A year and a half ago, I consulted the Internets looking for recommendations about a new phone.

Shortly thereafter, I detailed my purchasing decision in getting the HTC Aria.

Here I am one year later, and I have put a lot of miles on this phone. I’ve logged 1,000+ text messages per month, sucked my minuscule data plan dry regularly, and even loaded a different UI onto it. At times it worked beautifully, but this experience has also been tainted by a few bad moments.

Let’s start with the data plan. This complaint is on AT&T, not on the phone necessarily. For budgetary reasons (and to avoid living with my phone in my hand), I opted for the 200MB plan. Those of you who use a lot of data on your phones know just how ridiculously tiny that is. The first few months, I burned through it in the first couple weeks and went back to no-data-except-WiFi for the weeks following. After getting close to the cap (and going over once or twice), I have settled into a policy of using it only when needed or desperately wanted. So when I go somewhere new, the GPS gets brought up. To be honest, the Navigation uses very little data. And occasionally I like to check the weather. And when I’m bored, I’ll connect to check my e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter. There’s also a very rare YouTube video. Yes, I know. This sounds like a lot of checking. But it’s really so little in comparison to what would be done with an unlimited plan. And for that 200MB cap, most months I don’t dare breaking 150.

Now why would I be wary of approaching the cap again? Simple: AT&T’s alert system SUCKS. I really can’t state this strongly enough without swearing. If you call the system code *3282# ( or *DATA#), AT&T texts you with how many texts you’ve sent and how much of your data you’ve consumed. That sounds nifty, but the total isn’t real-time. It usually seemed to be what I’d consumed by mid-morning. So if I watch 4 or 5 YouTube videos or stream some Pandora, I have no good way of knowing how much closer I am to my cap until the next day.

Some of you may know that AT&T has a warning system. You can set it up where they text you when 60% and 90% and 100% of your data plan has been consumed. But this looks at that daily calculated total, not real-time. So after watching 5 YouTube videos, I’d get woken up Saturday morning with all 3 text warnings in my messaging app. At which point I’m immediately charged an additional $15 and my cap is now 400MB. Woohoo.

My next problem was one of timing. The HTC Aria was one of the first Android phones that AT&T offered. It had such a good response that they jumped in to fully offering Android’s newest and best phones. But that left the Aria to be forgotten and quickly feel out-dated. A month after spending $200 for a 2 year contract with this now-small touchscreen phone, I saw phones bigger, faster, and more capable than mine for $100.
The next complaint was updates. I was duly warned that a lot of the phone manufacturers (HTC included) and phone companies (AT&T included) had a habit of never doing Over The Air updates to the phone’s operating system. So this left me stranded with an older version. My frustration was probably made worse by all the technology blogs I follow. They brag how awesome live wallpapers are. Do I get to have those? Nope. Never. They have a slew of cool games, bug fixes, and redesigns that are all out of my reach. Right now, my mother has a cooler phone than I do (at half the price and twice the size).

The last complaint I have is on AT&T entirely. They tell the phone manufacturers to lock the handsets. So even though I bought the phone and it’s my legal property, they have kept me from rooting it and running all the apps and custom UIs that are out there to be had. I know why they did it. They were scared that I was going to take my 200MB data plan, and tether it to a laptop…. Right…

All these disturbances aside, it has been a very good phone. I have played a number of fun games on it. The last 3 books I’ve read have been on its diminutive screen (which is probably why my eyes hurt). Its GPS capability has navigated me safely to and around Indianapolis when I moved here earlier this year. It syncs with my calendar, Gmail and Evernote. It even holds my passwords in a KeePass file that I update via Dropbox on my desktop at home. It has acted as my loyal alarm clock. It even helped my wife tune her violin. With my next phone purchase coming up, I’m glad that I get to keep this phone. It will be a nice little Wi-Fi connection from anywhere in my house. It might even become an mp3 & video player, as my old one has a smaller screen.

What new phone am I looking to get? Well, that’s a topic for another post. Have a wonderful day.