Because we all need an entry filled with pointless acronyms and meaningless technical gibberish every once in a while…
For those of you without a geeky masochistic streak who do not intend on reading the whole tedious entry, let me give you a quick sum-up: this in-depth report on the merits and shortcomings of AU’s W21T model is split into three main sections: 1) All the features that makes it so great 2) Why you can’t do crap with all these features and that sucks 3) How I intend to break my way through these silly limitations.
Note: Part 3) is virtually non-existent at the moment, seeing how I’m still at the step where I’m trying to get that damn SD card reader to coexist peacefully with my POS laptop (one month after the warranty ran out, I have just realized that the USB 2 ports have never worked). I used a ternary breakdown merely because I was taught, ever since the youngest age, through a combination of pavlovian training and public humiliation, that no document ever written by an educated man could escape the standard triptychal dialectic schema (“yes”, “no”, “maybe”). I won’t write a grocery list if I don’t have a multiple of 3 or 9 items to put down.
Without further ado, let’s start:
Pt 1: All the cool features
Well, the W21T is part of the last generation (at this second: rest assured by the time you read this, it’ll be nigh obsolete) of AU phones. The last trend these days is support うた着フール (Uta-Chaku-Full), which is keitaispeak for “sound formats that do not remind you of cheesy 80’s synthesizers”…
As such, this phone can theoretically stream (or at least download and play) full tracks with a quality somewhat approaching mp3 circa 128kbps. The format used is not mp3 though, but the leaner and meaner aacPlus (otherwise known as HE-AAC) format. Basically AAC with a few added compression filters. I am not completely convinced by how “revolutionary” this format is (spectral band replication is hardly anything new), but apparently, it’s the best way to encode near-CD quality at 48kbps.
The phone also supports AU EzWeb Channels and can play videos and the work (not too sure what quality and what size, but I’m told you can watch whole shows supposedly).
Web browsing is quite nice, given you get a screen that covers a quarter of a VGA screen (that’s probably bigger than the surface of the first computer I ever used), along with your 2.4 Mbps connection and OpenWave browser (supposedly with some flash support, although it doesn’t seem to like standard web-embedded flash so far).
As for the regular boring features (yea, I know, I’m a spoiled keitai brat):
Camera is nothing extraordinary, as far as I can tell, but it’s exponentially better than my previous crappy one. Both in resolution (SXGA) and color contrast. I also really enjoy the 写連 (sha-ren: grouped shot) feature and night mode is working quite nicely too.
It is also the first time I have a keitai with decent predictive Kanji input (the previous one had no real shortcut dictionary built-in, only a very clunky kana-to-kanji conversion and a vague memory of the latest kanjis used. English input was even worse). This phone not only shows the matching kanjis to your kanas in real time, but also makes suggestion (quite often accurate) for the next word in your sentence. I suspect this is old news to most people out there, but I find that awesome. Unfortunately, it is not multilingual either. But neither was the previous one: not a showstopper even if that makes things a bit slow at times. A full English-Japanese dictionary is even provided (although it’s stuck on a separate sd-card: blah).
Overall UI sucks (oh I miss my good ol’ Nokia interfaces), but it’s mildly pretty and not completely tasteless, so it’s bearable I guess.
Under the hood: no Java unfortunately, but BREW support, which seems a nice-enough C++ API, with decent support and full SDK available. Haven’t dipped fully in it yet, but that’s on the map.
As far as connectivity goes, this thing has built-in Bluetooth (wait for part 2 before you get too excited), mini-SD reader, and an audio-out on which you can plug regular mini-jack headphones through an adapter.
Now let me join the dots for those who haven’t gotten there yet. We have:
CD-quality audio support + mini-SD card + headphones jack + appli/web support + infinite bandwidth (did I mention the “all you can download” packet-odai plan?)
What are you seeing for the future now?
Well, if you are a dreamer like me, your vision probably involve lots of free/cheap portable music with not a single iPod in sight… Actually, cross that: free online radio streaming still with no iPod or any other similar toys, other than your trusty keitai.
And the upcoming part 2. in our series should help us see how AU does not really like that future at all…