Getting my hands on a Sprint Phone
So the other day I was writing about how Wireless Gaming Review had forwarded on 650k game-purchase referrals to Sprint and I was amazed and also nuts because they have been publishing since last June and I had no idea. I was talking about this in the office when I was informed that we had a couple CDMA phones lying around for testing already. WHAT? So I immediately got my grubby hands on the nicest one and brought it home for the evening (have I mentioned how much I love my job lately? I did this same thing with a P800 the other day as well).
The Sprint phone is a Samsung A600, and is Sprint's top of the line CDMA2000 1x phone. It supports Java and WAP 2.0 (XHTML) and is in general pretty nice. The screen is especially bright and the photos it takes are pretty damn clear. My wife actually preferred the screen and menuing system to her SonyEricsson T616 (What?!? Blasphemy!). If I had to do a mini review I'd say that the colors are nice on the phones UI, but the fonts look like circa 1988 DOS and the 6 menu buttons around the 5 way joy pad are confusing as hell (they are OK/mail, camera, MENU, TALK, BACK and END/on/off). And entering text never seems to have any sort of predictive text, but that may be a user error.
Okey, enough with the mini-review. The part that I was most interested in was 1) how fast is the network and 2) What is the online portal, especially the WGamer.com site like? Well the first bit I tested by going to the same CNN Mobile page on both devices, choosing a random story and clicking the link at the same time. The Samsung is definitely faster than my Nokia 6600 by a few seconds, though, without a doubt the screen resolution and browser is much better on the Nokia (which makes sense). What's interesting is the CNN site is XHTML, though if you just tried to load it, you'll notice it's been walled off to the general public. Don't worry, it's XHTML-MP, but you're not missing much.
Happily, however, WGamer.com's Mobile Site is open to the public. :-) There you go, a real-live XHTML-MP site in the wild, serving 1.25 million page views and forward on 650,000 game referrals. It's *such* a simple site, yet it works. Provides a lot of argument for focused mobile content, doesn't it?
Now, the XHTML code on the site isn't exactly beautiful - all the CSS in written inline - but I'm sure that has something to do with one or more mobile browsers out there not being able to understand a stylesheet or something weird like that. Someone from A List Apart should interview these guys about the site and ask their experience in getting it launched, I'm sure it'd be fascinating. From the deal they had to make with Sprint, to testing the XHTML on different phones to the sorts of things they had to do deal with when serving pages exclusively to mobile clients.
I just love the fact that these guys aren't CNN or ABC news or some other big media company that's produced some mobile offshoot. It's almost a weblog in size, yet it's focus has allowed it great success. That's fantastic. Like MobiTV, it's cool to see the pioneers in this stuff starting to hit their stride.
Beyond this section, I'd love to be able to access Sprint's whole WAP Portal from my desktop so I could compare and contrast with AT&T's mMode. They're very similar in some respects, but completely different in others. Sprint has a real focus on installable apps, wallpapers and ringtones - the #2 item on their menu is Downloads. In there, it costs $2.99 for various apps and games including Vindigo, Yahoo Photo Album (I'm not paying for it... but I really wonder what exactly it does since you can't post photos from this phone in Java), Weathernews, Bewjeweled, Tetris, Daily Dilbert ($1.99 a month?!? Are you kidding me? For a slow-ass J2ME app?!?!) and more. I didn't try MobiTV on this (because it's a bit expensive for me to put on the company phone) but I did try out 1KTV which is this *really* wacky multimedia (I use the term loosely) app. You click on a headline and a little slide show appears, 4 small images and someone speaking in a very tinny voice one sentence per slide. There's also RealOne, but again, I need to sign up for a subscription to try it ($4.95 a month plus tax) so I'm not sure exactly how that one works. On mMode and the web RealOne news are just clips, which I think generally suck so I'm sure it's no different on Sprint.
Anyways, I'm getting a definite education on the CDMA side of things. The network is definitely more snappy than GPRS - especially when connecting - and everything seems more integrated. I would bet that Sprint sells a lot more games, etc. for its services than the GSM guys do because of this level of integration. I mean, this isn't even BREW, which I'm sure is even more tightly integrated. Sprint did go off on its own in a variety of ways, including using LightSurf's picture mail instead of the standard MMS, and it takes what seems like 20 clicks to actually send off a picture because of it, and you don't get a regular email with a picture attachment, you get a web page with a link... very different. I won't say it's a bad thing because LightSurf's web tools are so powerful (dim, brighten, rotate, etc. are all available in the photo album site).
While I'm on the subject, I just recently got a hold of a T-Mobile SIM with a contract so I can try out their T-Zones online, but the back-end service doesn't like the N-Gage much so doesn't give me any images and denies me downloading any apps or games. I'm sure that if T-Zones like my phone, it'd be giving me XHTML pages but as it is right now, I'm just getting plain-jane WML.
The N-Gage mobile site does come up and is pretty damn cool XHTML (another one!). This is probably the most detailed XHTMl page I've ever seen. It's got graphics in different spots on the page, a full image header, backgrounds, colors. It's just just a table and some lists... pretty interesting. It's neat to see what you can do with a mobile web page if you're dead positive about the client its running on. If you go to the main mobile.n-gage.com site from your browser (or emulator), it'll actually give you WML instead, which is still the common denominator for phones. I had to hunt around a bit to get the real XHTML home page that I was seeing on my phone.
Just a thought - I wonder when web browsers will start realizing that they're looking at markup meant for phones and adjust the viewing area accordingly? My computer's screen is 1024 pixels wide, and my phone's is only 178, the Samsung is even worse - with only 2 or 3 words per line maximum. It'd be nice if you could click a button that says "this is a mobile web page" and everything collapsed without me having to resize my window. :-)
Update: Some XHTML News Sites: