September 13, 2006

Handheld dilema

I’ve been a user of handheld/PDA devices for many years now, starting in 1991. My list includes:

They have all been very useful in lots of different ways, not just as simple organisers. Since the battery in my most recent (the m505) stopped holding useful amounts of charge (yes, it is possible to replace the battery) I’ve been thinking about possible replacements, and in the meantime I’ve been relying on the calendar and address book in my phone to keep me vaguely organised.

The trouble is, I’m not sure what to get next. There’s plenty of choice if all you want is a straightforward PDA, but in this online world it seems that I’d get much more benefit from something with a plausibly useable web-browser and WiFi. The Nokia 770 is the closest thing I can find to my ideal handheld. What it is missing is the basic organiser functionality (contacts, calendar, etc.) that’s syncable to something external. Given that Nokia now seem to be working with Google, by having a Gtalk client on there for example, something that syncs to gmail’s addressbook, Google Calendar and Google Notebook would be perfect. That would give me online access to them when I can get online and offline access when I can’t. I’ve no idea, though, if they are even thinking about that, let alone working on it.

All of the other devices either have screens that are too small for my tastes, or are physically too big. Looks like I’ll have to be “handheldless” for a little while longer.

Unless anybody knows of a device I’ve missed…


- 11 comments by 4 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Mathew Mannion

    I have an O2 XDA IIi (that’s about 2 years old now) and I must admit I don’t use the PDA functions on it much. I’d imagine having Windows Mobile 2003 (I think the new ones have the new version) is a plus though..

    13 Sep 2006, 17:47

  2. I’ve got an HP iPAQ that has Bluetooth and WiFi built in, it’s about 2 yrs old now and still works fine. Next time though I’ll be looking for a combined Mobile and PDA, if I can find a mobile running Windows Mobile as I have a couple of apps on the PDA that I can’t run except on Mobile Windows. For what its worth mine is an iPAQ H4150

    13 Sep 2006, 17:48

  3. Hamid Sirhan

    I used to have the Ipaq h5550 – it’s a good, solid piece of equipment and it should be cheap these days.

    If I were you I’d search through all the models that have what you’re after (the HP iPaq series is pretty good and uses Windows Mobile OS)... in my experience with PDAs, newer doesn’t necessarily mean better (I still want to buy a Newton!!! :P:P)... and if you’re looking for something on the cheap, I’d consider getting it second-hand off of e-bay and buy a new battery and, if necessary, a new stylus.

    I haven’t been keeping up-to-date so much recently but I’m guessing that newer versions will give you access via SIM cards to the Internet (the HP iPaq h5550 had a sim-card slot in the back covered with a “void if removed” sticker…. so the next model along in the series would probbaly have started some mobile interfacing).

    13 Sep 2006, 18:02

  4. Steve Rumsby

    All of these are devices I would have considered not long ago, until so many of things I do daily moved onto the web. I just can’t imagine making serious use of gmail, Bloglines, Warwick Blogs or other similar services on devices with screens that size. The Nokia 770’s 800×480 screen is just so much bigger (logically, not physically, fortunately) that it should be perfect for such things.

    But it doesn’t have the organiser functions. Maybe the next release of the OS will? There are free apps for it that do this sort of thing – maybe I need to investigate those further?

    13 Sep 2006, 20:14

  5. John Dale

    I think it depends to some extent on what you mean when you say “serious use” of GMail, Bloglines, WB, etc. If you mean writing messages/entries than I’d suggest that none of the devices you mention including the Nokia are any good because they don’t have a keyboard, and none of the alternative input methods are even close to being usable for anything other than trivial text entry. If you want to enter text then perhaps you need a JasJar or an SPV or perhaps even a Vaio UX50 though you’d need bionic eyes to manage that one, I suspect; 1024×600 in 4.5 inches? Crazy talk!

    But if you just want to browse the sites you mention then I think you’re being too pessimistic in believing that an iPaq or a Dell Axim or some other wifi-enabled PocketPC wouldn’t be good enough; I have a Dell Axim which has a big, bright 640×480 screen and GMail and other web sites with a small-screen optimised view are perfectly readable on it. (Interestingly, SiteBuilder presents a small-screen optimised view if you browse it with a Pocket PC, but Warwick Blogs currently doesn’t, though it could easily be taught to do so if there was demand.)

    Pocket PCs are (relatively) cheap, too; £314 for the one I’ve got, and they put them on sale every now and again, too; it was only £260 when I bought mine.

    14 Sep 2006, 10:24

  6. Steve Rumsby

    I think it depends to some extent on what you mean when you say “serious use”

    Good point. By “serious use” I don’t mean the same sort of stuff I’d do on a laptop – I’m not looking for, nor expecting, a laptop replacement. Imagine going on holiday, or to a conference, for a week and trying to keep on top on email and other stuff whenever the chance presents itself. You mostly just want to read emails, files the ones that don’t need an answer and keep those that do, but a few will need a reply. You don’t want several 000 items on your Bloglines subscription when you get back so you want to read as much as possible. Etc. Half an hour at a time would do it, probably, but quite intensive use for that short period.

    As for the lack of a keyboard, I was always very quick with text input using Graffiti on the PalmOS devices. I never felt the need for a keyboard. I was assuming that pen-based input on Windows Mobile devices, and the Nokia 770, was similar although I have not tried either. Am I right about that?

    The 640×480 screen you mention certainly sounds like it might do the job. Does it work in landscape mode as well as portrait? I’m sure screens weren’t that big last time I checked – they all seemed to be QVGA, which definitely isn’t high enough resolution (I think). What other devices are there with a VGA screen?

    The Vaio UX50 is an interesting device, but way, way too expensive. I am specifically not looking for a combined PDA & phone, which cuts out the JasJar and SPV. Sadly a lot of the devices with slide-out qwerty keyboards seem to be phones at the moment, because that would be quite neat for when pen-input really won’t do.

    14 Sep 2006, 10:53

  7. Sara

    Ah, I am also dead keen on a device that will allow me to sync with an online calendar (Gcal or Yahoo, doesn’t matter) and haven’t found any. Yet. But have you considered the MDA Vario? At least it’s got a keyboard (though tiny) and the screen goes on landscape mode which makes it more natural for reading text, etc. Don’t know if Outlook on the device can sync with Gcal, as I haven’t got the mchine yet. But should be okay for Gmail.

    14 Sep 2006, 12:48

  8. Steve Rumsby

    The Vario is (a) a phone and (b) QVGA not VGA, so not really what I’m looking for.

    However, the Fujitsu Siemens Loox C550 looks (pardon the pun) promising. And the Loox N series is nice if GPS is your thing.

    The Acer n300 has potential, too. One interesting thing about the n300 series is that, via the cradle, it has USB host functionality, so you can connect a variety of USB devices to it including keyboards, cameras, flash drives and even hard drives (but only with FAT/FAT32 filesystsmes, not NTFS). And it is quite nicely priced, too. Definitely a contender…

    14 Sep 2006, 13:19

  9. I was assuming that pen-based input on Windows Mobile devices, and the Nokia 770, was similar although I have not tried either. Am I right about that?

    Windows Mobile devices have Grafitti input, as well as an onscreen keyboard and also full handwriting recognition which is surprisingly good. So there’s plenty of methods to choose from there!

    16 Sep 2006, 11:03

  10. John Dale

    As a matter of interest, why are you set against getting something which is technically also a phone, such as the JasJar ? As long as it has wifi (which this one does) then you get your web browsing, a 640×480 screen, and a keyboard for when you need it. It’s not as though you have to make any calls with it; you could leave the SIM card out altogether if the idea bothered you that much, though being able to connect to the internet even when there’s no wifi around seems like a useful extra feature rather than a disadvantage to me!

    19 Sep 2006, 12:34

  11. Steve Rumsby

    The JasJar is quite expensive without a contract. £625 is about twice the price of non-phone devices with VGA screens and WiFi. I don’t particularly fancy the idea of paying £300 for the priviledge of not putting a SIM in it:-)

    I already have a phone. I don’t need another. The one I have is nice and small – small enough that I can have it with me at all times without any problem at all. Carrying something as bulky as a JasJar would be inconvenient on occasion.

    Yes, there are times when even I would choose to leave a PDA at home!!

    19 Sep 2006, 18:23


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