My presentation went well today, although when English is the room’s third language on average, how could it not?  Gallagher had me a little spooked, last week he claimed that presenting at LAC is “like a room full of Bob Joneses.”  For those of you who don’t know Bob Jones, he’s an AMO faculty member at UVA, and was once Gallagher’s student.  Gallagher’s best student.  I suppose Gallagher’s proclamation is true if by it you mean “a room full of people that are both very intelligent and very interested in AMO physics.”  Bob certainly is. But Bob also has probably one of the best bullshit detectors in the business.  Needless to say I was a little concerned.

It turns out all the theorists slept in (colloquia are at 11am) and the question session was ten minutes of experimental discussion!  Not so terrible!  Below you’ll find a crazed soapbox rant about the cellphone industry.  I’ll summarize with:  I bought an Android phone, and I really like it!  You should get one too!  Read on if you’re bored, or least want to hear me rave as I throw cats out of my shopping cart.

Simpsons Crazy Cat Lady

In just short of a month I have finally rounded up all of the documents required for contracting a mobile phone in France.  Cell phone service in France only requires a passeport, bank account, cheques, a RIB, and a Carte Bleue.  RIBs are like little sheets of paper that have all of your relevant banking information, that you use kind of like a voided check.  Although I also had to void a check to sign a mobile contract.  A Carte Bleue is like a Visa debit card, with a little smartchip in it.  Setting up a bank account, with the above associated accoutrement, takes three trips to the bank if everything goes smoothly.  Spaced by roughly a week.  It takes a little while to get the ball rolling here.

So, what does this get you?  Two hours of outgoing calls per month, with unlimited 3G internet, texts, and twenty channels of TV for fifty euros a month.  Incoming calls are free, there’s rollover minutes, and the Acer Liquid A1 cost one Euro.  I’m pretty happy with this deal.

Android is hands-down the best experience I’ve ever had with a phone, particularly after the horrible excuse for a consumer product I had before.  Let’s face it, at this point pretty much everyone carries around a mobile almost all the time.  Even my father does.  Along with a wallet and keys, a phone is the one accessory that everyone takes with them when they leave the house.

Every two years or so for the last decade I’ve purchased a cell phone, and it’s always required surveying the cellphone market to decide which set of horrid design and UI decisions I’m willing to live with.  Worst of all, each successive phone has been *worse* than it’s predecessor.  The First and probably best phone I owned was a Primeco Kyocera QCP-2700.  It did what it was supposed to and didn’t give any problems.  Next was a Nokia, I think an 8260.  The Nokia was also a solid phone, but the great “jog-dial selector” of the Kyocera had disappeared from the market!  After that was a Sony-Ericsson, then a few Samsungs, and finally the aforementioned Motorola.  In generally, they get smaller and more feature-rich.  Yet over the course of The Aughts, they consistently became a worse and worse user-experience.  No phone since the first Samsung has had any sort of message indicator, meaning you had to push a button to see if you’d missed a call or had a voicemail.  The most recent Motorola took almost ten seconds to hang up a phone call.

This new phone is different, and it’s primarily because Acer put a relatively vanilla build of Google Android on the handset.   I’m really impressed with the Android experience.  I think that Google, in releasing Android and a set of required basic hardware specifications, has really done a Good Thing.  You basically just have to pick a phone that looks nice and you’ll end up with a better phone experience than you’re probably currently having.   It’s not to say that the android platform isn’t without flaws. Google is certainly undergoing some growing pains with android in that phones are split between android 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, & 2.1, with an unclear upgrade path for most phones. But nonetheless, I think the the Android experience is really maturing, and placing a lot more of the user experience where it should be – in the hands of users.

I’m really kicking myself for not moving earlier to a smartphone in general, and as someone who takes advantage of many of Google’s services, more specifically an Android based phone.  It’s amazingly helpful to be able to walk around with more than just a phone in your pocket, but instead a phone, a map, and the Internet.  Being able to pull up a French/English translator is helpful here, too.  It even knows when the next train is.  I’m really impressed. The next time you’re eligible for a new phone, make the jump to a smartphone with an unlimited data plan.

P.S. – Did I mention what’s on phone-TV on Saturday afternoons?