Let me recall my history of mobile phone purchases and why I chose them.

My first mobile phone was not by choice. SingTel launched the PCN (GSM1800) in 1996 and offered really cheap prices for the mobile package, so my dad bought a Nortel-brand mobile phone (I still have it, but the battery no longer works).

As I got savvier, I bought my own mobile phone. The Motorola StarTac X supports GSM1800 and is freaking slim, plus a cool clamshell form factor, it’s amazed how revolutionary the design is.

After I graduated from school, I worked in a mobile-phone related industry, and that really got my tech interest kicked in. I bat no eyelid to buy the Nokia 8210 on the first day of launch, spending $888 without contract. it’s another beauty that is yet to be surpassed by any models today (The Nokia 8850 is of course more beautiful, and I had the luck of winning it in a lucky draw 4 years later when it became an obsolete model. Still kept it in pristine condition.)

I liked Nokia phones then for its ability to customise the operator logo. I found ways to design my own logo and became very popular at work where I happily sent these unique logos to colleagues and friends. I moved on to purchase Nokia 6210 in 2000 (not to be mistaken with the 6210 in recent years) which has a larger form factor. In fact, I bought the Europe set because it has a very nice silver mic-plate. Other reasons for choosing this phone is the ability to create larger operator logo and the support for mobile Internet (a.k.a. WAP).

The tech-heart in me went on to upgrade my phone to Ericsson T39, the first commercial GPRS phone in Singapore. I proceeded to purchase the Ericsson T68, the first colour-screen phone with infrared and bluetooth and open-source file management. It was so revolutionary that I create websites to evangelise the greatness of this phone. The Sony Ericsson T610 continued the flagship T-series with fantastic design. I also sank my money on the first Sony Ericsson touch-screen smartphone, the P800. I then upgraded to P910, then P990i. My last Sony Ericsson phone is the G900i, a normal keypad candy-bar phone with touchscreen. The one thing that killed my interest on Sony Ericsson is the laggy interface that was inherrent since the early days. When my colleague introduced me the Nokia E71, I was sold. By moving back to the non-touchscreen devices like E71, I realised I can operate the phone much faster. Hardware buttons also mean the input responses are much speedier. The size of E71 is just nice: it’s not too broad like Blackberry, and has a landscape display that is web-friendlier than the portrait modes.

Having had years of usage experience with touchscreen phones, I found that touchscreen technology has yet to mature (It was also the same period where Tablet PC failed). Touchscreen implementation resulted in the interface lag, and is still present in many of today’s devices.

Until Apple iPhone comes along.

Looking at touchscreen technology alone, iPhone would certainly interest me. But from the feature and form factor point-of-view, iPhone fails to intrigue me. It’s too big and the specs are flawed.

Another challenge I had is the on-screen keyboard. When I had the LG Viewty Smart, I had problems typing and I thought it was the phone’s problem. But when I tried on the iPhone and later the HTC Android phones, I had the same problems too. I therefore concluded that I am unable to use touchscreen phones efficiently.

While I am very happy with my Nokia E72, I understand the wonders of the iPhone or the Android devices. Even the Blackberry is catching up as a popular youth phone with its myraid of social networking apps.

So what am I looking for in my next phone?

1. Hardware keyboard buttons like E72 oriented at the portrait (not landscape like Nokia N97 or Motorola Milestone, because it’s too spread up and I cannot type with one hand).
2. Nifty interface like iPhone or Android OS

When I heard Nokia released an upgrade of E72 with E5, my heart sank. The latest phone has less hardware buttons for reasons unknown to me, it doesn’t have a secondary camera, and runs on similar processor.

But I knew hope is in the horizon when RIM (Blackberry) announced that they will be designing new phones with touchscreen and a slide-out keyboard.

Makers must understand that throwing in features alone is not good enough. The features must be designed to be human-friendly. Motorola Milestone running on Android has a keyboard, but the layout isn’t quite user friendly. Blackberry form factor is very friendly for simple reasons. Apple is smart to release only features in the phones that the OS can properly handle, so in iPhone 4, they choose not to allow video calls over 3G.

When all the phones are running the same OS, what differentiates them would be the design. And I’m not talking about just the colour or the styling. Look at Motorola, its Backflip design is unique (although I’m not sure about the practical part). Or the Milestone with keyboard. These are differentiating features that people would choose over the HTC range (Legend, Desire, whatever) where they all look generally the same but I have no idea what’s the major differences except for maybe processor difference.

To sum up my desire, if the iPhone 5 has a slide-out keyboard, I WILL BUY.

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