More on PDAs and Smart Phones

First off, I do see a difference between a PDA and Smart Phone. I haven’t seen a decent Smart Phone have decent PDA functionality, or a good PDA that has decent Smart Phone capabilities. To be honest, I haven’t tried the Palm Centro, but the small screen has two strikes against it. One, it makes it a sub-optimal e-text reader, and second, it limits the web browsing experience too much.

The WinCE (yet another example of poor MS marketing) OS was a kludge from the start. Ask anyone who has developed software for it for their opinion of it. Odds are it won’t be favorable. So any of the “Windows Mobile” OS based Smart Phones is a non-starter. Too much OS overhead and they all have tiny screens.

The Palm OS has stood up well over the years because of it’s clean design. It’s not trying to replicate a desktop OS. It was designed for data retrieval. That’s its primary function. Data entry on that platform was secondary (and the original graffiti is still my favorite). The device was designed to work with a less portable computer (either a desktop or a laptop), but with a full sized keyboard and a larger screen. It’s easier to update my calender or contacts on my PC and then sync that data on my PDA. Yes, I can enter that data directly on the PDA, but it is easier on the the PC.

A decent PDA must be easy to use, be easy to read, and fairly easy to enter data into independently. Most WinCE boxes strike out on option 1, and the small screens on most Smart Phones take them out of the running. After that, they need excellent contact and calendar management. This is one of the key things that kills the iPhone as a PDA.

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9 Responses

  1. I travel a lot, and I keep a diary.

    I used to have a Treo Smartphone, and a folding keyboard for it. This was a great combination until the keyboard literally fell apart, after several years of rough treatment. Still, it was a very useful super-portable MS Word editor.

    Right now I’ve got an iPhone and a Blackberry. Sadly, the Blackberry is for work and security policies won’t let me add the third party software that would make it truly useful — right now, it’s basically my work copy of MS Outlook, made portable, which I admit is useful enough, but it’s a little disappointing that I won’t be able to use it as a Word editor.

    So I’m starting to think it would be nice to have a device just for that super-portable Word document editing, for when the ASUS EEEPC is too big, or doesn’t have enough battery power. It would need to be a device with a Word editor, able to open Word documents on an SD card, ideally with a keyboard.

    With the LifeDrive out of the loop, do you have any suggestions?

  2. Other than the Palm T|X, which Palm is selling for $300, I can’t think of one. Which is kinda sad.

    I don’t like the small screens of the crackberry, Centro or WinCE boxes.

    I have read of a Folio copy cat that only works with WinCE “smart phones.” I don’t like the overhead of the MS Mobile OS though.

    My gut tells me that Palm wants to get out of the handheld business and focus on smartphones that are better PDAs than other smart phones (the iPhone is not a very good PDA IMNSHO).

    If they come out with a full screen smart phone with Edge/G3 connectivity, an upgraded Palm OS, and kept the SD slot, I’d be taking a real serious look at it.

  3. I’ve got a T|X somewhere; sadly, the reason I decided to drop the Treo applies to it as well: you can crash the word editor by pressing the “Page Down” key on the Bluetooth keyboard.

    So unfortunately, it looks like the “full sized keyboard with MS Word editor” use case just isn’t out there right now.

  4. Another strike against the Bluetooth keyboard, can’t use it on a plane.

    I use the IR Palm keyboard with no problems.

    Hell, if the NetShare app is rereleased for the iPhone, it becomes a lot more useful for road warrior work.

  5. >Another strike against the Bluetooth keyboard, can’t use it on a plane.

    Really? Huh. That pretty much takes that technology out of the running.

    The biggest problem with the EEEPC for writing is that its battery goes flat after only two to three hours. Now, this is fine for my present needs — write on the way to work, watch a video during lunch, and write on the way home. However, it won’t get me across the country while writing.

    For that, the Treo 650 with folding keyboard — connected through the Palm plug — worked.

    The Treo 700 used Bluetooth, which crashed the word editor, and makes it impossible to use on a plane now.

    The Blackberry Word editors use the device as a thin client and rely on servers, which means they’re worthless without a connection.

  6. Palm needs to resurrect the Folio.

  7. Possibly, but I’m not sure. If I recall correctly, the Folio was a screen and keyboard that would connect to a handheld via Bluetooth. Since the form factor of the Folio is about the same as the ASUS EEEPC, I might as well carry the computer around, since it could still work if the handheld broke.

    Basically, right now I’ve got the files I need to work with on an SD card. If I’m travelling with the ASUS EEEPC I can edit the documents using OpenOffice. With the old Treo 650, I was able to open the documents with a Word processor on the smartphone.

    I don’t need a Folio, but if they could fix the bug that makes Documents to Go almost unusable with the Bluetooth keyboard, then I’d be grateful.

  8. Well, I’ve taken the Tungsten E2 out of storage, and it looks like the most recent version of Documents to Go really is an improvement; I haven’t used it extensively, but they seem to have fixed the Bluetooth keyboard crash.

    I’m not terribly fond of Graffiti 2, though, and I’m curious about alternate text entry.

    The one I really liked from way back when, T9, no longer seems to exist. I’ve got a demo of Mini-Keyboard on my Palm now and I’ll play with it a bit. Have you tried other options?

  9. No, I haven’t. I’m using my LifeDrive less and less as more apps come out for the iPhone. I did take it, with the folding keyboard, on a day and half trip. That was my laptop replacement, but I ended up not using it. One the plus side, I lugged a lot less equipment around that I didn’t use compared to a laptop (and power supply).

    I’m keeping my eyes on Android. I’m leaning more and more toward it being the first step toward a more extensive Google OS. The G1 hardware is first rev, so I’m interested in seeing what comes next, especially once Android adds Bluetooth support.

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