I’m a phone geek. I don’t spend any money on them (the company provides me with one) but if I had to, I’d still buy a couple a year.
More accurately, I’m a PDA geek.
Ever since I had my first Merlin, The Electronic Wizard, I wished I could have an electronic device which was a phone and everything else, all wrapped up into one. Like that was ever going to happen.
Back in the late 80s, I’d use the cellular phone built into my Dad’s pickup truck on occasion. He wasn’t too happy to know that I was racking up $5/minute (or similar) charges just to call someone from outside their house, but I had to do it because it was so fascinating to me in a time when we were quite literally tethered to terrestrial phones. The idea of portable telephone service blew my mind. For some reason, I’ve always been obsesses with the power of the telephone; the ability to share your voice with anyone, almost anywhere in near real-time is fascinating to me.
That 1G phone was a small briefcase with an antenna that attached to the roof of the truck. Archaic by today’s standards, but something seemingly scientific fictional at the time.
Circa 1996 I was given a data pager while working at the US Dept of Labor. Pagers are now some type of cheeseball, forgotten technology and the sound of them suggests drug dealers and Russian mafia. But this was no normal pager– it had data services on it, and I could pick up near-real-time new on it. It had CNN News feeds (it probably had sports on it, but I couldn’t be bothered to look for that) and stock tickers. It was awesome.
Living in DC, I was a news junkie. Carrying the latest news with me made me feel as if I was part of things as they were happening. Sheesh- what a loser I was.
Then I bought my first PDA, a USRobotics PalmPilot Profesional. Yes, USR owned Palm. And for the first time, I wrote e-mail from the commuter bus on my way to work. It was awesome, and provided further evidence that I am pathetic. The initial buzz wore off after a few days, and it became little more than a portable calendar and a useful store for contact information and other notes. I’d type things into the computer and sync it with my Palm.
I first met the guys from Research In Motion around 1998-1999. The early Blackberry devices were very interesting: sortof like the pager I had loved so much, but with email. Cool. Real-time-email, making it look as if I was actually in front of my computer, even if I was in a bar. Very cool.
So, from 1998ish through 2002 I carried every new Blackberry that RIM released (except for the crappy 5810) and I gave it up in 2002, initially because my US carrier didn’t cover me in Europe where I was living, and local IT didn’t want to support it.
I felt a bit of sadness at first. Untethering was an uncomfortable process. For the first few days, I’d pop by my computer to check email and cnn.com, but it just wasn’t the same. I could get the web on my phone and my iPaq, but I never bothered to setup email on either. Then I felt relieved to not be carrying that uncomfortable brick around with me everywhere. I could carry a book instead (they were about the same size in 2002!)
Since then, I’ve played with iPaq-based GPS systems and their performance is unreliable. I have a USB-based GPS chip as well, and that works reasonably well, but I don’t really want to carry a laptop with me in the car, even for long trips. The Bavarian Falcon has BMW’s CD-based GPS in it, and it works pretty well, but a carputer would be much more fun and interesting.
What I’ve been waiting for (and talking to anyone who will listen about) is the convergent device. Phone, PDA, GPS, Internet, wireless and everything else. And now, Modeo is bringing us useful TV on our portable devices. If I could wear it on my wrist, I might just cream my shorts.
Well, my Cingular 8125 is limping. I’ve had it for well over a year now, and it had generally served me well. It has decent WiFi, which helps me out because I live in the middle of nowhere and need the home wireless to get any data on the thing. Cingular’s XPressmail running on my PC forwards email to my phone, and I can get to GMail via Pocket Internet Explorer. The camera takes artsy-looking photos (it’s like a digital Lomo), but I prefer my Canon S80.
It’s a great phone when it works. And I do like Windows Mobile 5, but it isn’t playing well with Vista. Windows Mobile 6 looks even better, but when will I actually be able to get a device?
I thought about a Treo 750, but it’s no better than my 8125 and has no camera– and it doesn’t charge via a conventional USB cable. Don’t overlook that feature. Who wants to carry another charger around (or a strange connector) when USB ports are ubiquitous? The BlackJack? Looks cool, but no WiFi. I love HTC’s phones, but the HTC Advantage is just too big.
Ok, so who cares?
Well, RIM is about to get me back on the Crackberry wagen. The 8820 is rumored to be the nec plus ultra for propellerheads like me. Phone. Addictive e-mail. Internet. WiFi. GPS. Everything I’ve seen makes it sound like the next-best-thing. No camera, you say? Hmph. No need.
It seems like the best of what’s out there, and it’s my choice for the next handheld toy, although I really hate to be like everyone else.
Has anyone seen anything better?