February 04, 2008

Enter the Smartphone

So, I finally gave in. To be fair, I've used a PDA for about 10 years now, starting with the 256K Sharp Wizard (with the magnificent keyboard), then going through the Palm III and all manner of subsequent PDAs as they were rolled out, both Palm and Windows OS. However, the last few years, having a cell phone and a PDA meant leaving one behind, and the phone always won. To add insult to injury, Palm in it's latest incarnations changed it's handwriting system (that nasty lawsuit with the makers of Jot) and made my scrawly characters illegible by Palm's system. And Windows Mobile only liked me a little better, so that was no help. I longed for the days of a full-featured PDA with the keyboard like the Sharp Wizard, that would also double as my cell phone. The trouble is: now that I had made up my mind, how best to do it? I was only half-way through a contract with Verizon, and that meant no cheap carrier-subsidized upgrade. So, I did what millions do: I eventually headed to Ebay.

The Palm Treos initially caught my eye. Being a long-time Palm user this seemed like the best fit. However, the Palm's ancient OS (developed back in 1996 and only tweaked marginally in the ten years that followed) and the large, brick-like size of the Treos didn't seem like the best way to go if I was truly trying to make a change for the better. My Windows Mobile PDA had it's quirks, such as it's inefficient use of memory and the need to have regular soft resets, but aside from that it was a prettty good unit (I think it says something about the state of things that I was willing to accept these shortcomings). I decided that this functionality, plus the newer OS of Windows Mobile, would do the trick.

Enter the Motorola Q. Quite slim, based on the Razor design, with a nice keyboard and all the trimmings. In fairness, the keyboard isn't as nice as it could be (I've also tried out a Blackberry 7250 and its was much nicer -- more on that some other time) and the number of key taps to enter data is sometimes maddening. For instance, I should be able to simply put the cursor on a time field- let's say ten am- click and start typing -- but on Windows Mobile I cannot. But it is a big step forward from the stylish yet data-challenged Razor I previously had. For one thing, the device is designed to swap data with a PC, no hacking required. The mini-SD card is easily accessible, not under the battery (who ever thought that was a good idea anyway?), and the screen is absolutly gorgeous. Pictures and videos look quite nice and believe it or not I think the Q is faster than my old standalone Windows PDA. So, it seems like it will serve me well for the year as I ride out the rest of my contract.

What will I do next? I'm already eyeing up a Blackberry. The Curve looks quite nice (if it comes to Verizon) and I'm sure there will be other models announced and available by next year. I can already tell you that the speed and ease of use of the Blackberry platform trounces anything Windows Mobile has. So for now, I'll bide my time and enjoy my entrance into the world of Smartphones. It was time to bid adieu to the cell phone -- PDA shuffle and get everything in one device. After all, smartphones are the new PDAs... and I'm enjoying mine so far.

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