Arnt Gulbrandsen
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2018-01-23

The tiny Jelly Pro smartphone

I don't buy a lot of hardware any more, and nothing out of the ordinary... but I have a credit-card-sized smartphone called Jelly (a Jelly Pro actually, with 2GB RAM).

A smartphone should be small and light, have a large screen and battery, be fast enough, and not have too many bugs. Obviously there's a conflict between overall size and screen/battery size. The Jelly is a very different compromise than most smartphones — most phones fit barely in a pocket, or only in some pockets, and provide large screens on which apps work well. The Jelly starts by fitting easily in any pocket, and makes the apps work as well as possible on a very small screen.

It succeeds on size: I can stick the Jelly in tight jeans pockets and sit down without noticing that it's there.

It fails (somewhat) on two minor points: Spotty battery lifetime and screen/body ratio. The battery doesn't reliably last a full day, and there's room to spare around the screen. The screen is 30×54mm, and they could have fit at least 36×65mm, maybe 38×69mm into the same body (the glass front is 38mm wide, the phone 44mm wide at its widest point).

I got the battery lifetime up to tolerable by setting the phone to disconnect from wifi while asleep (settings → wi-fi → ⚙ → keep wi-fi on during sleep), and automatically killing all but three apps (settings → background task clear) when not in active use.

There are bugs. The phone seems to lose contact with the mobile data network a little too often for my taste.

The apps I need do work... more or less. Typing key by key is frustrating, but glide typing is not much worse than on a typical smartphone. Hitting small buttons is generally quite difficult. Touches don't register at all if the finger is too close to another touchable thing. But I can send and receive email, SMS and Signal messages, Google Maps navigation works, the remote-control app I use every day works decently, and so on. I suppose these shortcomings would be reduced with a 38×69mm screen.

So the phone works, by and large. The big thing that's missing is fun. Fun is what I got when I used a phablet the other night, a large thin device with a bright colourful screen. That screen gave me such a good feeling, something the Jelly doesn't. I imagine that Facebook and Instagram are boring on the Jelly.

Is that good or bad? And am I going to keep using the Jelly, or am I going to switch back to a bigger phone? If I do switch back I'm going to tell myself it's because the screen is unnecessarily small.