THE  LITTLE  BLACK  PHONE

MANILA, JANUARY 30, 2009 (STAR) - EMOTIONAL WEATHER REPORT By Jessica Zafra - Before the product review, here’s a prologue about QWERTY logic.

There are boring hypochondriacs who go on and on about their imaginary ailments, and then there are the gifted ones like my friend Bert.

Unlike common hypochondriacs, he doesn’t need to read about an illness in order to find reasons to worry (though as a precaution, he avoids medical journals, websites, and other potential sources of anxiety).

Instead of relying on medical research for his neuroses, he generates his own theories.

For instance, during a prolonged bout of insomnia, he diagnosed himself as a depressive. He proceeded to come up with a long list of factors contributing to his depression, including diesel fumes, hypersensitivity to medication, and the keypad of his phone.

The first two sound rational enough, but how can a cell phone trigger a depression? (Unless it never receives calls or messages, which might lead to loneliness and feelings of alienation.) I asked Bert to explain.

“It’s because I only text with one hand,” Bert replied.

I didn’t get it.

“There’s a left brain and a right brain, right? One side controls linear and analytical functions, and the other side controls creativity and emotions. Only one side of my brain is in constant use; the other side is not getting enough exercise. This results in an imbalance, which leads to depression,” he explained with the maddening logic of the kind-of-loony.

“Assuming this wacky theory is correct, then why don’t you text with your left hand?” I asked.

“What I’ll do is, I’ll buy a cell phone with a QWERTY keypad so I can text with both hands!” Bert is a firm believer in retail therapy.

A week later I asked him how he was getting along with his new cell phone.

“Fine,” he said, “But it’s occurred to me that I may actually be left-handed or even ambidextrous. In the first grade I wrote with my left hand until my teacher made me use my right.”

“Then maybe the solution to your depression is to take up tennis,” I said. “Rafael Nadal is right-handed, but at age three his Uncle Toni made him grip the racquet with his left. So he plays lefty, and his opponents have to deal with the Monster Forehand Topspin of Death coming from the ‘wrong’ side.” No friend of mine ever has to sound crazy alone, not while I’m around.

“Maybe a QWERTY keypad is not the solution,” Bert declared, “But I like texting two-handed.”

Which brings us to the product review. The HTC S740 has a regular alphanumeric keypad for texting with one hand, and a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard for typing with two thumbs (or really tiny hands).

This accounts for the relative thickness of the unit, which has a diamond-faceted back for a more comfortable grip. (This is useful for people with sweaty hands and clumsy people in general.)

The phone runs on Windows Mobile 6.1 and has a user-friendly interface so you don’t need a manual to figure it out. The Home screen allows quick access to applications and settings.

When you slide the keyboard open, the screen shifts to landscape mode and the SMS/MMS, Email, and Messenger controls appear.

Surfing the web and sending out email is easy with the keyboard, and the phone is Wi-Fi enabled. It is also equipped with a 3.2 megapixel camera that shoots photos and videos, a music player that conveniently syncs with your computer, and a Bluetooth headset if you don’t mind giving the impression that you’re talking to yourself.

Clearly designed for minimum fuss and maximum convenience, the HTC S740 is ideal for busy professionals and efficiency experts. After the date and time, the first item on the menu is the Appointments calendar. There are no pre-loaded Games and other amusing time-wasters; you’ll have to add them yourself.

My one quibble with this no-nonsense phone is that it’s not fun to review (Hence the long prologue). There’s nothing to complain about—it would be like going to a fashion show featuring little black suits, then bemoaning the absence of bright colors. Nor does the HTC phone have charming little quirks that the user can cite as evidence of his “personality.”

This gadget is for people who don’t want or need bells and whistles: it is the little black suit of mobile phones. It doesn’t have to be fun, it just has to work perfectly. At the suggested retail price of P33,500, it had better. I recommend the HTC S740 for people who don’t need their phone to signify how cool or important they are. Now that’s power.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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