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Phone Decision 2004: Displays

While election activity is reaching fever pitch, here comes the next installment of Phone Decision 2004. In this installment, I look at displays, the features that are most important to me, and a quick comparison of the main candidates.

Read on for the details.

When you think about it, the screen is probably one of the most important parts of a mobile device that’s going to be used for data access. If you’re just going to use your device as a phone, the screen only has to display your phonebook, show you who’s calling, and maybe show you the time, or play a simple game. For a mobile data device, however, you’re going to be reading email, sending and receiving instant messaging, and surfing the web (at least, if you’re like me you will). For those activities, the screen is crucial. You spend most of your time looking at it, and it had better be pleasing to the eye, or you’re not going to be a happy camper.

Screen size is the most obvious characteristic. Big displays are great to look at, and easy on the eyes, but they tend to make the device larger overall. In this area, the Treo 650 has the upper hand, followed by the Blackberry 7100t, and then the diminutive Audiovox SMT5600. The Treo is the largest device overall, bordering on full PDA size. The Audiovox is quite small, even sporting its 2.2″ screen. The Blackberry strikes a nice balance between a largeish screen and slim form factor.

The next important consideration in screens is resolution. This determines how many pixels can be displayed, and, coupled with the size of the display, how crisp and detailed images and text are. The Treo 650 has a 320×320 pixel screen in a square orientation – double that of the Treo 600, and higher than even a Pocket PC (excepting, of course, the new VGA models). The Blackberry’s screen is 240×260 in a portrait orientation, and images and text look exceptionally crisp and clear. The Audiovox’s display is the standard 220×176 portrait, and is much higher resolution that you would expect from such a small device. For web browsing, I like to make the font size as small as possibly while still being readable. This allows as much text as possible to be shown in each tiny screenful (ha!).

To me, color depth (how many colors can be displayed at once) is less of an issue on a mobile device. As long as it can display at least 16-bit color (65,000+), I’m happy. I can barely tell the difference between 16, 24, and 32-bit color on a desktop computer, let alone on a mobile device. In this category, all three candidates perform adequately, so it’s pretty much a wash.

So, the Treo 650 has the biggest, highest resolution screen, at the cost of making the overal device size more PDA-like. The BlackBerry 7100t occupies the middle ground, with a decent sized screen and nice resolution, without bulging past its slim lines. The Audiovox SMT5600 Smartphone has the smallest screen, in both size and resolution, but still manages to impress with text and image quality.

Which one did I pick? Post your guesses and reasoning in the comments section below, and look out for future installments of Phone Decision 2004. Maybe I’ll even be able to wrap this up to coincide with the election day deadline tomorrow (assuming multiple recounts don’t throw the whole final decision out into December).

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3 thoughts on “Phone Decision 2004: Displays

  1. You didn’t mention the MPx with a resolution of 320 x 240. Granted, it’s not out yet, but it’s going to be smaller than the 650 when it’s closed. I’m holding out until I can get my geeky hands on one of those to see how it fits. If not that, then the MPx220 (or possibly … maybe … the Treo 650 [especially if that comes in a MS OS flavor … gawd, I dislike Palm OS!]). :o)

  2. I wasn’t intending to slight either the Motorola MPx or the i-Mate Jam, but the fact is that after my experience of using an XDA as my main phone for a year, I don’t think I could ever go back to using a device that requires two handed usage (which, at this point, includes all Pocket PC Phone Edition devices).

    The MPx and Jam are fantastic devices, with great hardware design. But they got excluded as possibilities for me because of the need to use a stylus/touchscreen as the main input method.

    I know that the Treo 600/650 also has a touchscreen, and after using one, I might feel the same way about it, but I’m optimistic that the keyboard would allow one handed operation (that sounds dirty!) without having to use the touchscreen for simple tasks like placing a phone call.

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