Thursday, December 13, 2007

Smartphone search: A Progress Report

In earlier posts I mentioned my disappointment with the Nokia E90. I have again been searching the web for a pda/phone combination that meets my requirements: 3G operation in the U.S., either U.S. tri-band or (better) quad band, a decent QWERTY keyboard, a reasonably large screen,software that makes it usable as a pocket computer, in particular a word processor adequate for reading books and at least making notes for editing books I'm writing. I still haven't found one, but thought other technophiles with similar requirements might be interested in a progress report or have discoveries of their own to contribute.

The closest I think I have so far found to meeting my requirements is probably the i-mate Ultimate 9502. It has a 640x480 screen, Windows Mobile 6 which should include an adequate word processor, a QWERTY keyboard, quad band phone and triband 3G, plus built in GPS. Unfortunately, although it was supposed to be out by now it isn't, and the most recent references seem to imply sometime early next year. And, of course, I would want to actually get my hands on one and see how it feels before buying it.

Its competitor is the HTC X7501 Advantage. It has essentially the same features plus an 8 gigabyte microdrive and is available now. But it's heavy and uses an odd two piece design, held together by magnets. I found a web page of a seller in Chicago, where I will be for a few days in early January, who might have it--I'm not sure if they have a showroom where one can actually look at the thing. One advantage is that the screen is physically larger than any of the others--5" diagonal, as compared to 2.8", I think diagonal, on the i-mate.

The third possibility is the Toshiba Portege G900. Its screen is even bigger in pixels than the other two--800x480. But it's only 3" diagonal. Currently there isn't a U.S. version, just a tri-band European with 3G on 2100 MHz, which isn't supported in the U.S. I expect a U.S. version will eventually appear, at which point it becomes a serious possibility.

Does anyone out there know about another candidate I should be looking at? Also, do any of you have enough experience with a screen that combines large pixel dimensions with small physical dimensions to tell how much sense it makes? As a practical matter, can you read more of a web page than on a screen with the same (say 3" diagonal) physical dimension but fewer pixels (say QVGA: 240x320)?

The 7501 weighs just over 12 ounces, which seems like a lot. Just out of curiosity, I checked on the weight of the Psions that used to be my favorite pda's, back before Psion left the consumer market. The Revo weighed 200 grams, the 5mx weighed 354. The 7501 is 371 grams, so comparable to the latter.

Of course, the Psions were the reason I went to routinely wearing a sport jacket--and the seams around the inside pocket tended to eventually tear out.


At 10:45 PM, December 13, 2007, Blogger Bronson Fung said...

Why not an iPhone? I know it doesn't have 3G capabilities yet, but otherwise it seems to fit your requirements well: large screen, decent keyboard, awesome software.

As for word processing, free software is available with goffice & iZoho.

And if you are willing to wait till probably Q2 of 2008, the new model should be out and complete with 3G functionality.

At 10:52 PM, December 13, 2007, Blogger David Friedman said...

Bronson asks about the iPhone:

It's very pretty, and the screen is large in inches although not all that large in Pixels. It has no real keyboard, just an onscreen one, and I believe cannot currently be used with a bluetooth keyboard. And it's designed as a phone+internet device+ipod, when what I want is a phone+internet device+pda/computer.

I haven't seen the software you mentioned; I thought Apple had done its best so far to keep the device closed.

At 11:17 AM, December 19, 2007, Blogger montestruc said...

I now have an iphone and like it, but used to have a blackberry and one of the things I find really annoying is that I cannot search my contact list (very long) for a string which I could in a blackberry nor can I list contacts by company, which is also a pain it the butt and makes searching for (for example) the forman of a foundry my company does business with a big time waster if I do not recall his name. I have written apple a nasty-gram about it. IMHO it should be a few hundred lines of code fix at the most.

At 8:34 AM, December 20, 2007, Anonymous Ximun said...

Keep an eye on HTC corporation from Taiwan. Perhaps HTC Omni (announced) is going to be just what you need.

At 10:14 AM, December 21, 2007, Blogger David Friedman said...

Has the HTC omni been announced? Everything I've seen on it is rumors.

My favorite rumor being the one that pairs it with Google's Android project. My older son works for Google and the CEO is the son of an ex-colleague, but I doubt either contact will get me a beta version.


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