I've been debating the replacement of my cell phone since last October, and since that time I've refined my criteria. In fact, I refined them so much that I realized I don't want a phone at all.
I started out with the assumption that I just needed more on my phone. So I started looking at smart phones, and carriers, and data plans. I knew I wanted as fast a data connection as possible as cheaply as possible, and I refused to do business with any company that crippled their phone's technology. With that in mind I was able to narrow my carrier down to Cingular. I also do a fair amount of texting, so a qwerty keyboard was on my list. As a Mac user, bluetooth is essential for syncing and backing up my contacts, pictures and any other data I'd need to transfer. I travel fairly regularly and would like to do more, so I wanted something that work in as many regions as possible. Finally, I wanted to be able to upgrade the memory whenever I needed to. That's a pretty long list already, but I also hate Windows. I know, Microsoft has been making changes and I'm glad to see it, I hope someday Vista will actually ship and that it really is that good. In the meantime what we have is unsatisfactory. I've spent a fair amount of time already getting as much of my life online as possible, since I have to use multiple computers and operating systems and I suck at backing up data regularly I'm extremely fond of online apps. I don't need Office on my phone, I just need fast data. As a former dissatisfied Palm user, I'm not much of a fan of theirs either. That leaves Symbian, which I have on my current phone and have been pretty happy with.
So, a Cingular (or AT&T) phone with a qwerty keyboard, bluetooth, 3G speed, world roaming and swappable memory, running Symbian. Try plugging that criteria into the Phonescoop phone finder. There is no such phone. I haven't even specified battery life, size, weight, form factor, PDA functions, memory type, camera, ringtones, mp3s or any of the other things I'm supposed to care about. At this point it was clear I couldn't have what I did want in one device, and this realization freed me. I didn't want a fancy new phone with a pricey new data plan to match, I just wanted a basic phone and a way to carry internet access in my pocket.
It's not a brand-new product, reviews have been circulating since before its release in December though it's unlikely you've seen one in use. It does not require a carrier at all, but if you don't have enough wifi in your life you can use the bluetooth connection and a phone with data plan to get online. It has a touch screen qwerty keypad and handwriting recognition, or you could go all out and get a little bluetooth keyboard. It's as fast as your wifi, and works the same anywhere with 802.11 support. You can upgrade the RS-MMS to 1GB for about $60 right now. Its OS is Linux-based and already has a thriving development community and user base, with a growing catalog of applications, including relief for dodgeball users and a enthusiastically received music player. Nokia even promises VoIP in the next firmware release, which according to their open source director is coming soon. Combined with Muni wifi that means I can come close to my dream of never paying the telcos a dime. Not quite, I'll still need a phone for emergencies and outages, but pretty close. It's also nice to see some smart women deeply involved in maemo development.
The time lag between ordering and receipt is always hard, but right now it's killing me.