[Backstory moved to below; short version, I hate cell phones.]
I read the "10 ways the Nokia N800 is better than an iPhone" a while ago, was amused, and then promptly forgot about it. [Link at end of writeup.] Months later, I came to need one to fuel my telecommuting life style. I did not even *think* of getting an N800 for the purpose. Then I found myself in a CompUSA that was closing down, and they were getting rid of their floor model for $277. I started playing with it and hooked.
Picking it up from the display array, it was already attached to an open network with a weak signal. The desktop is gorgeous. I don't know what else to say. The iPhone, from its mockups, has nothing on this thing. Touching the radiating globe icon, there were half a dozen networks in range, all but this one and a print server locked. I went and priced the N800 on a few sites (only pricegrabber was able to do something useful with the phrase "Nokia N800" -- even my employer's site fell down) and $277 really was the best deal out there, by a wide margin. Opera was zippy and rendered perfectly. Opera has a Flash 7 client. It came with a client for Google Talk, a service that does voice chat but lacks an outdial as of yet. GizmoProject, aka sipphone.com, aka gizmoproject.com, has a client for the thing that installed flawless. It had far inferior sound quality to Google Talk but it's a cheap outdial. Skype is rumored to be adding support for the N800 as well, but I kind of hate Skype.
So, I take it home. I paid $300 for this thing. The first day, I felt guilty for spending so much for a toy. One more day and I'm horrified by the thought that I might *not* have bought it.
You can tell it to remember wireless networks you join. If you walk out of range one of network and into range of a network you told it to remember, it'll automatically join it. So I don't have to do *anything* when I pull it out of my pocket at the coffee shop after driving there from home.
Streaming mp3 audio from shoutcast.com works perfectly (Opera kicks over to the thing's built in media player). I can walk around the house or coffee shop with the thing in my pocket listening to 'net stations.
I've installed a shitload of software from maemo.org, which has
The resolution is quite good, at 800x480 (I know it's 800xsomething... might be misquoting the 480). It's extremely usable for pulling up web pages. VNC is possible but less than ideal (the target was at 1024x768). Nice to have for little chores and emergencies.
Flash video works; youtube.com and xtube.com and the like work.
It has a camera built in and works as a video phone with the Google Talk app. Whoa, this little thing is a video phone. Muah, take that, Sprint!
The Flash plugin doesn't know how to use the camera, so Flash based video chat and video mashup apps don't work. Too bad.
There's no Java plugin.
There's a directional pad for the left thumb but no action buttons for the right thumb, so it's not really set up for playing games, even though it has a MAME port.
I haven't bothered to learn its graffiti style handwriting recognizition thingie yet, but the onscreen keyboard works well and has "shift" screens for various symbols with a few of the most common ones on the main screen.
It has an OSX-like widget set that runs in the root window, with a list of contacts and their statuses (from Google Talk), an RSS reader, time/date, a Google Search widget that you can type into and will pull up the results in an Opera window. The window manager, matchbox, is extremely usable. A small set of small icons in the top right let you pull up information about the battery, wireless network, volume level, brightness, and your Google Talk status (active, away, etc), a launch bar sits on the right with essentially a "Start" button, a contacts button for quickly pulling up contacts/making calls, and a globe for Opera with a submenu of your bookmarks. The bottom left has a task bar of running programs with a button for the background/widgets. The whole desktop, which could be customized, is set up to easily do all of the things you're likely to do most often with the device. The rest of the screen is for whatever application is running. A button on the top toggles full screen mode, where the running application gets the entire screen, hiding the widgets on the top right and the left. Volume buttons on the top are handy for when playing mp3s or using it as a phone.
For a device not specially designed for any one task, it does a large number surpisingly well.
Back to the "10 reasons" thing: installing apps on this is *huge*. You won't get that with an iPhone. The iPhone is nothing but a glorified mp3 player phone without 3rd party apps. I'm going to install mother fucking Perl from Debian on my N800. The N800 is almost all screen, it's solid, thin, shiney, and extremely sexy. The pics of the N800 you've seen haven't done it justice and I suspect the pics of the iPhone on the 'net just got way too much work put in to them by Apple's hype machine. (Black background, accentuated specular highlights, extremely high contrast image on the screen...) My phone time is two cents a minute with unlimited free data where there's WiFi; the iPhone will cost you the standard $50 or so for 400 minutes with another $20 or so for data for things like sending pics and messages. Other providers could support the device, as Skype claims to be planning to, so I could pick my provider for voice. It's expandable with dual SD cards whereas the iPhone comes with fixed capacities, and is unexpandable. No one is trying to charge me money for ring tones. Picking a ring tone lists the files in a certain directory. Why use some crappy text message program when you can use bitlbee and your favorite IRC client? Did you ever think you could use mutt to send email from your phone?
If you're of the geek persuation, this thing is an order of magnatude cooler than a cell phone. Fuck cell phones. You don't need to be talking while you're driving anyway.
Backstory: I need to call into meetings at work and move from IM to voice now and then. I also need to get out of the house to work. But I despite cell phones. People get overly dependant on them, resulting on five phone calls to locate the coffee shop they were supposed to meet you at, as well as technical equivilents, because it's so much easier for people to lean on their address book rather than think for themselves. Solitude, introspection, and concentration are things of the past. Fuck that.
The heavy compression (down to 1kbps) makes it extremely for me, having some heavy metal induced hearing loss, to make out what the fuck people are saying. Sooner or later, I get a client who decided the cell phone is a good chain to yank me with. Without a receptionist, some asshole always figures out that they can call you and gab about their fucking project any time they like, if they just ignore hints and requests for them not to. And I'm directly; if someone addresses me, I have a hard time ignoring them. Telling them to leave me alone is just more communicative.
Later, I came to need a cell phone. I telcommute, but home isn't a good place to work (distractions, including people, are there), and I need to call in sometimes. So I started to price cell phones, but drug my feet on buying one. I loked at the LinkSys (and the apparent rebranding distributed by Belkin) Skype 802.11 phone. I was severely tempted to buy one, even though they're close to $300, but they had a fatal limitation: they don't build in Web browsers so you can't hop on municipal or hotel networks (with few exceptions).