By Harry McCracken | Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 12:00 pm
My mother isn’t the sort of person who craves the latest smartphone just because it’s the latest smartphone. Actually, she remains smitten with her BlackBerry Curve 8900, which she’s had for a couple of years. But it’s developing an odd shadow effect on the screen, and so she rightly thinks she may be in the market for a new phone soon.
She asked me for advice on what to buy. And now I’m asking you for advice.
When it comes to decisions like this, I’m not a missionary. I don’t instinctively want to steer mom off the BlackBerry platform, or onto a particular OS. (For the record, I use an iPhone 4 most of the time, and a Verizon Fascinate some of them time.) I just want her to own a phone she’ll like at least as much as her BlackBerry.
Here’s what’s important to her:
I don’t think mom has had real hands-on experience with any modern smartphones. But my dad has (and likes) an HTC Aria, so she has some sense of the world beyond the Curve. And she told me she’s intrigued by touchscreens. She’s not adverse to trying something new.
These are her options as I see them:
She could get a new BlackBerry Curve 3G–very much like the phone she owns. It would be a boring decision, but a comfortably familiar, defensible one. And if she signed a new contract, she could get it for a penny. (I don’t think the Torch is a huge enough improvement over the Curve to make it a good choice–the Curve is better at being a classic BlackBerry than the Torch is.)
I think this would please her nearly as much as an iPhone 4, and I know she’d be pleased by the price: $49, or one-quarter the cost of an iPhone 4. Once she got the knack of the on-screen keyboard, it would be an upgrade over her BlackBerry in just about every way: way better browser, better Kindle on a bigger screen, better camera, better Facebook. And the ability to get lots of great new apps for little or no money, some of which she’d probably like if she saw them.
Major downside of the 3GS: it’s can’t do Skype videocalls. I don’t think that’s a dealbreaker.
If mom’s BlackBerry manages to cling to life until the next iPhone comes out–no, I’m not assuming I know which month that will be–I could generously give her my near-mint iPhone 4. In which case I’d have to endure the hardship of buying myself a new iPhone. I could probably live with that. (Alternative scenario: maybe the iPhone 4 or something like it will be $49 when the iPhone 5 comes out.)
AT&T has some Android handsets for a mom-pleasing penny–not the big-name models, but the LG Phoenix and Motorola Flipside. But I don’t think Android in its always-vaguely-nerdy current form would please her as much as iOS.
AT&T also has two penny Windows Phone 7 phones: the Samsung Focus and HTC Surround. Certain things about Windows Phone are definitely mom-friendly, such as the emphasis on simplicity and built-in features over apps. But I worry that she’d find the flashy animation and big fonts grating. They make Windows Phone 7 feel like it’s trying a little to hard to appeal to a hip young person in a way that iOS and Android–and definitely BlackBerry OS–are not.
Dark horse contender: The HP Veer, yet another penny phone. It’s the closest thing currently available to a mashup of a BlackBerry and an iPhone, and WebOS feels like an OS mom might enjoy. (Note to self: Ask mom if a really little phone sounds cool, or limiting.)
And that’s about it, I think. Looks like a new Curve and an iPhone 3GS are the strongest contenders. And maybe the Veer. But I’m interested in alternate opinions–such as yours…