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Here in the United States, Qualcomm was able to get the Broadcom chipset locked out as they fight in court over patents. This means that all phones available for sale in the U.S. until very recently were operating Qualcomm chipsets. I’ll describe why this is important.

The LG UX830 (or LG Glimmer) is a good example. Since it is a Qualcomm-chipset based phone, it uses BREW and has no support for J2ME. With BREW, any third party developer must get an application certified to run on BREW and must pay a large sum of money just to be able to release the application to the public. Thus, virtually all open source applications are locked out of a BREW phone. Since Qualcomm controls BREW, it is no surprise then that this lockdown on the market has locked open source applications out of the current United States phone market.

For system administration, applications like SSH and one-time key pads are important – and unavailable on BREW phones.

Durability is not often mentioned in reviews of phones. The UX830, for example, has very flimsy plastic covers that feel as if they could break at any time. The cover for the charging port (microUSB port) gets in the way of the plug, so it sticks out from the phone when you open the port to use it.

Another thing to worry about is the usability of the phone itself. The LG phones I’ve seen have atrocious usability problems. Take the (apparently) multimedia menu. What is the difference between: Music, Shuffle, Audio, and Record Voice? Music is the music player. Audio is where you can work with your audio files: move, copy, set as ring tones, etc. (but not play with the player!). Shuffle actually has nothing to do with any music: it is the ability to randomly select a ringtone or alarm tone.

The application Record Voice is another perfect example: recording as soon as the application starts, and there is no way for you to listen to the recording without hunting down another application – and you don’t even have the option of not saving the recording. You start the application, then it will record and save – without giving you choice on whether to save, where to save, or what name to use.

The normal panel display is somewhat confusing as well: who knew that “four dots” meant “Main Menu”?

A phone (or computer system, or microwave, or VCR, or whatever) should not require hours of study to operate correctly – and without causing unexpected problems.

For me, the Nokia 6165i and 6265i that I’ve owned in the past were (mostly) good examples of usability. For one thing, there was the “gallery” (which contained pictures, sounds, applications, alarms, whatever) – which LG has separated out unnecessarily.

When looking for a phone – especially if for a team – I would recommend the following:

  • Check usability: how hard is it to start using all features without the manual? Does everything work as expected? Or are there surprises for whoever uses it?
  • Check for J2ME: a phone that uses BREW has a complete lockdown on the applications you can use; for instance, Opera Mini will not work. J2ME, however, is much more open: anyone can develop and release applications for J2ME.
  • Durability. Will it hold up? Check buttons, hole coverings, and any moving parts. A phone gets beat on; make sure it will stand up to it.
  • Check for memory cards – and which ones. Memory card expansion can be important, especially for saving data and external applications. However, are the memory cards commonly available? Are they cheap or expensive?

It may not be easy to get some of these specs; in particular, cellular carriers either don’t know what they are or don’t want to advertize. Asking your local salesperson for a phone that supports J2ME is likely to get you a blank stare, so do the research online yourself first. PhoneScoop is one such site; the PhoneScoop page on the LG UX830 has a lot of very useful information. PhoneArena is another site; their page on the LG UX830 is also very useful.

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