Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Cyclists Cell Phone

Not quite there....
Cell phones- love them or hate on them, they have become a "must have" gadget on the order of an automobile. Take away the car, and the "smart phone', and who are you? What can you do? Life for most folks without these devices is meaningless, or so you would think. Anyway....

Cell phones are the devil, but where cycling is concerned, they can be useful tools, or heck, even a life saver. I can totally see where a cell phone is a good back up for a cyclist, and why loved ones want us cyclists to carry one. I even understand that cell phones can become cycling computers. Tools to navigate by even. Yeah...aps and all that. 

But cell phones weren't made for cycling. In fact, they aren't made for much of anything practical. Those tiny buttons, the user interfaces, and they don't always work as advertised. Cycling, (at least the kind that I do), is really hard on cell phones. Dust, dirt, bouncing around, and just the rough and tumble of daily commuting is not what most cell phones, "dumb" or "smart", were designed for. What were they designed for? Silk purses? You'd think so by the prices on some of them!

What Would You Do? So I have been thinking. Yeah......the iPhone is cool, but it is fragile, and you have to get a case, and a holder, and ........No!  It is wrong if you have to "band aid" the thing to work for cycling. It isn't a cycling cell phone. It just isn't. Other cell phones don't measure up either. So.....what is a cyclists cell phone?

Solutions:  I am dreaming, and this will probably go nowhere fast, but I wanted to explore what it might be that would make a good cell phone for active cyclists that could go mountain biking, bike-packing, touring, or just do the daily commute grind without being babied and put in a zip-loc bag.

Here's my bucket list, feel free to comment on this, or add your own submissions. Again, I have zero hope this will change anything, but it might be a fun exercise in brain storming. Here goes....

  1. Buttons: My ideal cell phone would have one single button on the outer case (weather-proof, of course), that you would push to answer a call. Hold it down a few seconds to power up-off. Every other button would be inside the flip case. This eliminates potential damage, noises from supposed "locked keypads", and eliminates false calls, or other unwanted digital mayhem.
  2. Case: As I stated above, the case would have one button, a grill for the mouthpiece/microphone, and a grill for the earpiece. It would otherwise be smooth, with no sharp edges, perhaps be covered in a grippy, durable coating, and be able to withstand being run over by a Peterbuilt. It would flip open to reveal a keypad. (See next)
  3. Inner Keypad: This would be revealed by flipping open the case and would be made up of buttons you could operate without removing your cycling gloves. (Full fingered cycling gloves people!) I am not sold on having to have a "qwerty" keypad, but if it could be done, and I can operate it with my full fingered gloves, so be it. A very small display for alphanumeric symbols only would be the only visual display. 
That's it. No camera. Why? I carry one that blows any cell phone camera away. I don't want my phone to be a camera. No music. Why? I don't listen to music when I ride, but if I did, I would use an iPod or like device. No cyclo-computer/nav system. Why? Because I can get a Garmin 800. BAM!

I don't want a "smart phone" that is a jack of all trades- master of none. I don't want a smart phone that eats up my battery trying to run radios to hook up to cell towers, GPS satellites, and WiFi. I don't want some namby-pamby glass covered exercise in modern art that falls apart on a granite rock. I want a freakin' rock solid, reliable phone that does phone and texting really well and has a battery that lasts two weeks on a charge.

Do that and I'll sign a contract for life. Thanks. Now it's your turn.....

22 comments:

Captain Bob said...

Ok Mark, you crack me up! The stuff that goes thru that big head of yours never ceases to amaze me. I love my Blackberry and keep it in a ziplock. Works for me.
And, (this is a big and) I know for a fact that if someone made a portable turn table I bet we would see you carry it on a ride before we'd see you carrying an ipod.....

Guitar Ted said...

@Captain Bob: But what if you didn't have to keep your Blackberry in a zip-loc? That would be better-no?

That's what I'm talking about- You have a "band-aid" on your phone to make it work for you, and you pay how much for that device a month?

And no, I wouldn't carry anything that played music. I don't want music on a ride. But if you mean that I am a "retro-grouch, I suppose to a degree I am. But I don't think any cell phone solution is right for my needs out there either, so make of that what you will....

Wally said...

My friend, you have a very myopic view of the uses of a cell phone. For you, your needs are very simple and in fact there are some new smart phones coming to market that are water resistant and can handle a downpour of slight dunking.
I use an iPhone and have for about ever. I don't put it in a baggie, it does go into a tangle bag, seat bag and back pack though. I use mine though for work mostly. If I had no phone with me that has email and web capability, I'd be tethered to my office 12 hours a day so the phone allows me to go mobile and yet still get work done. I NEVER use my phone while on a cycle moving.
I also travel so the phone is used to provide the music I listen to when in the hotel or on the plane or in a car. It keeps me in touch with my "peeps" too. I could live without all that but it would make things very different than what they are now.

mw said...

i vote for the all in one device, but yeah, the interface is the key, and i like your thoughts there.

Guitar Ted said...

@Wally: You don't have a cell phone problem, but I respectfully submit that you have a job problem. Different deal if your job can't be left behind there, ya know?

Tyler E. said...

Mark I'm going with Capt. Bob here who was probably less blunt that I am; your desires are off base for ~95% of cycling cell phone users. Going back to multiple devices performing single or limited functions so you have multiple devices to purchase, charge, carry, etc.? Com'on that's foolish. A single device that can perform most of what you've mentioned and more (exception being a higher end camera) and in the end has a smaller footprint and costs less? Yea, let's definitely avoid that....

A ziplock bag as a "bandaid"? Seriously, that's the extent of your argument? Monthly cost has nothing to do with the case you're trying to make, you focused on devices & functionality, not economics.

That said I heard the Jitterbug is an excellent cell phone for, well, nothing. Sounds perfect for the needs you outlined.

Can we go back to beating dead horses like the need for 9er gearing instead?

A.B. said...

iPhone user here. I guess I'll be the first to give a plug for "Siri." I got a text from my wife while on a ride the other day. Without stopping or taking my phone out of my camelback, I was able to use one button on my headphone cable to have the message read to me, and to respond. Much better than having to stop, take my pack off, and check the message to make sure it wasn't an emergency. (As a father of 4.5 kids, ride-ending emergencies are more common than I'd like them to be)
I also prefer not to carry a separate camera, and with the latest upgrade in the iphone's camera, I don't need to. I made a recent trip to Decorah for work (amazing trails btw!) and took some really nice pictures with my phone.

Matt said...

I submit that this meets most of your specifications.

Guitar Ted said...

@Tyler E: Take your cell phone out and drop it from 6ft, put it in the rain, get it dirty, and then get back to me on how that worked for you.

Who said we even need multiple devices, by the way? That's an assumption you make that is a whole different argument.

If I really wanted to get away from multiple devices that need charging, etc, I would do my rides like I used to do all the time: Without anything electronic, which is kind of part of my point here.

I do see cell phones as being "reasonable" as a safety device. The rest is absolutely unnecessary for cycling, and thus my point is that a true, stripped down, rugged device for communication is all one really needs out there.

Others here, and yourself, are making the leap to "I have to have this", and I'm saying, no- you don't, and what you are carrying isn't ready for everyday cycling uses without some extras anyway; (ie- ziploc bags, phone cases, as examples.) Make sense?

Guitar Ted said...

@A.B: Makes sense from a hands free communication standpoint, but here again, your device needs protecting, no? I don't think you would disagree that mountain biking and iPhones are not completely compatible from a durability standpoint on their own without some form of protection for that iPhone. And as you point out, all you really want to do is communicate. The rest is fluff that is not necessary for your biking, no?

This is where I am going with my rant.

Guitar Ted said...

@Matt: Yeah, that might be it. If the buttons on the outside are truly locked out, and don't make a bunch of racket, or false calls, etc when packed in my hydration pack, I can see that one being pretty dang close to perfect.

See, I knew someone would "get this" rant!

It even has a flashlight and a automatic call in feature if you biff out there on your own. That's smart.

Doug H said...

Check out Casio G-zones. They are pretty tough. Not perfect, but getting there.

kevin said...

My biggest issue with modern smartphones has been temperature sensitivity. Almost all of them go wonky over 80-something, and unstable over 90-something which it will easily reach sitting in my jersey pocket in the summer, say during DK. I'm in the market now for a "dumb phone" kinda like what you're describing - long battery, make/take calls, maybe text. That's it.
Something else to think about is plans. I'm planning on getting a pay as you go type plan for said dumbphone and keep it charged up as needed. That way I have my fancy sensitive smartphone and its plan for daily use, and a bulletproof dirt simple dumbphone to pull out for long rides.

Bruce Brown said...

I'm probably too old school in my description of a "perfect cycling" phone. I think the perfect cycling phone is one you simply leave in the car or at home while on a ride. It's not too difficult to respond to messages and texts once you get back to the car or home. The world will function for the duration one is away from their phone. And, believe it or not, our ride will be just as enjoyable.

grannygear said...

Ah,the zealot-retrogrouch arises from his Rip Van Winkle sleep and rears his bearded head.

Too funny. No wonder you like singlespeeds and rigid forks.

This is why your computer mocks you, by the way. They can smell fear.

love,

your granny

Doug H said...

Linkage:

G-zone

I like the brigade....

Wally said...

No, my job "problem" has been the same for about 20 years. I have the type of job that is never 9 to 5, it never really shuts off. I have the ability to work around most tasks and schedule my own time not to mention it provides fairly substantial rewards.
I like it that way. I work from home, travel when I need to and call my own shots. I have the option of turning the phone off too GT, and that sometimes happens.

Dr. Giggles said...

Mark,
During the past three years, I have carried my iPhone or G'zone Rock with me on every ride for several years, including the TI. The Rock worked great. It was shockproof and water resistant--it got completely soaked in TIV6 and still functioned without problem. It did however have battery charging issues that finally led to my purchase of an iPhone.

I use an Otter Box to provide impact protection for the iPhone. It fits securely in a Mountain Feedbag on the bars, in a Tangle bag, or in my jersey pocket. For wet rides, I keep it dry in a ziplock--even used it without voice reception or transmission problems in the rain while it was in the ziplock.

To date, I have not had any performance issues with the iPhone despite many hours and miles on the bike, and dropping it onto the road...yep, the Otter Box did its job.

Nevertheless, I do take your point and believe your post raises an important issue. I also agree that we do not likely need a smartphone out on the road. On the other hand, the Google map location service [or GPS app] does come in handy when you find yourself lost in the middle of nowhere or to help locate the nearest tavern.

JR. Z. said...

GT, I know exactly what you mean. I've been running a Casio Boulder GZone for four years now. Still holds a charge for a week straight (on 24/7). My dad has had every version since the first and repeatedly has people call his phone while it's resting in a glass of beer. My ex-girlfriend has one and talks to people while she's in the shower (strange, I know). I've only used mine for talk and text (and accessed the internet for directions ONCE). it's super soft edged, grippy, I've dropped it from my hand onto concrete while walking and it bounced almost right back into my hand. This sounds like the phone for you, IMO. It's called something else now, but I know Verizon carries them if you want to check 'em out

Ari said...

First of all it is amazing that this post brought in almost 20 comments.
I ran across John's Phone as the simplest phone one can own.
ari

Wally said...

Mark, I trashed a Garmin Edge 500 this year while touring when my iPhone 4 fell on it while I was pulling it out of my tangle bag. I was raising the phone up to make a call while stopped, needing to call a hotel for directions and the phone slipped, hit the display of the Edge and it was toast. This is the same Edge that is waterproof, been on tons of mountain bike rides, crashed with me numerous times yet it couldn't survive the iPhone. Which hit the ground hard after the Edge and still worked fine.

Guitar Ted said...

@Wally: Hey- I hope I didn't ruffle any feathers, I think we're on the same page when it comes to folks in businesses where connectivity is paramount. If I am not mistaken, that is your situation, thus my comment: "It is a job problem". Hope that makes sense.

And to your comment about breaking the Garmin 500- It just as easily could have been the other way around. I mean- that's why they sell insurance for iPhones, right? ;>)

@All Who Suggested The G'Zone: I happen to be rocking that phone, and no- I don't like it. It isn't quite what I'd want. Take the not-locking keypad, for instance. (I could go on....)