to use it as a multi-tool then the battery goes from bad to horrific. I had my iPod die one day and i took my G1 off the charger at 100% power, used that knowing i am coming back in a few hours. 3hrs later, the phone was dead. If an Android phone comes out with the battery life to be my MP3 player and not die in 3hrs with only sending text messages as additional power usage then i would love to just have one device. It allows me to listen to music and not miss messages and call because it rings in the head phones. I remember that when i had my Sidekick the battery was pretty decent while using the MP3 side of it. I dont know about the battery life on the Mytouch/Magic but if its good enough then i have high hopes for the next full keyboard phone for Android (which i have my eye on the Moto Cliq currently) phone being the end of my 2 pocket devices.

  • pla

    While reading post on this site, most people are speaking about their experience with the G1. Does this means that the HTC Magic didn't came to you in the US ? Here in France, looks to be different, the 1st Android that hit our market was the HTC Magic last this may… and I got mine on May the 12th. I like the convergence, and have always been looking to cary only one device for all my needs : PDA, phone… and now entertainment 🙂 So, definitely, I like my Magic and the battery life allows me to play a game while listening for music and receiving e-mails during my train commute, without compromising my phones calls… generaly (if I haven't forgoten to fully charge the battery for instance).

  • everyone can use alot of features in a phone. I have to admit though there are days when your head hurts though from so many different choices.

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