Wi-Fi vs. FM?
April 25, 2003 12:31 AM   Subscribe

With Tungsten C - it's most powerful handheld ever (according to themselves) Palm is making some aggressive moves to turn its business around and brings wireless 802.11b-based connectivity to the Palm family of devices. Microsoft, on the other hand, is to use FM radio waves for news, weather and traffic, etc - on your watch. Is this a race or PDA technology diversity at its best? ...and here I'm sitting around with my stone age Visor.
posted by psychomedia (25 comments total)
It's nice looking but if it's going to be anything like the Tungsten T then it'll be horribly overpriced.

Palm are currently playing catch up in the PDA market. They've sat on their laurels too long and seen Microsoft leap in, give people what they want and take market share away from them. If it wasn't for MS entering the market, we'd still be having black and white palm pda's running at a measily mhz.

Secondly, all this new hardware is lovely, but the underlying software is still essentially the same. Sure it's been re-written for the new processors, but the built in applications are still the same old ones, with no new functionality. I'm tired of a complete lack of alarms on tasks, no ability to split an appointment over multiple days, no snooze, no decent to do list and a phone book which is decidely underpowered.

When they sort that out and get a few more manufacturers on board (at the moment you have Palm which is overpriced or Sony who insists on throwing the entire kitchen onto a device, locking into their propriatory technology and then charging you an arm and a leg for a bulky device) then I'll maybe consider moving back to Palm.
posted by ralawrence at 1:59 AM on April 25, 2003

Personally, I really like Palms. Of course, some of comments are dead on: that's why you need DateBk5 for all the scheduling features you mentioned. It's about time for PalmSource to buy some of the third party apps and do a little Microsofting.

But the fact is that while I'm on my fourth Palm, I've never bought a new one. For the simple reason that it's my fourth Palm - sooner or later you're going to drop the buggers, and $100 is a much less painful drop than $500. A PDA is not a cell phone - that big glass screen dies on impact. In this case, cheaper is much much better. For now I'll stick to my IIIxe, maybe with an upgrade to a Handera now that the company is gone and they're cheap.

I must say the Axim is interesting for that very reason. I would like to be able to play a real SimCity 2000, but I would miss all my favoured apps like pedit and megawiki.

In short, wireless is cool, but there no way I'll pay $500 for something I'm more than likely to destroy in the next six months.
posted by datadawg at 6:51 AM on April 25, 2003


stupid graffiti
posted by blue_beetle at 6:58 AM on April 25, 2003

stone age visor, my foot. Sure, it's black and white, but I've had 802.11b on mine through the xircom springport for a while now, and it sure as hell wasn't 500 bucks. That seems to be the real feature here.

Color, memory, and keyboards are cool, but I think you guys are right that the software needs development. I would upgrade if I could get some more usability. The more robust mail program is tempting, but I would have to see it in action with my networks to believe it.
posted by mblandi at 7:32 AM on April 25, 2003

Not to say that handspring doesn't shoot itself in the foot with pricey customer service, slow desktop upgrades of their modified palm software, and product development that leaves each generation of devices frozen in time... but for this market that's about par it seems.
posted by mblandi at 7:37 AM on April 25, 2003

I think the best made hiptop on the planet right now isn't made by palm or handspring, but by Danger. The Hiptop (a.k.a. The T-Mobile Sidekick) is the best PDA I've ever owned. I've owned a blackberry 957, several palms, the Palm VII, and none of them have had as many features, or been as a pleasure to use as my sidekick.
posted by cjoh at 7:55 AM on April 25, 2003

I do like Palm's devices - I own a Tungsten T (built-in bluetooth was the killer for me as I have a T68i) and the new devices look nice. But the PDA market is in serious decline and I'm not sure it matters anymore. It seems very likely that Smartphones will kill palm. I do think that a PDA with a camera but with no phone network connectivity (either direct or via Bluetooth) shows a curious blindness to what's actually happening in the rest of the world, and so I'm not seeing a lot of evidence that Palm really understands the position they are in.
posted by pascal at 8:27 AM on April 25, 2003

Although a device with 802.11b is really tempting, for now I'm going to have to stick with my Treo. Sure, its black and white, the battery life sucks, etc, but until someone realizes that a Palm Phone just has to have a keyboard, you'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.
posted by bshort at 8:48 AM on April 25, 2003

stone age visor, my foot.
That was one of my points. These new gadgets may have all the technology on earth (even Sony style) crammed into one shiny plastic matchbox, but as long as they lack serious usability improvements I don't see the happening.
posted by psychomedia at 8:49 AM on April 25, 2003

I was a palm partisan, but I just got my first cel phone and now I'm a phone guy. It's WAY less powerful, but the whole point of those four buttons on the palm was that on-the-go you end up doing a few things. I can get my appts and add appts on my t68i.

I think that MS may have an advantage with their pocketpc/smartphone strategy. I wonder if Palm can go penless? Penless was one of the advantages of my clie with its jog dial from the beginning. If I wanted to look something up I could do it one handed.

Clearly the fact that Palm has never bothered to update its core PIM tools makes a phone more attractive. I get annoyed when my palm can't handle more than one category or email per contact (is this Zen or just stupid?) When my phone can't, well... it's just a phone, and it was cheap too.
posted by Wood at 9:02 AM on April 25, 2003

I had a Handspring Visor which I loved for about 12 months, but I upgraded to OS X and it was months before there was any synchronisation software. In the end I got myself an O2 XDA which, in my opinion, is one of the nicest looking PDAs ever.

I really wanted to want another Palm-based PDA because they were so innovative when they first came out, but I couldn't find anything that matched my needs - stylish, sync with PC and Mac, in-built phone...
posted by Lleyam at 10:54 AM on April 25, 2003

Oh, hey sorry about that, psychomedia. Actually, through this thread, I am seeing a lot of ways the visor is antiquated.
posted by mblandi at 12:14 PM on April 25, 2003

blue_beetle: heheheheheheheheheheh. Your comedy genius needs rewarding.

I love Palms, but I wish they would use all this lovely expanded power to gett some of the features of the Newton back into circulation. The 'assist' feature is the biggie. You type something, "lunch with katie tomorrow" say, and it works out what you're on about and acts accordingly.

Thinking paper, that's what it's all about.
posted by bonaldi at 1:21 PM on April 25, 2003

I wait in vain for a speech-recognition powered mobile-phone/PDA. The technology is all there: "lunch with Katie tomorrow" is a small step in the scheme of things. Who will be the first with a usable interface?
posted by cbrody at 3:50 PM on April 25, 2003

datadawg, don't you have thumbs? In the past 3 years, I've had two Visors (deluxe and plat), a Clie T665, and now a T|T (the Tungsten is easily the best of the 4) and never dropped any of them.

As for people complaining about lack of functionality, there are tons of software packages (many of them free) that will make your PDA do just about anything you want it to, including everything you listed, ralawrence. (bonaldi, not exactly what you're asking for, but this lives in the same neigbourhood.)
posted by dobbs at 9:44 PM on April 25, 2003

If the US had a unified GSM mobile phone standard, PDAs would be dead in the water, as pascal and Wood imply in their comments. They're already struggling badly in Europe, where all the basic features of the PDA (and some of the more advanced ones, such as MP3 players and cameras) have been integrated into the latest generation of 2.5G phones.

Carry a mobile phone and a wireless-networking laptop and you don't really have much need for a PDA: they're too fiddly for any proper typing, and it just adds another thing to keep synchronised, when the place to keep all your contact details is your phone. It's just that Americans are stuck with competing network standards and get the newest phones six months later than the rest of the world, which gives the PDA makers a space in which to sell their products. For the rest of us, there's basically no impetus to buy.
posted by riviera at 1:36 AM on April 26, 2003

I love my Palm M500, can't really afford wirelessness (I don't think; what does a subscription really cost?), and don't want to spend more than $150 for a device which will, in the course of 12-18 months, likely submit to gravity and die (a case would help, except it makes the device less usable "on the fly," e.g., while standing in the 4 train during rush hour and drafting a court brief). Before committing to something more fancy, can't they make a screen which is less fragile? Then I might pay double or triple for a PDA.

Carry a mobile phone and a wireless-networking laptop and you don't really have much need for a PDA

I stopped yearning for a laptop when I got a PDA, since it allows be to draft and edit formated documents and spreadsheets (with Documents to Go) How many dozens of phone calls/day does it take to find manually dialing a cell phone annoying?

they're too fiddly for any proper typing
Actually, the great thing about Graffiti is that it's not terribly motion-sensitive. So I can actually draft and edit while standing up in the #4 Train: amazing, really.

...six months later than the rest of the world, which gives the PDA makers a space in which to sell their products.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:10 AM on April 26, 2003

The other thing I LOVE about my little, thin PDA is that its sufficiently inobtrusive to be used as I would a notepad during meetings, etc. Even nicer: during a waste-of-time court conference with multiple parties, I can be standing in front of a Judge and while he thinks I'm taking notes on him, I'm actually drafting a motion or writing a letter for an entirely different case.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:14 AM on April 26, 2003

Riviera, won't be long before you give up that notebook. Look for Smartphones to come out with keyboards (I've seen too foldable keyboards, one fabric), and Wifi in the not so distant future. That plus much better, over the air synchronization w/ your email (exists now, actually).

For the rest of you, there are a wide variety of GSM carrier in the US already, so you can go buy those euro phones today if you wish (AT&T, T-Mobile/Verizon).
posted by daver at 7:54 AM on April 26, 2003

Paris: I'm thinking of something like the SonyEricsson P800 where you have a stylus, handwriting recognition, Opera web browser, camera and picture messaging. This is not your common or garden 'cell phone'.

My 'six months' comment referred to the fact that most of the world (especially Japan) sees the features of modern PDAs integrated into mobile phones before anyone in North America does. I can't see an American network selling the P800 as part of a plan right now, even though it's tri-band and has been available in the UK for a good few months.

daver: true, but until I can run Quark on my mobile, I think I'll stick with the laptop...
posted by riviera at 8:08 AM on April 26, 2003

Paris: "manually dialing a cell phone"? Many phones these days have some way of getting all of your contacts into the phone, so you don't need a PDA to find and dial numbers - which I think is what you are getting at. DocsToGo et al are great - there is some awesome software available for the Palm platform (Bonsai is a big favourite of mine) but I find that many times that I can be bothered to bring my Palm, and be in a position to use that kind of software, I could just as easily be carrying and using a small laptop - and it would have a lot more utility.
posted by pascal at 8:53 AM on April 26, 2003

Carry a mobile phone and a wireless-networking laptop and you don't really have much need for a PDA:

You've got it backward: carry a mobile phone and a PDA and you don't really have much need for a laptop.
posted by kindall at 9:27 AM on April 26, 2003

Agree with Kindall. Incidentally I recently purchased Agendus from iambic software to beef-up the contacts manager on my palm. Works very nicely. As for the downloading or syncing of a phone. The fact is, I just don't call that many people that often. As for a small laptop, the biggest problem is that, while small, it's still too heavy when, on a daily basis, you're going to Court via the subway on three or six matters, each of which may need ounces or pounds of documents to bring.

Incidentally, does everyone find the Sony CliƩ's screen superior to the Palm's for text? I'm not sure if I don't like the screen or whether its maladjusted every time I see one in a store. Also, is a color screen better, the same or inferior for text on a PDA?
posted by ParisParamus at 11:59 AM on April 26, 2003

ParisParamus, you may want to check out a good subnotebook. Yes, they're heavier than a PDA but probably a lot lighter than you think. Myself, I use a Toshiba Libretto L5 (2.4 lbs; 40gb hd; full size kb; 512 ram; winxp; 5 hr battery). There are subnotes that are even smaller but they sacrifice keyboard space. A great place to see these units (which are normally only available in Japan) is at this website.

On occasion, I still use my Tungsten and slim keyboard, but since getting the Libretto a few months back, I'm using it less and less.
posted by dobbs at 1:33 PM on April 26, 2003

Actually, I envy people in the non-law world, where the replacement cycle for hardware and software is, in my experience, 3-5 years or more. Still thinking about my own career replacement cycle, actually....
posted by ParisParamus at 5:31 PM on April 26, 2003

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