Simple Cell Phone

How hard is it to find a nice, simple, stylish cell phone? I can’t seem to find anything I like. I’m looking for an unlocked tri- or quad-band GSM phone without a service plan, so price is an issue: I’m thinking ideally under $200. I currently have a CDMA phone with a 2-year contract with Verizon (expires in 11 months next April), but I’d also like a GSM phone for when I go traveling overseas. After my Verizon contract is up, I’d consider dropping that plan and signing up with T-Mobile or Cingular. Until then, I’d run this new phone off prepaid SIM cards.

I have three main requirements: flip phone, small, looks good. The last one is a bit subjective, of course.

Flip phone because it will live in my pocket and I don’t want my keys to be calling my friends all the time. Yes, I know most all phones have a keypad lock, but I hate using it.

Small because, again, it will live in my pocket. I wear jeans sometimes. My phone goes in my right pocket with my keys. That’s just how it is. I hate belt clips. In general I think they look dumb, and the last thing I need is something protruding from my hip that I can slam into things by accident.

Obviously, “looks good” is a pretty stupid criterion: who would want an ugly phone? I guess maybe I have different taste than most people, because I find most phones to be at best ordinary and uninspiring, and at worst blatantly ugly. I want something small and rounded, somewhat organic-looking, maybe. If they can get away with ditching the external antenna without hurting signal quality, more the better. I’m also tired of the silver look, though I guess a two-tone with silver/grey would be OK. I’ve seen some phones with a “soft touch” finish, which I really like. Maybe something in a medium or dark blue (maybe just as a highlight color). I don’t want something shiny or flashy; matte finish is better. And I’d like to get away from the cheap-plastic look prevalent with so many phones. The finish on my phone scratches so easily (remember, it goes in my pocket with my keys), and it looks like crap now.

As for features, it’s pretty negotiable.

The phone book needs to allow me to associate several numbers (home, cell, office, etc.) with each contact, but should let me easily call any of the numbers with just one or two extra button presses.

Predictive (T9, I guess) text input for text messaging. I don’t do text messaging often, but when I do, I don’t want to spend 10 minutes crafting a 5-word message.

Easy access to a “manner mode” type feature where I can quickly switch between the ringer and vibrate mode. I usually have the phone on vibrate all day while at work, but if I come home and toss it on the table, I want it to ring. I also leave the ringer on while I’m asleep (yeah, I know, I’m backwards) since work people occasionally call me in the morning when I’m still in bed (but should probably be up). Holding a key for a few seconds to switch between modes is the best way to do this. Bonus points for a feature that lets me set it to vibrate in place of the first 2 or 3 rings, and then start ringing after that. I’d probably leave it in that mode all the time.

Color screen on the inside. Color screen on the outside is optional, but desired. There has to at least be a screen on the outside, even if it’s b/w or greyscale. Since I don’t wear a watch, I want to be able to pull the phone out of my pocket to check the time quickly.

Ability to silence the ringer or make it stop vibrating by hitting any of the keys on the outside of the phone. If I’m busy and don’t want to answer it, I usually try to mash the phone buttons just by grabbing the phone without reaching into my pocket.

A decent call log for dialed, received, and missed calls. It should tell me at least the time and duration of the call.

The caller ID should automatically match incoming numbers with my phonebook and display the name if it’s in there. I’m at the point now where I (sadly) don’t remember anyone’s phone number. It must show this on the outside of the phone, as I want to be able to answer the phone simply by opening it, so I need to know if I want to answer it before I open it. I’m lazy. I don’t want to open it and hit a key to answer.

I don’t care about web access, downloadable ringtones (a default, pleasing ringtone is fine by me), applications or games (downloadable or builtin), PIM/PDA features, music/video/picture playback, voice recognition (my current phone has it, and, while it’s reasonably reliable, I never use it), voice memos, etc.

The obvious stuff. Decent battery life. Two days minimum with moderate use without charging. Good voice quality, good reception. I live in Silicon Valley, so reception usually isn’t a problem, but when I’m not in the bay area, it can be annoying, especially when I visit my dad (virtually no service in the house, barely usable service outside on the property). I guess that’s more of an issue with the network and tower placement, but a slightly more sensitive receiver might make it just usable enough. Eventually the cell might become my primary phone (and I don’t have a landline), so it needs to work everywhere, and certainly in my apartment.

Nice to have but not deal-breakers: simple calendar where I can set alarms on a specific day and time (I’m very forgetful about random non-work appointments), tip calculator, calculator, generic alarm clock (nice when I’m traveling), and an AIM client (useful occasionally when I’m out late to check if a friend is awake before calling).

Note that I don’t need a camera. They take shitty pictures, and getting the pictures off the camera is either a pain in the ass, or costs money. I refuse (more on principle than anything else) to pay money to send myself a picture from my camera. If there’s a camera on the phone, I don’t mind, but I don’t want it to compromise my other requirements (small, mainly). It’s kinda cool to associate a picture with a phonebook entry, but not necessary: I can read the name faster than I can associate the picture with a name, especially since it would be so small and low-res. My current phone is somewhat retarded in this: it only displays the picture while the phone is ringing, and only on the inner screen (the outer screen is greyscale). So I rarely ever even see the picture at all, since it disappears when I open the phone to answer it.

I guess my feature requirements are somewhat annoying: I want some fairly detailed basic functionality, with some nice-to-have advanced functionality, but at the same time I really dislike some of the more mainstream advanced functionality (like the cameras).

So how about it, lazy web? Where can I find my dream phone? My “looks good” requirements seem to knock a lot of phones out of the running. I’m not particularly partial to any brand: from an informal survey of my friends, on average everyone likes and hates every particular brand. Though Nokia, LG, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson seem the most popular. But when it comes down to it, I really don’t care what the brand is, as long as it fulfills my requirements.

Then again, I feel like I should wait until the end of the year. Phones go out of style fairly quickly and my “small” requirement will only get easier to satisfy over time as technology improves. I don’t want to be thinking about ditching my current cell plan next April when my contract runs out, only to realise I don’t really like the GSM phone so much anymore (or rather, that there are newer, more stylish phones available that meet my requirements better). For practical reasons, I’d like to buy this new phone no later than mid-August.

Ok, that was a really long post. I’d edit it down, but I really don’t care that much.